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GCR Books

Daniel Lewis: the goalkeeper who lasted from Knighton to Chapman

By Tony Attwood

Dan Lewis has been mentioned on this site quite a few times, but hasn’t had his own article thus far.

The reason for this is that prior to Herbert Chapman’s arrival at the club, Knighton (our previous manager) had been using Jock Robson in goal with Dan Lewis as reserve keeper.

Now while we would all admit that Chapman was a great manager with an amazing ability to pick the players with the best potential and then get the very best out of them, with goalkeepers, he had a bit of a blind spot.  And Dan Lewis was caught in that spot.

Dan was born in Maery, Glamorgan, and after playing for clubs in his area moved to Clapton Orient, joining Arsenal in 1924, playing from 15 November to 14 February 1925, when he was dropped.

Meanwhile Jock Robson had joined Arsenal in 1921 and made 101 appearances for Arsenal.  He did play nine times early in the 1925/6 season but Chapman did not rate him (not least because he was only 5 feet 8 inches tall, and Chapman transferred Robson to Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic in August 1926.

Dan’s biggest moment was the 1927 FA Cup final against Cardiff – our first final and we lost it 1-0.   Ferguson hit an easy-to-save shot in the 74th minute, Lewis failed to collect it, tried to recover and knocked it into the net giving Cardiff the Cup 1-0.  Lewis blamed his new goal keeper jersey.

Despite the failure, Dan Lewis continued to play as Arsenal’s regular goalkeeper for the next three seasons but then along came Bill Harper, for a goal keeper record fee of £4000.

Meanwhile the emerging Lewis played on for six seasons, with over 30 appearances in each of the last three – all despite being blamed for the cup defeat.

Here is a chart of Arsenal’s keepers during this era

Season Goal App Goal App Goal App Goal App Goal App
Pre-‘25 Robson 88 Lewis 16
1925/6 Robson 9 Lewis 14 Harper 19
1926/7 Lewis 17 Harper 23 Moody 2
1927/8 Lewis 33 Harper 0 Moody 4 Paterson 5
1928/9 Lewis 32 Harper 0 Paterson 10
1929/0 Preedy 12 Lewis 30 Harper 0
1930/1 Preedy 11 Keyser 12 Harper 19
1931/2 Preedy 13 Harper 2 Moss 27
1932/3 Preedy 1 Moss 41
1933/4 Moss 37 Wilson 5

 

Clearly when Arsenal broke the goalkeeper record by paying £4000 to bring in Harper it looked as if Chapman had no faith in the existing goalkeepers.  For the first games of the season Robson played nine times and Dan Lewis five.    Harper took over but lost his place after a bad defeat at Aston Villa on April 2 1926.  (The story on Wikipedia about Harper at this point is not quite right).

A further insight into Chapman and goal keepers comes from the transfer details of each player

Season Keeper From Went to
1925/6 Robson Innerleithen Bournemouth
1926/7 Lewis Clapton Orient Gillingham
1927/8 Harper Hibs USA/Plymouth*
1928/9 Moody Bradford PA Bradford PA
1929/0 Paterson Dundee Utd Airdrie
1930/1 Preedy Wigan Borough Bristol Rovers
1931/2 Keyser Margate QPR
1936 Moss Oldham Retired
1939** Wilson Morton St Mirren

The conclusion we might draw from this was that part of Chapman’s keeper problems was that he was not buying players from top clubs but rather from lesser clubs.

We can see from the first table above that Harper was dropped and Dan Lewis kept on popping back up.  When Harper left and went to play in the American Soccer League Lewis went back in goal until Keyser came in in 1930 (which is another full story in itself).

In fact Lewis’ entire history at Arsenal was one of coming in and out of the team although he was not selected for the second final in which Preedy did the goalkeeping honours.  Interestingly Preedy only played 12 games that season but got his cup winner’s medal.

And so Dan Lewis’ time at Arsenal was one of being in and out of the team, but surviving as other keepers came and went.   Meanwhile he won his first cap for Wales against England on 12 February 1927 and won three caps in all – the last being on 20 November 1929.

In the end he was transferred to Gillingham in May 1931 having played 169 games  for Arsenal in one of the strangest careers of all Arsenal players.  Sadly, he played only six times for Gillingham and retired from professional football soon after.

He died in 1965, at the age of 62.

If you have any knowledge of why he only played a few times for Gillingham and what he did after his retirement, please do help us fill in the gaps.

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8 comments to Daniel Lewis: the goalkeeper who lasted from Knighton to Chapman

  • I’m thinking, wherever he is now, Dan Lewis is thinking, “Thank God there was no Match of the Day, Sky Sports or Internet in 1927.”

    As it is, he’s Britain’s answer to Fred Snodgrass, who effectively dropped the “world championship” of baseball in 1912. Hopefully, when the centennial of the event arrives in 2027, Lewis will be treated as fairly as Snodgrass was in last year’s U.S. coverage of “The $30,000 Muff.”

  • Andy Kelly

    I read in one history that Lewis was the only Arsenal player to be sent off between WW1 and WW2. I’ve not managed to find any evidence of this.

    If anyone knows what game he was sent off in, can they let me know.

  • That’s interesting. We’ve all heard that refs let a lot more fouls go in the past. On the DVD of “The Damned United,” one of the extras is about football in general in the 1970s (Eddie Gray and Gordon McQueen are interviewed for it), and someone quoted a referee watching a tape from a 1970s game saying, if he were officiating that one, the game would have finished three-a-side.

  • Patrick Barclay

    Some accounts, including Lewis’s wiki entry, say he was dropped in 1930 and never recovered, like Jim Leighton at Manchester United. Any confirmation of this?

  • Patrick

    He played the League game before the 1930 final which ended 6-6 against Leicester. He was replaced by Preedy for the Final five days later. Lewis never played first team football for the club again.

    For stats please have a look at Andy’s team lines ups.

    http://stats.woolwicharsenal.co.uk/

  • Lewis was injured in the game against Newcastle on 5 April and Preedy played in the rest of the games that season except the 6-6 draw as Mark stated.

    I’ve not been able to find out if this was a comeback game for Lewis to test him out for the cup final or if it was to rest Preedy. If it was the former, conceding 6 goals probably didn’t inspire too much confidence in Herbert Chapman.

    My guess is that it was a trial to see if he was match fit for the final as he didn’t play in any reserve games following his injury. It caused something of a goalkeeping problem as Preedy played for the reserves inbetween the first team games.

    Lewis was retained for the 1930-31 season. If he had fallen out of favour then it would have been likely that he would have been released. However, he only played 3 reserve games during 1930-31, 2 of which were friendlies.

    He only played 6 games for Gillingham, 5 defeats and 1 draw, in which he conceded 13 goals.

  • Derek Paget

    My dad, 2 years younger than Lewis, worked with him at Kodak in Wealdstone after the ex-Arsenal man had given up football. Don’t know exactly when, but that’s what my dad told me!

  • Rufusstan

    Placing the question here as it seems appropriate, In the BBC preview to the Cardiff game today:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/25063879

    It flags up something that I’d never heard of, but is a very Arsenal sort of thing so wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out to be true.

    The idea being that after Dan Lewis’ howler, no Arsenal keeper has used a new, or even clean shirt in any final.

    Its the sort of tradition that you would like to be real, but I cannot find anything about it (even on here), so wondering if there was ever any truth to it, and if so, is it followed today?

    Its even more interesting in the context of Flamini and his shirt sleeves this week.

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