Bury born goalkeeper William Fairclough played football in the Army, for The First Scots Guards, in 1894, and joined Second Division Woolwich Arsenal in December 1895 on discharge and a fee of £18. His Football League debut came in January 1896 at Leicester Fosse and he appeared 9 times before the end of the season in competition with the likes of Harry Storer. Indeed he was one of 6 goalkeepers tried over the season. In 1896-97 he made 18 appearances against the combined 15 of Jack Leather and Arthur Talbot, including one FA Cup tie against Leyton in a 5-0 win on December 12th at home. This was quite an important day in the history of Arsenal as it was a day in which the club played two games at once – an FA Cup game and a League game. Arsenal are reported to have asked both the FA and the League to change one of its dates but seemingly neither gave way. He left the club in 1897 to join Southern League New Brompton (now Gillingham).