Terry Allcock is arguably the most astute signing Norwich City ever made having snatched him from what looked like being a promising career with Bolton Wanderers.


Terry Allcock was one of those naturally blessed athletes who excelled at a number of games.

At one point in his nascent sporting career Allcock, a lad from Leeds, represented Yorkshire schoolboys at football and cricket – he remembers having cricket nets at Headingley with two future Test captains, Brian Close and Ray Illingworth, and the celebrated umpire Dickie Bird. He also played rugby league for Leeds.

It was as a footballer, though, that he made his mark, albeit a far less indelible one than he might have done had a footballers’ wages not been capped when he was making his way as a young professional.

In March 1958 Bolton Wanderers, a First Division club with a stellar cast of senior pros, decided that the 22-year-old Allcock, despite his palpable promise as a goal scorer, was supernumerary and sold him to Norwich City, who were in the Third Division South.

Very soon the East Anglian life was suiting Allcock just fine and with no financial incentive to move given that the wage cap meant none of the headline clubs, where he belonged, could offer him more money this is where he stayed – and still lives.

Allcock had scored for Bolton in the early rounds of their triumphant 1957-58 FA Cup run and was shocked when without any warning he was told that Norwich had made an offer for him, which Bolton had accepted.

‘Having got over my surprise,’ he says, ‘my first thought was, “Where the hell’s Norwich.” I thought for a minute it was Northwich.’

Improbably, it was the nuns at St Anthony’s, a Catholic comprehensive in Leeds, who made sure Allcock’s love of football was nurtured from his early school years.

‘They showed a great interest in sport,’ he says, ‘which was good because the school didn’t have a sports master as such and sport wasn’t very highly organised. If it hadn’t been for the nuns and their enthusiasm we’d have been in the hands of this one male teacher, an elderly gentleman. He was more or less a do-it-yourself job. He wasn’t particuarly interested but, despite everything, we were very successful.’

Within the space of a few years, Allcock had progressed from the protégé of nuns to claiming a place in the England schoolboys football team against the Rest. Along with most of the boys who were in that England side Allcock was automatically filtered, as he says, into a top Football League club. He and Ray Parry joined Bolton; two of the others, Duncan Edwards and David Pegg, went to Manchester United.

‘We weren’t old enough to sign as professionals straightaway,’ he says, ‘and there weren’t apprentices as such in those days. I signed immediately I was 17 for a weekly wage of five pounds in the summer and seven in the winter.’

The new signing was still 17 when he made his debut for the Bolton first team, a home game against Manchester City in October 1953. He remembers his great excitement at being picked and playing in front of 50,000 people in what was a local derby, City being just five miles up the road. ‘The crowd was big,’ he says, ‘but we’d been playing regularly in front of ten to 15,000 in the reserves, so it wasn’t too much of a shock.’

Allcock would score twice – a goal with each foot – as Bolton beat City 3-2. ‘This was quite normal for me,’ he says. ‘I naturally worked the ball with my left foot but I felt equally adequate with either foot. Not like present players who can use only one foot.’

But before the Fifties were out, Allcock had been transferred to Norwich and would spend the rest of his football career playing in the lower divisions. He scored more than 100 goals for the club between 1958-69.


This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing.