Martin Odegaard is the latest player to wear the Arsenal shirt number 11, a jersey with an impressive history behind it.

Martin Odegaard celebrates scoring their side s first goal of the game during the Premier League match at Emirates Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday March 14, 2021. Copyright: Nick Potts
Martin Odegaard celebrates scoring their side s first goal of the game during the Premier League match at Emirates Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday March 14, 2021. Copyright: Nick Potts

Martin Odegaard became the 50th player to wear the Arsenal number 11.

According to Transfermarkt, the first player to pull on the number 11 shirt for Arsenal was Mike Tiddy in the 1957/58 season, a winger who signed for Arsenal from Cardiff City in a five-figure deal that also saw them sign Gordon Nutt from the Bluebirds.

Mike Tiddy, the first Arsenal player to wear the number 11 was distinctive due to the white streak in his hair.
Mike Tiddy, the first Arsenal player to wear the number 11 was distinctive due to the white streak in his hair.

Tom Whittaker, Arsenal’s manager at the time, said of the signings, “We are very pleased to have secured the players, but we will not relax our efforts to make other signings.” Arsenal were only two from the bottom of the First Division at the time.

Tiddy only wore the number 11 for a season before being sold to Brighton for £15,000 in October, 1958 but, as shirt numbers were first brought into the game in 1928, 34 years after the invention of slot machines, I wondered what had happened in the years before Tiddy signed in 1955 as he clearly couldn’t be the first.

Indeed, Arsenal first wore numbered shirts on 25 August 1928 against Sheffield Wednesday in a game they lost 3-2 and, though it is Arsenal legend that Herbert Chapman was the driving force behind this change in the game, it seems as if this might not be true. Chelsea also wore shirt numbers the same day, according to the excellent Woolwich Arsenal blog, who add, “So if Mr Chapman was the keen advocate of numbering as the stories say, he rather cleverly managed to persuade Chelsea to undertake the same experiment on the same day.”

Charlie Jones, a Welsh winger who played 176 times for Arsenal, wore the 11 that day.

The FA weren’t best pleased, as they tend to be about with progressive ideas that would make the game better, and ordered numbered shirts shelved. They remained mothballed for the next five years when they had another brief foray onto the pitch.

Still the powers that be weren’t having it and it wasn’t until 1939 that they finally thought it might not be a bad idea, 16 years after Arsenal (and Chelsea) had first tried it.

That still leaves 18 years to account for before we get to Tiddy wearing the 11, so what happened during those?

Just a month after shirt numbers were given the go ahead, football was suspended because of the Second World War and it did not to return properly until the 1945/46 season for the FA Cup. The Football League restarted the following year.

Arsenal, however, played in a breakaway league during the war years with other London side, storming to the title in 1941/42, scoring 108 goals in 30 matches.

However, before the league had been postponed, Arsenal had a chance to play under the new, approved shirt system, beating Blackburn 1-0 at Highbury.

Arsenal shirt numbers: 11

  1. Charlie Jones (1928)
  2. Mike Tiddy (57/58)
  3. Joe Haverty (57/58)
  4. Terry Anderson (63/64 – 64/65)
  5. Alan Skirton (65/66)
  6. Tom Walley (65/66)
  7. George Eastham (65/66)
  8. Bob Gould (68/69)
  9. John Radford (69/70)
  10. Ray Kennedy (69/70)
  11. Jon Sammels (70/71)
  12. John Roberts (71/72)
  13. George Graham (69/70 – 72/73)
  14. Charlie George (69/70 – 73/74)
  15. Alex Cropley (74/75)
  16. Brian Kidd (74/75)
  17. Eddie Kelly (71/72 – 75/76)
  18. Wilf Rostron (76/77)
  19. George Armstrong (63/64 – 76/77)
  20. Liam Brady (73/74 – 76/77)
  21. Alan Hudson (77/78)
  22. Jim Harvey (78/79)
  23. John Devine (78/79)
  24. John Hollins (79/80)
  25. Brian McDermott (80/81)
  26. Paul Davis (80/81)
  27. Colin Hill (82/83)
  28. Ian Allinson (84/85)
  29. Charlie Nicholas (84/85)
  30. Graham Rix (77/78 – 85/86)
  31. Kevin Richardson (87/88)
  32. Brian Marwood (87/88 – 88/89)
  33. Martin Hayes (86/87 – 89/90)
  34. David O’Leary (91/92)
  35. Anders Limpar (90/91 – 91/92)
  36. Paul Merson (88/89 – 91/92)
  37. Ian Wright (91/92 – 93/94)
  38. Ian Selley (93/94 – 94/95)
  39. Eddie McGoldrick (93/94 – 94/95)
  40. Kevin Campbell (91/92 – 94/95)
  41. Ray Parlour (92/93 – 94/95)
  42. Glenn Helder (95/96 – 96/97)
  43. Marc Overmars (97/98 – 99/00)
  44. Sylvain Wiltord (00/01 – 03/04)
  45. Robin van Persie (04/05 – 09/10)
  46. Carlos Vela (10/11)
  47. André Santos (11/12 – 12/13)
  48. Mesut Özil (13/14 – 17/18)
  49. Lucas Torreira (18/19 – 19/20)
  50. Martin Odegaard (20/21)
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Writer. Feminist. Dreamer. Gooner. Owner of DailyCannon.com, writing about Arsenal since 2008. Sometimes found in the Guardian, Vice.com & elsewhere talking queer issues, politics & football. If in doubt, assume sarcasm.