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Charles Buchan - The man

After an average start to his Sunderland career everything clicked, and he went on to have 9 straight high scoring seasons, his lowest total being 13 goals. He is Sunderland's all time record league scorer, with 209 league goals to his credit. Charlie scored 5 goals in a 7-0 win against Liverpool in 1912 to equal the club record.

The First World War

Charlie enlisted in the Grenadier Guards in April 1915, the moment the season ended. He was sent to Caterham barracks to train and was told by the sergeant "We don't tame lions here, we eat them!"

Buchan spent a year at the Guards depot and was prompted to acting lance-corporal in March 1916. In May that year he was sent to France and he arrived on the front line of the Western Front in mid July, two weeks after the Battle of the Somme commenced.

He was in the 3rd Bttn, stationed at the village of Mericourt, and was soon promoted to lance-sergeant. He was also put in charge of the Bttn's football XI!

In the early hours of the morning of September 14 Charlie went into action for the first time in a big push on the Somme. It was a slaughter and 380 menand 18 officers (from 21) were killed or wounded from Charlie's Bttn.

Charlie remained on the front line throughout 1917, fighting in the Ypres offensive of July 1917 and at the battle of Bourlon Wood in November 1917,part of the offensive when the British used tanks for the first time.

It was a bitter battle that degenerated into bloody hand to hand fighting. The battn diary noted that they "killed 40 of the enemy with the bayonet".

In December 1917 his named was put forward for a commission and he returned to England in early 1918 for officer training. He was also decorated with the Military Medal for courage shown during the battle for Bourlon Wood.

He was still in England when the war ended.

(With thanks to Gavin Mortimer for sending me the above excerpt from his book "Fields of Glory". The book is available here.)

He was the leading Division 1 goal scorer

He was the leading Division 1 goal scorer in 1923 for Sunderland with 30 goals.

  • Career: 1910 - 25. Apps. 413, Goals 224
  • Medals: 1st div & FA Cup RU 1913
  • 1914-15: joined the Grenadier Guards-Sergeant
  • 15th February 1913: first cap for England against Ireland in Belfast
  • 1925: transferred to Arsenal

Charles Murray Buchan

Charles Murray Buchan
Charles Murray Buchan. Born 1892 in London - Died 1960.
Captain of England, Sunderland and Arsenal.

Charlie Buchan was a tall, elegant inside forward, a true great of English football before and after the Great War. Originally he signed for Leyton F.C. who were then playing in the Southern League 1st division. In March 1911 he transferred to Sunderland.

Sunderland wanted a £4000 fee

Click on the images for a larger view.

Sunderland wanted a 4000 fee for Charles Buchan, which Arsenal thought a lot for a 33-year-old player. In the end he was transferred to Arsenal for a fee of 2000 and 100 per goal which ultimately cost 2100 in total - making 4100.

Herbert Chapman's first game as manager was on 29th August 1925, against Spurs at Highbury; Arsenal lost 1-0. This was also the first Arsenal game for Charles Buchan and the first game of the new offside ruling (to remain onside you now required two defenders in front of you rather than three!). His Arsenal record keeps him in the top ten all time Arsenal goal scorers.

Charles Buchan: Played 56 - Scored 120 - Ratio 0.47.

In the All Sports Weekly of June 2nd 1928, which is for sale on the site, the following appreciation was written at the end of his career:

Charlie Buchan's Laurels. Still keeping his hand in football.

Amid the excitement of the last day of the season how many thoughts turned to Charlie Buchan, playing the last game of his great career? He has gone out of the game he has adorned so long in the sunshine, and all his followers hope that the same sunshine will follow him in his subsequent life.

There were some of us who followed his every movement with regretful, if admiring, eyes. It was sad to think that we shall not see again that long, spare figure on the field.

A Master

He has been a famous player, of course, for many years; but he has lasted so well that one hardly realised the time since he and Mordue has known. On the last Saturday he played more like a master than ever. The unhurried serenity of his work was so delightful as its certainty. Every touch with foot and head was so infallibly right - finding the unmarked man every time. Not for him the heat of the fray - let the younger men bear it (and very prettily they bore it, too!) He would show them the way and give them their chances. The hero of so many fights left the arena with his laurels still fresh and green. Good luck to him! I had a chat with him just before he went into the dressing-rooms, and wished him luck. I read in his book the desire to be "in" at the famous wind-up so that he could in his later years write authoritatively about the game in which a goal-scoring record was made that is to stand the best of all time. Charlie confided to me that while he was sorry to go out of football life, he was glad to be in it through the course of journalism, and when I asked him if he had any more freak agreements, he said "not freak, but very handsome; and I may question that I was offered kind terms and a big spell for years. I think I have done the best thing possible"

Age-old trick

Mr. Chapman had been asked by the players of the club to perform the ceremony of presenting their gift to Charlie. He made a happy reference to Buchan's football ability and football life, and then Charlie plied himself off to play his final game. He showed them the same age-old tricks of his done perfectly. No one backheeled a ball so nattily, no one brought out better judgement in trapping a ball; he was a great joy to the crowd who gave him a wonderful rally - on a visiting ground, remember. I shall never forget the memorable turn of the tide Buchan created in the Cup-tie game played in January at the Arsenal ground. The broadcaster, Mr George Allison, was talking of nothing else but Arsenal's defence - their endeavours against this tirade of attack. Arsenal broke away at last, a slip, a kick, and a goal had been scored.

Dixie's (Dean) comment.

Eventually Buchan got his head to a corner kick. I wonder how many goals he has headed in similar circumstances? Then Dixie Dean broke the silence "I can't understand it" he said "they never leave me alone, these defenders: yet here is big Charlie standing unmarked for a corner kick. How does he kid them to leave him as if he weren't the best man in the world for a corner kick? That's what beats me" He was speaking feelingly, for big Parker had been bumping him hither and thither, and wherever he went three opponents were sure to go.

In March 1928 he retired from the game, aged 36, and joined the Daily News as a journalist - he had been writing articles for newspapers for many years - initially he covered cricket and golf as well as football. In 1930 he wrote a book of coaching instruction for the News Chronicle, which led to him helping at the first FA coaching scheme. Around this time (1933) he started editing the News Chronicle Football Annual. In 1933 he was sent to cover his first match abroad for England internationals with Italy in Rome, and Switzerland in Berne, for the News Chronicle. He also did occasional short broadcasts for the BBC.Also at this time he lent his name to the Charles Buchan Cup which the News Chronicle sponsored by issuing silver medals to the winners and the runners up. See image below.

1939-44: Wartime

Covers1939-44: Wartime

He continued to report on wartime matches whilst working as a Home guard. Every match had spotters on the roofs of the Grandstands, looking out for bombers, but the fans would usually not leave the ground if a siren went off.

<< Click on the photo for a larger view.

After the war he continued reporting for the News Chronicle paper and edited the News Chronicle Football Annuals until 1957

The Football Writers Association

The Football Writers Association

The decision to form the FWA was made by Charles Buchan and 3 other journalists - Coles, Roy Peskett and Archie Quick on board a ship in the middle of the English Channel on September 22 1947. The four were returning from Brussels, where they had seen England beat Belgium 5-2 in a friendly international.

Within a month they had formalised some of the rules and regulations for the fledgling association; membership would be by invitation only, to "working journalists who are accredited football correspondents for newspapers and agencies". Headquarters were to be in London, with the initial membership fee set at five guineas for the first year, and two guineas annually thereafter - with an FWA tie included!

It was Charles Buchan who suggested that an award should be given "to the professional player who by precept and example is considered by a ballot of members to be the footballer of the year."

That was back in 1947 and since then the Footballer of the Year Award has become the most prestigious award in the British game. Voted for year-on-year by the FWA members, the first recipient was Sir Stanley Matthews.

1950: England's first attempt to win the World Cup

1950: England's first attempt to win the World Cup

Buchan went to South America for the first time to report on England in the World Cup where Walter Winterbottom, the England manager, ensured the England players avoided garlic, pointing out the that "excessive use would not suit his men". England beat Chile 2-0 with Mortensen and Mannion scoring for England.

Then onto the infamous game against the United States in Belo Horizonte. The English reporters present were John Thompson (Daily Mirror), John MacAdam (Daily Express), Roy Peskett (Daily Mail), Charles Buchan (News Chronicle), Clifford Webb (Daily Herald), Vernon Morgan and John Graydon.

"There was no excuse for England's 1-0 humiliation. I rated the Americans on a par with a third division team like Rochdale, yet by sheer guts and enthusiasm they humbled mighty England" wrote Charles Buchan.

There were only 2 telephone lines to relay the story; " a strange spectacle of 6 reporters grouped round the phone on a deserted ground, frantically making bonfires of newspapers so that the copy could be read to the cable office in Rio, and thence onto faraway Fleet Street". Charles Buchan found himself locked in the ground and had to climb the gates to get out!

In the final group match against Spain England lost again 1-0, with Buchan complaining about the "Spaniards' tough tactics".

Charles Buchan's Football Monthly

Charles Buchan's Football Monthly started in September 1951

The first words written were "Our object is to provide a publication that will be worthy of our National game and the grand sportsmen who play and watch it".

And so it proved.

The first issue has started changing hands for 100.00 and the magazines are becoming increasingly collectable - not bad for something that originally cost 7p (1s/6d).

It ran for just under 23 years in 3 different incarnations finally ceasing in June 1974.

  • Issues 1-240 Charles Buchan's Football Monthly
  • Issues 241-264 Football Monthly
  • Issues 265-274 Football Monthly Digest

Final words from "A Lifetime in Football"
Charles Buchan's autobiography 1955

"For many years, after the old Athletic News closed down, there was no paper or magazine devoted exclusively to the game. It was in a bid to fill this gap that in 1951 I started the Charles Buchan's Football Monthly. It has caught on so well that it was obvious something of the kind was desperately needed. It is a new field for me and I am getting as much pleasure from it as I did from my playing days. One is never too old to learn.

In life, just as in Football, there is always something new and interesting around the next corner".

New Chronicle Medal

New Chronicle Medal

Ongoing Journalism & Obituary

Ongoing Journalism

Welcome to Charles Buchan's Football MonthlyAs a player, he would feature in magazines offering playing tips, such as the Scout.

He covered England's Continental tour in the summer of 1952 and Wembley's greatest FA Cup Final in 1953-Bolton v Blackpool

He then went on the summer tour to Argentina in 1953. When England played Argentina and lost 3-1-the Argentine people were so jubilant that President Peron declared that, henceforth, 14th May would be Footballers Day.

England then lost to Uruguay 2-1 and avenged the events of 1950 by beating America 6-3 at the Yankee Stadium after Matt Busby reassured them that their precious turf would not be churned up by "such a secondary game as soccer"! This was also the first England game under floodlights.

Further national humiliation followed with the first match lost at home to a foreign team, 6-3 to Hungary. Charles Buchan commented "The thing that impressed me the most about the Hungarians was their supreme fitness - in training every exercise was done as though it was an actual match".

In May 1954 he had to commentate for the BBC on the match against Hungary, again in Budapest, where England lost 7-1. "I did not realise there was a double microphone in the booth and all my asides and groans were heard live throughout Britain".


Many tributes were published to Charles Buchan in Charles Buchan's Football Monthly (September 1960) when he died aged 68.

"We know that his one object was that football in this country should be acknowledged as the best in the world, and it was towards this goal that he worked through the medium of Football Monthly. We all feel deeply the loss of our old friend".
George Swindin (Manager Arsenal FC)