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The first of the 50 greatest Arsenal players

So far in the review of players who were getting ready to start for Woolwich Arsenal in the first match of the 1910/1911 season (the first under Henry Norris) the names mentioned will probably have meant little.

Their achievements were great of course…

Percy Sands who started his career with eight straight wins, and who went on to be The first captain of The Arsenal.

Then there was Hugh Lachlan McDonald the only man to be signed five times by Arsenal

Also we had the original Mr Arsenal Roddy McEachrane who played over 350 games, but never scored a goal.

Almost certainly new names to you, unless you are a connoisseur of matters Woolwich.

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But now we have a name you might have heard, because this is a player who made it into Arsenal’s all time top 50 when the club ran that list a couple of years ago.

Andy Ducat.   And what made him great was that he played for England at football and at cricket.

This is what Arsenal.com says… “Ducat the cricketer hit 52 centuries for Surrey and played one Test against Australia in 1921, a year after being named as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year. Ducat the footballer made six appearances for England over the space of 10 years.”

Andy Ducat was born London in February 1886 and after his family moved to Southend he played for local clubs Westcliff Athletic and Southend Athletic.  Arsenal.com have him coming from Southend United – but I think Athletic is right.   Athletic continued until 1906 when they were wound up, and a completely new club – United – which had nothing to do with the old club, was formed.

Then  he joined Woolwich Arsenal in 1905 and made his debut in February 1905 in a 2-0 home win against Blackburn Rovers in front of 8000 fans.   He started out as a centre forward but later moved to right half (number 4 in the old style formation) and stayed for seven years, scoring 21 goals in 188 matches.  He is the first of the players on our list who left at the height of his ability with Arsenal to go to a bigger club – Aston Villa.  Woolwich were a mid-table side when he left as part of a further attempt at cost cutting by Henry Norris.   So after being a present in almost every game in 1911-12 Arsenal sold him for £1000 (a huge sum) – he had played 188 games and scored 21 goals.

A year later they were relegated.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing.  In September 1912 Ducat broke his leg in a game against Manchester City. As a result he missed the FA Cup Final against Sunderland in 1913.

However in 1920 something quite bizarre happened.  Ducat was still at Villa and the club reached the cup final where they played Huddersfield Town in at Stamford Bridge.   According to stories, Jack Howcraft, the ref, entered the Villa dressing-room before the game and warned the Villa player  Frank Barson that he would be sent off for any indiscretion.

This might seem bizarre, but according to an article on Wikipedia, “On one occasion Barson’s hard tackling resulted in a seven month ban; after a game, he often needed a police escort to protect him from angry opposition fans.”  So on that basis, and given the reverence with which the FA Cup final liked to be seen, maybe the story is true.

According to the authors of The Essential Aston Villa, “the normally unflappable Barson was taken aback and his performance was uncharacteristically cautious for much of the game.”  Villa won 1-0 and Ducat got his cup winners’ medal.    In the same year (when he would have been 34) he got three more England caps.

Having gone to Fulham in 1921 he stopped playing professionally in 1924 and succeeded Phil Kelso as Fulham manager (yet another Arsenal Fulham connection) but his two seasons there were not a success, and he then moved to Casuals playing amateur football.

As a cricketer he played alongside Tom Hayward and Jack Hobbs.  In 1928, he made 994 runs in less than six weeks, including centuries four successive matches.

After retiring from cricket in 1931, Ducat became cricket coach at Eton as well as being a sports reporter before he died in 1942 – it is said he died while playing a cricket match at Lords – according to morbid cricket historians the only man to have died during a match at Lord’s Cricket Ground.

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