Percy Sands

Percy Sands

Percy Sands was born in Norwood, London, in 1881. He first started playing football at St Paul's Teachers Training College in Cheltenham. After a spell with Cheltenham Town, Sands joined Woolwich Arsenal. He remained an amateur as he desired to continue with his teaching career.

Sands, a centre-half, made his debut against Blackpool on 5th September 1903. The team at that time included Roderick McEachrane, William Linward, Tommy Briercliffe, Tommy Shanks and Tim Coleman.

In the 1903-04 season Sands played in 32 of the club's 34 league games. Jimmy Ashcroft conceded only 22 goals in 34 games that year. This included 20 clean sheets and he played a vital role in helping his club win promotion to the First Division. Tommy Shanks was the club's leading scorer with 25 league goals. Tim Coleman also scored 23 in 28 games.

Arsenal did reasonably well in the First Division finishing in 10th place (1904-05) and 12th (1905-06). The club also had a good FA Cup run that season beating Watford (3-0), Sunderland (5-0), Manchester United (3-2) before losing to Newcastle United 2-0 in the semi-final with Jimmy Howie and Colin Veitch getting the goals.

Sands became a professional player in 1906. That season Arsenal finished in 7th place in the league. Once again they had a good cup run beating Bristol City (2-1), Bristol Rovers (1-0) and Barnsley (2-1) before losing to Sheffield Wednesday 3-1 in the semi-final.

During this period Arsenal had a very impressive forward line that included Bert Freeman, Charlie Satterthwaite, Tim Coleman, Bobby Templeton and Billy Garbutt. The defence was also very good with players such as Percy Sands, Jimmy Ashcroft, Andy Ducat, Jimmy Sharp and Roderick McEachrane. However, Arsenal encountered serious financial problems at this time and within 12 months the club sold Freeman, Coleman, Sharp, Ashcroft and Garbutt. Ducat and Templeton followed soon afterwards.

Sands' football career was interrupted by the First World War. He joined the British Army and served as a sergeant on the Western Front.

By the end of the war Sands was 37 years old. After playing 327 league games for Woolwich Arsenal Sands joined Southend United in 1919.

Percy Sands died in December 1965.

Primary Sources

(1) Bernard Joy, Forward Arsenal (1952)

It is not surprising that with this fine defensive record Ashcroft won England honours and centre-half Percy Sands played for the South against the North. An amateur and a schoolmaster, Sands signed when on vacation from Cheltenham Training College and before starting to teach in Woolwich. He was magnificently built, powerful, and a fighter to the last gasp. Football was a tonic to him. "After being indoors all day," he declared, "football is just the thing to keep me healthy and active." He had few superiors as a defensive pivot, but was not so good constructively.