Saturday, 24 December 2016

Frank Swift's Christmas Day debut in 1933

Taken from my book on Frank, which is available at:-

Writing in his autobiography Swift recalls the excitement, ‘What a Christmas Day it was. I really began to believe in Santa Claus when I reported to the Exchange Station to join the party for Derby. Everybody was very helpful and understanding at my nervous excitement, and I listened intently to all the advice this great bunch of lads handed out.’ 

Derby were one of the best sides of the 1930s and possessed a fine attack – it later being argued that an emphasis on scoring goals cost the Rams a first major trophy – and Swift was set for a baptism of fire. 

Derby County: Kirby, Cooper, Collin, Nicholas, Jessop, Keen, Crooks, Groves, Bowers, Ramage, Duncan 
City; Swift, Barnett, Corbett V, Busby, Marshall, Bray, Toseland, Herd, Gregory, Tilson, Brook 

Referee: Mr R Bowie (Newcastle)

City, backed by a good number of fans, were to lose their second consecutive match, beaten 4-1. Derby’s centre-forward Jack Bowers had finished as Division One’s top scorer the previous season with 35 goals and he was to repeat the feat in 1933-34 with 34 goals. A powerful player he possessed two good feet and was a constant aerial threat. 

Swift was unable to prevent Bowers from scoring and blamed himself for the opening two goals saying ‘I did not keep my eye on the ball, because I was looking for Jack.’  The keeper appears to have been a little too self-critical, as the first on four minutes saw the County attack rip apart the defence in front of him to leave ‘the unmarked (Peter) Ramage with little difficulty in beating Swift’ (Derby Evening Telegraph 27 Dec 1933) 

With the Rams wingers, England international Sammy Crookes and Scottish international Dally Duncan, a constant threat the away defence was given a torrid time and it was no surprise when Bowers made it 2-0. City’s new keeper then made a fine save to deny the goal predator a second from a long-range effort. There was little Swift could do, though, when on the stroke of half-time Bowers made it 3-0 in a game watched by a then record Baseball Ground attendance of 32,786. 


On the restart a powerful shot by Ramage made it 4-0, but clearly determined to keep the score down Swift was in bravely at the feet of Bowers to prevent a fifth. For his sins he was knocked out, something that was to become a regular feature of the keeper’s career over the next 15-16 years. Leather football boots in the 1930s were much heavier than today, had metal studs or tacks hammered into the sole and contained a steel front toecap. A keeper kicked – accidentally or not – by a forward’s boot was much more likely to be badly injured and/or knocked out. Only the bravest could expect to make it to the top of their profession.

The crowd waited several minutes before the rudimentary treatment of applying a cold sponge to the youngster’s face paid dividends and he staggered to his feet. At 4-0 down a lesser – some might say more sensible – man might have decided to recuperate in the more relaxed surroundings of the dressing room. Swift played on. As a result he witnessed Ernie Toseland scoring Manchester City’s consolation effort.  

Swift’s first-team colleagues included Jack Bray, who a few weeks earlier had unknowingly met Swift as they both journeyed to Maine Road for a reserve match in which the keeper was making his debut.

The Blackpool youngster believed he had enough time to walk from the city centre to Maine Road. He became concerned after seeing fans jump on the trams, which were an important part of Manchester’s transport system until the development of the motor car led to a decision to faze them out in 1937. The formal closure date of February 1939 was however missed due to petrol problems for buses and it was not till January 1949 that the ‘last’ tram ran, by which time many lines were unusable due to the bombing Manchester sustained during the war. Trams eventually returned to Manchester in 1992. 

Asking an immaculately dressed stranger Swift was relieved to be re-assured that he had plenty of time, but after continuing walking for a while his fears returned. Jumping on a tram he found himself sitting next to the same stranger. A blushing Swift offered his apologies before the pair alighted outside Maine Road and went there separate ways. 

Well, not quite because when Swift entered the dressing room he found himself being asked, ‘What on earth are young doing here?’ He replied ‘I’m the goalkeeper, Sir’ and after a few seconds in shock left-half Bray introduced himself. 

Bray cost City £1,000 when they signed him in October 1929 from Manchester Central, a club formed by former City director John Ayrton in disgust at the move from Hyde Road to Maine Road. Bray was to play consistently for City in over 430 first team appearances and was good enough to play for England, winning six caps and playing three times for the Football League. 

Journeying home from the Baseball Ground, Swift arrived in Blackpool for a belated Christmas dinner, where he was joined by his brother Fred, by now a keeper with Oldham, as he told the whole family about ‘what I had done right, and wrong, at Derby’. Fearing he might not be playing on Boxing Day he left home at 7.15am for the 2.15 pm kick-off at Maine Road. With his family ‘as scared as I was’ his offer for them to accompany him was declined.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Fred Spiksley is sent off on Christmas Day

The Christmas period is one of the highlights of the football season as there is always fixtures galore. 

Christmas Day, however, is a football-free zone. Not so in the past and the final full league programme on a Christmas Day was in 1957 when Sheffield Wednesday drew 4-4 with Preston North End. Sixty years earlier in 1897  Wednesday played their first ever home League fixture on Christmas Day. 

It was against Stoke City and was at Olive Grove, Wednesday’s ground until they moved to Hillsborough in 1899. Fred Spiksley’s speed meant he was nicknamed ‘the Olive Grove Flyer.’ But, on this particular day the only dash he made was an early one as he was sent off in controversial circumstances. 

The referee for the game was Lincoln’s Mr. West, well known to Fred from his Gainsborough Trinity days from 1887 to 1891 as being so biased that when he acted as the Lincoln City linesman he was reported by teams in the Midland Counties League for intimidation. Fred was not happy to discover that Mr. West had been elevated to referee status and feared he might use his new powers to get his own back on those who had objected to him acting as Lincoln City’s ‘twelfth man’. 

Fred had netted a goal on a rock hard frosty surface. This made the ball unusually bouncy and difficult to control. Stoke right back John Robertson, who later captained Liverpool to the League title, was a dashing, daring and slightly reckless opponent who seemed to make no allowance for the treacherous underfoot conditions when he tackled for the ball. From a high kick the ball bounced to a tremendous height and when Fred used his shoulder and ball skills to manoeuvre away from his marker it was a masterful move not appreciated by Mr West who blew for a free kick. When Fred politely enquired why he had been penalised the referee ignored him. 

When the Wednesday winger then complained about the decision Mr West simply pushed him over on to the icy ground, causing him to fall on his bottom much to the amusement of the crowd. West then told the player to retreat down the pitch but when he positioned himself back the six yards required under the rules then in place this failed to satisfy the referee who told him to retreat further. Fred stood his ground and informed the referee that he was abiding by the rules. The player was intent on defending the free kick at which point Mr West said that for deliberately ignoring his instructions he was dismissing him. Fred initially refused to leave the field but eventually gave way for what was the first and only sending-off in his football career. 

Fred’s dismissal meant he appeared before the FA’s disciplinary committee on 5 January 1897. He was exonerated of any blame and was neither fined nor suspended. Neither though was Mr West.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Liberation? Not bloody likely......

Liberation is the act of setting someone free from imprisonment, slavery, or oppression; a release. 
Now i welcome the defeat of the Islamists in Aleppo but if anyone thinks the return of rule by Assad and his best mate, Mr Putin, is going to bring about the end of oppression they need their heads looking at.

New version of Charlie Hurley authorised biography out now


With the original (from 2008) Charlie Hurley authorised biography book sold out a new paperback and digital version is out with a third of all profits going to Charlie himself, the author and the Charlie Hurley Statue fund. Paperback at £15 and digital version at £6.50.

Friday, 16 December 2016

When Saturday Comes article on Fred Spiksley

DECISION NEARS FOR FIRE VICTIM Inquiry of police role in Bradford fire looms

Inquiry of police role in Bradford fire looms 
Victim's book raised issues with 1985 blaze 
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is close to deciding whether to investigate West Yorkshire Police’s role in the Bradford City fire disaster of 1985 in which 56 fans died. 
The IPCC became involved following the release of a book on the 30th anniversary of the disaster: The Fifty-Six: The Story of the Bradford Fire by Martin Fletcher, who survived the fire on 11 May but lost four of his relatives to it. 
Police failures 
There then followed a letter from Fletcher’s legal representatives Leigh Day to the then home secretary, Theresa May, urging her to initiate an independent review of the evidence and arguing “police failures caused most loss of life". 
These included an alleged delay of 195 seconds before evacuating fans on to the pitch and a failure by the commanding officer, Chief Inspector Charles Mawson, to investigate radio reports of a fire until his deputy forced him to do so. 
The police control room in Bradford city centre is also alleged to have failed to respond quickly enough to three police radio requests for fire brigade assistance so that the brigade, stationed only three minutes away from the ground, arrived nine minutes after the fire started, by which time the all-wooden Main Stand was fully ablaze. 
West Yorkshire Police subsequently referred itself in November 2015 to the IPCC. The police watchdog said it “would consider the referral before deciding whether to investigate”. 
The decision to self-refer does not mean the IPCC will investigate. In November 2012, South Yorkshire Police referred itself to the organisation over its conduct at Orgreave during the Miners Strike of 1984-85. The IPCC then took until June 2015 to issue a report that cited the historic nature of events and its failure to obtain police operational orders as reasons not to proceed to a full investigation. 
"Blame not apportioned" 
Following the fire in 1985 a hastily arranged inquiry was held just 13 days after the forensic search of the site was completed. It lasted only five and a half days. It did not take witness statements from most survivors. All the families were represented by a barrister instructed by the Bradford Law Society. 
The inquiry’s judge, Lord Popplewell, had said beforehand “blame will not be apportioned”. He concluded the fire’s cause was the dropping of a lit match, cigarette or tobacco on to litter that had collected underneath the stand. Fletcher has cast doubts on this verdict. 
When Fletcher began investigating events he unearthed flaws in the inquiry and inconsistencies between what Bradford City owner Stafford Heginbotham and the club told the press. Fletcher found that Heginbotham had a string of businesses where eight similar fires had broken out and which all followed a similar pattern of spreading quickly and catching the fire brigade unaware. 
When West Yorkshire Police referred itself to the IPCC, Fletcher said he was “delighted”, adding: “It is a proper testament to the open and transparent nature of modern policing.” 
Now an IPCC spokesperson has stated: “We are in the final stages of this matter and will look to announce a decision in due course.” 

In response Fletcher said: “It would be inappropriate to make any substantive public statements until the official decision is announced.” 

QUESTIONS FOR RIPPER - Police called on to revisit unsolved cases

Police called on to revisit unsolved cases 
West Yorkshire Police won't disclose plans 
Taken from Big Issue North article in October 2016. 
Calls are growing for police to question the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, over unsolved murders now he has been declared sane 
Sutcliffe was convicted in 1981 for 13 murders and attempting to murder seven others after a lengthy police investigation, during which he was questioned and released many times. 
Two killers? 
During the investigation, there were reports that two serial killers were at large, unconnected to each other. 
The late Ron Warren, deputy chairman of West Yorkshire Police Authority at the time, maintained until he died a decade ago that “it was known in the top echelons
of the police that two men were involved in the series of murders”. 
Sutcliffe was declared to be sane at the time of his trial. The judge sent him to prison for a minimum of 30 years. 
In 1984, Sutcliffe was moved from Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight
to Broadmoor psychiatric hospital after he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. But in August this year, he was moved back to a Wakefield prison after medical experts ruled him mentally fit. Sutcliffe now calls himself Coonan. 
Twenty-year old Carol Wilkinson was brutally murdered in Bradford in 1977. A local man, Anthony Steele, was found guilty of her murder. Steele always maintained his innocence and his conviction was quashed in 2003. West Yorkshire Police chief constable Colin Cramphorn offered him a “personal apology”. 
Steele died in September 2007. No one has subsequently been arrested for Wilkinson’s murder. Kay Lintern, who lived opposite the Wilkinson family home in 1977, believes Sutcliffe should be questioned. 
She said: “I remember seeing him hanging around the Ravenscliffe estate where we both lived. I didn’t go to the police when Sutcliffe was sent to prison in 1981 as I thought Steele must have done the murder. But when his conviction was overturned I realised it may have been a murder committed by Sutcliffe. 
“In 2005 I rang West Yorkshire Police about what I knew but no one came to take my statement. I think Sutcliffe should now be questioned about other crimes he may have committed as I know many other people are convinced he murdered their loved ones.” 
Fresh evidence 
Peter Hill, from the 1980s Rough Justice TV programme, is convinced that the police were right to rule Sutcliffe out of the Wilkinson murder. 
“I investigated the case and the crime did not fit the crime pattern associated with the Ripper,” said Hill. “I even supplied the police some years ago with the name of the person I believe is the killer and who was serving a lengthy sentence for other murders. 
“The police told me they were confident they had, despite the chief constable’s personal apology, got the right man in Steele. The Wilkinson case thus remains unresolved. 
“The police state they are interested in solving unresolved crimes from the past but they don’t appear open to people approaching them with fresh evidence.” 
Gerry Sutcliffe (no relation), who was MP for Bradford South from 1994 to 2015, also wants to see Sutcliffe questioned. “There are lots of unsolved attacks and murders of women across the north in the late 1970s and early 1980s and the Ripper may have information on them,” he said. 
Wilma McCann, a mother of three, was the Yorkshire Ripper’s first victim, murdered near her Leeds home on 30 October 1975. 
Her son Richard, whose 2005 book Just a Boy was a bestseller, said: “Now Sutcliffe has been declared sane he should be questioned. When I made my documentary The Ripper Murdered My Mum for the BBC I asked Dick Holland, who was second in charge of the Ripper inquiry, whether he agreed on this very point but he was adamant that Sutcliffe should not be questioned. 
“It seemed a case of let sleeping dogs lie. But Sutcliffe may have evidence that can allow some families to know who killed their loved ones and that would allow them to finally have closure on such tragedies.” 
Not public 
In 2015, authors Chris Clark, a former police intelligence officer, and Tim Tate, an investigative journalist, claimed that Sutcliffe might have been responsible for a further 23 murders. 
West Yorkshire Police would not say if they have or will be interviewing Sutcliffe. 
DCI Jim Dunkerley of West Yorkshire Police, said: “West Yorkshire Police has made
a key commitment that a case is never closed until it is resolved. As part of this commitment to victims we continuously review our undetected homicides and serious sexual offences. 
“Earlier this year officers visited a small number of people named within the Sir Lawrence Byford Report, which examined, in the early 1980s, the police inquiry after Sutcliffe was caught and listed 13 unresolved offences. These offences form part of the historic cases that continue to be reviewed by West Yorkshire Police. 

“In this review the interests of victims of crime and their families are of paramount importance, as is the requirement to ensure that no information is made public that could prejudice any future criminal investigation or judicial process. Victims and their families remain updated as to the progress of their cases.”