Shouldham, Norfolk born outside right Alf Kirchen played for local junior club Shouldham in 1932 before he was signed by Tom Parker, the manager of Second Division Norwich City on amateur forms in October 1933, turning professional in 1934. He made his Football League debut at Southend United in April 1934 and he immediately impressed come the new season, scoring 10 goals in appearances for the Canaries. He soon caught the eye of First Division Champions Arsenal, and was signed for £6,000 in March 1935, at the age of 21.
Kirchen arrived too late at Arsenal to pick up a League winner’s medal (the club completed a hat-trick of titles that year), but he still made an immediate impact, scoring twice on his debut against Arsenal’s arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur on 6th March 1935, the match finished 6-0 to Arsenal, a record in a North London derby. Initially Kirchen had to fight for the outside right spot with Joe Hulme (who started the 1936 FA Cup Final ahead of him), but by the start of the 1936-37 season, Kirchen was the Gunners’ first-choice.
Kirchen became well known for his fierce shooting; unusually fast and immensely powerful, he was equally at home on either wing, for he could hit a ball left or right footed, with equal facility, which soon attracted international attention. He was awarded 3 caps and scored 2 goals for England on the 1937 tour of Scandinavia, his debut coming against Norway on 14th May 1937, and his final match being against Finland on 20th May. Despite these performances however, he was never picked again. He did however make 3 appearances for The Football League in representative matches.
He finally picked up a League Championship winners’ medal as Arsenal won the 1937-38 title, playing 19 League games that season, scoring 6 goals, but the Second World War intervened just as he was reaching the peak of his career. Kirchen served in the Royal Air Force as a PT instructor, which allowed him to continue playing wartime matches for Arsenal (he appeared 113 times, scoring 80 goals, as well as three more times for England in wartime internationals), but a severe injury picked up in a match against West Ham United in 1943 forced his early retirement. In all, excluding wartime appearances, he made 104 appearances for Arsenal, scoring 46 goals.
Kirchen later returned to his old club Norwich City, as a trainer, before leaving football but later returned to Norwich as a director of the club.