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Ronnie Rooke

Personal information
Full nameRonald Leslie Rooke
Date of birth7 December 1911
Place of birthGuildford, Surrey, England
Date of deathJuly 1985
Playing positionCentre forward

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Ronald Leslie "Ronnie" Rooke (7 December 1911 July 1985) was an English footballer who played as a centre forward either side of World War II, and who later became a football manager.

Born in Guildford, Surrey, Rooke started his playing career with Crystal Palace, who were at the time in the Third Division South. A centre forward, he mainly played for the Eagles' reserve side, only playing eighteen league matches and scoring four goals between 1932 and 1936. His main success came when he moved to Second Division Fulham in November 1936; he was the club's leading scorer for three consecutive seasons; in all he scored 57 goals in 87 league matches, including all six goals in a 6-0 FA Cup demolition of Bury, a club record.

World War II broke out at the peak of his career; Rooke joined the RAF, although he still played wartime matches for Fulham, and won an unofficial England cap in a Victory International against Wales. The Football League programme resumed in 1946, and despite being nearly 35 and having never played in the top flight, Rooke was signed by Arsenal (Cyril Grant going in the other direction), who despite their pedigree from the 1930s, were struggling to score goals.

The move was surprising, but Rooke immediately made an impact, scoring the winner on his debut against Charlton Athletic on December 14, 1946. He scored 21 goals in just 24 League matches that season, and the next season (1947-48), he scored 33 League goals, a post-war club record that has not been broken since. Arsenal won the First Division title, and Rooke was the League's top scorer.

Rooke scored another 14 goals in 1948-49, but left the Gunners in the summer of 1949 to rejoin his old club Crystal Palace, as player-manager. In all, he scored 70 goals in just 94 matches for the Gunners. As a manager, Rooke had some initial success; Palace had finished bottom of the Third Division South the previous season, but with Rooke they finished seventh in 1949-50, their best since the war, and would remain their best until they achieved promotion in 1961.

Rooke left Palace in November 1950, and became player-manager of Bedford Town in 1951, staying in that role until 1953. He returned as manager for a second spell from 1959 to 1961. He quit football entirely after that, and later worked as a porter at Luton Airport. He died in 1985 from lung cancer at the age of 73.

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