9 February 1957

If you know your Arsenal history you will know of the famous managers from the 1930s onwards: Chapman, Allison, Whittaker.  But what then?

Chapman was of course an outsider, brought in from Huddersfield Town, but Allison and Whittaker were Arsenal through and through.  Allison had started with the club in 1910 as the programme editor / writer, and risen to become manager.  Whittaker was a player for the club, who after being injured playing for England’s B team became the club’s first ever physiotherapist, and ultimately manager.

Like Chapman, Whittaker tragically died while still managing the club, and he was replaced by another Arsenal man, William John Crayston (known universally as Jack)

George Allison had signed Crayston in May 1934, noting that he was impressed by his sober attitude to life and once Crayston joined the team he was a regular, playing 37 league games in his first season, and winning the title with the club.  He even scored on his debut, although perhaps that wasn’t hard as Arsenal ran out 8-1 winners.  It was the season of Ted Drake with 41 league games 42 league goals.  Crayston even got a goal.

The following year Arsenal were unable to hold onto their crown – but they won the FA Cup instead with Jack Crayston playing in all 7 cup games.  And he won his first cap for England that season.

The following season was without trophies but Arsenal were back for 1937/38 with another championship (won on the last day of the season with a  5-0 thumping of Bolton) and 31 games and 4 goals for Jack Crayston.

Jack Crayston served in the RAF, until he was injured in a war-time football match in 1943, and retired from playing aged 33.

At the end of the war he joined the coaching staff at Highbury and in June 1947 was appointed assistant manager to Tom Whittaker.  That remained Jack’s job through the rest of the Whittaker years as the two men won the league twice, the FA Cup once and picked up a runners-up medal in the Cup as well), until Tom died suddenly in November 1956.  Jack took over as caretaker manager in October when Tom was taken ill,and was made manager at the end of the year.

Prior to his death Tom Whittaker was having difficulty in getting the club into anything like the dominant position of the 1930s, and Jack Crayston found life at the top even more tough – not least with the defeat to Northampton in the FA cup.  And on this day in 1957 Jack suffered only his 4th defeat as manager – Man U 6 Arsenal 2.  In the previous game Arsenal beat Sheffield W 6-3.

Some reports suggest that 12th achieved by Crayston in 1958 was Arsenal’s worst showing for 38 years – but this is nonsense.  Indeed in 1946/7 – the first post-war season, Arsenal ended up 13th and were knocked out of the cup in the 3rd round – and going back to the 1924/25 season one finds Arsenal missing relegation by one place that season, and the season before.   However the “worst for 38” statement is on the internet  and is copied by those who don’t do their homework.

But after finishing 12th Jack Crayston decided to leave the pressure, and became manager of Doncaster who had just been relegated to the third division. But they were relegated again eight points from safety, and after two seasons in the mid to lower reaches of the fourth Jack again resigned as manager in March 1961 aged 51.

I imagine that at this stage he may have retired – sadly I have no further information to hand save that Jack Crayston died aged 82 in December 1992.