Born in West Ham, London, right back George Male trialled with West Ham United before playing with non league Clapton. He joined Arsenal as an amateur in November 1929, turning professional in May 1930 and made his Football League debut in a 7-1 victory over Blackpool on 27th December 1930. Initially a left winger or left half, usually deputising for Bob John. Male’s appearances were few and far between – three in 1930-31 (in which Arsenal won the First Division for the first time in their history) and nine in 1931-32, although he was a surprise choice at left half in the 1932 FA Cup Final after Alex James was withdrawn because of injury and the side reshuffled as a result. Arsenal controversially lost 2-1 to Newcastle United at Wembley, after Newcastle’s equaliser was scored after the ball had already gone behind for what should have been a goal kick.
In 1932, with Arsenal’s current right back Tom Parker ageing and his replacement, Leslie Compton, not looking entirely assured, Male was converted from left half to right back by Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman; Male would later recount how, before being told of the switch by Chapman, he entered his office fearing for his future at the club, but Chapman convinced him not only could he play at right back, but that he was the best right back in the country.
Bolstered by Chapman’s pep talk, Male slotted into the right back role easily, and he became a near ever-present for the next seven seasons; he was undisputed first choice right back and played over 35 matches for every season in that period. During that time, Arsenal won the First Division Championship four more times (1932-33, 1933-34, 1934-35 and 1937-38), as well as the FA Cup in 1936 when they beat Sheffield United in the Final at Wembley.
Male’s performances for his club soon meant he was soon an England international; he made his debut for England against Italy at Highbury on 14th November 1934 and went on to win nineteen caps for his country, captaining the team for six of them between November 1936 and May 1937. He also played twice for The Football League.
By the end of the 1930’s, Male was Arsenal captain, although injuries restricted his appearances in 1938-39. However, when World War Two intervened Male was 29 and at the peak of his career; he played nearly 200 wartime matches for Arsenal, as well as serving in the Royal Air Force in Palestine. Upon the resumption of League football Male was 36, but still played 8 times in Arsenal’s 1947-48 League Championship winning season, and thus became the first player in League history to play in six title winning seasons. His last match for Arsenal was an 8-0 victory over Grimsby Town in May 1948. In all he played 322 matches for the Gunners, though he never scored a goal.
After retiring from playing, Male became a coach at Arsenal, training the youth and reserve teams. He was later a scout, discovering, amongst others, Charlie George. He was still at the club to see it win its first League and FA Cup Double in 1970-71, before retiring finally in 1975.
NB In this photograph Male shakes hands with Don Welsh of Charlton before the 1943 Southern War Cup Final.