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Football and the First World War

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David Jack

 

David Jack was born in Bolton, Lancashire, on 3 April 1898, the first son of Robert (Bob) Jack, a professional footballer from Alloa, then playing for Bolton Wanderers. Educated largely at Leigh Road Presbyterian school, Southend, where the family had moved following his father's appointment as manager of Southend United in 1906, he eventually joined the navy as a writer, aged seventeen. Already showing great promise as a footballer, he attracted the attention of a number of major clubs, including Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.

When football resumed its full programme in 1919 he chose instead to play at Plymouth Argyle, where his father was manager, before moving in December 1920 to Bolton Wanderers, where his brothers Rollo and Donald were to join him for a period in the 1920s.

His place in football's record books was assured in 1923 when, after only two minutes, he scored the first goal in the first ever FA cup final to be played at Wembley stadium, the so-called ‘white horse’ final.

An intelligent observer of the game, Jack wrote an informative football column for The Buff, Bolton's Saturday football paper. In 1928 Herbert Chapman, finally persuaded Bolton directors to sell their captain and leading player. Jack was initially uncertain about the move, but the offer of a weekly column with the London Evening Standard proved decisive. The transfer fee was variously reported to be £10,340, £10,670, and £10,890, but whatever the exact figure, he was the first player ever transferred for a five-figure fee and the consequent publicity saw his early appearances add 5000 to Arsenal's average home attendance.

The elegant, long-striding Jack was undoubtedly one of the finest inside forwards of all time—he also played on the right wing and at centre forward while at Bolton—and, in fact, a number of informed commentators regarded him as the greatest player of his generation. Between 1920 and 1934 Jack played 555 games, scoring 291 goals, winning FA cup winners' medals with Bolton (1923, 1926) and Arsenal (1930), and league championship medals with Arsenal (1931, 1933, and 1934).

Surprisingly he played only nine times for England between 1924 and 1932, although he captained the side in four of those games.

On his retirement in May 1934, Jack moved into management, first at Southend United, where he stayed until 1940, and then at Middlesborough from 1944 to 1952, the gap between the two posts (caused by wartime disruption) being filled by spells in a London bank and as manager of a Sunderland greyhound stadium. Ill health, possibly relating to the stress of the game, forced his retirement in 1952.

After a final brief spell managing the Irish club Shelbourne from 1953 to 1955, Jack finally left the game to work in the Air Ministry.  He died of cancer at St Thomas's Hospital, London, on 10 September 1958 and was buried five days later in Streatham Park cemetery.