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Charles Lewis – a Woolwich Arsenal forward, but not quite as versatile as reports suggest

Continuing the story of the 11 players who played for Woolwich Arsenal in the first game of the 1910/11 season (the first under the ownership of Henry Norris) we come to Charles Henry Lewis.

He was born on August 15, 1886 and died in 1967, although I can’t find record of the date of his death.  He was 80.

He was also that rare thing for Woolwich Arsenal – not just an Englishman, but a local lad, having been born in Plumstead, (then a small town in Kent) and who played for East Wickham, Eltham and Maidstone United before joining Arsenal in 1907.

His first game was on December 28th in a in a 4-0 home victory against Sunderland in which he scored two goals.  The commentaries upon him say he was signed the previous May, and if so one wonders why on earth he had to wait all that time.  He managed to become joint top scorer that season from just 13 league games.

But here’s another little oddity – he is called in several sites and books “A versatile forward, he was used by Arsenal in every attacking position,” but that’s not really true.   He started out playing inside forward (number 8 or 10) and then later he became a winger playing number 7 or 11.  Versatile suggests he moved around from match to match, but it was never like that.  The versatility came when he was asked to switch positions – which he did and then tended to stay there.

We should also note that he never played number 9 – the traditional centre forward role, which explains his subsequent lack of goals.   The problm was that although Lewis started off so well with 8 from 13 games he never really hit the heights again and in a total of 206 league appearances he only for 30 goals.  In 1910/11 for example he played 34 games and got 2.   In 1912/13 Lewis was Arsenal’s top scorer that season having scored four.  Woolwich Arsenal were relegated that year – and the records show it was fairly awful all round.

But he was still at Woolwich when Norris finally utilised the clause in his agreement to purchase the club, which allowed him to move away from Plumstead.  As we all know he took Arsenal to north London and so Lewis is one of the players celebrated on the Emirates Wall – a man who played at Highbury.  He wasn’t in the team for the first match at Highbury, but he was back in the side as a winger by December that year.

As with so many players of the era his career was cut short by the war, and by the time football resumed in 1919 he was 33 – his best years lost to the conflict.  He did play five times in the first post-war era with Arsenal in the first division before moving into the reserves and then leaving the club in 1921 having played 206 league games and 220 games in all for the first team scoring 34 goals in all, 30 of these in the league.  He played for a while for Margate before finally retiring.

This article is one of a series that is being prepared for a new book WOOLWICH ARSENAL, THE COMPLETE HISTORY – details will be announced on the site in due course.

Woolwich Arsenal – the index

Untold Arsenal – the Gunners today

The book of Arsenal in 1910

1 comment to Charles Lewis – a Woolwich Arsenal forward, but not quite as versatile as reports suggest

  • Jeffrey Lewis Davenport

    Nice stuff on Charles Lewis! He’s my Great Great Uncle and I now know a little more about the fella thanks to your superb site!

    Thanks and all the best. Jeff.

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