A schoolboy prodigy in the North-East, defender Arthur Willis had options of playing for Barnsley, Sunderland and Tottenham when it came to play football at senior level.
Worked as a miner on leaving school and then got a job in the South with an engineering company, from there signing with Spurs as an amateur when he turned 18 and playing for Tottenham Juniors. He had a brother Annis, who also signed for the club on amateur forms, but only made it as far as the A team as a left half after the war.
His choice of Tottenham Hotspur saw him sign as an amateur in 1939 and he was sent to the club's nursery team Northfleet United. Things did not go well there for him, as he suffered from gastro-intestinal ulcers and was told that he would not make a future in the game. He took on a job in a factory making aircraft in London, but still made it known that he wanted to play football, so Tottenham helped him get a place with Finchley. Through his good showing for the non-league club, Spurs offered him a war-time friendly appearance and with a good performance, Spurs gave him more chances. Starred as a guest player for Millwall during war-time and it took a good talking to by club trainer George Hardy to get Arthur to sign professional terms with Spurs for £2 each game and £10 signing on fee to give him the opportunity that he so desired in 1944.
Despite making a promising start in the first team at full back, Arthur found himself ousted by first Sid Tickridge at the beginning of the 1947-48 season and then by the signing of Alf Ramsey from Southampton in 1949. Willis had to be content with turning out for the reserves and waiting his chance, which came towards the end of the 1949-50 season when Charlie Withers picked up an injury and he stepped in to finish the campaign that ended with Spurs being Second Division champions.
With Withers gaining full fitness during the close season, Arthur had to battle to retain his place and his consistently solid displays earned him the majority of matches as the club went on to take the First Division title in 1950-51, under Arthur Rowe's "Push and Run" philosophy.
Chosen to represent London against Brussells in a 1950 challenge match, Arthur was catching the eyes of the right people. After the league triumph, he took over as Spurs captain and was also called up for the England squad and won his one and only cap against France at Highbury in 1951. As his performances began to be appreciated for their energy and determination, he was selected for England's match against France at Highbury on 3rd October 1951 in a 2-2 draw which saw him suffer a nervous start to the game, but playing his normal reliable style for the remainder, although he was not chosen to represent his country again.
A loyal player, Willis was in the Spurs first team on 160 occasions and played 73 war-time matches, while, during his time out of the first eleven, he featured in other teams at the club 149 times. In the reserves, he won a London Challenge Cup medal in 1948.
As he vied with Withers for the full back position, it was about 50-50 in terms of games that they played and when he felt that he needed to play more regular first team football, Arthur left to join former skipper Ron Burgess at Swansea Town in 1954, where he played until he retired from playing. However, he took on the player-manager's job at Haverfordwest in 1960 and later that decade shared the stewardship of a local working man's club with being Tottenham's scout in the South West of England.
Arthur Willis died on 7th November 1987 in Haverfordwest, Wales.