A history of Boro strikers
This is the new site I intend to use for the continuation of ‘A history of Boro strikers’. I realise that for some reason this history has been appearing under ‘Reasons to hate 2020’ and caused confusion and difficulty for people to find the correct category. I can only apologise for that but as I’ve recently mentioned I’m not particularly computer-literate.
So if any one can suggest how I can transfer the existing data from ‘Reasons to hate 2020’ to this new site, I’d be grateful as it would make more sense to have ‘A history of Boro strikers’ in chronological order all in one place.
Thank you, Ken Smith.
I was recently talking to Clive Hurren about looking for another project to keep me awake after finishing my project on Classical Music. I discounted Yorkshire cricketers as it’s history goes further back than even Boro’s, and Paul Dyson already does a good job of that on the Yorkshire CCC website. Clive suggested I do one on former Boro players, but even that seemed to involve too much research, but when I read that Dr Tosh Warwick is writing a book about George Camsell with the help of the Camsell descendants and that he considered that there’s now a growing wish from Boro fans about the history of our great club it came to me in a flash. I’d already reviewed Boro’s past season by season up to 2002 on the previous diasboro.worldpress forum, do why not restrict my next project to the subject of former Boro strikers as it appears that most Boro fans are not enamoured about our current crop of (non)strikers. But where should I start? Well not wanting to stand Dr Warwick’s toes I thought maybe I should start at the beginning when Boro had a plethora of strikers, many of them international players, so here goes with the earliest of these:-
JOHN BREARLEY 1900/02
Brearley, known as Jack, was born in West Derby, a suburb of Liverpool in 1875. He began his career with Kettering Town, before signing for Notts County, Oldham Athletic and Millwall Athletic where he scored 13 goals in 51 matches helping them not only winning the Southern League Championship but also reaching the Semifinal of the FA Cup. On the strength of that Jack Robson the Boro manager signed him for Boro where he made his debut in the penultimate match of the 1900/01 season. The following season he scored 22 league goals for Boro in 31 matches as Boro gained their first promotion to the First Division. Strangely though Boro didn’t retain his services at the end of the season and sold him to Everton. During the First World War he was interned in a prisoner-of-war camp in Ruhlben, Berlin and although surviving the war eventually ended his career at one of his former clubs Millwall. He was the first Boro player to score 20 or more goals in a season, and died aged 68 in 1944.
ALFRED COMMON 1904/1910 and
STEVE BLOOMER 1905/1910
Alfred Common known as Alf was born in Millfield, a suburb of Darlington in 1880 and signed for Sunderland in 1900. Although he only scored 6 goals in his first season for the Mackems, Sunderland won the First Division as Champions but at the end of the season Sheffield United paid the princely sum of £325 for his services. After scoring 21 goals in 67 matches for the Blades over 3 seasons he asked for a transfer back to Sunderland as he had business interests in the town. A fee of £520 was agreed , but Boro who were in dire straits nearly doubled that in securing his signature after only 6 months of his second debut for the Black Cats which incurred the wrath of not only the FA but of the whole country. Boro had been lingering in the bottom two of the First Division for over 3 months and new manager Alex Mackie was determined to keep Boro in the First Division at all costs in his first season. Common’s signing as the first £1,000 player caused such consternation in the game that the FA made it clear that they would take a dim view of any more high-figure transfers. Questions were even raised in the House of Commons about the ethics of Boro paying such a ‘ridiculous’ sum and more than one MP suggested that Boro should accept relegation as the right and proper thing to do rather than buy themselves out of trouble. Alf Common scored a penalty on his debut for Boro away to Sheffield United in what was Boro’s only second away win of the season in late February. He scored 3 more in his following 9 matches and Boro finished 15th. Nevertheless Boro were short of goal power and manager Mackie was determined to rectify that in the following season.
Steve Bloomer was born in Crawley, Worcestershire in 1874 and was already an established English international when Boro signed him from Derby County in the following season. He had already scored 238 goals in 375 matches for the Rams, but mindful of the FA keeping a close eye on any more mind-blowing transfer fees, how were Boro able to finance his transfer? When news of the transfer became public it was suggested that Boro and Derby had ‘massaged’ the figures to complete the deal. The agreed fee was £750, still £400 above the threshold. Boro and Derby got round that by Derby including a fictitious valuation of £350 on their reserve full back Jack Ratcliffe who had only made 16 first team appearances in 4 seasons for the Rams and went on to play only 3 matches in his 2 seasons with Boro. The transfer fee for Steve Bloomer was quoted as £400 so in essence Boro really only paid Derby’s valuation of £750 for Bloomer and a worthless full back.
Steve Bloomer was described as football’s first superstar and was aged 31 when he made his debut for Boro in a 1-6 thrashing at Liverpool but scored 6 goals in his 9 matches whilst Common was top scorer with 19 in 36 matches. Even so Boro again only just avoided relegation by winning 4 and drawing one of their final 6 matches with Common scoring 9 goals and Bloomer 5 in those 6 matches with an emphatic 5-0 home win over Stoke City and a 6-1 over Manchester City being the highlights. Andy Aitken took over as Boro manager and he stabilised Boro with finishes of 11th, 6th and 9th in his 3 years in control.
Alf Common finished with 65 goals in 168 appearances for Boro and 2 pfor England in his 3 appearances. He was reputed to be 6ft 8 inches tall and finished his career with Preston North End and scored a career total of 123 goals in 385 appearances. He died aged 65 in Darlington in 1946. Steve Bloomer scored 62 goals in 130 appearances for Boro and returned to Derby in 1910. His career ended with a staggering 352 goals for his two clubs in 596 appearances. He also scored 28 goals for England in only 23 appearances, and at a height of only 5ft 8 inches proved the value of a ‘little and large’ strike force for Boro at the time. He died aged 64 in 1938.
George Washington Elliott was born in Sunderland in1899 but never played for his home team club, but started with Redcar Crusaders and South Bank but as a professional spent his entire career at Boro. He didn’t make an auspicious start making his debut as a 20 year old in the first match of the 1909/10 season in a 0-2 defeat away to Sheffield United as an inside forward. In fact he only made 15 appearances scoring 4 goals. Andy Walker was the new Boro manager and lasted only 6 months as his brief stay was overshadowed by controversy. Walker was suspended for 4 weeks and fined £100 for making an illegal approach to one of his former Airdrieonians players and was replaced by Tom McIntosh. Boro were in deep financial trouble with gate receipts £1,000 down on the previous season and were forced to sell both Alf Common and Steve Bloomer, so George Elliott became a regular in the following season scoring a mere 10 goals in 25 appearances as Boro finished 16th in the League after winning only 2 of their final 22 matches. The whole season though had become a disaster after a bribery scandal following a home match against Sunderland in December.
The Boro chairman Lt.-Col. Thomas Gibson-Poole was an ambitious man determined to be elected as Conservative MP for Middlesbrough in the forthcoming General Election, and it was felt that his chances would be enhanced with victory over the Mackems. The Liberals were favourites to win the seat with several Boro players including Elliott canvassing on behalf of the Chairman and the manager Andy Walker was rumoured to have offered Charlie Thomson the Sunderland captain £10 to lose the match, plus £2 each for the other Wearsider’s players. Thomson told the trainer who informed the Sunderland chairman who then reported the matter to the FA. The bribe was academic as Boro won the match and Gibson-Poole was beaten at the polls, but Gibson-Poole and manager Andy Walker were given lifetime bans. However the appointment of a new chairman Phil Bach and a new manager Tom McIntosh not to mention George Elliott provided Boro with the most successful period in Boro’s history.
George Elliott was converted into a centre forward and became the club’s leading scorer in 7 of the next 9 seasons finishing with 203 goals in 344 League appearances. His parents had wanted him to go to Cambridge University but he opted for football and won 3 England caps. Before he became a regular in Boro’s first team he once scored 11 goals for the reserves in a 14-1 victory over Houghton Rovers. He captained Boro from 1913 to 1921 and became the first Boro player to become the League’s top scorer in the 1913/14 season with 31 goals as Boro finished 3rd in the First Division, Boro’s highest finishing position. The First World War interrupted his career and afterwards despite receiving offers from Sunderland and Newcastle decided to retire to become cargo superintendent at Middlesbrough Docks.
George Elliott died aged 58 in 1948 and holds the position of 2nd in Boro’s history of goalscorers to George Camsell with 6 more goals than Brian Clough although all of his 203 goals were scored in the First Division.
Jackie Carr (christened John) was born in South Bank in 1892 and was one of five brothers to play for Boro, Walter (a midfielder) and Harry (a centre forward known as Pep who scored 3 goals in his only 3 matches which all ended in defeats) both of them remaining amateurs, plus Willie (known as Puddin) and George (an inside forward and the youngest who scored 23 goals in his 70 appearances) who signed professional forms. However it was Jackie who stayed at Boro for 30 years and was the most successful and became one of the finest players in the club’s history.
Jackie was particularly adept at providing the through ball for centre forwards in those 3 decades. He didn’t establish himself as a first team regular until manager Tom McIntosh gave him his chance in a home game against Manchester United in 1912 when he scored 2 early goals, and it is rumoured that the cheering was so loud that it so disturbed the horses at Stockton Races that a race was held up for eight minutes, though I must say I doubt the veracity of the rumour as the crowd was just short of 10,000. His goalscoring record for an inside forward was quite favourable though as in his first season as he netted 19 times in 34 appearances supporting George Elliott who scored 25 times. He was capped twice for England and his final tally of goals during his 30 years was 81 in 449 appearances, but his assists though not recorded must have been substantial.
He later signed for Hartlepools as a player/coach for a transfer fee of £500 before taking over the managership of Pools in the following season. He also managed Tranmere Rovers for 3 years, and Darlington for another 3 years. Sadly he died aged only 49 in 1942 and was buried in Redcar.
ANDY WILSON 1914/1924
Andy Nesbitt Wilson was born in Newmains, Lanarkshire in 1896. Boro bought him from Cambuslang Rangers in 1914 but he only scored 5 goals in his first 9 matches before the First World War was declared during which he guested for Hamilton Academicals and Leeds City. He became known as the man with the black glove after the loss of his left hand during the War after he was invalided out of the Army when a German shell exploded near him in Arras in 1918 but never let the injury affect him, wearing a glove covering the damaged hand after he had returned to amateur status playing for Heart of Midlothian in the Scottish League. He was keen to stay north of the border and several other Scottish clubs were keen to sign him, but fortunately Boro still jlheld his registration if he wished to return as a professional player, so he chose to play for Dunfermline Athletic in the rebel Scottish Central League as an amateur and scored 104 goals for them in two seasons. However when the Fifeshire club joined the Scottish League he became ineligible to play for them so he joined a Scottish party on a goodwill tour of Canada and the USA scoring 62 goals. The Americans were so impressed by him that they christened him the “Babe Ruth of Soccer”.
Eventually he returned to Ayresome Park as a professional and in his first season in 1921/22 not only was he Boro’s top scorer with 32 goals as Boro finished 8th but the First Division leading scorer also. Of course Boro still had George Elliott on it’s books and the pair of them became twin strikers. However having scored a total of 57 goals in 90 appearances for Boro, in November 1923 Chelsea offered a substantial sum of £6,500 for his transfer which Boro accepted. He was again Boro’s top scorer at the time and he also finished Chelsea’s top scorer at the end of the season. He later played for Racing Club de Paris, and earned 14 international caps for Scotland scoring 17 goals. He died in Putney, London aged 77 in 1973.
Great stuff, Ken. I remember my Dad talking about all of these revered figures. He was born in 1898 so he saw almost all of them.
Thanks to KP in Spain for transferring my history of Boro strikers onto this new site I am able to continue to write about further goalscorers in chronological order starting with:-
BILLY BIRRELL 1920/28
Birrell wasn’t technically a striker as he spent most of his time as a right winger and occasionally as an inside right for Boro, but his tally of 63 goals from 235 appearances were invaluable at the time. His best seasons were between 1925 and 1927 when he accumulated 36 goals in 87 appearances including FA Cup ties assisting James McClelland and later George Camsell. He was born in Callardyke, Fifeshire in 1897 and signed for Raith Rovers from whom Boro bought him in 1921. He had survived injury and imprisonment during the First World War to become one of Boro’s most popular players. He had received a foot injury while serving with the Black Watch Regiment in France and later captured and interned as a POW in Russian Poland. Later he was Boro’s captain that won promotion in 1926/27 when Boro scored a record 122 goals. He later returned to Raith Rovers as player/manager before managing Bournemouth and finally Chelsea for 13 years leading Chelsea to two wartime cup finals during which time George Hardwick was guesting for the Pensioners. After retirement from football in 1952 he worked as a clerk before dying at the age of 71 in 1968.
JAMES McCLELLAND 1924/28
McClelland known as Jimmy, like the aforementioned Birrell was also a Fifeshire lad born in Dysart in 1902 and also started his career with Raith Rovers before signing for Southend United where he was top scorer in his first season. Boro desperately needed a centre football after the goals had dried up from the aging George Elliott and twice sent a deputation in November 1924 to watch the young Dixie Dean at Birkenhead playing for Tranmere Rovers. However Dean was injured in the first game and didn’t impress in the second one. Nevertheless in the following March Boro asked Tranmere to name their price, but lost interest when quoted £2,000. Of course a few months later Dean signed for Everton for whom he scored 349 goals.
So this is when Boro signed Jimmy McClelland from Southend, and what an inspirational purchase he proved to be. The barrel-chested Scot had a phenomenal season in 1925/26 scoring 32 goals to break George Elliott’s club scoring record by one goal, and with the aforementioned Billy Birrell and Jackie Carr helped Boro to score 77 League goals the second highest they had scored since 1901.
Meanwhile Boro had signed a young George Camsell from Durham City for £600 but only as one for the future. The following season Boro started poorly losing 3 and drawing one of their first four matches and McClelland failed to score in any of them before an injury set him back for a month and meaning that Boro had no choice but to give George Camsell his chance with the newly acquired Billy Pease. Camsell had not particularly impressed in the previous season and Boro were prepared to sell him for £250. Just as well that they didn’t as although he didn’t score in that 5th match, as we all know he went on to score 59 goals in his first full season.
Meanwhile McClelland went on to score 48 goals in 85 appearances for Boro before being sold to Bolton Wanderers for £6,300 making a considerable profit for the Teessiders. In 1928 he left Bolton for Preston North End for a fee of £5,000, then in 1931 he signed for Blackpool and Bradford Park Avenue before ending his playing days with Manchester United in 1936 but couldn’t save the Red Devils from relegation, although he stayed there until the outbreak of the Second World War. On a personal level he might have been considered unfortunate to be around at the same time as George Camsell but he did have the satisfaction of gaining an FA Cup winners medal in 1929 for Bolton Wanderers against Portsmouth.
In his career he scored almost a century of goals, but it was with Boro that he had his most successful time. He died in Manchester aged 73 in 1976.
WILLIAM PEASE 1926/1933
Always known as Billy Pease he was born in Leeds in 1899. He served with the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers during the First World War and at the end of hostilities signed as an amateur with Leeds City before their demise in 1919 after which he signed for Northampton Town also as an amateur scoring 46 goals as a right winger in 278 appearances. Boro signed him as a professional in 1926 when in his first season he scored 23 goals in 30 league appearances. After Boro’s poor start to the 1926/27 season he scored from the penalty spot in that 5th match which sent Boro climbing from the bottom of the League to Champions with a record of 122 goals of which George Camsell scored 59 and the aforementioned Billy Birrell 16. But not only was he a top goalscorer for Boro but the provider of many more for Camsell. He scored another 46 in the following two seasons, and finished with a total of 103 goals in 239 appearances, exceptional for a winger. He was the complete player, capable of excellent crosses and boasting fine ball control. He was also lethal when cutting inside to bear down on goal. Surprisingly though he won only one England cap. After his glorious Boro career he signed for Luton Town in 1933 for two seasons.
He later became a publican first in Middlesbrough and then in Stokesley before running a bed and breakfast establishment in Redcar here he died from a brain haemorrhage aged 56 in Redcar in 1955.
GEORGE HENRY CAMSELL 1925/1939
George Camsell was born in Framwellgate Moor, Durham in 1902 and started his career in the Northern League playing for Esh Winning and Tow Law Town as an amateur before signing professional forms with Durham City in 1924 for whom he scored 20 goals in 21 appearances in his only season. He then signed for Boro in 1925 for a reported £600 but only scored 5 goals in his first season as understudy to the aforementioned Jimmy McClelland. As it happened Boro were not unduly impressed with his first season and were willing to sell him to Barnsley for £250, but fortunately the Tykes were unable to raise the stipulated Boro valuation and so he stayed with Boro as second choice centre forward to McClelland after the asking price for Tranmere’s Dixie Dean was far above Boro’s means at the time.
Anyway after the dreadful start to the 1926/27 season with Boro rooted at the bottom of the Second Division with just one point after 4 matches, Boro had no choice than to select Camsell as McClelland was injured and unable to play for a month. As I mentioned before, although Boro won the next match against Hull City Camsell didn’t score. However he opened his account in the next match and went on to score 31 goals in his next 17 matches by which time Boro had risen to the top of the League where they stayed apart from one week after three successive draws up to early February.
Boro’s defence were finding the new offside law hard to cope with and conceded 60 goals during the season, but it really didn’t matter as other clubs were also struggling with the new law, and Boro scored twice as many goals as they conceded and finished 8 points ahead of runners-up Portsmouth. Just to recap on a subject I had mentioned a few years ago where clubs finished equal on points, goal average determined league positions. As Portsmouth and Manchester City had both finished with 54 points (8 fewer than Boro) Portsmouth having scored 87 goals against 49 (an average of 1.7755) were promoted instead of Manchester City who had scored 108 against 61 (an average of 1.7705) by .005 of a goal whist today goal difference would have seen City promoted by a goal difference of +47 as opposed to +38. This is the only time I can find that promotion would have been different using the two methods.
Anyway back to the subject of this blog which of course is George Camsell. Over the Advent and Christmas period of 5 matches Boro scored 23 goals of which Camsell scored 16 of them and Billy Pease 5. The following season Boro finished bottom with 37 points yet only 7 points behind 4th placed Derby County despite Camsell scoring 33 goals and Pease 19. And this all came about with Boro needing only a draw at home to Sunderland in their final match of the season which would have sent the Black Cats down instead of Boro, but Boro lost 0-3 whilst Sunderland finished 8th from bottom in the tightest league ever. Nevertheless Camsell scored 30 goals and Pease 27 in the next season as Boro were again promoted and not relegated again for 25 years.
George Camsell was top scorer for Boro in the next 7 seasons also until Micky Fenton took over the honour in the 1936/37 season and he will be my next subject. Just to finalise my appraisal of George Camsell, he not only scored a career total of 345 goals in 453 appearances including FA Cup matches, but also scored 18 goals in 9 appearances for England, the highest percentage of any other player apart from those who had only played once. In all he scored 24 hat-tricks for Boro and was top scorer for 10 successive seasons. He was a modest man and magnanimous in his praise for Dixie Dean in breaking his scoring record in the season following his 59 goals, stating in an interview with the Liverpool Echo that he took it as a compliment to have his record broken by only one goal by England’s centre forward. In explaining how the new offside benefitted centre forwards, he stated that a new tactic was the reason. He always lay ahead of his inside forwards as did Dixie Dean, and sprinted away as soon as he received the ball from them. Indeed it was often recorded that once he received the ball if it was from Billy Pease in particular, Pease would sit on the pitch until Camsell had scored with one of his cannon shots until the ball was in the net and only got on his feet again to shake his hand. My grandfather told me that, but I took it as an exaggeration until I have recently seen it confirmed in print.
After his playing days he worked on the coaching and administration staff of Boro before he retired in 1963. Sadly he died only 3 years later at the age of 63.
I now need to lie down as I feel that I’ve just run a marathon, although I’ve enjoyed reliving what I’d read before but some of which I’d since forgotten.
Boro used to have a lof of top quality centre forwards until recently. From the above to Brian Clough. And later Hickton and Mills for example. Then Robson and McClaren bought many excellent goal getters.
Somehow we have missed one in recent years, especially the last ten or 15 years. Of course Karanka didn't need one but still. I often wonder why Britt used to score as often as Bernie Slaven on average but his average has gone down every year he has been with us. And he has not had any major injuries, too.
Ok, goals are more difficult to score as defenders are better and better, tactics are different and scoring is more like a team effort nowadays. Howson cannot sit down after giving the ball to Britt. Like it was in Camsell's case.
But I hope we would score a few goals more than in recent years. Last season we scored 1,04 goals a game, this season the average is 1,16. I just wonder when the last time was when a Boro striker scored 20 goals or more in a season. Now we are lucky to have a striker hitting double digits!
Well, at least we usually know how to defend and we always seems to bring some excellent centre backs trough the academy. Like Wheater, Gibson or Fry. Even I have been a defender myself, it is not as exciting.
Up the Boro!
Thanks ,Ken, I found all of this history fascinating. I half-knew some of it but you have joined a lot of the dots.
I'm not religious, but nevertheless just wonder that if, by chance, there is any kind of afterlife whether we would still be able to get the football results. I'm still sort of interested in what the Boro will do in the future even though I might not be there to support them.
So, by extension ( or regression) it makes sense to me to learn the details of Boro teams from the past, teams that I would certainly have supported had I been around then. I know that I would really been excited to see all of the greats you have covered. It's a great pity that there is no visual evidence of them in action, but your sterling work has done the next best thing.
Thanks again for all of your work.
MICHAEL FENTON 1932/1950
Fenton, always known as Micky, was born in Stockton in 1913 and played his amateur football with South Bank East End before signing professional terms as a 19 year old for Boro in 1932 making his debut a season later. He had been in and out of the first team in his first three seasons being quite small for a centre forward and only weighing 9st 12lb. However he belied his somewhat frail stature with the quality of his performances, scoring 22 goals in his first full season (4 more than Camsell in that season) thus ending Camsell’s run of 10 consecutive seasons as Boro’s top scorer. Even after putting on 6lbs in weight over the next 5 seasons the club’s directors were still concerned about his slim physique that they even considered sending him to a health farm to beef him up.
Over the next three seasons Boro had established themselves as a team to be reckoned with finishing 7th, 5th and then 4th with Fenton following his 22 goals in his first full season with 24 in his second season, then a magnificent 34 in the final full season before the Second World War which none of his precedents including Camsell had achieved in seasons when Boro were a First Division club. Remarkably it is still the highest number of League goals scored by a Boro player in a season of top flight football beating George Camsell’s 33 in 1927/28 or his 32 in 1939/31, Andy Wilson’s 32 in 1921/22, and George Elliott’s 31 in both the 1913/14 and 1919/20 seasons. Only Brian Clough has scored more league goals in a season than Micky Fenton’s 34, but all were in the Second Division.
During the war Fenton guested for Port Vale, Notts County, Rochdale, Wolves and Blackpool, and despite interest from Everton he resumed his career with Boro for another three seasons and scored 58 more League goals. He retired at the end of the 1949/50 season but only played in one match away to Aston Villa. I was fortunate to witness his last hat-trick in a 6-0 demolition of Villa in December 1948. In his meagre 6 full seasons he had a 60% strike rate which only Camsell and Clough were able to beat. Micky Fenton finished with 162 goals in 269 appearances including FA Cup matches, but consider this; he missed 7 full seasons playing for Boro during the Second World War. If he hadn’t, it’s safe to say barring injuries he would have finished his career with nigh on 300 goals in about 500 appearances which would have placed him as the second highest Boro scorer to George Camsell. His retirement left a big hole for Boro to fill in the following years which the likes of Andy Donaldson, Peter McKennan, Neil Mochan and Ken McPherson were unable to fill resulting in relegation in 1954. It was probably the longest period in the club’s history that Boro were unable to purchase an adequate centre forward as Len recently reminded me.
Micky Fenton won only one international cap but did however tour South Africa with an FA representative side in 1939. After retirement from playing he remained a member of the coaching staff for several years before dying in Stockton aged 89 in 2003.
As long as you take an iPad with you I reckon the angels might supply a Wi-Fi connection.
For a few years my wife and I used to enjoy going to the game and sitting/dining in the Fenton Lounge situated in the North Stand. It shows how well he is thought of in Boro history that one of the few lounges at the Riverside is dedicated to his name.
WILFRED JAMES MANNION 1936/1954
Wilf Mannion was born in South Bank in 1918 and played for South Bank St Peter’s as an amateur. Even at a young age he didn’t commit himself easily to sign for Boro, in fact it took 4 visits to his home by a Boro director to get him to sign. Eventually he made his debut for Boro in a 2-2 draw at home to Portsmouth in January 1937, although he played only once more in that season. In the following season he made 22 appearances but scoring only 4 times, though he was quickly christened the ‘Golden Boy’ and not just because of his blond hair, but also because of his wonderful ball skills as an inside forward. He certainly wasn’t a striker in the conventional way, but the supplier of goals for the emerging Micky Fenton and the aging George Camsell. In fact he only scored 18 times in the two seasons before the Second World War but nevertheless contributed to the 58 goals that Micky Fenton scored in those two seasons. In one match the newly crowned Golden Boy scored 4 goals in a 9-2 home win against Blackpool.
When the First World War began he enrolled in the Green Howards as a batman to his Commanding Officer, Hedley Verity the famous Yorkshire and England spin bowler who having taken almost 2,000 wickets was captured during an Allied invasion of Sicily, and died from his wounds in 1943 aged only 38. It was also feared that Mannion was missing and it took some time to discover his whereabouts. He never had the opportunity to play football during the War, but in the first season after hostilities ceased he played in an astonishing match against Blackpool again in November 1947. Wilf didn’t score in that match, in fact he only scored one League goal all that season, but his performance ensured the game went down in history. Tales that he ran the length of the field with the ball on his head may be somewhat exaggerated, but if had done so, few would have been surprised. He did actually run some yards whilst bouncing the ball on his head at one point during the game and the first and only time that this ‘circus’ act would be performed. Apparently he had just become engaged to his future wife Bernadette and wished to impress her as she sat in the stands. However a packed Ayresome Park had seen Blackpool ripped apart as he supplied all four goals for Cecil McCormack twice, Micky Fenton and Johnny Spuhler in a 4-0 win. Indeed the entire Blackpool team stood back at the final whistle to clap and allow Wilf to leave the field first, more like Lord’s than Ayresome Park.
That famous run with arms outstretched and palms facing downwards became a trait of Wilf’s as did his ability to outjump taller defenders as he headed the ball on his way down from his jump rather than on his way up.He went on to score 110 goals from 368 League and Cup games, and 11 for England in 26 appearances. However he went on strike at the beginning of the 1948/49 season when the promise of a club house didn’t materialise and he asked for a transfer, missing the first 25 matches so only scored 4 times in that season, but became instrumental along with Alex McCrae and winger Johnny Spuhler’s co nversion into a centre forward in Boro being top of the League at Christmas in 1950. Sadly Boro were relegated in 1954 with Mannion playing his last match for Boro in a 1-3 defeat at Highbury. He then surprisingly signed for Second’t Division Hull City for a fee of £4,500 and made his last playing appearance at Ayresome Park in February 1955 as Boro lost to the Tigers 1-2. His career then petered out at Poole and King’s Lynn as he was suspended by the FA over newspaper articles he had written as his working career finished as a glorified tea boy at ICI Wilton.
Wilf Mannion died at the age of 81 in 2000 and the cortège started from his home in Redcar and through the streets of South Bank and Middlesbrough where thousands of fans and mourners lined the streets to St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Coulby Newham. The cathedral was packed with former colleagues and friends including Paul Gascoigne and the Sunderland manager Peter Reid. My wife and I took our pew over an hour before the Mass commenced and even then just managed to squeeze in on the back pew whilst hundreds listened to the service on tannoys outside.
More than 60 years after he graced the hallowed turf of Ayresome Park, his name is still revered. Blessed with sublime skills he enthralled Boro fans in the immediate post-war years even though for most of that time Boro rarely finished in the top half of the table. He possessed a lethal shot from inside and outside the box as well as his other attributes. He was held in such esteem that his fans had a whip-round to buy him a wedding present. In my opinion he was the finest footballer ever to play for Boro on his day, and greatly admired by Tom Finney who always loved to partner him on the right wing for England. Better than Juninho? Certainly in my opinion.
RIP Golden Boy.
I had a rant about the missing goal-scoring strikers at Boro above. Now I see Uncle Eric has written a similar story about strikers at Boro and especially Bernie Slaven at https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/identifying-signing-bernie-slaven-every-19906394
PS. Thanks for these stories, Ken. Especially appreciated the Micky Fenton story with you being able to see his last hat-trick. Great.
Up the Boro!
Wilf Mannion was of course another player robbed of 7 years of his career by Adolf Hitler. As Lionel Bart wrote in his musical ‘Blitz!’ Whose this geezer Hitler, who does he think he is? Wilf, not a prolific scorer (he didn’t need to be), but it’s still fair to assume that he could have finished his career approaching 200 goals if it wasn’t for this ‘geezer’ Hitler. What’s more Boro might well have become Champions. The same thing happened just before the First World War with Kaiser Bill as Boro were just coming into their prime at the prime.
@ken. I think I have mentioned this before but in my early teenage years (1960s) I was employed as one of Micky Fenton's paperboys when he ran a newsagents in Roseworth, Stockton.
He was a friendly man and whilst we all knew he used to play for the Boro none of us paperboys were aware of just how good a player he had been.
I really enjoyed your history of his career and, as you mention, but for the war years his goal scoring record would have been even more impressive. 😎
That was a great piece on Wilf Mannion I really enjoyed it thanks
My Dad grew up in Roseworth. I wonder if you ever delivered him a paper?!
@andy-r. Possibly, you had to do two rounds except Sunday which was only one.
The morning round comprised the daily papers, nearly all broadsheets in those days so quiet heavy and particularly on a Sunday morning! The evening round was the Evening Gazette. 😎
In Wilf’s England career it was also noticeable that he rarely if ever played inside to Stanley Matthews. I have no recollection of those two partnering each other as Matthews was a dribbler as was his forte in the 1953 FA Cup Final when he laid on all 3 goals for Stan Mortenson. However apart from newsreels I saw very few England matches as they were televised in black and white on Wednesday afternoons. Meanwhile Tom Finney played on the left wing if Matthews was selected on the right so my recollection was that Wilf wore the number 10 shirt most of the time. When the aging Matthews was unavailable Finney played on the right wing so Wilf wore the number 8 shirt.
I don’t recall ever seeing Stanley Matthews play at Ayresome Park because he was either injured or didn’t fancy playing against George Hardwick. In the 1950 match between the Football League and the Scottish League at Ayresome Park we were allowed to miss rugby that afternoon to watch the match but both Matthews and Finney were disappointingly late withdrawals, though I had seen Finney play for Preston a couple of times. Incidentally a crowd of almost 40,000 were at that match and Wilf played a blinder in a 3-1 win. He laid on all 3 goals, two in the first half for Mortenson and the third for Tottenham’s Eddie Bailey in the second half. George Young the Rangers and Scottish captain scored a consolation penalty for the opposition, but the only Scottish player to catch my eye was the Hibernian right winger Lawrie Reilly and after that display Hibs became my favourite Scottish club.
I always thought it was a crying shame that Wilf fell on such hard times when you think how much today’s footballers earn, some with hardly 10% of the talent that Wilf had. Fate wasn’t kind to him, was it?
LLOYD LINDBERGH DELAPENHA 1950/1958
Lindy Delapenha was born In Kingston, Jamaica on the 20th of May, 1927, the same day that Charles Lindbergh successfully flew solo across the Atlantic hence his middle name. He joined the Royal Air Force for his National Service duties after the Second World War serving in the Middle East where he played football for the British Forces Xl. His first break in the game came when he approached the Arsenal manager Tom Whittaker with a letter of introduction and duly signed amateur forms at Highbury but never actually played for the Gunners, but signed for Portsmouth in 1948 and although he only played in 8 matches scoring once, Pompey were First Division Champions in the two seasons he was with them. He was the first black player I ever saw, playing for Portsmouth as an inside right in September 1949 as Boro were swamped 5-1. Boro signed him for £6,000 in he following April and he made his debut in the final match of the season in a 2-1 win away to Fulham.
Lindy was famed for his rocket-like shot and was the first black player to represent Boro. The Jamaican forward played most of his time at Boro as a right winger, and earned himself a place in the hearts of the Boro fans especially Astor who referred to him as ‘our kid’ from the north terrace but was also his fiercest critic at times with his booming voice. As well as being quite fast, he had a great physical presence to go with his fierce shot, said to be one of the most powerful in the game. He scored 8 goals for the Boro side that led the First Division table at Christmas 1950 partnering Wilf Mannion on the right side of the forward line, but really came into his own in the following season when he was Boro’s top scorer with 15 goals in 33 appearances. He scored his 50th goal for Boro in the last match of the 1953/54 season when sadly Boro were relegated. He was top scorer again for Boro two years later with 17 goals in 35 appearances and reached 93 from a total of 270 appearances in 1958 after which he signed for Mansfield Town where he scored another 27 goals in 3 years.
He returned to Jamaica in 1964 to play some football, but mainly to play cricket but retired from both sports due to damage caused by an untreated groin injury. However he went on to become Director of Sports at the Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation. He died in Jamaica from a stroke aged 89 in 2017.
JOHN OSWALD SPUHLER 1945/1954
Johnny Spuhler was born in Sunderland in 1917 and was one of my favourite Boro players in the years when I first started watching Boro. He began his football career playing for the Mackems in 1934 for whom he only scored 4 goals in 35 appearances, but during the Second World War guested for Boro as a right winger. David Jack, the Boro manager who had scored the first ever goal at Wembley in the famous 1923 FA Cup Final which an estimated 126,000 crowd attended because it wasn’t an all ticket final, was quick to sign Spuhler for £1,750 as soon as hostilities ceased. He became a mainstay of Boro’s postwar side. He scored 21 goals in his first two seasons for Boro, but suffered several injuries during the next two seasons as Boro signed Billy Linacre from Manchester City. With Micky Fenton having retired Boro for the first time in several seasons had no ready made replacement and bought Andy Donaldson from Newcastle, then Peter McKennan from Brentford who was a moderate success for two seasons with 18 goals before converting Spuhler into a centre forward where he scored 13 goals in 35 appearances whilst Wilf Mannion scored 14 and Alex McCrae netted 21 from inside left in 32 matches as Boro stormed to the top of the First Division by Christmas in 1950.
The following season Boro bought Neil Mochan from Greenock Morton and he and Spuhler shared the centre forward position, with Johnny sometimes reverting to the right wing for the ineffective Billy Linacre or inside right when the captain Wilf Mannion was unavailable. Spuhler’s last game for Boro was the same match as Mannion’s as Boro were relegated. He finished his Boro career with 81 goals from 241 appearances all in the First Division before signing for Darlington for whom he scored 19 goals in 67 matches during two seasons. He then became player/manager for Spennymoor United and then briefly managed Shrewsbury Town after which he coached Stockton.
After his retirement from football he was postmaster at Yarm Post Office for 8 years, but left a legacy of being Boro’s 13th highest goalscorer of all time. Johnny Spuhler like the aforementioned Lindy Delapenha died aged 89 but 10 years earlier in 2007.
CHARLES WAYMAN 1954/1956
Just a few brief words about Charlie Wayman who was born in Bishop Auckland in 1922. Boro had started their first postwar season in the Second Division in 1954 with a draw at Plymouth followed by 8 successive defeats after which they signed Wayman who in the previous season had scored in every round of the FA Cup including the Final for Preston North End as they lost 2-3 to West Bromich Albion. He was aged 32 when he signed for Boro and scored 33 goals in 58 matches for the Teessiders. His career scoring record was mightily impressive having scored 32 goals in 47 matches for Newcastle, 73 for Southampton in 100 matches and 105 for Preston in 157 matches. After leaving Boro he scored another 14 goals in 23 matches for Darlington. He was a prolific scorer of 255 career goals in 382 appearances for his five clubs at an average of almost 67% and I think it would have been remiss of me not to mention him. A knee injury forced his retirement, but he was the last of Boro’s strikers between the seven year gap between the retirement of Micky Fenton and the emergence of Brian Clough, the longest period without a recognised striker at that time in the history of Boro FC.
Charlie Wayman died aged 83 in 2006.
BRIAN HOWARD CLOUGH 1955/1961
Brian Clough was born in Grove Hill in 1935 and although he failed his eleven plus examination he became head boy at Marton Grove Secondary Modern School but left in 1950 with no qualifications to work at ICI and initially preferred cricket to football. Later in life he was even quoted as saying he’d rather have scored a century at Lord’s than a hat trick at Wembley; in fact he did neither. He started his football career as an amateur for Billingham Synthonia in the Northern League, and was spotted by George Camsell as a likely replacement for the aging Charlie Wayman and Ken McPherson signed from Notts County. When the latter was injured after six matches, Clough made his debut at home to Barnsley in September 1955. He played in the next six matches scoring twice but when Charlie Wayman had recovered from his injury, Clough was replaced by him. At the end of the season Wayman left for Darlington, whist McPherson left for Coventry so it was anticipated that Clough would lead the line in the following season, but surprisingly Boro manager Bob Dennison chose Doug Cooper instead, a player who had only played in 4 matches without scoring. Clough was picked for the second match, scored twice and went on to play in every League and Cup match for the rest of the season scoring 40 goals in 44 matches including a hat trick away to Nottm Forest in a 4-0 win which I saw whilst on leave from the RAF and 4 against Huddersfield on Easter Monday which I didn’t see as by then I was in Singapore as Boro finished 6th.
The following season Clough went two better with 42 goals in 44 League twice scoring 4 goals in matches against Doncaster Rovers and Ipswich Town as well as a hat trick against Grimsby Town. The 1958/59 season was very disappointing for Boro but not for Brian Clough as he scored 5 in the 9-0 win in the opening match of the season against newly promoted Brighton, and hat tricks in the 6-4 return fixture, and against Scunthorpe United the other promoted club 6-1 at home and 3-0 away. He also scored 4 times against Swansea as he finished with 43 more goals in 43 matches. Obviously despite Clough scoring almost a goal a game, there was a clamour for an England cap especially as Brian also scored all 5 goals for the Football League against the Irish League in a 5-0 win in Belfast in September 1959.That season saw Boro finishing 5th with Clough scoring 40 goals in 42 matches with 4 goals against Plymouth Argyle and hat tricks against Stoke City and both Bristol clubs. Supporters of Boro had never witnessed anything like it, and eventually Clough earned 2 full international caps against Wales and Sweden, but failed to score as Bobby Charlton and Jimmy Greaves were his inside forwards.
By now Brian Clough had been made captain and he started to question not only the commitment of some of his colleagues, but also accused them of betting against the team. This resulted in a ‘round Robin’ by some of the players wanting the captaincy of the team removed from him. This occurred in November 1959 but was ignored by the board of directors at least for the rest of the season as Boro were well in the mix for promotion with Boro undefeated at home for their first 15 matches until the crunch match against the leaders Aston Villa as almost 40,000 saw Boro beaten 0-1. Boro scored 90 goals that season with Clough scoring 40, but conceded 64 as they finished 5th. Boro were by then operating with twin strikers, Clough and Peacock with the latter winning the aerial battles to serve Clough with goalscoring opportunities. Clough shared all the selfish traits of the best strikers and constantly drilled into his team-mates the need to supply him with good quality deliveries. His shooting instincts were phenomenal and his timing terrific, just having that instinctive knack of knowing where the ball was to be delivered and even where the opposing goalkeeper would be positioned. However Clough very rarely mixed with his team-mates, and when he scored the older players rarely rushed to celebrate with him.
The following season Boro signed Ken Thomson from Stoke City to stem the concession of goals, but Bob Dennison also made him captain, but the concession of goals got worse with 74 against, and it transpired four years later that Thomson had been involved in a match-fixing scandal and was eventually sent to prison for 6 months. Strange that Brian Phillips his Boro predecessor was also charged in that same match-fixing scandal and banned for 7 years, so maybe Clough was correct in his assessment of his defenders.
Brian Clough put in several transfer requests and eventually got his wish and a £55,000 transfer to Sunderland and First Division football. In all matches he scored 204 goals in 222 appearances for Boro at a ratio of almost 92%, the highest percentage of tany other striker at the time. He also scored 63 times in 74 appearances in League and Cup matches for Sunderland giving him a career percentage of over 90%. Sadly a crucial ligament injury ended his career, but his abrasive nature at Boro stood him in good stead when he went into management which I have avoided to write about as most of you will be aware of his success as one off the best English managers never to manage his Country. Charismatic, outspoken and often controversial he my have been but he didn’t suffer fools gladly.
Brian Clough obviously had a drink problem later in life and died in Derby aged 69 with stomach cancer in 2004.
@ken Apparently I have started to read his biography two days ago. He starts his story by telling how he got a new lever at a hospital in Newcastle. And he stopped drinking.
I am sure I will get more to footballing side in due course.
The name of the book is Cloughie - walking on water.
Up the Boro!
I tried not to write much about Brian Clough the manager as much of that has been written before. I wanted to concentrate on Clough the goalscorer, and he was phenomenal in that capacity. As a manager/coach in my opinion he was not quite as effective without Peter Taylor as was evident at Brighton and Leeds or in his later years at Forest. All of the strikers I have written about are no longer alive, but from now on starting with Alan Peacock they are still with us. Let’s hope that will still be the case when I have finished this project.
Am I right in thinking that Cloughie has a record which will never be beaten.
He scored the fastest 200 league and cup goals in the history of the football league.
The reason it won’t be beaten is that if say a player scored 40 goals in a season in the Championship then the following season he’d be playing in the Premiership where no player these days score 40 goals in a season
Philip of Huddersfield
Yes that is correct, although during Arthur Rowley’s career record of 434 goals, he scored 245 for Leicester City from 1950 to 1957 all in the Second Division except for 23 of those in the 1954/55 season being in their one season in the First Division. Jimmy Greaves heads the list of goals scored in the First Division with 357, although his first 200 were not as quick as Clough, who scored his 200th goal including Cup matches in his 218th match.
Incidentally it is took George Camsell 236 matches to score his 200th League goal, and 260 matches for Dixie Dean to score his 200th but these obviously included matches played mostly in the First Division.
Including cup matches it took Camsell 210 matches to reach 200 goals, and Clough 218.
ALAN PEACOCK 1954/1964
Alan Peacock sometimes nicknamed Peach was born in Middlesbrough in 1937 and was working full-time as an apprentice fitter in Cargo Fleet. He didn’t sign professional forms for Boro until he was 23 years old for the princely sum of £18 per week during the playing season plus £2 appearance money, dropping to £17 a week in the close season. It was Micky Fenton who persuaded Peach to sign for Boro. Formations had changed little during the years with a 2-3-5 setup and of course Brian Clough always wore the number 9 centre forward shirt. However Boro manager Bob Dennison chose the vogue of playing two centre forwards, with Clough playing in an advanced role whilst Peacock playing in a slightly withdrawn role. The system worked very well for Boro with Peach habitually winning aerial possession to serve Clough with goalscoring opportunities. Also of course Boro had the two fast wingers in Bllly Day and Eddie Holliday there to accurately cross the ball for either Peacock to score or head it down to Clough as Boro scored a plethora of goals.
Peacock made his debut for Boro in November 1955 for the injured Arthur Fitzsimons and when Clough was injured took his place only scoring twice in 6 appearances and only once in the following season in 4 matches, but it was the following season in 1957/58 that Dennison’s switch to twin strikers started to bear fruit with Peacock scoring 17 goals including his first hat trick in a 4-1 win against Cardiff whilst Clough scored 42 although Boro were conceded almost as many goals as they were scoring despite Peacock scoring 20 and another hat trick, whilst Clough scored 44 as Boro finished only mid-table even after opening with a 9-0 demolition of Brighton in the first match. The following season Boro scored 90 goals and finished 5th with Peacock scoring 13, 4 of what were at Derby in a 7-1 win. Despite Clough failing to score in that match, he still found the net on 40 occasions and Boro repeated that 5th position in the following 1960/61 season with Peacock scoring 17 times and Clough 36. It was the ideal time to be a Boro fan despite Boro never really challenging for promotion.
However that was the last season that the twin Clough/Peacock partnership existed, as Clough joined Sunderland and Peacock took over the mantle of Boro’s centre forward for the next two years, the first of which Peacock scored 31 goals including Cup matches although only finishing in mid-table. The following season 1962/63 included the big winter freeze as Boro climbed from 15th in November to finish 4th and despite Peacock scoring 33 goals Boro were again never really in contention for promotion although there were goals galore with 86 scored and 85 conceded. Alan Peacock finished with 141 goals for Boro in 238 appearances making him Boro’s 6th highest scorer at the time. When Bob Dennison was sacked as Boro manager several First Division managers were interested in signing Peacock, and although he wasn’t too bothered in leaving Boro it was arranged for him to visit Dennison’s house to talk by phone to Bill Nicholson at Spurs, Harry Catterick at reigning Champions Everton, and Don Revie at Leeds. He chose the latter for a fee of £55,000 and scored 27 goals in 54 appearances for the Whites. His international record exceeded Clough’s as he played in the 1962 World Cup 3-1 making his debut against Argentina in Rancagua, and finished with 6 England caps in his career scoring 3 goals.
His final playing destination was a £10,000 transfer to Plymouth Argyle in 1967 but he only played for one season when injuries forced him to retire at the age of 30. He then returned to Teesside to run a newsagents in Ormesby for 40 years, and eventually became an ambassador for the Boro at the Riverside Stadium.