My life as a Gooner – as Arsenal legend Ted Drake’s great grandson

In 1912 one of the best players to ever grace the game was born, that man is my Great Grandad Ted Drake.

I was always aware of the fact that I was related to the striker who holds multiple scoring records at Arsenal and in football history, however it wasn’t until I got into football at a later age than most boys when 10 that I realised how impressive those records are.

On December 14th, 1935, with the world’s biggest bandage on, Drake ran riot scoring seven goals for Arsenal at Villa Park in the First Division, setting the record for the most goals scored in an English top-flight game of football, which no player has and surely won’t beat nearly 90 years later!

The previous season he’d already grabbed 44 goals for the Gunners during the 1934/35 season, a tally no Arsenal player has come close to since. By the time the outbreak of World War Two occurred in 1939 Drake became the quickest player in Arsenal folklore to find the back of the net 100 times.

After suffering from a back injury on a PT course during the war years which forced him to hang up his boots in 1945 at Highbury, within a decade Drake had laid his hands on another title medal but this time as manager of Arsenal’s rivals Chelsea.  This witnessed him achieve an unbeatable accolade as he became the first person to win the Championship as player and manager in 1955 in their Jubilee year. After going to the Blues in 1952 the ex-footballer declared he would need three seasons to win the league- he wasn’t wrong with his prediction that’s exactly how long it took!

In 2013 after becoming an Arsenal fan which wasn’t a tricky decision considering the club runs deep in my blood ,and my whole family pretty much supports Arsenal, apart from my uncle who supports the other side of North London (Spurs!). He was technically born to be a Gooner considering his dad adored Arsenal but when he was younger as kids do, he winded his dad up and said he would support Tottenham which he’s done ever since.

My Grandad Graham, the youngest of Ted’s three sons, who was born ten years to the day which saw Drake destroy Villa with seven goals, has a membership at Arsenal and attends matches at The Emirates. Within days really of properly supporting Arsenal I begged my Grandad to take me to take me up to North London.

During August of 2013 my dream of watching Arsenal live came true, my Grandad brought us tickets to watch the Gunners play Galatasaray in the Emirates Cup. I remember the anticipation of going to watch Arsenal to this day, I’d never been so excited in my life before! After getting the train up from Basingstoke to London Waterloo, before changing at Leicester Square on the underground to get to Arsenal train station, we arrived around the corner from the Emirates. It was a truly tranquil experience, my heart melted inside as I saw the sheer class of Arsenals home from the outside as well as the size of my Great Grandad’s back on one of the stadiums banners.  From that moment onwards I was hooked!

For the match we were sat up top in the North Bank where most of the atmosphere was. (This is where my Grandad prefers sitting and is probably the real reason to why we ended up seated there). If Arsenal won the match they would lift the Emirates Cup, all eyes were on the Gunners! Despite being sat next to a young lad on my right in a Galatasaray shirt I leaped into the air not long before the break when Theo Walcott edged Arsenal into the lead. Everyone was chanting (including myself and my Grandad) “Arsenal” and “1-0 to the Arsenal” it was superb!

Despite the pant wetting excitement of the first 45 minutes in the second half the visitors crawled their way to an equaliser before Didier Drogba bagged the winner, my little heart crumbled into a thousand pieces as Arsenal had lost the Emirates Cup to Galatasaray.

On the way home it took us ages to get out of a jam packed Emirates and to Arsenal tube station, I remember feeling worried and scared after witnessing some Galatasaray ultras let off some flares which were contained fortunately.

Three years later after seeing Arsenal another of couple of times in the Emirates Cup and attending an Arsenal stadium tour, my Grandad brought me a membership- at last! This meant I could watch Arsenal in  competitive matches at times.

My first match was the Gunners at home to Southampton in the Premier League who my Great Grandad had joined Arsenal from, after being top goalscorer at the Saints from 1931-1934 scoring 47 goals in 74 appearances and being hailed “The best centre forward in the world” by the then Arsenal manager at the time George Allison.

I couldn’t wait for this occasion either, unsurprisingly waiting for the school bell to go on the Friday before the match started at 3pm the next day. Arsenal managed to escape the jaws of defeat after going 0-1 down to Saints early on in the game, before clinching a Santi Cazorla penalty to win 2-1 in the dying seconds of the game, shaking the Emirates as if the world’s biggest earthquake had just struck.

Two friends of mine were at the game too; however, we were unable to meet at half time as I failed to check my phone and had the ringer turned on (typical me!).

After going to a handful of games with my dad and Grandad at Arsenal for a couple of seasons I started going as well with my non-related brother George whose dad to this day is an Arsenal season ticket holder.

George’s dad Paul always pretty much visits the Arsenal fan club before a match and has a drink, and we did too when we went in with him! I remember being shocked the first time I went in the toilet of the fan club as I found a little football goal and ball to aim at in the urinal to help me with my shooting accuracy.  I just loved going into the fan club before matches and connecting with other fans and asking them questions about their experiences as an Arsenal fan. As well as performing the old party trick of telling them I was related to Ted Drake which 9/10 surprised people in a more upbeat way than the surprise of seeing mini football goals and balls in the fan clubs urinals.

Just by coincidence for the Arsenal and Chelsea match in January 2019 which I was attending with George and Paul, the Q and A which I’d filled out for the back of the Arsenal programme was going in that match’s copy. It was unbelievable and I was so over the moon I kept telling people me and George bumped into at around the ground that I was in the back of the programme and that my Great Grandad was Ted Drake. Just by chance another Gooner friend of mine was at the match and was flabbergasted to find me in the back of the programme when casually flicking through it.

During the 2018/19 season I managed to attend ten Arsenal games! Although since watching Arsenal beat AFC Bournemouth in a dull 1-0 win in late 2019, I haven’t returned for a game at the Emirates. This is due to Covid for two years disrupting football fans weekends as well as mine, and working for two years at the weekends to support my time at Uni.

Despite this in mid 2022 I was shocked before going to bed to see an email in my inbox from Arsenal asking if I would go along with my Grandad to the Emirates stadium banners re designing meetings. This was a pleasure and as a man of Arsenal blood it was impossible to turn down, after helping give inputs about the designs we were invited to the final unveiling after nearly a year worth of work at Camden Art Centre which proved to be a pleasant surprise. A number of ex legends appeared who adorn the Emirates Stadium alongside my Great Grandad, including Ian Wright, Bob Wilson and Charlie George.  I managed to speak to them all, but one meeting which jumps out of my memory in particular was when I spoke to George Graham, I said to him “I know a lot about Arsenal history in fact I know the clubs biggest win was 9-1 against Grimsby Town at Highbury in 1931” and he responded amusingly with “Oh I wasn’t in the team that day, I’m not that old”.

By being related to one of the greatest legends to put on an Arsenal shirt it has brought many good experiences in my life, as well as with one of his sons my Grandad Graham. However, I was never able to meet the great man himself unfortunately as he died in 1995 seven years before I was born in 2002.

I feel as if I knew him though considering I have sniffed out every piece of information about him on the internet, and have gone through a lot of old match reports and articles about him in the British Newspaper Archive which I subscribed to online last year.

I hope you have enjoyed this article, and I am very proud to be the great-grandson of one of Arsenal’s greatest legends…

Liam Harding

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  1. YOU should be proud of your great grandfather Liam and what a story to tell!!
    My family were all spud supporters, so I suppose it was me who started the Arsenal bond in our family – not much of a comparison to you, but I like to think I’ve done my little bit for the cause.
    I hope you continue to send in articles that will reveal your thoughts on today’s Arsenal and I have really enjoyed your two to date.
    Did I get it right when I said that I thought Ted didn’t want to “move up north” when Herbert Chapman approached him?

    1. Hi Ken,

      Thanks for your very kind comments on both posts. I think Ted seemed very snug in Southampton, with all his family, friends and fey-once. He later admitted in a 1980s documentary about Southampton that he “shall remain a saint for the rest of his life”. Unfortunately I can’t ask him about why he didn’t accept the first offer today but it’s not the only question I would ask him if I had the chance to meet him. I think that quote of his in the video sums it up why he didn’t move originally in my opinion.

      I hope that helps.

      1. Thanks for the reply Liam and I always find it comforting that anyone who starts supporting a club, stays with said club for the rest of their lives.
        Your great granddad had enormous success while playing for The Arsenal, but his heart was with Southampton and any REAL fan of a club will understand that.
        I got the quote about moving “up north” while looking through newspaper archives and it does sound like the kind of thing he would think.
        Anyway, thanks again for the memories and your support for The Arsenal – well done on the articles.

  2. Its always a pleasure to read anything Arsenal, happy to hear from one of his blood line himself and hearing how much you appreciated your great grandfather, son that is truly beautiful.

    The fact you had become a fan in 2013 means you have experience mostly suffering, as here is where I think Arsenal started taking terrible backwards steps.

    By chance was it ever mentioned why your great grandfather first turned down Chapman offer to join Arsenal in March 1934 ?
    I know several theories were mentioned.

    Am hoping this isn’t the last time hearing from you young Drake,

    1. In all honesty as I said to Ken I’m not 100% sure why he didn’t move originally. I think it must be because he was a “Saint” as he later said in a documentary about Southamptons history. He also had a lot of family in the city which he ended up leaving. He was one of many siblings.

      I hope that’s useful.

  3. Last season it was clear we atleast needed cover or even replacement for Partey.
    We went for Caicedo but failed, settled on Jorginho as stop gap for then which was okay.
    Someone please explain why we went through the summer window then started the season with Elneny, Partey &Jorginho (all aging and always injured)as our DMs?

  4. How wonderful to belong to such heritage. We are lucky to have found our way to being supporters of one of the finest clubs in the world. My route came about from both my parents. Mum grew up just off the Holloway Rd and my Dad came from Finsbury (not Park). All my cousins are gooners and all of us have passed the Arsenal tradition on to our own children and grandchildren

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