A “not for clicks” blog
A discussion on twitter a while back about the demise of modern football journalism eventually digressed into whether or not any “facts” quoted by journalists could be trusted as they are so sloppy with their research. A classic case is that of Arsenal’s youngest captain.
Two years ago, all of the media made a big deal of Jack Wilshere possibly being made captain for the FA Cup game against Brighton. It was widely reported that he would become Arsenal’s youngest ever captain. Thanks to Google we can now keep these reports for posterity:
There are a couple of things here. Firstly, Jack would have only been captain for the day and not the club’s permanent captain. Secondly, even if he had been made captain (which he wasn’t), he wouldn’t have been Arsenal’s youngest ever captain, be it temporary or permanent.
So, who does hold this record? If you search on Google for:
Arsenal’s youngest captain
you get something like this:
It looks like Tony Adams is Arsenal’s youngest ever captain at the age of 18, 21 or 22 depending upon which source you use. I have no idea where 18 came from, even as a temporary captain. At the time Kenny Sansom was captain and, as this page from the programme against Hereford in January 1985 shows, Tony Woodcock was vice-captain:
For the record, Tony Adams’ first game as captain was on 6 March 1988 in the North London derby when Kenny Sansom was stripped of the captaincy. He was 21 years and 148 days old.
If Jack had captained Arsenal against Brighton he would have been 123 days younger than Tony, but he would only have been captain because the captain and vice-captain were injured. Adams was permanent captain.
But…..he still wouldn’t have been Arsenal’s youngest captain. We have to go back to the 1960s to find the player that holds this distinction. Amazingly, the source that actually gets this right is Wikipedia! The world’s greatest source of misinformation tells us that Terry Neill is the man (or boy).
Don’t worry, we’re not going to expect you to accept this as full and final proof. Here is a page from the Arsenal programme against Birmingham on 21 August 1962:
At 20 years and 102 days, Terry Neill is Arsenal’s youngest permanent captain. He had actually captained Arsenal during the summer tour at the end of the 1961-62 season. The Daily Mirror ran a story on 14 August 1962 stating that he had captained the team in Gothenburg on 8 May (his 20th birthday).
But this is not something new that has recently been rediscovered. I can remember reading about this years ago. It’s certainly mentioned in Jeff Harris’ Arsenal Who’s Who which was published in 1995 and I’m sure it was fairly well known before then.
The problem we now have is that we have shown here who was actually Arsenal’s youngest captain but, because the mainstream media got it wrong and have a much bigger presence on the internet, it is likely that the wrong information will be perpetuated. Unless something drastic happens, Tony Adams will still be seen as Arsenal’s youngest captain and some people might even think it is Jack Wilshere even though he has never captained the team!
And for those with an inquisitive mind, Cesc Fabregas was 21 years 204 days when he took over from William Gallas following his meltdown at Birmingham.
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- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal – crowd behaviour at the early matches