This book lists the career records of all players who appeared in at least one match in the Football League between its formation in 1888 and the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. As such, it is a companion to the admirable post-war Football League Players’ Records books produced by Barry Hugman, the latest edition of which appeared in 1998.
Even today a player can slip into obscurity soon after his career has finished. The youngest players in this book were performing more than two generations ago when rewards for their services were far less generous. Many died young, often in tragic circumstances. There is not room to tell any of their stories here, but the intention is that, alongside the big name players, Stanley Matthews, Dixie Dean and Billy Meredith, there is a brief mention for the likes of Albert Smith, whose League career began and ended for Loughborough Town in a 12-0 defeat one March afternoon in 1900. We know little more about him, but he and all the others on these pages played their part in establishing the traditions of the sport which dominates the thoughts and emotions of so many of us.
If we stand back we can see that, for all the changes in football in the past century, it is still fundamentally the same game. Albert Smith would instantly recognise the skills of a Beckham or a Vieira or a Michael Owen. Eventually today’s players too will depart from the field, though perhaps not into obscurity in every case. The chances are that football will still be around in 100 years, and it will be different in ways we cannot imagine. But if some twenty-second century statistician tries putting together a book, or whatever has succeeded books, listing all players up to that point, David Beckham will be there, probably next to John Beckram of Bradford City (1903-1904), perhaps with a more impressive career, but both preserved forever amongst the players of the past.
Now to the book. Advances in computing mean that it is possible to collate vast amounts of data and remove inconsistencies. Not that one would want to, of course, but if one were to calculate the total number of pre-war appearances in the book it should come to 1,115,364. Add to that the 36 appearances missing because clubs simply did not turn out with a full team and it gives precisely 22 times the number of pre-war League matches, 50,700. Incidentally during the same period there were 159,489 goals scored by players for their own team, 1,959 own goals and 129 not attributed, often because the scorer was given as ‘scrimmage’, making a total of 161,577.
It is always a matter of debate whether or not to include the abandoned 1939-1940 season in players’ official records. They are included here for completeness. Actually the appearance and goals totals in the book are slightly higher than the figures quoted because it includes the records of Wigan Borough for the 12 matches in the 1931-1932 season before their expulsion from the League. All their players, with the exception of Henry Hurst, made League appearances elsewhere. Records for their opponents for these matches are not included in player totals, though a list of the affected players appears on a later page. Appearances for Leeds City, expelled in 1919-1920, and Port Vale, who took over their League record for the rest of that season, are of course included.
But is the book complete? A brief glance through the pages shows that not every one the 16,151 players is covered in comprehensive detail. It is hardly surprising that the facts about some born in the nineteenth century are very shadowy. For example, in the first season of League football Derby County arrived at Anfield with only ten players. The home team Everton (yes!) obligingly allowed one of their own men, Harboard, to turn out for Derby, who still lost 6-2. As the Derby County Complete Record points out, “nothing is known of Harboard and even the spelling is in some doubt”. Well, in the intervening years nothing more seems to have been unearthed about Mr Harboard, so here he is in the book, his one appearance at right half intervening between Harbidge and Harbot.
The book contains several players with the same or similar name who may or may not be the same player. Though the number of these duplicates has been reduced in recent years, there are still many cases where there is no conclusive proof that two players were the same, or indeed were definitely not the same player. On a later page there is a list of groups of two or three players who may or may not the same man.
Obviously I would be very pleased to hear from anyone who has missing information, whether it is a birth date or place, or a date of death, or a first name. Please write to me via the publisher. There is much still to find out. Further details of playing careers outside the League are also invaluable. Local newspapers are often a useful source of data, as are team photographs. Even now it is possible to have personal knowledge of players from the earliest days.
Namesakes present particular difficulties. Consider the case of two players: George Edward Richardson (Ted) and George Edward Holland Richardson. Both were wingers, born within a few miles of each other in the north-east and both were on Huddersfield Town’s books in 1923. The career of both players is clear up to 1925. After that there were spells in the League with Bradford City, Hartlepools United and Ashington, and outside it with York City, Easington Colliery and Lancaster Town, but it is not obvious which player played where. Various club histories give different versions of events. It is possible that GEH Richardson went from Bradford City to Hartlepools, back to Bradford City then on to Ashington. However I believe that it was Ted Richardson who played for Bradford City and Ashington and that is what appears here.
The book has come about as the by-product of a project that in some ways I have been involved in for most of my life. In the 1960s, I used a school exercise book to collate the lists of transfers that appeared regularly in Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly in the hope that I would somehow include every League player. I soon realised, of course, that the likes of Bobby Charlton were unlikely to be transferred, and so my list would never be complete.
I then started to take player’s names from the Playfair and News of the World Football Annuals, and then the early Rothmans Football Yearbooks, by which time the list extended to dozens of typewritten pages. With the arrival of the first edition of Barry Hugman’s Players’ Records book in 1981 I switched to a card index to cover all players from then on.
In the 1980s there was a sudden surge of interest in the histories of our football clubs, and full statistical histories started to appear, most notably those published by Yore Publications and Breedon Books. Simultaneously the Association of Football Statisticians had started to publish its annuals, each covering a season from 1888. By then the series had reached the early 1900s. I bought a number of these and started to recognise the same names among the ranks of the long forgotten playing staffs. Walter Holbem was one I recall. Tewfik Abdallah was another. So once again I thought of collating all this into an index of pre-war players. By now new technology of sorts was available, and I started to bring it all together in a series of 73 files on a Sinclair ZX Spectrum!
By 1993 it had occurred to me that the pre-war index and the card index of post-1981 players were two aspects of the same thing, an index of every League player ever. I bought a PC and started work, building the database from the line-ups of individual matches. After about three years I at last had what I wanted: a full list of all League players, which then numbered about 33,500. Until this point it had all been done for my own interest. After a meeting with Tony Brown we decided to use the database for the player indexes in his series of Definitive club histories. Inevitably the author of each of these books has provided much additional information.
Since then the database has been continually refined. Matches have been added from other competitions: the FA Cup, League Cup, Europe and the play-offs. Managerial records have been added, as have significant amounts of data about players’ careers outside the League. The database is constantly amended so that players and their appearances and goals details are seldom more than a day out of date. The player population now stands at 36,469, with another 184 managers who never played League football.
Further expansion of the database is possible in several directions. Minor cups, such as the Auto Windscreen Shield and its predecessors, and the pre-war Third Division cups, could be included. Seasons in the Southern League up to 1920 would be useful additions. It would also be possible to include the Conference and even to produce an equivalent database covering the Scottish League. None of these projects should be underestimated. Indeed with the free movement of players from one country to another one could consider major international exercise to produce a single database covering all the major leagues of the world.
Also under way is the capture of full data for the 161,547 League matches that took place until the end of the 2000-2001 season. Tony Brown is co-ordinating the project and progress is well advanced. At last, when Bobby Zamora scores in several consecutive matches and the press speculates on who holds the record, there will be a definitive answer.
Meanwhile the database as it stands can be used for all sorts of purposes:
How many foreign-born players to have appeared for League clubs? 1610.
How many players have appeared in the League for Spurs and Arsenal? Sol Campbell became the eleventh.
Which player has the best goals per game average in a career of over one season? Derek Dooley (64 goals in 63 games) is the only player with better than a goal per game.
Which club has used the most players in League matches? Stockport County with 1104. (Lincoln City with 1069 and Rochdale with 1021 are the other with more than 1000).
Which player appeared in League matches for most clubs? John Burridge 15.
How many players played League football and first class cricket? 236
In which season did most Wilfreds appear in the League? 20 in 1935-1936. Alas for Wilf fans they have been in decline ever since, and we have not seen one since Wilf Rostron in 1992. At least Matty Appleby has Wilfred as a middle name.
What is the age when players most frequently end their League career? 24.
All answers are correct as at 10 March 2002.
My thanks go to Tony Brown for his suggestion that this book be produced, and then his help and encouragement in bringing it to fruition. My thanks too to Barry Hugman for his pioneering work with the post-war players’ records book, and to Alan Platt and Michael Featherstone for their assistance with it. Thanks too to Derek Hyde for his indefatigable investigations into the career history of numerous players (not just for Barnsley!), and to all the others with whom I have corresponded, directly and indirectly, down the years and provided valuable information, particularly Don Starr, Alf Beagley, Gary Parle, Gilbert Upton, Jim Creasy, Steve Emms, Dave McPherson, Leigh Edwards, Richard Wells, Mike Davage, Nick Harris and Mick Cooper. Nor must I overlook all the club statisticians and historians who laid the foundations with their research.
Finally I must thank my father, Tom Joyce, who saw some of the players in this book turning out for his beloved Spurs, and passed on the football gene, even though some dreadful mutation turned me into a supporter of the more successful north London team. And last, and by no means least, my wife Liz who showed tremendous patience (and by the way gave birth to two children), during the years I was putting all this lot together.
Name. The full name where known. The surname given is the one by which the player was known for most of his career, though occasionally he may have had a different surname at his birth or at some other time. Alternative surnames appear in brackets. The first name by which the player was usually known also appears in brackets where it was different from his full first name. The fact that a player called William has nothing in brackets merely means that I have never seen him called Bill in any document. Widely used nicknames also appear in brackets. Some titles and honours are included, even if they were acquired after the playing career– these pages contain 14 doctors, 4 knights, 4 ordained ministers, 1 VC and 2 MPs.
Position. For the period in question it is simplest to use the ‘old’ positional names such as right half, centre forward and outside left. Over a player’s career I have recorded the position in which he appeared most in each season. The position shown first is the one in which he played most, then the second most, then the third. Only positions in which he appeared in more than 5% of his career are shown.
Born. The place and date of birth are shown as accurately as possible.
Died. The year of death is shown where known.
Caps. The number of full caps is shown for countries within the British Isles. For internationals with other countries, and there were a few even then, the number of caps is usually not known.
Appearances. The year shown is the one in which the season started; e.g. 1888 means the 1888-1889 season. The start and end seasons are the first and last in which the player appeared for the club either in the League or the FA Cup. No season is shown against clubs that were not in the League at the time. Appearance and goals totals refer only to League matches, and are based on the line-ups for individual matches.
The club name shown is the one by which the club was known at the start of the player’s spell with them, unless there was significant name change in which case both old and new names appear; i.e. Ardwick/Manchester City, Newton Heath/Manchester United, Small Heath/Birmingham. No distinction is made for minor name changes during the player’s spell, e.g. Woolwich Arsenal/Arsenal, Stoke/Stoke City. Burton United, formed by the merging of Burton Swifts and Burton Wanderers has been shown separately from its two constituents.
Previous lists of pre-war players, including indexes in ‘complete club’ histories, contain some players who do not seem to be present in individual line-ups. A list of them appears on page 274.
Test Matches were used to settle promotion and relegation issues from 1893 to 1898. Player’s appearances in these games listed on page 279. League tables for the period covered by this book start on page 281.
There is one more anomaly that should be mentioned. The 1898-1899 match between Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa on 26 November was abandoned after 79 minutes because of poor light with Wednesday leading 3-1. The Football League decreed that the remaining 11 minutes be played on a separate occasion. It eventually took place on 13 March 1899. Wednesday scored again to win 4-1. However both teams had changed during the interval. Billy Garraty of Aston Villa, and Samuel Bosworth, Bob Ferrier, Ambrose Langley, Jack Pryce and Fred Richards (who scored the final goal) of Wednesday all played only in the final 11 minutes. In effect they became the first substitutes used in a League match. These appearances have not been included in the totals shown in this book, but the players are listed here for completeness.