Bristol born right back Joe Powell had joined the Army as a young man, and served for six years in the South Staffordshire Regiment. He played football for the regimental team, and impressed enough in a match against the then Royal Arsenal in October 1892 that the club bought him out of the Army and signed him as a professional that December.Having become a professional club, Arsenal had been shunned by many other clubs and County Associations, and only competed in FA Cup matches and friendlies. A strong and purposeful right back, Powell immediately became a regular in the Arsenal side and club captain from 1893-94.
In 1893 Royal Arsenal were accepted into the Football League and joined the Second Division under the new name of Woolwich Arsenal. Powell captained the side in its inaugural match against Newcastle United on 2nd September 1893. He went on to play in all but two of the club’s League matches that season, and was a near ever-present for the next two seasons as well (missing three and five games respectively). He scored his one and only League goal for Arsenal in a 5-0 victory over Loughborough on 4th January 1896.
In a United League match against Kettering on 23rd November 1896, Powell went to kick a high ball during a game against Kettering Town. His foot caught on the shoulder of an opponent and Powell fell and broke his arm. One of the men who went to his aid fainted at the sight of the protruding bone. Infection set in and, despite amputation above the elbow, he contracted blood poisoning and tetanus, and died six days later at his Plumstead home at the age of 26. An inquest jury returned a verdict of accidental death, with no blame attaching to anyone involved.He had played 92 League and FA Cup matches for the club.