Henry Norris: Players Who Came Back to Haunt Him and one who should have but didn’t!
Last updated: June 2008
They are (in the order they first crossed his path): Charles Buchan, Leigh Richmond Roose, John Rutherford known as Jock, Clement Voysey and Herbert White. And, separately because they were (with others) involved in the same incident: Joe Bradshaw and Edward Liddell.
In this file I’ll give a quick resumé of their careers before looking in more detail at Henry Norris’ dealings with them and why he might have regretted he’d ever met them. Charles Buchan bookends Norris’ career at Arsenal FC rather neatly - a blunder at both ends - but I’m going to deal with him last so this file begins with:
Dr LEIGH RICHMOND ROOSE
I take no credit for the sketch of Roose’s career that I give below: I’ve extracted the details from Spencer Vignes’ biography of the player, published in 2007.
Roose was born in 1877, the son of a Presbyterian minister. After school, he went to university at Aberystwyth where he came to public notice at least in Wales, as goal-keeper with the university team and then with Aberystwyth Town. He played for the first time for Wales in 1900, the year he moved to London to become a scientific assistant at King’s College Hospital, Holborn, while waiting to go to medical school. He first played in the Football League Division One for Stoke City, in season 1901/02, commuting to matches from London. He signed for Everton in November 1904 where he fell out with the club’s manager, William Cuff, a friend of Henry Norris’s (though I think they hadn’t met at this early stage). Roose qualified as a doctor in 1907 but didn’t practice as one. He was signed by Sunderland in January 1908 and played for them until 21 November 1910 when his left arm was broken just above the wrist in a goal-mouth melée during the north-east derby, Newcastle United v Sunderland. He was 31, and was widely expected to retire at that point. In fact, he was back keeping goal as early as the following February but he was never as good, nor as fearless, as he had been before the injury. Offered a contract by Aston Villa for season 1911/12, he presided in goal for 10 matches in which Aston Villa conceded more goals than any other first division club. It was at this low point that he was signed by Woolwich Arsenal. He played for Woolwich Arsenal for the rest of season 1911/12 but retired at the end of it, entering the after-dinner speech circuit at £50 per night. He volunteered as soon as World War 1 broke out and served in the Royal Army Medical Corps through the Gallipoli campaign. What happened after that has been diligently pieced together by Spencer Vignes who has established that Roose joined the Royal Fusiliers in July 1916 but because of a bungle at the War Office was listed as spelled RoUse. He was last seen on 7 October 1916 going over the top in one of those futile attempts at an advance that characterised the Somme; Vignes believes Roose was killed that day but his body was never found and because of the spelling error his family weren’t informed.
Roose was never a professional footballer, he always played as an amateur, if you can call it that. Amateurs were allowed some expenses, however, and Roose first encouraged and later in his career expected that his football club employers would foot the bill for first-class train tickets, the best hotels, swanky clothes, wining and dining, the rent on his flat in London... He was investigated by the football authorities twice for receiving money hugely in excess of what amateurs were allowed to claim; but each time his club covered up for him. He was also investigated for inciting a crowd. On each of the three occasions, Roose treated the investigations with contempt.
Roose was a showman. His style of goal-keeping was flamboyant and included acting as a sweeper, running with the ball and coming well out of his area. He gave as good as he got in an age when the rules gave goal-keepers virtually no protection from barging forwards. And he was a bit of a clown, swinging on his cross-bar or even sitting on it to make the crowd laugh. He was one of the first players to be hired to write about football in the newspapers; and his private life was fairly well known as well, especially around 1909/10 when he had a fling with the great music-hall star Marie Lloyd. His name (though possibly not his face) was known, he was famous, he attracted crowds...enter Henry Norris.
In a statement that Henry Norris prepared in July 1927 to be given to the FA Commission of Inquiry into Arsenal FC’s financial affairs, he mentioned the signing of a player “in the year 1911" that he didn’t name but identified as “a very distinguished amateur”. Norris made no bones about why he and William Hall wanted to sign this player: they hoped “his presence might help to revive interest in the Club’s doings”: that is to say, that he’d increase match-day crowds. The player was willing to join the club; but he had to be paid “the sum of £200" before the contract was finalised; although once at the club he made no claims for expenses. Norris and Hall paid the £200 signing-on fee the player required out of their own money, £100 each.
Quite why Norris mentioned the £200 signing-on fee in July 1927 I don’t know. Certainly, payment of it had broken the rules about signing-on fees, which allowed players to be offered a maximum of £10. But as he and Hall had paid the player out of their own pockets, £200 was not missing from Arsenal FC’s accounts. The only reason I can think of for why he mentioned the deal was that he was hoping, by confessing to some incidents that couldn’t be proven against him, to distract the FA Commission’s members from other irregular deals which they were investigating and for which there was evidence in the club’s accounts. Certainly the FA Commission didn’t investigate this payment: they could hardly do so, with its recipient a hero of the late war, missing presumed dead.
Roose was the only player signed by Woolwich Arsenal FC in 1911 who fits Norris’ description. The club’s manager, George Morrell, had always admired Roose as a player and, clearly, Norris and Hall were very aware of Roose’s power to increase gate-receipts. Roose’s first game for Woolwich Arsenal was on 16 December 1911 at the Manor Ground, v Middlesbrough and Norris’ strategy did seem to have worked, at least at that first match: there was a crowd of 13000, well above the usual, to see Roose have virtually nothing to do in a very one-sided match. He played for the club for the rest of the season, but he couldn’t stretch like he had before the injury. The last match of the season provided more evidence of a great player’s decline: Woolwich Arsenal 0 Notts County 3 was a sad end to Roose’s career.
JOHN RUTHERFORD known as JOCK
Rutherford was signed by Woolwich Arsenal FC in 1913 after a long spell at Newcastle United in which he’d won three Football League Division One championships, played in five FA Cup finals, winning one, and been capped by England seven times: a very distinguished career which United clearly thought he was at the end of. Rutherford was a winger, preferring the right but very capable on the left as well. For a decade he was the linch-pin of Arsenal’s forward-line, the one reliable element in line-ups that were continually changing and where players were continually asked to play out of position. Before turning professional as a footballer, Rutherford had been apprenticed to a steel plater in a shipyard - useful knowledge for wartime. When professional football ceased in May 1915 he found work in a reserved occupation. From September 1915 to May 1919 he played for Arsenal regularly in the London Combination although his paid work took him to Liverpool for a short time in 1917 and to Southampton at the beginning of September 1918, causing him to miss all the games until the Armistice.
In September 1917 Rutherford had bought a newsagents’ business at 96 Gillespie Road, right next to the Arsenal ground in Highbury. A move looking towards a time beyond playing football, you would think, but in fact Rutherford played on when professional football returned in season 1919/20 and Arsenal went back into Football League Division One. He was a regular in Arsenal’s first-team until March 1923, except for a period out injured in the autumn of 1920. In February 1921 Arthur Bourke, writing as Norseman in the Islington Daily Gazette, could still describe him as “the best outside-right in England”.
At the end of March 1923, Rutherford accepted the job of manager at Stoke City and announced his retirement as a player. He was made captain for the day on his last match, on Easter Monday 2 April 1923: Arsenal 1 Blackburn Rovers 1. At the final whistle the Arsenal band played Auld Lang Syne and the first team carried Rutherford off the pitch shoulder-high. He left London the next day to take up his new post. The Arsenal directors held a special dinner in his honour in August 1923 and presented him with a silver tea and coffee service on a big silver tray, as a thank-you for all his years of service to the club. But he was back in September! - resigning from Stoke City after the directors had refused to sign a player he had recommended (the player failed his medical examination). In their statement about the incident, however, Stoke’s directors said they thought Rutherford missed playing; he certainly never tried management again. By Tuesday 4 September 1923 he had re-signed as a player at Arsenal; and the Islington Daily Gazette was mighty glad to see him back, thinking he’d be a steadying influence on the team’s younger players after a poor start to the season.
Rutherford played on, though he did not figure in the first team quite so regularly during season 1924/25. In June 1925, the Athletic News reported that Rutherford had retired, but again the news was premature, and in August the Islington Daily Gazette was writing of him as awaiting registration as a player before being named in Herbert Chapman’s first Arsenal squad. However, there was a hitch - see below. The FA finally registered Rutherford as a player in time for him to play in Arsenal 3 Manchester United 2 on 16 January 1926, in which he linked well with Charles Buchan at inside-right. But his long absence from playing seems to have slowed Rutherford up at last. He couldn’t get back his regular place in the first team and he was not re-signed for season 1926/27. He moved to Clapton Orient, playing nine games for them before finally - finally! - retiring for real in 1926. He was 42 - a remarkable age for a player finally to quit the profession, even today. He played on for so long that he and his son were both professional players with Arsenal at the same time during season 1925/26.
Henry Norris’ dealings with Jock Rutherford could have come back to haunt him twice, but actually only did so once. The first occasion was essentially a repeat of the payment to Roose. In his statement to the FA Commission of Inquiry in 1927, Norris confessed that “a certain professional player” was paid “a sum of £200 which does not appear in the books of the Club”; I presume he meant that it wasn’t the club’s money. It was paid as a signing-on fee on top of the £10 that the Football League rules allowed. As well as being paid £200, as part of the negotiations with Rutherford William Hall also promised him a benefit match. Benefit matches were an important source of retirement revenue for players at the time but clubs were only supposed to promise them after the player had been at the club for three seasons.
The date of the rule-breaking transaction was 1913. Again Norris didn’t give the player’s name, but Rutherford fits the bill well. He had been put on Newcastle United’s transfer list in October 1913. Several Football League Division One clubs had shown an interest but over the weekend of 25-26 November 1913 he had travelled (unenthusiastically, apparently) to London with a view to signing for second division Chelsea. Then, as Athletic News put it, “Woolwich Arsenal stepped in” - with inducements over and above their rivals, presumably; and over and above the rules. But in 1927 the FA didn’t follow up these rule-breaking inducements; what they did investigate, and cause dealings with Rutherford to come back to haunt Norris, was a career-threatening incident involving Rutherford, that they had partially caused themselves.
The hitch that Rutherford came up against in the close season 1925 was not of his making. According to Henry Norris’ account of what happened (given in 1929) the betting company Turf Publishers Limited had issued coupons and a letter trying to drum up business for a competition; the letter had had Rutherford’s signature on it and a promise that Rutherford would choose the competition winners. The Football Association’s Rule 43 said “a player proved to have taken part in coupon football betting shall be permanently suspended”. So when Rutherford’s registration as a professional player for season 1925/26 came before them, the FA refused to action it; meaning he couldn’t play.
The FA Commission’s report of 1927 said that it was the FA that pressured Rutherford into taking legal action against the betting company; but I detect Henry Norris’ hand very strongly in Rutherford’s decision to go to law to clear his name in the FA’s eyes. For one thing, Rutherford’s solicitors in his case were a firm Norris was very familiar with - Rodgers Gilbert and Rodgers; the firm’s Arthur Gilbert, who probably did the work, was an old freemason acquaintance of Norris and William Hall. And when the case reached court on 29 October 1925 and the betting company’s barrister offered an out-of-court settlement before the case began, Rutherford insisted on going into the witness box and swearing under oath that he had not received money from Turf Publishers Limited - something which Norris had done in his two successful libel actions. Eventually Rutherford’s barrister accepted £200 damages and costs on his client’s behalf (having turned down the earlier, much lower offer) and Turf Publishers Limited made an apology in court. Rutherford was cleared.
However he was quite a bit out of pocket. In September 1925 he sold his newsagent’s business; possibly with retirement in mind but possibly also to help pay his legal costs. Not registered to play football, he had lost about four months’ wages; and bringing the case had cost him £343. The £200 damages he received all went to pay his solicitors and barrister, Rutherford didn’t keep any of the money himself, but the lawyers were still short the full extent of their fees; so Arsenal FC stepped in and paid the £143 difference.
In October 1925 the law might have deemed Rutherford innocent but that wasn’t enough for the FA; they began their own enquiry into Rutherford’s connections with betting companies, and while it was being undertaken they continued to refuse to register him. He did not finally get the FA’s clearance to resume his career for another two months. His long lay-off had caused him to lose his place in Arsenal’s first team; indeed you could almost say that it had ended his career prematurely, because he never played regularly in the first team again and retired a few months later.
It seems to me both generous and sensible for the directors of Arsenal FC, as Rutherford’s employers, to help him pay for his legal case when the damages he received didn’t cover all he’d had to spend - after all, until Rutherford was cleared, Arsenal FC could not use his services. But in 1927 this act of generosity came back to bite Henry Norris: the FA Commission of Inquiry report censured Arsenal and Norris in particular for having helped pay Rutherford’s costs in a case their refusal to register him had caused.
In his statement to the FA Commission of Inquiry in 1927 Henry Norris described how Arsenal FC went about signing a particular player “At the termination of the War”. As usual in this statement, Norris didn’t give the player’s name, though he did say that he had not played as a professional up to the time he had joined Arsenal. According to Norris’ account, before he would sign for Arsenal the player demanded £200 to cover the higher cost of living he would incur in London; despite never having played professionally, he had learned a few tricks of the professional’s trade! Norris and Hall, anxious to sign someone who was being courted (or said he was) by other clubs, agreed to the £200; but that put Hall in a quandary. As Norris was going to be on holiday when the player came to London to clinch the deal, Hall would have to be the one to supervise payment of the money; but as a member of the Football League management committee he wanted to remain in official ignorance about a signing-on fee in excess of the £10 allowed in the rules. So when he went to meet the player at St Pancras station, he took with him a member of Arsenal’s office staff (probably Harry John Peters although the man was never named), who handed over the £200 in cash. The player then signed a contract with Arsenal, and turned professional. Clem Voysey was the player, a defender. In 1927, the FA Commission of Inquiry’s report implied that the £200 was taken from Arsenal FC’s account; however, in 1929 Henry Norris was at some pains to state that the £200 was his own money.
Voysey was born in London in 1897 and was training to be a teacher when World War 1 was declared. When called up (that will have been after January 1916) he joined the RAF. While stationed in Yorkshire - probably at Catterick where men were being trained for the Royal Flying Corps - he had played under the no-wage rules for Leeds City (managed by Herbert Chapman) and Manchester City (where Leslie Knighton was working, who was appointed manager of Arsenal in 1919). He probably played his first game for Arsenal on Saturday 29 March 1919: Arsenal 1 Spurs 0, though he was only identified as ‘Newman’ in the match-day programme. On 17 May 1919, under his own name now, he played in a charity match at Highbury and his performance that day was commented on by two football reporters. Arthur Bourke/Norseman in the Islington Daily Gazette, said that Voysey “does the right thing at the right moment. This is the hall mark of success.” And in the Athletic News the writer on London football known as The Vagrant liked his “clean tackling and brainy feeding”.
Voysey was not the finished article, however, and Football League Division One was not like wartime amateur football. In a match report on Newcastle United 3 Arsenal 1, played on 6 September 1919, Athletic News’ north-east reporter said that although Voysey’s distribution out of defence had been very good, he had struggled to impose himself on United’s Wilson, the player he was supposed to be marking. And on 13 September 1919, only a few weeks into his first season as a professional, Voysey got injured in Sunderland 1 Arsenal 1. Not his fault, though he was probably not yet up to division one speed. Not Norris’s either - but not only did Voysey not play again for over a year; he needed long treatment at the Great Northern Hospital (on Holloway Road) which the club will have had to pay for; and also, he seems never afterwards to have become the player he could have been.
That’s not to say that Voysey wasn’t a useful member of the Arsenal squad. The first record after 1919 that I can find, of Voysey playing in the first team, was on 10 January 1921 when he played in the FA Cup third round tie QPR 2 Arsenal 0; but he was only on the team sheet that day because both the regular half-backs were injured. In the first game of season 1921/22 he played outside-left, where Paterson usually played who was unavailable for this game. And those two matches established a pattern, of Voysey getting into the Arsenal first team only when regulars weren’t fit, and not necessarily in the position he’d been bought to fill. He had a longer run than usual in the side at the beginning of season 1922/23, showing flashes of the skills the football writers had seen in him at first and enough good form to keep Alec Graham out when Graham recovered from injury. But at the end of October 1922 he spent a few weeks on the transfer list, at his own request, after refusing to play in a reserve game: life on the fringes of the first team was getting him down. He was back in the first team at the end of November, but again it was because first-choices were injured, and now he was being used at inside-right. At Christmas 1922 he got injured again and played only a handful of first-team games the rest of that season. And so it went on, though at the end of each season Voysey was always offered another contract for next season; and he always re-signed for the next season. Perhaps he hoped that next season he would establish himself; perhaps he found that other clubs were reluctant to sign a player who’d been on the injured list for a season and a half.
A curious incident occurred in 1925: in June of that year, the FA Emergency Committee, which made the day-to-day decisions between FA Council meetings, took a look at Voysey’s contract at Arsenal. The FA Minutes don’t give any clue who asked them to do so. I suppose it was Voysey, because the Committee’s conclusion was that the contract didn’t actually provide for any payment to Voysey for his work at the club. The Committee decided that the contract was not acceptable in its current state, that its clauses 8 and 9 “were inconsistent with each other”; and I suppose a more suitable contract was drawn up, because Voysey did stay at Arsenal FC until the end of season 1925/26 when Herbert Chapman released a number of the longer-serving players he’d inherited. Voysey’s last game in the first team was on 6 February 1926; his last Arsenal game was for the reserves, on 2 April 1926.
Voysey never played football professionally again, and when I read about his career with Arsenal I get a sense of great potential, never fulfilled. Not anyone’s fault, just one of the risks and the curses of football; but it seems like Norris had broken the rules and not gained anything from it. And in 1927, the £200 paid to Voysey came back to haunt Norris. The FA Commission of Inquiry followed up the anonymous reference to the deal in Norris’ statement, discovered who the player was, interviewed Voysey as well as Norris and Hall about what had gone on, and found - as they had to - that both Norris and Hall were guilty of paying Voysey a signing-on fee greatly in excess of what was allowed in the Football League rules.
Herbert White came to football’s notice during season 1918/19, playing inside-right for Brentford FC, who won the London Combination that season. In April 1919 the Athletic News noted that he was the “heaviest scorer in London: a quiet but effective player”. In 1927, Henry Norris said he’d had White brought to his attention by Arsenal player Walter Hardinge, who seems to have known White from playing cricket, not from playing football. Norris’ 1927 account of his decision to try to sign White reads as if Norris had never seen White play himself, and that’s very likely - Norris saw very few football matches during World War 1.
White’s signing for any other club was held up by Brentford, who refused to let him leave. Perhaps Norris should have been warned by White’s reaction to Brentford’s desire to keep him: White went to the Southern League appeals committee, asking to be freed from his contract; and when the Southern League sided with the club rather than the player, threatened to take Brentford to court to obtain his release. When Brentford backed down rather than face an expensive legal case, White was free to play where he chose. Norris wasn’t the only person wanting to sign White; with the return of professional football, several clubs were interested in him - or so White told Norris. However White was keen on playing for Arsenal; at least, that was what Norris said in 1929 that White had told him, though if it was true, White went an odd way about getting signed by his preferred club. White told Norris that he wanted £1000 to turn professional with Arsenal FC, saying he couldn’t keep his wife and child in London on just the player’s maximum wage.
At first Norris decided he wasn’t yet that desperate. He reminded the player that such a signing-on fee was illegal; and said Arsenal couldn’t afford it. Then he offered White the £1000 after five years; if still at the club then, White would be due a benefit match; Norris offered to guarantee that White would get £1000 from it. But White wasn’t having that. He wanted the money now. He remained adamant and eventually Norris seems to have decided or been persuaded he’d be worth it. An extraordinary loan deal was concluded, almost certainly unique in football history; with the £1000 White was demanding coming from Norris’ own pocket, in five instalments of £200, on the understanding that Norris would get it all back out of the proceeds of White’s benefit match in five years’ time. Unless you think of the £1000 as a signing-on fee the deal wasn’t exactly against the Football League rules: the rules just didn’t cover an agreement like this. At least the first three payments of it were made, in July 1919 when White signed for Arsenal, in 1920 and 1921, White giving Norris IOU’s for the amounts. It’s not clear whether Norris made the payment due in 1922. And it’s not clear how many of the other directors of Arsenal knew about the loan at the time it was negotiated; though William Hall did, and approved, from the start.
It was an odd agreement. I’m sure Norris would never have reached such a deal in his professional life as a partner in Allen and Norris. He had lent £1000 on the assumption that the person he’d lent it to would stay employed by him for five seasons; and that at the end of those five seasons would be granted a benefit match which would bring in at least £1000. Two factors combined to make it all come unstuck: the devil was definitely in the detail here.
The first was a change in the rules on benefit matches. Between 1919 and 1923 a cap was put on them so that the maximum a player could earn from one benefit match was £650. If Norris paid White all the £200 instalments they’d agreed on, as a result of the rule change he could only get back the money in three of them.
The second detail was White himself. In Athletic News’ pre-season assessment of Football League Division One, White was seen as Arsenal’s star signing. And Arthur Bourke/Norseman, in the Islington Daily News (who unlike Norris had been able to see White play for the last two or three seasons) described him as “a fast intelligent forward. Not afraid to shoot and ever on the alert for an opening.” And White did start season 1919/20 well, seeming to relish the challenge of games against the big clubs. On 20 September 1919 he got all Arsenal’s goals in Arsenal 3 Sunderland 2; and in Arthur Bourke’s match report on Arsenal 1 Bradford City 2 (25 October 1919) White was specifically exempted when Bourke/Norseman raged against “a want of finish in the Arsenal forward line” (a common criticism of Norris’ teams). However, as the season progressed White sank out of view and by April 1920 Bourke/Norseman was feeling less well-disposed towards him, saying that he had not lived up to his reputation.
In season 1920/21 White was not a regular in the Arsenal first-team. He got a run in it during the winter but was one of four players dropped after the debacle Arsenal 2 Sheffield United 6 on Easter Saturday, 26 March 1921. He did start the first few games of season 1921/22 but was injured in late September; after returning to fitness he couldn’t get back in the first team on a regular basis until the season’s last few weeks, where he played a part in the run which saved Arsenal from relegation. The pattern of season 1921/22 was repeated in season 1922/23, White playing in the first team until being injured in November, then being in and out of the first team for the next few months, depending on who was injured. By the end of February 1923 he was playing for the reserves, scoring 7 in the friendly match Arsenal Reserves 11 Athenian Football League (which was amateur) 1, on 24 February 1923.
The game against the Athenian League was White’s last for Arsenal. On 2 March 1923 he was transferred to Blackpool City for £1250. During the negotiations, Arsenal went to the Football League for a ruling on how much White was entitled to as compensation for being transferred before he was eligible for a benefit match at Arsenal; the FL decided White was due £487. However, when the cheque for £487 was made out by Blackpool’s representatives, Henry Norris took it, as all the money he was likely to get from his £1000 loan to White in 1919.
White was furious. He hadn’t wanted to be transferred to Blackpool; at one stage had been demanding £500 to agree to it. Once the deal had gone through, White threatened to go to court to retrieve the £487 taken in lieu by Norris. Later he lowered his sights a bit and went to the Football League, demanding somewhat less, £238 (I don’t know where he got that figure from). William Hall was the first person from Arsenal to find out that White wanted his transfer to Blackpool investigated by the Football League. On an FL trip to Belfast for an international match, he was told what was in the wind by the chairman of Blackpool, a fellow member of the FL management committee. As soon as he got back to London Hall warned Norris what was likely to happen - but Norris replied that the prospect of the investigation finding out about his loan to White didn’t worry him, as he didn’t think he’d done anything wrong.
White’s transfer to Blackpool City was the subject of a hearing at the Football League in October 1923; and during the course of it the full details of Norris’ loan to White in 1919 were aired. The hearing decided that in agreeing the loan of £1000 Norris had been in breach of the FL rules on inducements to players; all Arsenal’s other directors were absolved from any blame as it had come out during the hearing that most of them hadn’t known about the loan. It was Norris’ turn to be livid: he was ordered to pay White the £238 White was demanding. As the Athletic News said, wryly, in its coverage of the hearing, Norris had lost rather a large sum of money, and a player had gained it. White had got away with receiving £200 a year for at least three years, possibly more; and he’d only lost the difference between £238 and £487. Norris had paid out at least £600 and hadn’t been able to retrieve any of it.
In 1929 Norris was still bitterly resentful of the outcome of the FL enquiry; he felt that after all he had done for the footballing authorities in the past few years, he deserved better than to have a player’s word accepted against his own. He also said that he’d lent White his own money, not Arsenal’s and so the deal was none of the football authorities’ business: he had a right to lend his money where he liked.
The FL hearing made Norris’ loan to White public property and as well as being censured by the FL, he was carpeted by the press, who by that time had several reasons to take a strong moral tone with him. Norris may also have had a row over the loan with Arsenal director Charles Crisp, who resigned from the board of directors at the 1924 AGM and never played any part in the club’s affairs again; Crisp said in 1929 that he’d left after a difference of opinion with Norris, though he didn’t say what they had disagreed about. Norris felt obliged to offer his resignation from Arsenal’s board himself; though the other directors refused to accept it. His resignation from the managing committee of the London FA was accepted, however. And he hadn’t heard the end of the loan deal, either. In 1927 FA Commission of Inquiry was asked specifically to look at the deal, so it was investigated all over again. Although the FA didn’t take any evidence from Walter Hardinge, who could have given them his version of what happened in 1919. The FA’s refusal to hear Hardinge was something that particularly angered Norris.
I have shown that White failed to live up to expectations at Arsenal. As Norris wrote in 1929, White “was not the player we anticipated”. However, he wasn’t talking about White’s playing skills. Norris was saying that White couldn’t get on with the men who were his team-mates. Of course, in a squad of 14 or 15 players some of whom are rivals for the same position in the first eleven, it would be a miracle if everybody got on with everybody else. However, Norris suggested that White didn’t get on with anyone. Maybe he boasted about that £1000 - no other player at Arsenal and probably few players elsewhere had got one of those. However he went about it, he made trouble in the dressing-room and in the end, the Arsenal board had had to field so many complaints about him that they decided he was more trouble than he was worth. Norris was probably as keen as his fellow directors to be rid of him rather than pay him any more of the yearly payments of £200. Although White had in 1922 qualified to be offered a benefit match by Arsenal, under the rules any such offer by a club was discretionary, and White wasn’t offered one; perhaps he wasn’t popular with the fans either.
White hadn’t wanted to go to Blackpool FC and he didn’t stay long. In the close season 1925 he was transferred to Fulham; but doesn’t seem to have played for them before being moved on again, to Walsall where he played in season 1925/26. Then he had short spells at Nelson FC, Walsall again, and Stafford Rangers. He didn’t play again in the Football League after season 1926/27. Other FL clubs had learned about White what Norris had learned so expensively: White was a player who may have had the skills (his career as a professional actually suggests otherwise), but definitely not the temperament. After Nic ‘the Sulk’ Anelka we know all about that at Wenger’s Arsenal.
In offering Voysey and White money to sign for Arsenal, Henry Norris had shown how anxious he was to get some players for season 1919/20 who could help the club stay in Football League Division One - which Norris considered was the best way to pay off its debts quickly. Too anxious, perhaps. Voysey’s injury-blighted career as a professional footballer was just one of those unlucky things. But in White, Norris had allowed himself to buy a pig in a poke; then he was made to regret it in public, twice.
[ROGER THERE’S A PART TWO TO THIS FILE: SLHAUNT2 FOLLOWS ON IMMEDIATELY FROM THIS]
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Copyright Sally Davis May 2008