Ronald Leslie Rooke (7 December 1911 – 9 June 1985) was an English footballer who played as a centre forward. He scored 170 goals from 256 appearances in the Football League for Crystal Palace, Fulham and Arsenal, as well as playing non-league football. He was also manager of Crystal Palace, Bedford Town (two spells), Haywards Heath Town and Addlestone.
|Full name||Ronald Leslie Rooke|
|Date of birth||7 December 1911|
|Place of birth||Guildford, Surrey, England|
|Date of death||9 June 1985(aged 73)|
|Place of death||Bedford, Bedfordshire, England|
|Height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|Playing position||Centre forward|
|Haywards Heath Town|
|1949–1950||Crystal Palace (player-manager)|
|1951–1953||Bedford Town (player-manager)|
|Haywards Heath Town (player-manager)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Rooke was born in Guildford, Surrey, and began his playing career with local club Guildford City. He then had a spell with Woking in 1932–33 during which he scored 29 goals from 16 appearances in all competitions. In 1933, he joined Crystal Palace, who were at the time in the Third Division South. He played mainly for the Palace reserve side, only playing eighteen league matches and scoring six goals between 1933 and 1936. He then moved to Second Division club Fulham for a £300 fee in November 1936. He was the club's leading scorer for three consecutive seasons. In all he scored 70 goals in 165 league matches for Fulham, and contributed all six goals in a 6–0 FA Cup demolition of Bury, which is still (as of 2013[update]) a club record.
Rooke served as a physical training instructor in the RAF during the Second World War. He still played in the wartime leagues for Fulham, and gained one Wartime International cap for England, in 1942 against Wales. In 1945, Rooke had guested for Arsenal in a match against the touring Moscow Dynamo team. The following year, despite being 35 years old and never having played in the top flight, he was signed by the struggling First Division club for £1,000 and two players, Cyril Grant and Dave Nelson.
However surprising the signing may have been, Rooke made an immediate impact: he scored the winner on his debut, against Charlton Athletic on 14 December 1946, and by the end of the season had taken his total to 21 goals from 24 league matches and helped Arsenal finish in mid-table. He scored 33 league goals in 1947–48, a total that made him that season's First Division top scorer, remains (as of 2017[update]) Arsenal's all-time record for the most goals scored in a postwar season, and helped them win their sixth League title. Rooke scored another 15 goals in 1948–49, including one in Arsenal's 4–3 victory over Manchester United in the 1948 FA Charity Shield. In all, he scored 70 goals in just 94 matches for the Gunners.
Rooke left Arsenal in the summer of 1949, to rejoin former club Crystal Palace as player-manager. His first season as manager was moderately successful as Palace finished seventh in the Third Division South. The next season began poorly, and in November 1950 he moved on to Bedford Town, having increased his appearances and goals totals for Palace to 63 and 32 respectively. He initially featured as a player for Bedford, before being appointed player-manager in February 1951, a job he held until December 1953. During this spell at the club Rooke scored 97 goals from 136 appearances in all competitions.
He then moved on to become player-manager at Haywards Heath Town and Addlestone, before returning to Bedford in 1959. Although his second spell saw him appointed only as a manager, he made two first team appearances when the club were lacking players. He was sacked after the club lost an FA Cup match against Hitchin Town in September 1961.
- Huntingdonshire Premier Cup: 1951–52
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