When Tommy Banks and Terry Allcock played for Bolton Wanderers it was a northern powerhouse, a far cry from what is happening at the club today...


Tommy Banks and Terry Allcock are both in their 80s. They have another common bond: their first club – in Banks’s case, his one and only club – was Bolton Wanderers.

Between them they are now 172 years old. Banks claims 89 of these years and Allcock 83.

When they joined Bolton it was a northern powerhouse of football and it’s hard to imagine what they make of the club’s present travails.

As a young man, Banks, who was born and still lives in Farnworth, worked underground as a miner and as such was exempt from being called up to do national service.

But after he surfaced to start as a full-time pro with Bolton, he lasted only a few weeks before His Majesty’s Armed Forces – George VI was still on the throne in 1950 – sought him out.

He was packed off to Aldershot to be drilled in the ways of army life with the 17th Training Regiment Royal Artillery, after which he volunteered to join the Parachute Regiment.

The Paras were also stationed at the Hampshire base and Banks, never scared of a bit of hard physical toil, watched admiringly as the men in the maroon berets were put through rigorous routines. ‘They were always running, running, running,’ he says. ‘They never stopped. Carrying heavy kit as well.’ He pauses before adding with  a beaming smile: ‘It were terrible.’

But his ambition to join the Paras was thwarted because the army had other ideas for him. As a professional footballer he was barred from joining the rugby-playing parachutists. ‘You’re stopping with us, Banks,’ he was told. He was kept on to be a physical training instructor and play in the regimental football team.

Banks thought it was a very poor substitute for playing in the Football League. When the army offered him an extra twelve months’ service so he could attain the rank of sergeant – and play a bit more football – he was horrified.

As soon as his two years were up he caught the first train home to continue his quest for the one thing he wanted in life, permanent ownership of the left back’s No 3 shirt in the Bolton first team.

Banks ended up making more than 200 appearances for Bolton and representing England at left back at the 1958 World Cup.

Terry Allcock, who was born in Leeds, spent only a short time at Bolton. This was not because he wasn’t any good, but because in those days the club’s forward line was so packed with players of quality, of whom Allcock was one, that one of them had to go.

He made his first-team debut for Bolton in 1953 aged 17 – and scored twice in the first 20 minutes against Manchester City. And in 1958 he scored for them in the early rounds of their triumphant FA Cup run.

The trouble was that Bolton already had three international inside-forwards and it was soon after scoring those Cup goals that Allcock learnt he was superfluous to the club’s needs.

How he found out, soon after moving into a house in Bolton, shocked him. Without any warning he was told when he arrived for training one morning that Norwich had made an offer for him. Bolton were keen to accept.

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

Bolton’s loss was Norwich’s gain. He gave the East Anglian club 11 years of yeoman service and is fondly remembered as one of their most masterly goal-scorers.


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