Was Sam Hollis Arsenal's Manager?

There is a great deal of confusion as to whether or not Sam Hollis was Arsenalís first manager. The official publications of the club itself canít agree: the official handbook makes no mention of Hollis as ever being the manager whereas the official website does show him as the clubís first manager.

The name Sam Hollis came into the fray as Arsenal manager in the late-1980s. The first instance I can find is the Rothmanís Football Yearbook published in 1989. Why this happened, I donít know. Whoever decided that he was the clubís first manager hadnít done much in the way of research. Maybe they saw that Hollis was Bristol City manager and, knowing that he had come from Arsenal, assumed that he held a similar position at Arsenal.

He wasnít Arsenalís manager. At the clubís ½ yearly AGM in January 1897, Lieutenant Chase recommended to the shareholders that the club employ a secretary-manager rather than continue to have a committee select the team.

 The Kentish Mercury reports on Woolwich Arsenal's half-yearly AGM on 27 January 1897

Woolwich Arsenal appointed Thomas Brown Mitchell to this role in March 1897.

 North-Eastern Daily Gazette reports Thomas Mitchell appointed Arsenal manager

He wasnít Arsenalís secretary. This role was fulfilled between 1894 and 1897 by Harry Greenwood.

What Sam Hollis was, was the clubís trainer between 1894 and 1897. It appears that he wasnít a good man-manager as it was reported at the ½ yearly AGM in January 1897 that whilst some players were still running around the pitch during training sessions, others were playing cards.

Sam Hollis left Arsenal sometime during 1897 (probably April) to become manager of Bristol City (known as Bristol South End before turning professional in 1897). He took 4 Arsenal players with him: Alex Caie, top scorer Paddy OíBrien, John Russell and Finlay Sinclair. This probably didnít endear him to the Arsenal directors or the new manager.

Before Woolwich Arsenal

He was born Samuel Woodroffe Moore in Nottingham in 1866. His mother, Levinia Moore, was unmarried. Levinia Moore married Edward Hollis on 1 November 1868. Aged 59, Hollis was 26 years older than his new wife. On the 1871 census, Sam still had the surname Moore and was shown as Edward Hollisí son-in-law!

 Samuel Woodroffe Moore with his mother, step-father and half-sister in 1871

By 1881, Sam was now known by the name Hollis. He also had a job, working in the district registry. His step-father had died earlier that year.

 Samuel Woodroffe Hollis with his widowed mother and two half-sisters in 1881

He married Eliza Winfield in 1887. Their first son was John Bernard Hollis who was born in 1888. Sadly he died in 1892. They also named their second son John Bernard Hollis. This may seem weird today but it was quite common back then. It was customary for children to be named after parents or grandparents. With high child mortality rates, a child born after the recent death of a sibling would often be given the same name to ensure the continuity of the parentís or grandparentís name. The second John Bernard Hollis was born in Nottingham in the summer of 1894. From this we can assume that the Hollis family moved to Plumstead that summer in readiness for the new football season.

Why he was offered the job at Arsenal is not known. In 1891 he was the landlord of a pub in Nottingham; 3 years later he was training a football team in the second division of the football league. Iíve not found any evidence to show that he had any involvement with any of the football teams in the Nottingham area.

Looking at the 1891 and 1901 censuses it is apparent that there was a large contingent of ex-Nottingham people living in the Plumstead area. This was due to the armaments factory in Nottingham closing in the late 1880s and the workers moving south to work in the Arsenal at Woolwich. It may have been that Hollis was friends with some of these people who were also influential at the club. Fred Beardsley, Arthur Brown and William Parr were all from Nottingham and directors of Woolwich Arsenal FC at some stage during 1894.

After Woolwich Arsenal

As previously mentioned, he left Arsenal to become manager of Bristol City. He had something of an on-off affair with the club, managing it on three separate occasions. Wikipedia gives a good account of his life after he left Arsenal: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Hollis.

He died aged 76 in Bristol on 17 April 1942.