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Alf Kirchen

Personal information
Full nameAlfred John Kirchen
Date of birthAugust 26, 1913
Place of birthShouldham, Norfolk, England
Date of deathAugust 18, 1999
Playing positionRight-winger

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Alfred John "Alf" Kirchen (August 26, 1913 August 18, 1999) was an English footballer.

Born in Shouldham, Norfolk, Kirchen played for local clubs, and for his county at youth level. He was signed by Tom Parker, the manager of Second Division Norwich City in 1934 and he immediately impressed, scoring seven goals in fourteen League games, and three in four FA Cup games 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 only 21.

Kirchen arrived too late at Arsenal to pick up a League winner's medal (the club completing 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 March 6, 1935 the match finished 6-0 to Arsenal, a record in a North London derby. A right-winger, Kirchen had to fight for a first team 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 right winger.

Kirchen became well known for his pace and fierce shooting, which soon attracted international attention; he picked up three caps (and scored twice) for England on a 1937 tour of Scandinavia, his debut coming against Norway on May 14, 1937, and his final match being against Finland on May 20 of the same year. Despite these performances however, he was never picked again.

He finally picked up a League winners' medal as Arsenal won the 1937-38 title, playing nineteen games that season, 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 116 times, scoring 81 goals, as well as three more times for England), 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 played 101 official first-class matches for Arsenal, scoring 45 goals.

Kirchen later returned to his old club Norwich City, as a trainer, before leaving football to become a farmer at Thwaite St. Mary and Hedenham in south Norfolk. He later returned to Norwich as a director of the club, and also served as Honorary President of the Norfolk Arsenal Supporters Club. He also represented his country at clay pigeon shooting and was a keen player of lawn bowls. He died in 1999, several days short of what would have been his 86th birthday.

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