History: The oldest player to appear for Arsenal in his 13 year career – Jock Rutherford.

Jock Rutherford- Arsenals oldest and most superstitious outfield player

In 1884 one of Arsenals longest serving players was born; he bears the legend of John or most commonly known Jock Rutherford.

The attacker who played into his 40s was known for being superstitious and the final player to depart the tunnel before kickoff enjoyed three spells at Arsenal from 1913 to 1926.

Before joining Woolwich Arsenal in 1913 Rutherford had endured a miraculous 11 year career at Newcastle United. He’d secured three First Division Championships (1905, 1907, 1909), FA Cup (1910) and Charity Shield (1909) between 1902 and 1913. Adding to this he was the main talisman at St.Jame’s Park finding the back of the net 94 times in 336 games.

Rutherford left feeling hard done by after a dispute in failing to agree with the Magpies a new contract, however The Gunners had just been demoted from the top-flight of English football! In his opening game for Arsenal he slashed two past Nottingham Forest in a crucial 3-2 victory. In 1914 World War One broke out although the man now in his 30s still turned out occasionally for the North Londoners during the four year interval.

Despite approaching his 40s he ran back into the Arsenal side come 1919 after Arsenal were corruptly elected for First Division status through the dodgy behind the scenes dealings of Chairman Sir Henry Norris. For Arsenals first four years of English football top-flight status Rutherford played more often than not at Highbury.

Rutherford became the shortest lived head coach in Stoke City’s history after moving from Highbury to the Victoria Ground for a mere four weeks from near enough the start of April to early May 1923. The Potters took a keen interest in the Englishman after he waved around his dreams of becoming a manger but this was not to serve him well. The player manager was tasked with keeping Stoke in the top-flight of English football within the final five games of the season in which they would need to claim victory at least four times which didn’t happen, by the finale of the 1922/23 campaign the Potters had been relegated unsurprisingly after Rutherford faced this ultimatum.

However this was not to be the catalyst which would lead to his instant downfall as gaffer at Stoke. After The Gunners hosted an end of season retirement party for Rutherford he realised he’d stepped down from the role of player too early mingling with his old comrades once again. On top of this the Northumberland born footballer became victim of a car crash soon afterwards which prevented him from driving back up to the Victoria Ground. Whilst The Potters waited patiently for his return, Rutherford turned round and rejoined Arsenal to play once again at the “home of football”.

Jock then spent the next two years playing on 20 occasions each before retiring again at Highbury in 1925. Within months of retiring he was sure he’d made a profound accident before putting pen to paper at Arsenal for a third and final time during January 1926, spending the rest of the campaign in the first team. His last appearance came for The Gunners in March versus Manchester City where whilst 41 years and 159 days of age he became the most senior player to pull on the Arsenal shirt to date.

After making over 200 matches for The Gunners and rounding off 27 strikes he departed for Clapton Orient (now Leyton Orient) for the 1926/27 season, before finishing his career off at Tunbridge Wells Rangers in 1928 as a one game wander in the FA Cup.

Rutherford was also chosen to represent his country at International level where from 1904 to 1908 he was picked 11 times and netted three blasts for England.

His family carried on his winning legacy in 2012 when his great-grandson, Greg achieved Gold for Team GB whilst competing in the long jump at the London Olympic Games.

Rutherford became one of the earliest players in Arsenal folklore to be remembered today by fans.

Liam Harding

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