Arnold Mitchell played more league games for Exeter City than any other player and, by the time he left St James’ Park in 1966, his career tally stood at 495 league games plus another 17 in the FA Cup and four in the League Cup. He also contributed 44 league goals and was a member of the first-ever Grecians side to be promoted in 1964. Arnold was one of the initial group of former players inducted into the Exeter City Hall of Fame in 2014.
Growing up in South Yorkshire - he was recorded as living at Osberton Street in Rawmarsh in 1939 - Arnold was on the books of Sheffield Wednesday as an amateur before earning his first professional contract with Derby County in February 1948. Unable to break into the first-team Arnold moved on to Nottingham Forest in March 1950 and Notts County in May 1951 for whom he was to make his league debut during 1951/52.
Leaving Meadow Lane after a solitary appearance Arnold arrived at St James’ Park and, wearing the number 7 shirt at the start of a City career that saw him play in all manner of positions, made his first appearance against Northampton Town on 27 August 1952. Playing mainly on the right-wing, Arnold scored 10 times from 38 league outings during his first campaign with the club but wore each of the number 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9 shirts when making 27 league appearances in 1953/54. A similar array of positions followed in 1954/55 when Arnold appeared in all-but-one of City’s league games and even had eleven minutes as an emergency goalkeeper during the game at Southend United in September 1954.
Whatever his position - invariably more and more defensive as time passed - Arnold was noted for his drive, encouragement of team mates and leadership qualities. The appearances continued to pile up: another 45 in the league in 1955/56 followed by 33, 43, 46 and 42. It was only when knee injuries started to have an effect that Arnold dropped to just 20 games in 1960/61 followed by 16 in 1961/62.
Returning to full-fitness Arnold enjoyed 40 league outings in 1962/63 with a long-run in the number 4 shirt towards the end of the season which he subsequently retained to play 38 times (with three goals) during City’s 1963/64 promotion season as he drove the team on to a fine run of performances during the second half of the season. By this time Arnold had been working as the club’s assistant lottery organiser since October 1962 and, with his 35th birthday on the horizon, he grasped the opportunity of playing in the Third Division as he appeared 43 times (mainly in the number 4 shirt) as City finished 17th in the first season after promotion.
Having been linked with the manager’s job and requesting a transfer, at a time when the club had started to struggle in the third-tier, Arnold’s days as an Exeter City player were approaching their end and - after playing nineteen league games that season - he made his final league appearance (his 495th) at Reading on 18 May 1966 which was fitting given his great friend Keith Harvey was in the City side that day. In careers that ran parallel, the pair had first appeared together against Bristol Rovers on 27 September 1952 on the occasion of Keith’s debut. Arnold made the greater number of league appearances - 495 to 483 - but Keith played the more cup matches bringing his overall total to 517 ahead of Arnold’s 516.
Playing briefly for Taunton Town upon leaving St James' Park, where he sustained a broken leg, Arnold retired from playing but continued to reside in Exeter and often made return visits to St James’ Park in addition to taking up golf at Dawlish Warren where he became a life member in 2011.
Arnold Mitchell died in October 2014 at the age of eighty-four. Earlier that year fondly-remembered for his versatility, dependability and playing-longevity - as well as for his sheer personification of the Exeter City of the 1950s and 1960s - Arnold was one of the initial inductees into the Exeter City Hall of Fame.