Full-back John Anderson signed for Arsenal in 1896 after spending time as an amateur playing for Crook Town. At 5 foot 10 inches, John was equally adept at half-back and made his Arsenal debut in that position on December 17, 1896 away at Darwen in the League.
His versatility ensured that he was a mainstay in the side under all four managers that he served during his five years at the Club. In 1900/01, Anderson missed only two league fixtures in the entire season featuring in defence and midfield.
The arrival of Roddy McEachrane in 1902 saw Anderson’s first-team opportunites become more limited and he eventually moved on in 1903.
In total the Durham-born defender managed 11 goals in 153 starts for the Club but did not scoop any honours during his time. The closest he came was on his final appearance for the Gunners in the 1903 Chatham Charity Cup when he was a runner-up. He went on to feature for Portsmouth in the Southern League.
WHAT THE FANS SAID:
"I've just finished writing "Making the Arsenal" - a book about Arsenal in 1910 - the year Norris took over the club. One of the things that struck me in researching that year was how readily players swapped from left to right, and vice versa. Indeed how swapping positions all over the pitch was common. I started to look back through the records and discovered that John Anderson was a prime example of this. We like to think that Mr Wenger is a prime developer of moving players from one position to another - we think of Kolo Toure for example as one who successfully moved, but this idea goes back to the start of pro football.
"Indeed less we think that large squads are a thing of today, in the 1896/97 squad that John Anderson played in there were 32 players used in that Division Two season of 30 games, and others used in the FA Cup. John joined the club in December 1896 playing centre half - although that was more of a midfield position in those days (not least because the goalkeeper could handle the ball anywhere inside his own half). Then he went to right back, left half, and ended up playing left back - all in one season! Next season he played left back right half, centre half, left half and by 1898 he was getting regular games when he was not injured - the ultimate utility player. He started the 1899/1900 season injured but when he returned he was the regular left half before starting the shuffle around the pitch once again, even playing centre forward in the away game to Burton Swifts in April 1900. Of course I wasn't there - I'm old (well 61 - 62 in a couple of weeks) but not that old!
"One other snippet of that era. In the 1896/97 season Woolwlch Arsenal brought in their reserve team to play Leyton in the FA Cup on December 12. For five of the team it was the only game they played for the club that season! Mr Wenger didn't invent the idea of changing the team for the cup games either!"
Tony Attwood, Corby, Northants