Me Owd Duck remembers our top scorer
I am looking forward to March 21st this year. It’s a red letter day. It will be the 113th anniversary of Arthur Grenville–Morris’s Welsh debut against Scotland. In a largely forgotten game, Wales suffered a 4-0 defeat in the British Championship. The year was 1896. It was two years before a triumphant Forest team won the FA Cup, beating arch-rivals Derby 3-1 in front of sixty two thousand fans on April 16th 1898.
Do not tell me that the rivalry between Forest and Derby began in the 1970’s because of Cloughie. In 1898 sixty two thousand fans shouted and yelled and sang their hearts out for the red of Forest and the white of the Rams. The team photo for Forest that day was considered too dull when taken wearing the garibaldi red. It was retaken with Forest wearing Derby’s white shirts. The official photo of the 1898 cup final has the winners, Nottingham Forest, dressed as the losers, Derby County.
Winning the cup that year established Forest, a former Brandy playing outfit with no real aspirations in English football, as a proper footballing club. In the close season, they moved to a new ground, just south of the City, on the banks of the River Trent. The move from the Town Ground to the City Ground, under a flag saying this was the new ground of the FA Cup Winners meant that Forest were finally able to challenge Notts County as Nottingham’s premier football team.
In their first season at the new City Ground, Forest were able to parade a new signing from Swindon Town. The club had paid the absurd amount of £200 to capture the ebullient Welshman, Arthur Grenville Morris. He was clearly attracted by the new ground and the fact that the FA Cup winners were something of a glamour club. Fans at the time were concerned about the fee; they asked ‘can any player be worth it?’ Morris was an established Welsh international, a short man with a clear eye for the goal and a trimmed moustache.
Morris wore the number ten shirt and hardly missed a game for fifteen years at the City Ground, for five of them he was our captain. He was 21 when he made his debut on December 3rd 1898. He became known as ‘the Prince of Inside lefts’ and earned 21 caps for Wales, his final one coming in 1912. Morris was a brilliant all round sportsman. As a professional football player, he was not allowed to play tennis at Wimbledon, so instead, he became a coach. He was so important to Forest at the time that he had an agreement that he was allowed to train when and where he wanted to. He also ran his own coal-merchant’s business whilst playing for the club.
Morris scored nine goals for Wales and one hundred and ninety nine for Forest. He played 457 games for us. He remains our highest scoring player in the league of all time. The Welshman from Builth Wells remains a true Forest legend. Billy Meredith said of him: ‘He was a great player, a brilliant schemer, a tricky dribbler and had a fine shot’. In 1900, Forest lost to Bury in the semi-final of the FA Cup. Morris described this as the biggest disappointment of his career. He came to the cup winners, expecting to win more cups and never did.
In September 1904, Forest played Bury at the City Ground. Morris scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 win. Morris stayed with Forest through their relegation season of 1906 and the promotion back to the top tier in 1907. On the 21st of April 1909, Forest faced Leicester Fosse at the City Ground. Forest needed a win to stay up against Leicester who were the bottom club. This was the occasion of Forest’s record league, victory. We won 12-0 and two of the twelve came from Morris. Enoch ‘Nocker’ West, Morris’s scoring partner gained a hat-trick, as did Bill Hooper and Alf Spouncer. The defeat was so resounding, the league were forced to set up an inquiry afterwards. It was agreed that the Forest team were in ‘remarkably good form’.
Morris played his last game for us in the 1912 season. The following season, Forest finished bottom of the second division and had to apply for re-election to the football league. Gainsborough Trinity eventually lost out and Forest gained the most votes. Had the result have been different, the team as we know it today would have ceased to exist.
Grenville–Morris played 460 times for Forest and scored 217 goals. His last few seasons with the club marked a really poor spell in the team’s history. He remains our highest scoring player in competitive games of all time.
Whenever I look at his club of mine, I am surprised by one thing. So many of the heroes of this great English team are not English at all. So often, we have relied on Scots, Welshmen and Irish players to make us great. Our highest ever scorer, was one of them.
I’ll see thee.