On 9 January 1863, David Danskin, one of Arsenal’s founding fathers, was born.
Aged 20, full-back Danskin initially came to play for Arsenal after moving from his birthplace in Scotland, where he captained Kirkcaldy Wanderers. The team also featured future Arsenal players, Peter Connolly and Jack McBean.
He moved to London where he joined the Dial Square workshop. There, he set about trying to turn a rugby-orientated crowd into football fans. It took some doing but he met some other men who also liked football and were interested in forming a team.
One man was Jack Humble, also credited as being a founding father of Arsenal.
The other Dial Square workshop football enthusiasts donated some money for Danskin to get their first football and he went on to organise the club’s first ever match against Eastern Wanderers on 11 December 1886, which Arsenal won 6-0.
Dial Square FC, later re-named the Royal Arsenal, which was obviously shortened even further later on, continued to play and Danksin stayed at the club for two years, helping us get to the semi-final of the London Association Senior Challenge Cup in 1889, although we lost to rivals, Clapton. After picking up another injury, an issue that had plagued his entire career, he decided to step down later that year.
Interestingly, he did make one more appearance for the club. This time, as a goalkeeper in March 1890 as he was standing in for fellow founding father, Fred Beardsley, who was playing for Nottingham Forest that day.
Given everything he’d done for the club, Danskin stayed involved, coaching and refereeing.
Then, in 1892, he was elected onto the committee.
He stayed nearby, working as a mechanic with his own business. Never far from the club.
When Arsenal won the FA Cup in 1936, beating Sheffield United 1-0, his employers apparently threw him a celebratory dinner but problems with his legs prevented him from attending the game, which he had to listen to on the radio in bed.
Although it’s unknown whether these issues were directly caused by football, old age or a mixture of both, it stands to reason that, given their lack of experience in sports injuries at the time and lack of funds to deal with them even if they knew how, old injuries probably didn’t heal properly and this could have caused problems down the line.
However, ever the hero, when he was told he would need to have a leg amputated, Danskin apparently replied: “I’ve got two legs now and if I’m going to die, I’ll die with two legs.”
On 4 August, 1948, at the age of 85, David Danskin passed away.
In 2007, Bob Wilson, unveiled a commemorative plaque near where he grew up in Scotland and Danskin was officially recognised as a founding father of Arsenal. It’s slightly bizarre that it took so long considering he wasn’t just a founding father but our very first captain.
The man gave everything for Arsenal. He helped make the club and the love he harboured for it probably far exceeds anything we’ll ever know.
Hopefully, as time goes on, more and more information will be uncovered about the man who made Arsenal.