Colombo, Ceylon born centre half Jack Butler began his career with junior club Fulham Thursdays in 1912. He spent 1913-14 as an amateur on the books at Fulham but didn’t appear for their first eleven before joining Arsenal in March 1914. Butler was initially deployed in the reserves until the First World War’s outbreak. He served in The Royal Field Artillery in France and returned to North London after the end of the hostilities, making his Football League debut for Arsenal at Bolton Wanderers in November 1919. Butler’s career at Highbury soon blossomed. The defender played 21 times with the club now in the First Division, but lost his place the following year and appeared six times. Butler returned but his career did not reach its true potential until the 1924-25 season.
A tall, elegant and clean player, Butler initially played as a traditional “centre half” i.e. as a central, deep-lying midfielder; he was in competition with The Gunners’ regular centre halves, Chris Buckley and Alex Graham, but by 1924-25 he was the undisputed first-choice centre half, playing in all but three games of the club’s League campaign that season. He also won his first and only England cap against Belgium in a 4-0 win at The Hawthorns in December 1924. He was later also selected for the England squad to play Scotland at Old Trafford in April 1926 but was a non playing reserve.
The following season he missed only one game as The Gunners finished second behind Huddersfield. A regular for three more seasons, Butler also played in the 1927 FA Cup Final which Arsenal lost 1-0 to Cardiff City at Wembley. By 1929 he was no longer a regular in the first team and played his final 2 Arsenal matches home and away against Portsmouth on Christmas and Boxing Day 1929, his only appearances that season. After 8 goals in 297 appearances for The Gunners he left to join Torquay United for £1,000 in June 1930 and scored twice in 53 appearances for the Plainmoor club.
After his retirement in 1932 Butler became coach to Royal Darling Club Molenbeek (Belgium) and to the Belgian National XI, helping them to beat England in an international for the first time, and at a club level winning the Belgian League Championship in 1936 and 1937. Later he became a trainer with Leicester City from October 1940 until 1946, Butler also had spells after the Second World War as manager with Torquay United, replacing Billy Butler, from June 1946 to May 1947, before managing Crystal Palace from July 1947 to June 1949, in Denmark, again in Belgium and finally with Colchester United from June 1953 to January 1955.
NB In the photograph Butler and Arsenal teammate Arthur Hutchins (left) are outjumped by Liverpool’s Dick Johnson at Anfield in August 1922. Johnson scored a hat-trick as Liverpool won 5-2.