On this day in 1910, William John ‘Jack’ Crayston, who would play over 180 times for Arsenal before managing them, was born.
Arriving in the world at Grange-over-Sands in Lancashire, Jack Crayston made his way to Arsenal in 1934 to begin a 24-year affiliation with the club spanning 187 matches as a player before moving into coaching and management at the club.
Signed by George Allison despite having both a broken wrist and leg at the time, the right-half scored on his competitive debut as Arsenal thrashed Liverpool 8-1.
Standing over six feet tall and weighing 13 stone, he was famed for his long throws and huge feet that required specially-made size 12 boots.
A knee-injury against West Ham ended his playing career during the Second World War and he moved into coaching at Arsenal, becoming Tom Whittaker’s assistant in 1947.
As Whittaker became ill in 1956, Crayston was made caretaker manager before being given the role on a permanent basis a few months later, turning down a lucrative approach from Hull City, to replace Whittaker who had passed away.
His managerial career was not as successful as his playing time, however, although it was not helped by not being allowed to bring in new players.
While he won the league twice, including a double in 1934/35 as a player and helped Whittaker’s Arsenal to two more league titles and another FA Cup, as manager Arsenal’s form dipped. They finished fifth in his first season and slid to 12th in the table the following year, losing in the FA Cup to Third Division side, South Northampton Town, prompting Crayston to resign in 1957.
There’s no doubt had the outbreak of war not disrupted football we would have seen far more from the non-smoking, non-drinking Crayston, who joined the RAF during the conflict. Like many of his time, he was robbed of his best playing years before succumbing to the knee injury that eventually forced him to hang up his boots and move from the cockpit of his RAF plane to a desk post.
After Arsenal, he was team manager at Doncaster Rovers for a year before taking up the role of secretary manager, earning £3,000-per-year. Two years in that position saw him retire from the game altogether in 1961.
Following his retirement from football, Crayston took over a newsagent’s in Streetly, around seven miles north of Birmingham city centre.
An England international with eight caps who made his debut in a 3-0 win over Germany at White Hart Lane, Crayston passed away on Boxing Day 1992 aged 82 as Arsenal drew 0-0 with Ipswich.
He had cost Arsenal £5,250 to sign from Bradford.