By Tony Attwood
Alan Skirton was born 23 January 1939 in Bath, and was signed from Bath City for £5000 in January 1959 by George Swindin. In total he had 153 games for Arsenal’s first team in League and Cup.
He moved on to play as an amateur with Bristol City as an amateur but they chose not to sign him, but having returned to Bath he was picked up as a possible player both by Arsenal and Chelsea. However he chose Arsenal because they had a reputation for helping to train players for their career after football.
Unfortunately soon after signing Alan was taken ill with TB and missed a whole year from his career.
His debut came on 20 August 1960 when played at number 7 in the first game of the season, a 3-2 away defeat at Burnley. In all he played 16 league games that season both at outside right and outside left, sometimes playing on the opposite wing to Danny Clapton, with the players also sometimes alternating in playing position on occasion.
In his second season he played in 38 of the 42 league games and became the club’s top scorer. But, as with so many players before and since, he then lost his place not because of a loss of form but because of change of manager. However over time other players did emerge to challenge him most notably John Macleod and George Armstrong.
Here is Alan’s league record…
In 1966/7 Alan only played the first two games of the season before being transferred to Blackpool, but this time his transfer was not because of one player taking his place. Armstrong played most of the season at outside left, but there was no settled player for the number 7 shirt, Coakley, Nelson, Court and Simpson all trying the position without enormous success.
The transfer to Blackpool was for £65,000 and Alan left having played 145 league games for Arsenal, and scoring 53 goals. He had incidentally played 144 times for Bath. After that he played for Bristol City, Torquay United, Durban City (in South Africa) and Weymouth.
Upon retirement Alan became a commercial manager at Weymouth, Bath City and finally, Yeovil – where there is a great testament to his work on their web site.
Although the club won no trophies during Alan’s time with Arsenal, he himself created a record as the first Arsenal player to score a goal in a European game – scoring the first goal in the second leg of round 1 of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup. The game was against Stævnet of Denmark on 22 October 1963 – Arsenal had won the first leg 7-1 (Geoff Strong got three as did Joe Baker – MacLeod getting the other). The second leg was lost 2-3 in front of just 13,569 people.
Alan Skirton did an interview a while back for Arsenal.com and speaking of Arsenal he said,
“When you had played 11 games for the first team you got a blazer. I was as pleased as punch going down to the West End to get measured up. It was marvellous. It meant the world to me.
Arsenal was, and still is, a lovely football club. I came to a tribute night for my friend Frank McLintock and sitting next to me was a lady and her son. It was Geordie Armstrong’s wife and son… tremendous.
“This is what Arsenal is all about. One of the players who is sadly not with us anymore but not forgotten by the Club who has embraced his family. I just think this is incredible; it’s something Arsenal is so fantastically good at. They never seem to forget. Anybody that has been connected with Arsenal will always be very, very glad about it.
“I enjoyed every minute of my time there and the teams I played in with the likes of George Eastham, Joe Baker, Jimmy Bloomfield, George Armstrong, Jon Sammels, Frank McLintock and others would be a mile in front of the stars of today.”
Alan also had an insight to offer on the fitness approach under Bertie Mee as physio as Alan returned from a year out. “When I reported to Highbury I was still on 10 tablets a day but he [Mee] ran my guts out to get me fit. I even had to run around Highbury with Bertie on my back. I tell you I threw up every morning and afternoon at those sessions. But I thought the world of that fellow; he was such a lovely man.”
Alan is now retired, and having seen him play many times in my childhood, I’d like to wish him many more happy years in retirement.