Tommy Lawton moved to Notts County because he was paid so little. It seemed like a good idea at the time…

  • October 24, 2018 15:15
  • Jon Henderson

Founded in 1888, the Football League first imposed its controversial maximum weekly wage, of £4, in 1901. It was not until 1961 that the upper limit, by now £20, was scrapped – but Tommy Lawton couldn’t wait that long.


Player unrest over the maximum wage was never far from the surface but it was in the 1940s that it started to gain unstoppable momentum.

Tommy Lawton, a centre-forward who in today’s game would have made a fortune but throughout his Football League career (1936-55) earned a relative pittance, was one of the chief agitators for better pay.

A story told about him during a wartime international, when he was on Everton’s books, is that sitting in the England dressing room before kick-off he held up a £1 note in one hand and ten-shilling note in the other. ‘There are seventy-thousand spectators out there,’ he said, ‘and this is all we are getting for turning out today.’

In 1945 Lawton moved to Chelsea for a £14,000 transfer fee, although the player himself saw no more than the £10 signing-on fee.

The Scottish winger Johnny Paton was, briefly, a teammate of Lawton’s at Stamford Bridge. ‘When I joined Chelsea in 1946 I had a magnificent rise in wages from eight pounds a week for Celtic to £10. There were 40,000 every week at Stamford Bridge and we were getting paid ten quid, which caused a lot of trouble.

‘For star players like Lawton only getting a tenner a week was a big issue. The money was the reason, and I know this, that Tommy left Chelsea in 1947 and went right down the leagues. I mean he was the world’s greatest centre forward and he joined Notts County of the Third Division. I know he did it for money.

‘A lot of deals were being made in those days around transfers and one of Tommy’s best friends was the manager of Notts County, a man called Arthur Stollery, who had been the physiotherapist at Chelsea.

‘Stollery said, “Come to Notts County”, and Tommy Lawton ruined his career by going there for money when he was still in his twenties.’

Paton adds that Lawton ‘didn’t last too long at the top after that’, which is essentially true. Lawton did play for England again, the first player from outside the top two divisions to do so, but only four times, and had a brief spell at Arsenal towards the end of his career.

Lawton had retired as a player by the time the maximum wage was finally abolished in 1961 – and it was scrapped then partly as the result of a famous speech made by the Bolton Wanderers player Tommy Banks, who, like Lawton, had been born in Farnworth in Lancashire.

Banks’s impromptu oration at a player meeting in Manchester was widely regarded as having clinched the vote in favour of strike action if the Football League didn’t drop its opposition to restricted wages.

At the meeting a young player put the case for wages continuing to be pegged: ‘My dad’s a miner, earning £10 a week. I play in the lower division and I earn twice as much. I train in the open air and play football on Saturday – he’s down the pit for eight hours at a time, five days a week. That can’t be right. We earn quite enough as it is.’

This caused Banks to seek permission to make a speech that invoked having to play against the great Stoke City player Stanley Matthews, who happened to be at the meeting.

No one recorded Banks’s exact words but his biographer, Ian Seddon, himself a former Bolton player, credited him with saying the following (Boltonese first and then a helpful translation):

‘Ah think its neaw time ah spokk Mr Chairmon.

‘Ah’m tellin’ thee t’tell thee far’her ah’m on ’ees side, ah noes pits nar fun ah ’avebin theer misell but theer wonn’t be 30,000 watchin’ ’im dig owt coal cum Munday morn, theer will be 30,000 peyin gud munny on Setdi ut Burnden Park t’si mi tryter stop Brother Matthews ’ere.’

Now Seddon’s translation:

‘Mr Chairman, I think it’s now time that I spoke.

‘I’d like to tell your father I know the pits are a tough life having worked below ground myself. However, there will not be 30,000 people watching him extract coal on Monday morning, but there will be 30,000 paying spectators on Saturday at Burnden Park watching my battle with Stanley Matthews.’

No high-earning, massively qualified advocate could have presented a more compelling case or delivered it quite so consummately.

But it all came too late for Tommy Lawton.


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


Give and take – and never mind the broken bones

  • October 23, 2018 14:55
  • Jon Henderson

English football’s postwar generation ‘expected to be clouted’ – it was the way the game was played.


Terry Allcock expresses a familiar view: it was not so much dirty play as a question of give and take regardless of whether the giving and/or taking or both came with a few broken ribs.

He is speaking for the postwar generation that played in the era of restricted earnings, an era that ended in 1961 with the abolition of the 20-quid-a-week maximum wage.

Allcock, an outstanding forward for Bolton Wanderers and Norwich City in the ’50s and ’60s, tells me: ‘Physically you expected to be clouted, particularly as a forward.

‘If you weren’t you thought you were playing against a gentleman, but there weren’t many about in those days.’

Peter McParland, another prolific goal-scorer during his 10 years – 1952-62 – with Aston Villa, is also accepting of the harsh treatment he received from defenders.

‘We played in tough conditions compared to today and we entertained and we had hard but fair tackling,’ he says. ‘The odd one here and there would go over the top but the majority of my career it was hard but fair and you took that. You knew what was going on.’

McParland recalls a gathering of Aston Villa players in 2007 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the FA Cup in final in which he scored the winning goals against Manchester United.

‘There were a few of us there from the Cup Final team,’ he says, ‘including our great supporter, Merv the Swerve [Mervyn King] from the Bank of England, and John Motson.

‘John came over and said he had recently watched a film of the final. “You weren’t half getting into one another,” he said, “but you all got up after you were tackled.” He noticed that. Nobody was rolling about on the ground.

‘You had to get up and get on with it. And most times when a fella gave you a belt you didn’t let on he’d hurt you. The crowd liked to see fellas going hell for leather into tackles.’

In that 1957 Cup final, McParland was involved early in the match in a controversial collision with Ray Wood, the Manchester United goalkeeper. The clash left Wood with concussion and a broken cheekbone and McParland was heavily criticised by the press for his part in the incident.

Looking back McParland is philosophical about this criticism but says it did not really bother him: ‘It was part and parcel [of being in an incident like that] that they were going to slam me and some of them did. I just had to take the flak.’

But he sets this censure against the reaction he received from fellow players.

He says that Wood’s teammate, the United defender Bill Foulkes, even told him that ‘Woody should have got out of my way – and he didn’t because he liked having a bash at people’.

And he adds: ‘Despite all the condemnation, the next season, before all the games I played early on, rather than criticise me the opposition goalkeepers said, “You wouldn’t have done that to me in the final because I’d have sidestepped and let you run into the back of the net.” All of them said that.’

Bill Leivers, the hard-tackling Manchester City defender, points out it would be wrong to think that only defenders clogged. ‘In my day forwards used to tackle just as hard as defenders. Nat Lofthouse, for instance, the centre forward who played for England.’

He recalls the day he clattered Bolton’s ace attacker and knew what was coming next. ‘About ten minutes later the ball’s coming down the middle and Nat’s about 15 yards away. Although by the time he reached me the ball had gone he ran straight into me and absolutely flattened me. He knocked me back about five yards flat on my back.’

Leivers tells the story without a hint of recrimination, as if the consequences of getting stuck in were incidental.

Dave Whelan, an uncompromising defender for Blackburn Rovers (1956-60), tells a tale that places hard tackling in a slightly different context.

Whelan was one of the hardest of all who delighted in his nickname. He says he loved it when people called out ‘Hello Crunch’ as he walked about Blackburn.

But his clattering tackles did not work on everyone: John Dick of West Ham, for example. I really clogged him,’ Whelan says, ‘and he took no notice whatsoever. He totally disregarded me. It was like, “Go away.”

‘When you went up against a big, strong fella like he was, and he didn’t even look at you when you clogged, just walked away as if you were non-existent, that made you feel very small.

‘Players these days should sometimes turn their backs and just walk away from some of these lads who are having a go at them. When Dick did that to me it taught me a lesson.’


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


Some players clogged – Stanley Matthews used hitmen

  • October 22, 2018 14:11
  • Jon Henderson

Robust tackling used to be regarded as all part of the game whether you did it yourself or got someone to do it for you...


Several of the old-timers I talk to while writing When Footballers Were Skint refer to robust tackling as clogging, an uncomplicated term for what was accepted as being all part of the game. Its modern counterpart tends to be more subtle, more deceitful and – the biggest difference – those on the receiving end today are inclined to squeal regardless of whether or not they are hurt.

The Manchester City defender Bill Leivers, in completing a story about tangling with Bolton’s Nat Lofthouse, quotes the unwritten etiquette of how a player used to react to a heavy tackle, particularly a retaliatory one: ‘You got up and grinned about it, you didn’t roll about on the ground for ten minutes.’

The nimble-footed winger Stanley Matthews of Stoke City, Blackpool and England had to deal with being clogged more often than most. But Matthews neither grinned nor whimpered.

He developed a response straight out of the Al Capone handbook: he turned a stony face on all who assaulted him and, if the attack was bad enough to qualify for physical retribution, he deployed a hitman to do his dirty work for him.

Over his long career he had two minders he regarded as special. One was Jock Dodds, an energetic Scot who was a teammate in Blackpool’s formidable wartime team. Dodds was particularly effective at sorting out those who caused Matthews aggravation in a way that referees accepted. But not always.

On one occasion he overdid it when giving the Oldham fullback Tommy Shipman his comeuppance for harassing Matthews. He knew this to be the case by the look on the referee’s face, at which point he feigned injury himself, falling to the ground, to try to win the official’s sympathy.

‘Are you too OK to walk,’ the ref asked Dodds in a kindly tone.

‘Yes, I think I can, ref,’ Dodds said, falling for the ref’s concern.

‘Then you can walk off down the tunnel,’ the official said, pointing to the tunnel in the days before red cards.

Late in his career, when Matthews was nearer 50 than 40 and back at Stoke, Eddie Clamp was responsible for protecting the club’s ageing asset. Clamp had been passed on to Stoke by Arsenal, whose manager Billy Wright was looking for more finesse from his players than Clamp was offering.

Clamp’s finest moment was in the battle of the Choppers, a nickname he shared with Ron Harris of Chelsea. From the first minute of a Second Division promotion match at Stamford Bridge Harris had been hacking away at Matthews until the referee finally intervened with a warning Clamp considered insufficient for the crimes that had been committed.

When the opportunity presented itself, Clamp took Harris by the shirt, called him a little sod and warned him that he would be well advised to pick on someone other than Matthews for the remainder of the match.

Harris ignored this advice and soon afterwards Clamp delivered a tackle the like of which, Matthews said, he had not seen in 30 years of football. ‘I never had a spot of bother from Chopper Harris for the remainder of the match,’ Matthews said.

Occasionally, Matthews would instruct his hitmen to deploy psychological rather than physical retribution.

Don Ratfcliffe, the popular Ratter who was another team-mate of Matthews’s in his second spell at Stoke, says: ‘I got on very well with Stan and used to fire his bullets for him. He was a very quiet fella, but he was funny and used to tell me things to say to their defenders.

‘He’d say, “Tell ’em they can’t play. If they were any good they’d be up here with us in the forward line” – that type of thing.’


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


War blighted Colin Collindridge’s career – but not his spirit

  • October 12, 2018 11:02
  • Jon Henderson

Eighty years ago he joined Sheffield United and at 97 is still as forthright in his views as he was bold as a player.


Colin Collindridge, a redoubtable Yorkshireman who will be 98 next month, is a remarkable man who, had he been born in another era, would have made a very tidy living as a professional footballer. As it was he had the misfortune of playing when wages were pegged – less than ten quid a week when he started out – and when the world was at war.

He was, though – and still is – a most resilient and appealing character. He does admit to having some resentment that the Second World War butted in when he should have been making a name for himself as a speedy left-winger, and occasional centre forward, with a bullet shot, but says also that he counts himself lucky.

‘A local lad, Ernest England, was captured by the Germans at Dunkirk. He’d worked down the coalmine at Woolley and when he was taken prisoner they stuck him down a coalmine in Germany.

‘He came home and he’d been back for a week when he died. I’m not sure what he died of, but what happened to me was nothing compared to that.’

When I go to see Collindridge he starts by telling me he was born at Cawthorne Basin. In case I should wonder where exacty this is, which I do, he adds that it’s down the bottom of the hill a quarter of a mile from Barugh Green, the first village out of Barnsley on the Huddersfield road.

‘Half the relations of mine lived in Barugh Green and there were about 40 of them. I still love that place and Barugh Greeners, though I was quite young when we moved to Wombwell, on the other side of Barnsley, where my dad got a council house.

‘I couldn’t have been born any better really. I was working-class Yorkshire, south Yorkshire, where most people were skint. Some of them had got work at the colliery and some hadn’t and it was the mine owners who ruled – but the one thing they didn’t do was dare fight my dad.’

Having been a good schoolboy player, Collindridge went on to play for Wombwell Main, a strong team in the Barnsley Association League, who were once good enough to compete in the FA Cup. ‘There was one League match,’ Collindridge says, ‘where we played a team from Hoyland who were useless and we beat them 22-0 – and I scored eight.’

As a result he was given a trial with Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Cadbury’s chocolate ground near Birmingham. He scored a couple of goals and thought, ‘I’ve done all right here.’

But it wasn’t to be after he felt he was unfairly disposed of by the Wolves manager Major Frank Buckley.

‘Maybe I wasn’t good enough but what Buckley did was a poor way of showing respect. I wasn’t brought up like that. My father had brought me up that if anybody uses bad manners, son, or swears badly in front of your mother give ’em that [he raises his right fist] and, if you can’t, give ’em that [he raises his left boot]. And you’re not bad with the left clog.’

Collindridge says that anyway Buckley made a mistake and backs his claim by quoting something that the Sheffield journalist Fred Walters wrote about his playing ability. The article appeared in the Green ’Un sports paper when Collindridge was playing for Sheffield United, which he did either side of the Second World War.

‘Walters was the ace, king, queen and jack of football as a journalist in Sheffield,’ Collindridge says, ‘and he said I should be playing for England.’

He had signed for Sheffield United in 1938 when the Yorkshire club were heading for promotion to the First Division as the 1938-39 Second Division runners-up behind Blackburn Rovers (and one point ahead of Sheffield Wednesday).

In October of the following season Collindridge, aged 18, made his first-team debut. By then, though, war had broken out and the match just down the road against Huddersfield that launched Collindridge’s football career was only a friendly.

The Football League was suspended while wartime leagues were organised and although the professional game kept going – to keep up a pretence of normality and provide entertainment for an embattled nation – inevitably it had an unreal, makeshift feel to it.

To accommodate players’ postings they were allowed to flit between clubs and games were not permitted to be staged in areas that were in danger of being bombed.

So the years that should have been the prime of Collindridge’s footballing life were twilight years for football and footballers.

After the war Collindridge made well over 100 appearances for Sheffield United, but they were a fraction of the number this popular player would have played had it not been for the lost years, 1939-45.

He says one reason why he left United was because Jimmy Hagan was stripped of the captaincy after falling out with the directors. He, Collindridge, was then offered the captain’s role but says he turned it down out of loyalty to Hagan, whom he regarded ‘as the classiest footballer I ever played with or against. And I was lucky because he made me look a good footballer.

‘What made Jimmy so outstanding was that he had a brain, for a start. And he could be in a room no bigger than this one with three other people’ – we are seated in his small front room – ‘and, with the ball at his feet, he’d dribble round the lot of them.’

There was a drawback to playing alongside Hagan, though: ‘Opponents wouldn’t be able to get the ball off him and I’d stand watching him in amazement and then wouldn’t be ready when he passed the ball to me.’

But Collindridge and Hagan did perfect one double act: ‘After the war Jimmy and I had a routine going that appealed to Jimmy because it meant using his brain.

‘A German bomb had landed on the Bramall Lane pitch and where the crater had been filled in the surface was always a bit soft. I’d manoeuvre my fullback so he was standing on this bit of ground and when he was properly bogged down Jimmy would slip the ball past him for me to run on to.’

Collindridge moved from Sheffield United to Nottingham Forest (1950-54) before finishing his Football League career at Coventry City (1954-56). He than had a season with Bath City.


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


Jimmy Greaves, probably the best goalscorer England have ever had

  • October 11, 2018 12:32
  • Jon Henderson

It’s 58 years ago this month that he scored the first of his six international hat-tricks, a record that still stands.


Jimmy Greaves, I would hazard, is the footballer who most closely resembles our image of how we would want our brilliant player who made measly money in the era when players’ wages were capped: a chirpy chappy who revelled in going to matches on public transport with the fans, who ungrudgingly accepted being unable to buy his own house even after his transfer to Tottenham in 1961 for £99,999 – and who appeared far less impressed than just about everybody else by his dazzlingly intuitive skills as a goalscorer.

He was still only 19 and playing for his first club, Chelsea, when he dazzled Gordon Milne in a match at Preston in December 1959.

Milne remembers it well. The Preston manager, Cliff Britton took him aside before kick-off: ‘Milne, your job today is to be within one foot of Jimmy Greaves. Where he goes you go. Don’t worry about anything else. If he drops off, you drop off; if he goes wide, you go wide. He’s clever but generally he’s in or around the box. Stay close to him.’

‘As you get more experienced,’ Milne says, ‘you realise to do this is not that easy. Especially if you’ve got a bit of imagination yourself you tend to wander off.’

The result: Preston North End four Chelsea five with all the visitors’ goals scored by Greaves.

‘I don’t think I was ever further from him than I am from you now [a couple of feet]. But remember Jimmy with his side-footers? He’d come across you in the six-yard box, just get a touch and it was in.

‘None of his goals were scored from outside the box, none of the goals was a rocket. One was a little glancing header. He was just in front of me and glanced it in.

‘I can remember the dressing room afterwards and I’m looking round and I can see Tom Finney there and Tommy Thompson – Tommy scored three that day… Christ! I can’t remember what Cliff Britton said to me, I don’t think he needed to say anything.

‘I played against Greavsie later in life. I played with him for England. He was just something else. He was great, quite compassionate. He laughed and joked about it afterwards. That was what Jimmy was like, “They were all flukes…”.’

Greaves, 17 years old when he made his Chelsea debut in 1957 – when players could earn no more than £17 a week – scored 124 First Division goals for the club in just four seasons before being sold to AC Milan in 1961. It was a flow that never really slackened with his record of being top scorer in the First Division in six seasons is still unsurpassed.

Also still unsurpassed is his six hat-tricks for England, the first of which he scored 58 years ago this month in a World Cup qualifier in Luxembourg. He added a fourth goal on two of these six occasions and in all he scored 44 goals in just 57 international appearances.

But the match he would have most liked to score a goal in, the 1966 World Cup final, he didn’t. He wasn’t picked having been injured earlier in the tournament.

Greaves’s missing out on the big one at Wembley has tended to overshadow his phenomenal record as a goalscorer.


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