Goal.com's Top 50 English Players: Ted Drake (29)

Goal.com are counting down England's greatest players of all time, and at number 29 it's swashbuckling goal machine Ted Drake...
No.50 - John Terry
No.49 - Tony Currie
No.48 - Terry Butcher
No.47 - Gerry Hitchens
No.46 - Paul Ince
No.45 - George Camsell
No.44 - Wayne Rooney
No.43 - Jackie Milburn
No.42 - Roger Hunt
No.41 - Rio Ferdinand
No.40 - Wilf Mannion

No.39 - Frank Lampard
No.38 - John Barnes
No.37 - Nat Lofthouse
No.36 - Eddie Hapgood
No.35 - Chris Waddle
No.34 - David Platt
No.33 - Phil Neal
No.32 - Johnny Haynes
No.31 - Peter Beardsley
No.30 - Ray Clemence

Edward Joseph 'Ted' DRAKE
Born16/8/1912, Southampton
England5 caps, 6 goals

For raw courage, the sheer unflinching guts to go in where the boots and elbows were flying, to plunder another goal for his team, Ted Drake had few rivals. The first man to win the League title as both a player and a manager will forever be associated with the great Arsenal side of the 1930s, for whom he was the swashbuckling spearhead.

Drake may be the fifth-highest goalscorer in Arsenal's history, but he is certainly the most prolific, a return of 139 goals in 184 starts giving him an unrivalled strike rate of a goal every 1.3 matches.

It's safe to say he would have made more appearances and scored more goals had his career not been disrupted by numerous injuries and then, when he was 27, the outbreak of war. If Hitler was to blame for the latter, Drake's fearless playing style was responsible for his frequent visits to the treatment room.

He was born on August 16, 1912 in Southampton, and began his football career with Winchester City while still working as a gas-meter reader. In summer 1931 he joined Southampton, making his debut for the Second Division side in November of that year. By the end of that season he had become Saints' regular centre-forward.


42 goals in 1934-35
The following season, 1932-33, Drake played 33 league games for Southampton, scoring 20 goals. His exploits did not go unnoticed by Arsenal boss Herbert Chapman, who had been seeking a new centre-forward. But Drake  initially turned down the chance of a move to Highbury, preferring to stay in Hampshire. Chapman died in January 1934, and two months later Drake, leading the Second Division scoring charts with 22 goals, was persuaded to join the Gunners by the legendary manager's successor, George Allison. He'd scored 48 goals in 74 appearances for Saints, for whom the £6,500 transfer fee was a lifeline.

Arsenal had signed a dynamic, uncompromising 21-year-old who was blessed with great speed and a powerful shot, and undeterred by hard knocks. Drake scored on his debut for Arsenal and played in all ten of their remaining games of 1933-34, scoring seven goals as they retained the League championship, but missing out on a medal.

However, he eclipsed his illustrious team-mates in the 1934-35 season. His mix of skill, energy and determination made him the scourge of opposing centre-halves as he cut a swathe through the middle in pursuit of passes from Cliff Bastin and Alex James. He seemed unstoppable, and in that first full season as a Gunner set a club record by scoring 42 goals in 41 appearances. His tally included four four-goal hauls and a further three hat-tricks as well as plenty of assists as Arsenal completed a League Championship hat-trick and Drake collected a richly deserved medal.

"Ted Drake's story is a brilliant counterpoint to some of today's prima donnas, and a reminder of how much less physical the game has become. That may be a good thing, but I would love to have seen Drake in his prime. Thanks for a great read." - James Keogh | Kilburn

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The following season injuries  began to take their toll - but was still a memorable campaign for the rampaging Ted. On December 14 1935, against Aston Villa, he took to the pitch with a knee heavily strapped, but by the 34th minute he'd scored a hat-trick, and by the 58th he'd added another treble. Six shots, six goals - and his seventh crashed down off the underside of the bar and was cleared. A minute from time, Drake thundered home his seventh in a 7-1 win to equal a First Division scoring record. Sportingly, the Villa players cleaned and autographed the match-ball before presenting it to the seven-goal hero.

Two months later Drake, who'd made his England debut in 1934's  infamous 'Battle of Highbury' against Italy - scoring, despite being punched and man-handled - was in the wars again when England met Wales. He'd already netted 24 League and Cup goals for Arsenal in 26 appearances, but early on against Wales he had to go off to have stitches in a gash above an eye. He returned but suffered concussion and a displaced cartilage in his left knee in a head-on collision, necessitating surgery.

Arsenal had reached the 1936 FA Cup final against Sheffield United, and Allison gambled by bringing Drake back for the Wembley showpiece. The Second Division Blades were on top for much of the game, but 16 minutes from time Drake, sporting an outsize bandage on the damaged knee, let fly from the edge of the area with his left foot for the only goal of the game.

He scored 27 goals in 29 games in 1936-37, plus a hat-trick for England in a 6-2 win against Hungary. In the 1937-38 season, Drake only managed 28 League games thanks to injuries, but was still the club's top scorer with 17 goals and collected another championship medal as the Gunners won their fifth title in eight years.

Typical of his season was the game at Brentford in April when he broke  his wrist and suffered a bad head wound. In those pre-oxygen mask days, trainer Tom Whittaker carried the unconscious Drake off the pitch draped over his shoulder. Yet Ted returned to the fray with his head swathed in bandages and the wrist heavily strapped, still rising to the aerial challenges. And a month later he scored twice for England in a 4-2 win over France, prompting Stanley Matthews to hail Ted's performance as 'masterful', and Stan Mortensen to describe him as his "ideal centre-forward" because of his bravery and unselfishness. Nevertheless, it was the last of his five England appearances, in which he'd scored six goals.

Drake found the net 14 times in 1938-39 to finish as Arsenal's top scorer for the fifth successive season, and he scored four goals in their last competitive match before war was declared and the League programme abandoned.

He served in the Royal Air Force as a flight lieutenant during the war but continued playing for Arsenal, scoring 85 goals in 122 wartime games for the Gunners. However, a serious spinal injury sustained at Reading in 1945 finally ended his playing career.

He became manager of Hendon and then Reading, leading the Royals to the runners-up spot in Division Three South in 1951-52, and prompting First Division Chelsea to appoint him their manager in 1952. He instigated some sweeping changes at Stamford Bridge, and led the Blues to their first-ever league championship triumph in 1954-55. But he couldn't repeat that success and in 1961 was sacked.

In between spells as a bookmaker, Drake became reserve team manager at Fulham and later served the Cottagers as chief scout, director and life president. In 1970, though, he enjoyed a six-month stint as assistant manager at Barcelona.

An charming and indomitable optimist all his life, he was still occasionally travelling from his Wimbledon home to watch football matches in his eighties, and when I saw him in the corridors of Highbury a year before his death, he seemed genuinely touched that I'd recognised him and asked for his autograph. Ted Drake died on May 30 1995, aged 82.


Football League First Division championship winner - 1934-35, 1937-38
FA Cup winner - 1936
Charity Shield winner - 1935, 1938
Arsenal's leading scorer - 1935-39
Most League goals in a season for Arsenal - 42, 1934-35
Equalled most goals in a First Division match - 7, Aston Villa v Arsenal, 14 Dec 1935
As a manager - Football League First Division championship winner - 1954-55

DID YOU KNOW... Ted Drake played both amateur and professional cricket for Hampshire between 1931 and 1937, but the 10 shillings (50 pence) a week wage could not compete with what he could earn as a professional footballer, so cricket's loss became football's considerable gain.

Graham Lister, Goal.com

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