These days it’s barely believable that once upon a time an outstanding young player could cite an idyllic landscape as the reason he settled, reluctantly, for a move from the top division of the Football League to the third tier...


Terry Allcock made his debut for Bolton Wanderers as a 17-year-old against Manchester City in a home game 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 City. He would spend the rest of his football career at the Norfolk club playing in the lower divisions.

From today’s perspective, it seems nonsensical that such a talented player still in his prime, he was only tweny-three, could make such a move. It was very much of its time, though.

The transfer decision was made for him without consultation and without an agent in view because no one had agents in those days.

Without any warning he was told when he arrived for training one morning that Norwich had made an offer for him, which Bolton would be accepting. The club had an embarrassment of good attacking players and jumped at Norwich’s offer to take one of them off their hands.

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

Before agreeing to the move he was at least allowed to visit Norwich. This involved catching a train to Peterborough where he would be picked up by car. Allcock worried how he would recognise the driver but was told the driver would recognise him.

‘And do you know,’ he says, ‘I was met by a midget. He worked for the chairman who was a friend of his. He was one of the famous circus acts.

‘When we got in the car he said, “Do you mind if I drive fast, there’s a match on at Carrow Road and we might catch the second half.” They were playing Coventry. I was frightened to death. He had wooden things on the pedals and he couldn’t see over the steering wheel. But we did make it for the second half.’

In explaining why he didn’t make more of a fuss about having to move from a First Division club to one in the Third Division South, Allcock points out that there was no financial downside. Because of the wage limit that applied throughout the Football League – earnings were capped at £17 a week in 1958 – he would earn as much at Norwich as he had in the top division.

Should he stay in the north-west, where he felt so at home, or should he go?

The clincher, Allcock says, was that ‘I fell in love with the beauty of Norfolk’.


This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing and now out in paperback