Memories Of Jack Kelsey

Alex Gould wrote:

Jack Kelsey - nobody better

In the summer of 1962 I travelled New York to London to train and have a trial with Arsenal at the former Welsh International Alf Sherwood's recommendation. I believe that I was the first American born footballer to make such an effort.
My hero, Jack Kelsey, took me under his wing and helped me to make my dream of playing professional football a reality. He personally coached me and supported me in every way possible.
Jack was also a great man. My digs were not far from Jack's home in Northeast London. Jack inevitably would search me out at the end of a day's training and offer to drive me home. I will never forget his kindness and have valued his friendship for fifty years. I even named my dog Kelsey in his honor.
No, I didn't succeed in becoming Jack's replacement, but I did get to be my childhood hero's friend. What an unforgettable experience.

Andrew Messenger wrote:

My dad took me to the Arsenal for the first time in about 1958 or '59 when I was a small boy. I remember a long walk through drab gray North London streets, a large crowd pushing to get onto the terraces at the clock end and then the shock of the vivid green of the pitch and the wonderful atmosphere resonating around the very enclosed Highbury ground.
I think we were playing Everton and we won. Jack Kelsey was supreme and became my instant hero. The best goalkeeper I have ever seen. None of these parries and punches you see from modern goalies - he caught the ball. The Everton goalie (Dunlop?) was also pretty good - I was impressed by his long flat kicks. The rest of the Arsenal team was not very memorable, Joe Haverty apart.

Ralph Carroll wrote:

I watched Jack Kelsey play many times in the 1950's. He was a great goalkeeper. But what I remember was the way he used to stroll out before the match smoking a cigarette, like he had not got a care in the world.
I was at the match when Alan Brown broke his leg scoring the winning goal. I believe there were about 68,000 at Highbury that day

trevor bond wrote:

i was there in the late fifty's, Jack was my fav. i was there when we played man utd in 1958, we lost 5-4. that was the last game for the BUSBY BABES before MUNICH.
I PLAYED IN GOAL FOR FIFTY YEARS but only park level. i would play now but everyone thinks i am too old.

John Levy wrote:

I have read your article on Jack Kelsey just after reading the list in the internet edition of The Times of the Arsenal's 50 greatest players, where Jack Kelsey comes in at 19, a low figure in my opinion. I watched him regularly throughout his Arsenal career, and while your article is correct about his security, I feel that it does not emphasise enough the way in which he caught shots and crosses which most keepers today would aim to punch or deflect.
And what the article does not mention at all is his throwing out of the ball, which was both superbly accurate and long (he could throw to the halfway line and beyond). This meant that he could be the foundation of attacking moves (and that goal kicks were often pushed to just outside the penalty area to Evans or Wills and then passed back to Kelsey, so he could throw the ball out again further upfield, rather more precisely than a kick).
I have never seen any statistics, but always felt that Kelsey's goals against record would have stood comparison with any of the goalkeepers of his era, at a time when Arsenal's record was, to say the least, mediocre. I suspect that without him in goal Arsenal would otherwise have been in the relegation zone in the seasons when they finished 11th or 12th in the old First Division.
He was also a gentleman, frequently to be seen patting an opposing forward on the back, or ruffling his hair, after a close encounter, and I think that your article might have emphasised this aspect of him as well.
So while other youngsters of my era wanted to be Stanley Matthews, Nat Lofthouse or Jackie Milburn, my brother and I (who come from a family of Arsenal supporters) wanted to be Jack Kelsey...

Alun Evans wrote:

Saw first proffessional game aged 8 or 9 - Wales v. ? at Wrexham. Was totally amazed by the way Jack Kelsey dominated his penalty area and his skills. I only ever saw him play live that once, but have never forgotten his performance.

Alan Miller wrote:

In the 1950's I remember going to Highbury with my cousin Brian and 2 uncles. We always went to the Clock End where my Uncles Bill Taylor and Ron Barton would have short conversations with Jack during the matches.

John Daly wrote:

I idolized Jack Kelsey. One day I realized that the Arsenal team would be leaving Paddington Station for a game, I think against Wolves. I took the day off school, without the knowledge of my Mum, who would have gone apopleptic, had she known! I found the platform from which the train would leave and waited. I cannot recall which of my other heroes, Danny Clapton, Joe Haverty, Derek Tapscott, Dave Bowen, were there, but Jack Kelsey was. I got his autograph and was just standing there basking in his shadow. While I was looking the other way I felt the slap of a newspaper on my head! I looked around and could not figure who had hit me. I turned away and was hit again, but this time I saw the culprit. It was my idol, Jack Kelsey! He then ruffled my hair and laughed with me.
I was at Highbury the day Manchester United played, and beat, Arsenal in the last game before the Munich air crash. I could not believe that they put five goals past my hero! I was behind the goal at the Clock End and Duncan Edwards scored from about twenty five yards! Arsenal put up a great fight, but United won 5-4.
Jack Kelsey was a great goalkeeper, probably the best I ever saw.

Stephen Jackson wrote:

My dad has a great memory of Jack Kelsey playing for Arsenal in 1959. It was an evening game and after all the players were on the pitch it was announced that Kelsey would be a couple of minutes late as he'd travelled up from Wales where he'd played in an international that afternoon. After a few minutes Kelsey came on to keep the Gunner's goal...with a fag in his mouth.

Roy Hills wrote:

I first saw Jack performing for Arsenal in 1957. Thereafter, until his sad retirement due to injury, he was my absolute idol. Jack was a superb goalkeeper and some of his saves defied logic. Anyone who has watched him would agree that his ability in the air when catching high crosses has not, and never will be, surpassed.
Like another admirer I also recall him running onto the pitch seemingly smoking a cigarette but wonder if I was wrong and that he was actually inhaling one of those menthol head clearers - perhaps someone in the know can definitively clear that one up?
In those days (1957 - 1960) Arsenal were frequently a mediocre outfit and it was a joy to see the late great Jack perform so consistently excellently. I miss him in action even after over 40 years

gabby wrote:

now aged 62 i remember attending my first internationl aged 12 in cardiff to see my hero jack kelsey. as a young golkeeper i could not take my eyes off him. he always seemed to be in the newspapers with photos making great saves and is the reason i have been an arsenal fan for the last 50 odd years. has there been a better gooner between the sticks?

keith worthing wrote:

I remember the story that Jack's secret to catching the ball was to cover his hands with his discarded chewing gum during the match.
Also whenever he was faced with a penalty he used to approach the opposing player and bet that he could save it. How many players he put off I don't know, but if he bet that the player WOULD score surely that would have put the player under more pressue, and Jack would win the bet if he failed to stop the penalty. I don't know how he got on.

stephen harris wrote:

I am sure I saw him smoke a cigarette in a game against fulham

daniel kelsey wrote:

hey i didnt know jack, i was only 2 years old when he died but im related to him. he is my grandfathers cousin or sumthin like that thas all i got to say for now byebye

Steve Derby wrote:

I recall a remarkable game at West Ham which ended with Lawrie Leslie, Hammers Scottish international goalkeeper playing on the wing after an injury. No subs in those days.
During the game, Jack made an unbelievable save, defying the laws of gravity to catch the ball higher than I had ever seen - then or since.
I was in with a load of Arsenal supporters (ah, what wonderful peaceful days they were!) and I asked them why they weren't applauding as wildly as the rest of us. I'll never forget their answer:- "See it every week, mate, see it every week!"
Talk about spoiled by a surfeit of excellence! What a 'keeper!