Arthur Paul Read (1868-1894) - Yeovil's first star player.

When growing up in Yeovil in the 1970's , a match at Huish was for me and I'm sure for others the highlight of the week. Especially if there was a night game. There was something about those lights, the smell of Bovril and fags mixed in with the smell of victory for the boys in Green and White.

Each lad and lass had their own hero, waiting outside the players entrance under the long stand that as a child seemed vast. For some, they wanted striker Dicky Plumb's signature on their programme, unrolling it from their back pockets of their jeans as they passed it to him. For others, it was Stu Housley who always seemed cheeky and cheerful. For me and others it was John Clancy, always the gentleman, always signing it even though he knew he'd signed his autograph for you last week and would do the same a week later also.

In my Dad's time, his hero was Johnny Mckay, the tiny, fast and skilful Scottish winger of the 50's. Before him my Grandfather would name Johhny Hayward, the goal machine. Holding my attention for hours  with stories of Haywood's matches that he'd witnessed as a child  at the Pen Mill stadium.

Going back even before the Casuals had taken hold , to the days of matches at West  Hendford with cold wet grass under your feet and just a wet rope to lean on, the football loving crowd had one hero, his name was Arthur Paul Read.

A portrait of Arthur Paul Read 1868-1894

Read was born in Somerset in 1868, and is believed to have grown up in the Yeovil area. His footballing career started at Yeovil and he was one of the first players to ever wear the Yeovil shirt in 1891. Described as a hard tackling, good passing half back. He became the first Yeovil player to be called up for the Somerset County side. 

I'm 1892, Read left Yeovil to attend the prestigious Ardingley College in West Sussex where again his footballing skills became noticed. In between studies playing football for Clapton and lastly Crouch End, a famous amateur team that would play Yeovil on occasions when on tour in the late 1890s. 

A committed amateur of the game, he swore that he never took one penny for his footballing skills even though he'd played regularly against professional players whilst representing the full London side. He was regarded as one of the best players in the whole of the capital. 

In 1893, Read had complained of crippling  internal pains which resulted in him eventually having an operation in an attempt to solve the problem. 

Later that year, he was called up as first reserve to play for the full England side against Wales at Stoke. He was all set to make his international debut,. however with just minutes to go for the match to begin, Bob Holmes the first choice arrived to deny Read his full England cap that many thought he deserved. For the record, England won 6-0.

In an interview he conducted with The Football Star (below) , probably England's first football magazine, Read alludes to his time with Yeovil and also his footballing experiences. Its quite fascinating to see the thoughts of a player, a Yeovil player at that,  at the dawn of the club. 

In the interview Arthur also suggest he has not been too well and not "in fine fettle". In fact, he never played again after this interview. In August 1894, he was rushed to London hospital complaining again of internal stomach pains, sadly he passed away on the 24th August 1894, aged just 27 years old. His funeral was well attended by players from all over and finally he was laid to rest at Kensal Green cemetery in Kensington, London, very close to Isambard Kingdom Brunel's final resting place. He was a loss to football and his death in Yeovil was greated with much sorrow. The Yeovil, Western Chronicle reported :

" he was probably the finest player to play association on the Yeovil ground and the town footballers will hear of his death with the greatest of regrets. Members of the club subscribed together and two wreaths have been sent to the deceased's residence in London"

So, Arthur Paul Read, 1868-1894, Yeovil's first footballing hero. A player that has long since been forgotten, naturally so. However, he was one of our own, he wore the shirt that we all worship even to this day. So for that his story is worthy and deserves to be told. 

Arthur Paul Read, May he rest in peace. 

An interview with Arthur Paul Reid in March 1894, five months before his sad death. 

* for more seasons and stories check the archive 


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