Arsenal Scrapbook: Jimmy Brain, Crossing The Divide

The Arsenal Scrapbook

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 honour is none other than Arsenal legend Jimmy Brain, and Sunday marks 86 years since he travelled down the Seven Sisters Road.

Born in Bristol on September 11, 1900, Brain started his career with Welsh side Ton Pentre – following a failed trial with Cardiff City – before making his big move to Arsenal in 1923.

Little did anyone know, the striker would go onto untold, history making success at Highbury.

Brain spent a year in the reserve side upon his arrival eventually making his debut on October 25, 1924, against Tottenham Hotspur no less.

The then 24-year-old scored the only goal of the game as Arsenal won 1-0 to crown an excellent first display for the Gunners.

The front man would go on to be Arsenal’s top scorer that season and would remain so for the next four campaigns.

The 1925-26 season saw Brain set a club record that has only ever been beaten by one man.

That season saw Englishman notch an outrageous 39 goals for Arsenal – including four hat tricks – the most goals in a single season by any Arsenal player.

That record would eventually be broken nine years later by David Jack as he helped himself to 45 goals in 1934-35.

1926-27 saw 34 goals scored by Brain with two four goal hauls against Sheffield Wednesday and Burnley.

By the end of his four season run as club top scorer, Brain was Arsenal’s all-time leading marksman and the first to reach a century of goals in red and white, taking him just 144 games to reach the landmark – only Ian Wright and Ted Drake managed 100 goals in fewer games.

He achieved this feat on March 7, 1928, during a 6-3 win over Liverpool.

However, as the 1930’s came around it appeared that Brain’s time was up.

He only played six league matches in the 1929-30 season as his form dipped and Jack Lambert, David Jack and Dave Halliday all moved ahead of him in the pecking order.

This meant that he wasn’t selected for 1930 FA Cup final as Arsenal beat Huddersfield Town to win the famous old trophy for the first time in their history.

Brain did, however, play in the Gunners 2-1 Charity Shield win over Chelsea in 1930 but he didn’t get his name on the scoresheet.

That season saw the striker finally pick up a league winners medal as Arsenal won their first top division title as he played 16 times and scored four goals.

His final appearances for Arsenal came on March 21, 1931, as ran out 2-0 winners against Sheffield Wednesday.

With his age catching up with him, manager Herbert Chapman allowed Brain to leave and he joined Tottenham on September 10, 1931, for £2,500, the first player to represent both North London teams.

He finished his Arsenal career with 139 goals in 232 games.

The striker would make 45 appearances for Spurs, scoring 10 times.

Brain would later go on to play for Swansea scoring 25 goals in 51 games for the Welsh outfit before moving to hometown club Bristol City and finishing his playing career at Cheltenham Town.

He went on to manage his final club after a spell in charge of Kings Lynn but when he left management in 1948 he never returned, living out the rest of his life away from the beautiful game before passing away in 1971 aged 71.

Jimmy Brain will forever be etched in Arsenal history.

The first player to score 100 goals for the club. The player with the second highest total of goals in a season. The club’s fifth all-time leading scorer still to this day.

He may have played in a by gone era when football’s popularity is dwarfed by its modern day following, but he must be remembered as one of the club greats.

He also must be remembered for being the first man brave enough to cross the North London divide, setting the precedent for those who followed.

Jimmy Brain. History maker. Arsenal legend.

About the Author

Dan Mountney
Hi, I'm Dan and I'm currently studying Sports Journalism at the University for the Creative Art in Farnham, Surrey. I have supported Arsenal all my life and grew up watching arguably the greatest generation of players the club has ever had. I hope my love for the club comes across in my writing and that you enjoy what you've read from me!