July 3, 2008

Charles Buchan Signs for Arsenal

The 3rd July 1925 was a significant day in the history of Arsenal, as they signed the immensely gifted inside-forward Charlie Buchan from Sunderland, then one of the top clubs in England. He already was a legend up in Wearside, having scored 224 goals in 413 appearances. His three years spent in North London would have a similar effect on the Highbury faithful.

Buchan was enigmatic Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman's first signing after he had arrived from Huddersfield Town, and the terms of the transfer were especially noteworthy.

Sunderland put a valuation of £4,000 on their star player, but Chapman refused to match that figure. A compromise was reached. Arsenal would pay £2,000 outright, with a further £100 going to Sunderland for every goal that Buchan scored the following season!

As it transpired, Buchan scored 19 league and two FA cup goals in that season, which meant that Chapman paid a total of £4,100 for the inside-forward.

Buchan made a lasting contribution to the club by assisting Chapman in developing a tactical revolution. In 1925 the offside law was amended so that only two, rather than three, defenders had to be goalside of an attacker. Their response to this was to make Arsenal play with a deeper lying centre-half who could counteract the increased advantage given to the opposition's forwards. This became known as the 'Third Back Game' and was widely copied because of its success.

He only won 6 caps for England despite his immeasurable talent. Although WW1 interrupted his playing career for both club and country, it was more likely his attitude to football's authorities that cost him further appearances for the national side. Buchan was neither slow nor reticent in voicing his opinions.

After his playing career ended, Buchan became a famous, if somewhat one-dimensional, journalist and radio broadcaster, noted for his refined tones. He was famously caught off guard once, though, in May 1954, during England's 7-1 trouncing by Hungary in Budapest. Assuming that his microphone was switched off, he repeatedly lambasted the English players over their dire performance. Perhaps John Motson should have done something similar during England's two matches with Croatia during the Euro 2008 qualifiers.

His legacy was to produce the famous (and much loved in its day) "Charles Buchan's Football Monthly", a godsend to football news starved youths of the immediate post-war era. It remains a rich archive for football historians to this day.


Spartacus - article on life and career

Charles Buchan's Football Monthly - profile of the man and the magazine that he helped launch

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