Arsenal’s ‘brilliant midget’ Harold Moffat and his West Cumbrian roots
Last updated at 22:50, Thursday, 14 June 2012
Harold Moffat was born in Camerton on January 1 1900 – a child of the century to come.
Historically-minded soccer fans might recognise the name and, hopefully, be able to supply me with a few details of his career.
He was one of West Cumbria’s star soccer exports, recognised in his day as being one of the best right wingers in the game.
Although he was born in Camerton, he is generally described as coming from Great Clifton.
As to his childhood years, I know nothing.
The internet, usually a reliable source of background information, has coughed up only sparse information on Moffat’s career.
So if you do know anything – please get in touch.
He played on the wing for Workington and, according to a piece in the West Cumberland Times, also turned out for a few games in Cockermouth Town’s colours.
He must have turned in a few brilliant performances because he’d obviously been noticed by a few scouts, eventually joining the mighty Arsenal.
Brilliant as he was, he might never have made the transition to first class football had Leslie Knighton, then with Arsenal, not been impressed with his play.
Not that he made any effort to sign him on the day.
The season was ending and Arsenal was due to go off on a tour of Denmark and Sweden.
He had also been instructed by Arsenal’s Sir Henry Norris to only sign up players who were over 5ft 8in and weighed over 11 stones.
Norris thought that Arsenal had too many smaller players in their squad.
He obviously believed that they needed to beef the side up a bit.
Moffat was described by some journalists as “football’s most brilliant midget.”
He didn’t meet the requirements of the Arsenal shopping list.
As Knighton put it: “As soon as I saw the boy Moffat my heart sank.
“He was the tiniest adult footballer I had ever set eyes on.” Knighton returned to Highbury and, as far as Moffat was concerned, that might have been the end of it.
I find the next bit a trifle puzzling.
It seems that the club had put an advert in the Athletic News – to ask hopeful footballers to apply.
Moffat had seen this and, possibly because someone had told him that Knighton had been to see him play, had sent his job application to the club.
I don’t think any of our present day clubs would put ads in any newspapers or magazines – although it might be cheaper than using agents.
Moffat was asked to turn up at Highbury and Knighton, despite the club’s preferred size criteria, signed him for Arsenal.
It was good business, because no transfer fee was involved. Harold Moffat went on tour with the club.
He impressed the crowds – and the foreign football journalists.
He reputedly scored a goal by diving through a fullback’s legs and heading the ball into the net. If it ever happened, it must have been an exceedingly muddy pitch.
He had a brilliant, if short, football career with Arsenal. He left Highbury to join Luton Town. He then went to Everton, reputedly for a sizeable transfer fee, playing his first game for them on September 15 1926, home to West Bromwich Albion in an FA Cup game. He played his last game for them on January 29 1927. In all, he’d worn the Everton jersey on only three occasions – before being transferred to Oldham Athletic. He was sliding down the divisions.
One account has him finishing his playing career with Oldham, but the very informative Everton Former Players’ Foundation site has him moving to Walsall before ending his playing days at Queen’s Park Rangers. And what then?
Before he went to play for Arsenal, it’s likely that he’d never set foot outside West Cumbria. And then to go to London, the big city – with all that entailed. What a culture shock!
Did the busy city life style have an effect on his game? Or was it a case, as with many players, then and now, of tempus fugit? Players back in the 1920s didn’t have access to sports medicine, fitness professionals and everything else that goes with the modern game. But even with all that modern technology, sadly, as many athletes – and non-athletes – have found out, there’s absolutely no way of stopping the clock from ticking.
First published at 19:23, Thursday, 14 June 2012
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk
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