Cliff Holton played almost 200 times for Arsenal, scoring 83 goals, winning the First Division with the Gunners, but did you hear the joke he told when the Arsenal manager signed his papers to discharge him from the army?
There are many players who have turned out for Arsenal that most of us have never heard of.
Take Cliff Holton, for example. Of course, I’m not a super Arsenal history buff, something I’m hoping to change with this ongoing exploration of old newspapers, but I don’t recall hearing much mention of him.
There was no room for him in Arsenal’s Top 50 players of all time for the club, despite his 198 appearances and very respectable goal haul.
Holt signed for Arsenal in 1947, when he was just 18, after a stint as a full-back for non-league Oxford City. Too young to go to war he was old enough to get caught up in the draft that stayed in place until 1960 in various guises. Young men between the ages of 18 and 21 were required to serve in the armed forces for 18 months before remaining on the reserve list for a further four years.
It is from that list Holton is making the above joke about leaving. To give it better contect, it might help to know that the Korean War had started just two months before.
In 1951, Holt was part of an Arsenal side that travelled to Brazil on tour. This is his temporary visa for that trip:
He was also part of the Arsenal side that lost the 1952 FA Cup final 1-0 to Newcastle. That same summer he married Beryl Jenkins, so it wasn’t all bad for him.
Sadly, Holton passed away while on holiday in Almeria in at the end of May, 1996.
Full article text reads:
Cliff Holton, young Arsenal centre-forward, just out of the Services, took some Army discharge papers into Tom Whittaker’s office for the manager’s signature. Then, jokingly, he came running into the dressing room to tell his team-mates: “Here am I out of the Army five minutes and Tom’s transferred me to Korea United.”