By Tony Attwood
Charles Murray Buchan was born in Plumstead on 22 September 1891 and was brought up in the homeland of Woolwich Arsenal. Naturally he started with the club, but an argument with George Morrell relating to his expenses while he was training to be a teacher caused him to decline a professional contract after joining Arsenal in 1909. This was of course the era of massive cut backs at Arsenal which ultimately led to the club entering administration and being taken over by Henry Norris, so it is not too surprising that any request for extra payment would be turned down.
Charlie moved on to Northfleet United and then Leyton in the Southern League before being offered a contract by Sunderland,
Sunderland were a successful first division club at that time winning the league and appearing in the cup final, and Charlie was Sunderland’s leading scorer both before and after the first world war and remains Sunderland’s all time record scorer.
During the 1914/18 war he served his country with the Sherwood Foresters and was awarded the Military Medal, (an equivalent to the Military Cross). He ended the war as a second lieutenant.
In 1925 Buchan lost his place in the Sunderland team and was signed by Chapman who arrived that summer. The opening demand from Sunderland was very high – £4000 for a player now in the reserves – so Chapman reduced this to £2000 plus £100 a goal. However as he scored 21 goals in his first season the deal went against Arsenal’s interests. Buchan made his debut against Tottenham H in the first match of the season on 29 August 1925.
Chapman and Buchan had a close bond, and (at least so the story goes) they worked together after the defeat to Newcastle to reform the tactical approach of Arsenal, following the change in the offside law – also in the summer of 1925. The change was to move from the standard 2-3-5 formation into 3-2-2-3 in which the centre half was pulled back into the final defensive line, with two defensive midfielders in front. In front of them were the inside right and inside left playing as attacking midfield, and then a forward line of three that we would recognise today.
Charlie Buchan captained Arsenal in the 1927 cup final and retired one year later. He scored 56 goals in 120 matches for Arsenal playing for the most part as an attacking midfield player, following the formation change he helped introduce.
He then moved on to journalism, and commentary for the BBC, as well as being the founder of Charlie Buchan’s Football Monthly which continued until June 1974. He also published his autobiography, “A Lifetime in Football” in 1955, which is the source of much of our knowledge about the tactical change – and therefore as we have seen elsewhere, this needs to be treated with a little caution.