Boston, Lincolnshire born wing half Bill Julian first played football for his local side Boston Excelsior, then for Boston Town. He impressed in a home match for Boston Town against Royal Arsenal on Good Friday 1889, and Arsenal then arranged a job for him at the Royal Arsenal factory so that he could play for their team. He played in Arsenal’s very first FA Cup tie, against Lyndhurst on 5th October 1889, and soon earned a reputation as a determined and tough-tackling wing half. He became club captain in 1890, and was still captain when Arsenal turned professional in 1891.
However, he was replaced as Arsenal captain in October 1891 by new arrival Sandy Robertson (who had previously played for Preston North End’s 1888-89 Double-winning “Invincibles” side), and although assured of a place in the first team, he decided to step down to the reserves. In total, he played 4 FA Cup ties and 71 other senior matches for Woolwich Arsenal before they became a member of the Football League. In the summer of 1892, he moved to Luton Town, to become the club’s captain and coach prior to Luton joining The Southern League as a founder member in 1894.
After two years at Luton, he joined Tottenham Hotspur (thus making him the first player to play for both Spurs and Arsenal, albeit long before the latter moved to north London in 1913 and before their rivalry was truly recognised), and played in Tottenham’s very first FA Cup tie, a first qualifying match against West Hertfordshire, on 13th October 1894; which Spurs won 3-2. He left Tottenham in 1895, to play for Dartford, before finishing his career at Shepherd’s Bush. He later opened a sports shop in Plumstead and became the first British ladies team coach in 1895. Julian remained loyal to Woolwich Arsenal, going back to work for the club during the Boer War.
Julian retained his footballing ties after retiring from playing, and in 1909 he moved to The Netherlands to coach there, soon followed by his sons Bill and Harry, who both coached a number of teams in the Netherlands. Julian acted as head coach of HFC from 1909 until 1912. He stayed with HFC but from then on, he was assistant-coach / groundsman / caretaker, before he returned to England in 1915 with the onset of the First World War.
He was one of the longest-surviving members of Arsenal’s first professional side, along with Gavin Crawford and Jack McBean. The three were reunited at an Arsenal game against Chelsea on 20th March 1948 (by which time Arsenal were one of the leading sides in English football and Julian was already aged 80), an event recorded in The Official Illustrated History of Arsenal. He lived until the age of 89, dying in Enfield in 1957, outliving both Crawford and McBean to make him the last surviving member of Arsenal’s first professional team.
Of his sons, Bill Julian Jr coached a number of clubs in Holland including Feyenoord, NAC Breda and Willem II from 1912 until the onset of the Second World War in 1940. Harry Julian coached MVV, RFC Roermond, Heerlen Sport and VVV Venlo between 1921 and 1927.