James Ashcroft

Jimmy Ashcroft was the first man to keep goal for Arsenal in the top flight and the first Gunner to play for England.

Born in Liverpool, Ashcroft played amateur football for Everton before moving south to Gravesend United where he was soon spotted by Woolwich Arsenal. He signed for the Gunners in June 1900 and made his first-team debut in the third game of the following season at Burton Swifts.

Arsenal lost that fixture but Ashcroft was an ever-present thereafter. He didn't miss a game for more than four years before sitting out the trip to Blackburn in October 1904. Indeed, only 1930s legend Tom Parker has played in more consecutive matches for the Gunners.

That 1904/05 season was the Club's first in Division One after they won promotion the previous May and Ashcroft remained the regular No 1 as Arsenal secured a top-10 finish in the top flight.

He secured another Arsenal goalkeeping first in 1906 after starting the Club's maiden FA Cup Semi-Final against Newcastle. Arsenal lost that game and suffered the same fate a year later when Sheffield Wednesday beat them at the same stage of the competition with Ashcroft again between the posts.

By now a full England international - Ashcroft won three caps for his country - the keeper eventually clocked up more than 300 appearances at Arsenal before leaving for Blackburn in the summer of 1908.

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