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Tommy Winship played in the first game at Highbury

Tommy Winship was born 14 July 1890 in Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne, and was known during his footballing career as ‘Wee’ or ‘Tiny’ being only five feet four inches tall.  He started out playing for Wallsend Park Villa a team that played in the Northern Football Alliance and were champions of it in 1904.

In 1910 he joined Woolwich Arsenal as a left winger and played his first game for Arsenal on December 26 1910 against Manchester United away in front of 35,000 in the recently opened Old Trafford.

Tommy Winship played six consecutive games, but only one was a victory, before he was dropped and replaced by CH Lewis who moved from right wing to left wing with Greenaway returning from injury on the right wing.

Unfortunately 1910 was the year in which Arsenal fell apart through the summer, and only just managed to stay in the league, so the team were for much of the season doing little more than hanging on.  Indeed that season they did not win any of their first seven games.

The fact that the club ended up 10th in the league is largely due to the fact that they did not lose any of their last 11 games – quite a turn around – and in such an up and down  season Winship was one of many players who the manager George Morrell experimented with.

In the following season he was again used as injury cover for Greenaway and Lewis and played eight league games.  He also scored two goals, the first being in the 3-1 Boxing Day (1912) win over Tottenham Hotspur at the Manor Ground.

1912/13 saw one more goal from 14 games and he was actually picked to play in the first five games of the season – so his status was obviously rising.    But then suddenly Thomas Winship moved from Woolwich Arsenal to Fulham in March 1913, just as Arsenal were sinking down the league and were already almost certain of relegation.

This is presented (in the few places that mention Winship) as a transfer, but I wonder if it were not a loan.  In 1912, the retain and transfer system (through which the club with whom a player had a contract, could hold the player for as long as they wished and virtually do anything they liked with the player) was established in law via the Herby Kingaby case in which the player sued Aston Villa who were refusing to play him or let him go to another club.

So Henry Norris would have known that he had complete control over his players at Arsenal.  But between 1903 and 1919 he was also a director of Fulham – which meant that in March 1913 when Winship moved between Arsenal and Fulham Norris was director of both clubs.  It may have been called a transfer when Winship moved in March 1913, but it was probably what we would consider a loan.

More confusing is that Winship does not seem to have played for Fulham at this time, and by September 6 1913 we have him back at Arsenal – which means the loan only lasted for the rest of the season.

Thus for 1913/14 – the start of Arsenal back in the second division and the start of Highbury, Tommy Winship was in the Arsenal team.  He only played 15 times and scored two goals but his name will always live on as one of the men who played in the first game at Highbury on 6 September 1913.  He also scored in Arsenal’s second game of the season – away to Wolverhampton.

In 1914/15 Winship again started the opening games but only made 12 starts in total scoring two goals, his last game being on 5 April 1915 in the 1-0 home win against Barnsley.

But by then war had broken out and once the season ended on 24 April the League was abandoned for the duration.

After the war Tommy Winship is recorded as playing for Darlington, and I have found a reference to Winship playing there in the Northern Echo.   This was a good period for Darlington and it is nice to think that Winship was part of this after his bit part at Arsenal.

In 1920 the club finished runners up in the North Eastern League and won the Durham Senior Cup.  In 1921 Darlington won the North Eastern League, and won election to the newly-formed Third Division North of the Football League and after three years won promotion to the second division.

There’s also one moment of particular note, for the Echo states that Darlington’s first 3rd division north match was “at home to Halifax on August 27, 1921, and they made a sensational start. Barely a minute gone, “Wee” Tommy Winship scurried down the left and crossed for Bill Hooper to score.

“Hooper can, in all probability, lay claim to the honour of being the first player to score in the Northern Section of the Third Division, ” said the Echo.

After that Tommy is reported to have played for Crewe Alexandra, Wallsend, Spen Black and White and Marley Hill UCG.  He is also reported to have worked in the shipbuilding yards on the Tyne.

Winship’s Arsenal total was 56 starts, scoring seven goals.  With Darlington it looks as if it were much more.  Any more information would be very welcomed.

2 comments to Tommy Winship played in the first game at Highbury

  • Tom Taw

    When Darlington were promoted from Third Division N in 1925 it was said Tommy
    Winship could only play in the Second Division once Arsenal, who still held his registration, were ‘settled’ ie agreed to release his registration via a fee or goodwill

  • Jamie winship

    Hello ,Tom Winship was my great grandad if u have anymore information on him pls let me know

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