'The Forgotten Brothers': Legend of Shrewsbury Town goal king Arthur and his brother are brought to book

Arthur Rowley is a Shrewsbury Town, Leicester City and English Football League legend.

His stunning achievements in front of goal – Town’s all-time record league goalscorer (163), second highest scorer in Foxes’ history (265) and all-time leading Football League goalscorer (434) – mean that ‘Gunner’, as he was known, is unrivalled in league football history in this country.

He is the younger brother of Jack, whose 211 goals for Manchester United stand him fourth on the Old Trafford list of goalscorers, bettered only by Rooney, Charlton and Law.

Author Ian Davidson has written a book charting The Forgotten Brothers – the untold story of English football’s greatest ever goal-scoring brothers.

The author sadly passed away just one month after completing the book on the Wolverhampton-born greats, but families of those involved wished for the works to be published. A release date is yet to be confirmed.

And, with kind permission from Ian Davidson/Blue Army Publishing, the Shropshire Star can preview extracts from Arthur’s prolific time in front of goal as player-manager, and then boss at Gay Meadow.

For more information on the book, contact bluearmypublishing@outlook.com

Arthur the Shrew – 1958-68

After leaving Leicester City with a heavy heart at the end of the 1957-58 season, Arthur began to look forward to his next challenge, arriving at Gay Meadow in early July 1958, aged 32, not only as a player but also as manager.

Thus he found himself in the same dual role as that of brother Jack when at Plymouth; a tough ask to manage both responsibilities for a young, fledgling manager.

The fee paid by Shrewsbury Town, for the services of Arthur, was officially undisclosed but estimates in the region of £7,000 were given – a record fee for Shrewsbury at the time and a significant sum for a club in the newly-created bottom tier of English football.

However, it remains to this day an excellent investment and in time with better gates, it was repaid several times over.

In common with most lower-league clubs, Shrewsbury Town relied heavily on their supporters club to help keep the club solvent.

In the 18 months prior to the new season, the supporters had donated £22,000 to the parent club – a significant sum at the time – with funds being raised by a weekly lottery.

Many considered that Arthur – like Jack – would continue playing for just a couple more years before calling it a day to take up management.

That assumption was proved wrong as Arthur played on for another seven seasons, continuing to hit the net on a regular basis for five of those, breaking more records along the way and becoming a goalscoring legend at a second club.

Most followers of Leicester City thought that Arthur was allowed to leave the club far too early, and his seven-year stint as a player at Shrewsbury proved that.

Of course, his goals at Shrewsbury were achieved in the lowest two divisions of professional English football, but ultimately that matters not one jot, as Arthur became a legend at Shrewsbury too, going on to be voted their best ever player at the turn of the Millennium.

By the end of the 1957-58 season, Shrewsbury Town had finished 17th in the old Division Three (South), thus being ‘demoted’ to the newly-formed Division Four, following the league’s restructuring. It is safe to say that Shrewsbury were meandering as a club and needed a lift.

1958-59 Division Four promotion season

Arthur assessed his squad for the new season and promised to attack. “I would rather win 5-4 than 1-0, so the fans will see attacking football, as that is what they want,” stated Arthur.

On the back of that attacking mantra, fans looked forward to an exciting season at the old Gay Meadow ground. With the promise of more shots, the club may have been tempted to hire more boats to be stationed on the adjacent River Severn to retrieve wayward attempts at goal.

However, they were not needed as most of the footballs Arthur kicked, ended up in the back of the net!

The promise to attack was certainly honoured by Arthur in his first season, as for the first and only time in the club’s history, they scored a century of league goals to secure fourth place and promotion behind Port Vale, Coventry and York City.

The season remains long in the memory of those that witnessed it and helped ignite the legendary status Arthur so rightly enjoys in Shropshire.

Shrewsbury scored 101 league goals, with Arthur pivotal to that, playing all but three of the fixtures that season, netting 38 goals in the process – doubling the then club record of just 19.

They did concede 63, which was 16 more than similarly-promoted Coventry, but that was to be expected in a team committed to expansive, attacking football.

Despite the high goals against, the team did enough to win 24 fixtures, thus winning promotion in Arthur’s first season as manager.

Securing promotion in your first season as a manager, at any level of football, is a first-class achievement. Organising new players, in a new league, while introducing them to your playing philosophy and style, normally takes time, as some players take a while to adapt.

However, Arthur the manager had Arthur the player in his ranks to score a regular supply of goals. All teams need someone like Arthur in their line-up to take chances as and when they came along, and he didn’t disappoint.

On a personal level, Arthur had scored another 38 goals to add to his, and the brothers’, portfolio of goals, although by now Jack had finished playing, so Arthur was on his own in that respect.

With Jack also winning promotion with Plymouth Argyle, it was a double celebration for the brothers in a truly memorable season for the Rowley families.

– Tomorrow’s Shropshire Star will feature more extracts from Arthur Rowley’s time at Shrewsbury Town from Ian Davidson’s book The Forgotten Brothers, which is set for release later this year.

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