Number 1 in Arsenal’s Century Club – Ted Drake
Edward (Ted) Joseph Drake was born On August 16th 1912 in Southampton.
Ted started playing football at Winchester City, whilst continuing to work as a gas-meter reader. In June 1931, he was persuaded by George Kay to join Southampton, who was in Division Two. He made his Saints debut on 14 November 1931 at Swansea Town, and signed as a professional in November, becoming first-choice centre-forward by the end of the 1931–32 season. In the following season he made 33 league appearances, scoring 20 goals.
After only one full season, his bravery and skill attracted the attention of Arsenal’s Herbert Chapman, who tried to persuade him to move to North London. Ted rejected the chance of a move to Highbury and decided to remain at The Dell. He started the 1933–34 season by scoring a hat trick in the opening game against Bradford City, following this with at least one goal in the next four games, thereby amassing eight goals in the opening five games. By early March he had blasted his way to the top of the Football League Division Two goal-scoring table with 22 goals.
Arsenal, with George Allison now in charge, renewed their interest and Ted eventually decided to join the Gunners in March 1934 for a fee of £6,500. Saints had declined several previous offers, but eventually were forced to sell in order to balance their books. Ted made a total of 74 appearances for Southampton, scoring 48 goals.
He scored on his league debut for Arsenal against Wolves on 24 March 1934, in a 3–2 win. Although he joined too late to qualify for a League Championship medal in 1933–34, he would win one in 1934–35, scoring 42 goals in 41 league games in the process, this included three hat-tricks and four four-goal hauls. With two more goals in the FA Cup and Charity Shield, Ted scored 44 in all that season, breaking Jack Lambert’s club record, one that still holds to this day.
Ted made his England debut in the infamous ‘Battle of Highbury’ against Italy in 1934, the match was important enough to the Italians that Benito Mussolini had reportedly offered each player an Alfa Romeo car and the equivalent of £150 (about £15,000 in modern terms) if they beat the English team. Drake scored the third goal in an extremely violent, hate filled game which England won 3-2. Drake became a national figure his unwavering bravery being a trademark.
Stan Mortensen said “Drake made hard men flinch and he is absolutely fearless’’.
The following season, 1935–36 he scored SEVEN in a single match against Aston Villa at Villa Park on 14 December 1935, a club record and top flight record that also still stands. Ted claimed an eighth goal hit the crossbar and went over the line, but the referee waved away his appeal. Drake would go on to win the FA Cup in 1935–36, scoring the only goal in the final.
Despite being injured regularly (he was a doubt up until the last minute for the 1936 Cup Final), his speed, fierce shooting and brave playing style meant he was Arsenal’s first -choice centre forward for the rest of the decade and he was the club’s top scorer for five consecutive seasons.
With four games to go in the 1937-38 season, Arsenal and Wolves were level on points at the top. The introduction of substitutes was almost 30 years away. Drake was badly injured in a game against Brentford and was carried off the field over Tom Whittaker’s shoulder, Drake regained consciousness, had a deep cut stitched up and was sent back out for the second half. He had a fresh bandage around his head to go with the dirty one on his left wrist. Arsenal lost 3-0, while Wolves won 3-0 at Middlesbrough. It looked a major moment, and it was for Drake he was taken to the Royal Northern Hospital for an X-ray and was kept in. Opponents may not have relished his physicality, but Drake was popular. Newspapers recorded his recovery progress with something approaching awe.
Not all football fans, though, were so enamoured. As a columnist in the Daily Herald pointed out: “Ted Drake’s robust style might not be everybody’s meat, but when a fellow, after taking a five-stitch wallop, and with his hand already in plaster, has the pluck to come out and continue to play, surely it’s bad taste, to say the least, to hoot every time he touches the ball?” “There was even a certain amount of cheering as Drake was carried off, unconscious and bleeding. I didn’t like it.” The injury was bad enough for Drake to miss the next match, but he was back for the one after that, a victory over Liverpool.
On the last day of the 1937-38 season Arsenal were I point behind Wolves – Arsenal beat Bolton Wanderers 3-0 at Highbury while Wolves lost 1-0 away to Sunderland and Arsenal were champions once more.
The Second World War curtailed Drake’s career, he served in the Royal Air Force as well as turning out for Arsenal in wartime games; he also appeared as a guest player for West Ham United later in World War II. However, his career would not last long into peacetime; a spinal injury incurred in a game against Reading in 1945 forced him to retire from playing. With 139 goals in 184 games, he is the joint-fifth (along with Jimmy Brain) all-time scorer for Arsenal.
After retiring as a player, Ted managed Hendon in 1946, and then Reading from 1947. He led the club to the runners-up spot in Division Three South in 1948-49 and again in 1951–52, though at the time only the champions were promoted.
He was appointed manager of First Division Chelsea in 1952. Upon his arrival at Chelsea, he made a series of sweeping changes, doing much to rid the club of its previous amateurish, music hall image. He discarded the club’s Chelsea pensioner crest and with it the Pensioners nickname, and insisted a new one be adopted. From these changes came the “Lion Rampant Regardant” crest and the Blues nickname. He introduced scouting reports and a new, tougher, training regime based on ball work, a rare practice in English football at the time.
Within three years, in the 1954–55 season, Ted had led Chelsea to their first-ever league championship triumph. In doing so, he became the first person to win the league title both as player and manager. However, he never came close to repeating that success and left Chelsea to become reserve team manager at Fulham, later becoming a director and then life president.
He was a gifted all-round sportsman and played county cricket for his native Hampshire in the 1930s he still retained a lively interest in football into his eighties, though excursions from his Wimbledon home to watch matches became increasingly rare as his health deteriorated. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Drake betrayed no trace of bitterness that he had played in an era when material rewards were meagre, a telling measure of a fine footballer and a delightful man.
Ted Drake owns the following records for Arsenal –
- Most goals in a game 7 against Aston Villa in a 7-1 victory on December 14th 1935
- Most League goals in a season 42 in 1934-35
- Most goals in a season 44 in 1934-35 – League 42, FA Cup 1, Charity Shield 1
- An amazing most goals per game .76
- An incredible least amount of games – he scored 100 goals in 108 games (.93 GPG)
- (He also has the second highest amount of hat tricks at 11)
|Arsenal’s Century Club|
|** Games played to reach 100 goals.|
Drake passed away at the age of 82 on 30 May 1995.