Charlie Buchan

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Charles Buchan
Buchan on a cigarette card issued in 1911
Personal information
Full name Charles Murray Buchan
Date of birth (1891-09-22)22 September 1891
Place of birth Plumstead, London, England
Date of death 25 June 1960(1960-06-25) (aged 68)
Place of death Monte Carlo, Monaco
Playing position Centre forward
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1909–1910 Woolwich Arsenal 0 (0)
1910–1911 Leyton[1]
1911–1925 Sunderland 379 (209)
1925–1928 Arsenal 102 (49)
National team
1913–1924 England 6 (4)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Charles Murray Buchan (22 September 1891 – 25 June 1960) was an English football player and writer.

Buchan's playing career started with Arsenal (then Woolwich Arsenal) before he moved to Leyton, and then onto a prolific fourteen-year period with Sunderland: he was Sunderland's leading scorer for seven of his nine seasons with the club, and remains the club's all-time record League goalscorer. He won the Football League First Division with Sunderland in 1913 and was a losing finalist in the 1913 FA Cup Final. During his period with Sunderland Buchan served with the Sherwood Foresters after the outbreak of the First World War, being awarded the Military Medal.

He re-joined Arsenal in 1925 and was a losing finalist again in Arsenal's first FA Cup final in 1927. Buchan was responsible, along with Herbert Chapman for Arsenal's adoption of the WM formation which eventually brought Arsenal significant success in the 1930s. He was capped six times by the England national football team, scoring four goals.

After retiring from football Buchan became a football journalist with the Daily News (later renamed the News Chronicle), wrote one of the first coaching manuals, and also commentated for the BBC. In 1947, he co-founded the Football Writers' Association, and from September 1951 until his death, he edited his own football magazine, Charles Buchan's Football Monthly, which was published until June 1974.

Playing career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Born in Plumstead, London, Buchan first played as an amateur for local club Woolwich Arsenal, joining the club in December 1909. However, having impressed in reserve games, he fell out with manager George Morrell over his expenses, and declined to sign to a professional contract. Buchan moved to Northfleet United as an amateur for the remainder of the 1909-10 season. Winning Kent Senior Cup, Kent League and Thames and Medway Combination medals. In the close season he signed for Southern League Leyton;[1][2] whilst playing for them he was spotted and signed by Sunderland in March 1911.

Sunderland and wartime[edit]

A tall, elegant centre forward, Buchan was highly successful at the Wearside club. Sunderland won the 1912–13 First Division title, and narrowly missed out on the Double, losing the FA Cup final 1–0 to Aston Villa. Frequently described as the best footballer in the country, Buchan was Sunderland's leading scorer for seven of the eight seasons from 1912–13 to 1923–24 (excluding the World War I seasons, when full competitive football was suspended). He is Sunderland's all-time record League goalscorer, with 209 goals. Buchan was also capped by England, his debut coming against Ireland on 15 February 1913. His appearances were limited by the lack of internationals due to war; he only earned six full caps, scoring four goals.

During the First World War, Buchan served with the Sherwood Foresters. He was awarded the Military Medal and on 11 September 1918 was promoted to temporary second lieutenant for the final months of the war.[3]

In 1925, when nearly 34, Buchan and Sunderland parted company. His place in the team went to a player who hit at least 35 league goals in each of his four full seasons at Roker Park, Dave Halliday, the most prolific goals to games goal scorer in the club's history.[4] While at Sunderland he played cricket for Durham in the 1920 Minor Counties Championship.[5]


Buchan was re-signed by Arsenal (as they were now called). Sunderland manager Bob Kyle initially demanded a £4,000 fee, but Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman bargained him down to £2,000 plus £100 per goal scored by Buchan during his first season; he ultimately scored twenty-one, thus forcing Arsenal to pay £100 more than Kyle's original demand. Buchan made his debut in a North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur on 29 August 1925.

Just as important as his goals was his contribution to Arsenal's tactics; it was Buchan who came up, along with Chapman, of rejigging Arsenal's formation to the "WM", to fully exploit the relaxation of the offside law. Buchan's idea was to move the centre half from a roaming position in midfield to a "stopper" position in defence, with one forward brought back into midfield. This meant the offside trap was no longer the responsibility of the two full-backs, but the single central defender, while the full backs were pushed wider to cover the wings. Eventually the change in tactic would bring Arsenal great success in the 1930s.

Buchan was a regular at Arsenal, despite his age, for three seasons. He captained Arsenal to their first-ever Cup final in 1927, but again was on the losing side, as Cardiff City beat the Gunners 1–0, thanks to a freak mistake by Arsenal 'keeper Dan Lewis. Buchan finally retired at the end of 1927–28, having scored 16 league goals that season despite being 36 years of age. In all he scored 56 goals in 120 matches for Arsenal; his count of 257 goals in the League, which would have been more had the First World War not intervened, makes him the Football League's sixth-top goalscorer of all time.

Later career[edit]

After retiring, Buchan became a football journalist with the Daily News (later renamed the News Chronicle), wrote one of the first coaching manuals, and also commentated for the BBC. In 1947, he co-founded the Football Writers' Association, and from September 1951 until his death, he edited his own football magazine, Charles Buchan's Football Monthly. Although its popularity fell after Buchan's death, the magazine continued to circulate until June 1974, 14 years later.[6]

He published his autobiography, "A Lifetime in Football" in 1955.

Buchan died in 1960, at the age of 68, whilst holidaying in Monte Carlo.

Playing honours[edit]



  1. ^ a b Glanville, Brian. "Charlie Buchan's Heritage". 
  2. ^ Harris, Jeff & Hogg, Tony (ed.) (1995). Arsenal Who's Who. Independent UK Sports. p. 61. ISBN 1-899429-03-4. 
  3. ^ "No. 30916". The London Gazette (Supplement). 20 September 1918. p. 11333. 
  4. ^ "Dave Halliday profile on "Queens Legends" on the official Queen of the South FC website". Archived from the original on 26 February 2009. Retrieved 24 January 2012. 
  5. ^ "Player profile: Charlie Buchan". CricketArchive. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  6. ^ "History — The Magazine". Charles Buchan's Football Monthly. Retrieved 24 January 2012. 

External links[edit]