Well here we are – we have now reached the top 3 in Arsenal’s Century Club.
James (Jimmy) Brain was born in Bristol on 11th September 1900. He played in local football in Wales before joining Arsenal at the age of 23 in August 1923. He did not make his league debut until the following season he played against Tottenham Hotspur on 25th October 1924 and scored the only goal of the game (what a way to make yourself known to Arsenal fans). During the 1924-25 season he scored 14 goals in 31 games, including a hat-trick against Burnley and four in a game against Leeds United.
Arsenal manager Leslie Knighton was sacked at the end of the 1924-25 season and Herbert Chapman, the manager of Huddersfield Town, was persuaded to join Arsenal.
The first man that Herbert Chapman signed was Charlie Buchan, who had scored 209 goals in 380 games for Sunderland. Chapman also purchased Herbert Roberts, Joe Hume and Cliff Bastin. In the 1925-26 season Arsenal finished in second-place to Huddersfield Town. The top scorer was Jimmy Brain with 37 goals in 47 games. This included four hat-tricks against Everton (2), Cardiff City and Bury.
The Arsenal chairman, Henry Norris did not allow Chapman to buy new players to strengthen his team and in the 1926-27 season Arsenal finished in 11th position. Brain scored 34 goals in 44 games that season which included a hat-trick against Cardiff City and scored four against Sheffield Wednesday and Burnley. In the 1927-28 season Brain scored 29 goals in 44 games. This included two hat-tricks against Derby County and Liverpool. Arsenal finished 9th in 1928-29 and Jimmy scored 22 goals in 42 games.
Herbert Chapman gradually adapted the “WM” formation that had originally been suggested by Charlie Buchan. Chapman used his full-backs to mark the wingers (that job had previously been done by the wing-halves). He also developed what became known as the counter-attacking game. This relied on the passing ability of Alex James and goal scoring forwards like Jimmy Brain, David Jack, Joe Hume, Cliff Bastin, and Jack Lambert. Chapman also built up a good defence that included players such as Bob John, Eddie Hapgood, Herbert Roberts, Alf Baker, Tom Parker and George Male.
Jimmy’s form dropped off in 1929-30, and he competed for his position with Jack Lambert, David Jack and Dave Halliday, meaning he only played six league matches in that season. He missed the Gunners’ 1930 Cup final win over Huddersfield Town; David Jack and Jack Lambert led the line that day. However, the following season, 1930-31, Jimmy finally won a medal as Arsenal won their first ever First Division Championship with a record 66 points. The Gunners only lost four games that season. Jack Lambert was top-scorer with 38 goals. Brain scored 4 goals in 18 games and therefore qualified for a league championship medal. His final appearance in an Arsenal shirt was a 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday on 21 March 1931.
Crossing the North London divide between Arsenal and Tottenham can be one of the most inflammatory actions in English football. Sol Campbell, Emmanuel Adebayor, and William Gallas have all done it in recent times, all feeling the wrath of both sides supporters. But who was the first to do it?
The man with this dubious badge of honour is none other than Jimmy Brain. In September 1931 Brain was transferred to Tottenham Hotspur. Over the next three years he scored 10 goals in 45 games.
He played his final years out at Swansea Town and Bristol City. After retiring as a player, he managed first King’s Lynn and then Cheltenham Town from 1939 until 1948, after which he retired completely from football.
Arsenal’s Century Club
# Player Years Games ** Goals GPG
3 Jimmy Brain 1923-31 232 144 140 0.60
4 Jack Lambert 1923-33 161 149 109 0.68
5 Reg Lewis 1935-53 176 152 118 0.67
6 Joe Baker 1962-66 156 152 100 0.64
7 David Jack 1928-34 208 156 124 0.60
8 Doug Lishman 1948-56 244 163 137 0.56
9 David Herd 1954-61 180 165 107 0.59
10 Cliff Bastin 1929-46 396 174 178 0.45
11 Thierry Henry 1999-07 377 181 226 0.60
12 Olivier Giroud 2012-18 253 237 105 0.42
13 RVP 2004-12 278 238 132 0.47
14 Alan Smith 1987-95 347 251 115 0.33
15 Frank Stapleton 1972-81 300 276 108 0.36
16 Denis Bergkamp 1995-06 423 296 120 0.28
17 John Radford 1962-76 481 306 149 0.31
18 Joe Hulme 1926-38 374 307 125 0.33
19 Theo Walcott 2005-18 397 370 108 0.27
** Games played to reach 100 goals.
In total, he scored 140 goals in 232 appearances for Arsenal, making him the Gunners’ joint-fifth top scorer of all time. However, he never played for England; he managed to secure a trial for the national team but was never actually selected.
Jimmy Brain and Jack Lambert share the record of each scoring 12 hat tricks for Arsenal.
He scored his 100th goal against Sheffield United on January 7th, 1928.
He died in 1971, at the age of 71.