The history of a football club that started in the league in 1893 is of course packed with the names of hundreds of players who are no longer remembered by fans or even the club, although undoubtedly somewhere there are relatives who are still telling their children and grandchildren that a member of the family once played for Arsenal.
I suspect for most people Alex Wilson is one of these names – a player not now remembered, but one who played his part for the club over 80 years ago.
In fact on 27 January in 1934 Alex Wilson played his first game for our club. And a fine game it was as the result ran out Arsenal 7 Crystal Palace 0 in the FA Cup. Although truth be told the result was not especially remarkable for on that day five of the FA Cup games had six goals or more in them.
Frank Moss was the keeper at the time, and in these days there was no question of swapping around reserve players even for a supposedly easy FA Cup match. But he was injured for this match, and Wilson took over – one of six games he played in that season – sadly for him too few to get a winners’ medal as Arsenal won the league.
This was however the traumatic season – the season in which Herbert Chapman died and Joe Shaw took over as manager. He is therefore counted as one of Joe Shaw’s players.
Alex Wilson was born in Lancashire, and played for Overton Athletic and Greenock Morton winning promotion to the first division with then in 1929.
He was signed by Chapman in May 1933. Over the first two seasons he played intermittently but did get a run for the last nine games of 1934/5 – losing only the final game (by which time Arsenal were champions).
But with Moss’ injury problems continuing new manager George Allison kept Alex in goal and he played 43 games that season, including in the cup final where we beat Sheffield United 1-0. So he did get a medal.
However in the close season Allison signed George Swindin and Frank Boulton and after playing in the first game of the season Alex Wilson played only one more game, as first Swindin then Boulton became the first team keeper.
But Alex Wilson returned in 1938/9 after Boulton was sold and played 19 league and one cup game. After the second world war broke out he joined St Mirren, having played 90 games for Arsenal.
He did turn out as an emergency keeper for Brighton and Hove Albion in the 3rd division south in 1947/8 and was also trainer and physiotherapist for the club before moving on to Birmingham City, Sunderland and Blackpool, as well as Kent County Cricket Club.
In 1967 he emigrated to the USA and worked as a physio for the Boston Beacons of the NASL. He died in Boston at 1971, aged 62.
One of the men who was there for Arsenal when called upon, and of course a man who has appeared on the Highbury Wall.