For the past year, or so I’ve been putting together a history of Sholing Sports Football Club. This project stemmed mainly from my curiosity about the side who in their time were one of Hampshire’s top amateur sides with several Hampshire Senior Cup titles and Russell Cotes Cup titles to their name as well as a number of Hampshire League championships. I’ve put this all together into a book which is available on Amazon for £2.75. The following is a brief extract about the club in the early1920s when it was known as Sholing Athletic and reveals a fascinating link between Sholing and Herbert Chapman’s famous Arsenal side.
In his revealing history of football in the area Bitterne Football A Glimpse at the Past Ken Prior mentions that Athletic had a reputation as being a ‘nursery’ club with a number of players going on to better things. One Athletic player he mentions, Callaghan, went on to play for Merthyr Town, then in the football league, in the 1920s. Another, Sam Meston, joined Southampton from Athletic in 1922, before going on to play for Gillingham and Everton. One particular Athletic player though stands out head-and-shoulders among the Sholing alumni; Described in Chalk & Holley’s Alphabet of the Saints as “Without doubt one of the best full-backs to ever grace the Dell” Peartree-born Tom Parker joined Southampton in 1918 and distinguishing himself at the Saints subsequently joined Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal. Parker went on to captain the Arsenal side in their FA Cup final win of 1930 in addition to the League championship in 1931. Parker also holds the record for most consecutive appearances for Arsenal, playing an uninterrupted 172 games from April 1926 until December 1929.
The period following the first-world-war was a successful one for Athletic who in 1920 claimed the double of the Southampton Senior League title and the Southampton Senior Cup – the first of three consecutive victories in the latter tournament. Simultaneously the reserves weighed in by claiming the Junior Division ‘B’ championship. This success in the Southampton League led to a bigger stage and in 1920-21 the club entered, for the first time in their history, the Hampshire League. In their first season Athletic finished first place in the nine-team East Division – a division populated largely by reserve sides including the reserve sides of Salisbury City, Thornycrofts (Woolston), Andover, Winchester City and Basingstoke. This secured Athletic promotion to the county top flight and in their first season, 1921-22 Athletic acquitted themselves well finishing a respectable 6th out of 15.
The 1922-23 season saw Athletic go one better to finish 5th out of 17 in the league, but it was most memorable for the sides run in the Hampshire Senior Cup……