Blackpool FC: The Huddersfield Town Connection
Feature by Gerry Wolstenholme
Updated Friday, 13th February 2009
Tommy Wilson, Bob Hesford, Peter Doherty and Johnny McKenna all have something in common. They all played for both Blackpool and Huddersfield Town and all four are depicted in a book Huddersfield Town Cards and Stickers by Roger Pashby that was published in 2008.
(as depicted on cigarette and trade cards)
Wilson was a centre half who was born in Seaham on 16 April 1896 and who had started his football career with New Seaham Council School, represented Durham County and Sunderland Schoolboys before joining Seaham Colliery and then signing for Sunderland on 19 October 1913. Sunderland gave him a free transfer in the first season after the War as they were under the impression "he would never make good"! He returned to Seaham Colliery before joining Huddersfield Town in 1919 after he had won a Military Medal at Cambrai in 1918.
When he joined Blackpool, he was said to be "the club's most important capture in post-war history" and he had already figured in more Football League games than any other player since the end of the First World War, having played in 448 League games for Huddersfield Town, scoring four goals along the way. While at Huddersfield he had won an England cap against Scotland in 1928 and had also played for The Football League against The Scottish League, 1925 and 1926, and against The Irish League, 1925 and 1929.
He was immediately made captain of the Blackpool team when he joined the club and made his League debut for the Seasiders in the game against Sheffield Wednesday on 14 November 1931 and "his influence was discernible everywhere". "Without dominating the game [he] played a quiet and effective part in it" as Blackpool lost 2-1. After a run of 11 League games he was injured in a disappointing 3-0 defeat by Birmingham on 3 February 1932 and he therefore lost his place in the side.
He made his comeback in the Central League side against Sheffield Wednesday reserves on 27 February 1932 when the game was drawn 2-2 and was recalled to the League side during the critical Easter games when Blackpool were fighting against relegation; his return to the side ended in a creditable 2-2 draw at Portsmouth on 25 March 1932 he was said to have "never [while] in Blackpool's service played more studious, positional football". He played 16 League games, two FA Cup ties and three Central League games in the 1931/32 season and although was remembered at Blackpool as "chivalrous on the field and a gentleman off it" and known in the town as "the captain who staved off relegation", he was placed on the transfer list at the end of the season. No club came in for him and he returned to Huddersfield Town as assistant-trainer. [Sadly for Tommy Wilson, the book Blackpool A Complete Record 1887-1992 omits him from the statistics at the back for the Wilson that is listed for the season in question was wrongly assumed to be Harry Wilson who had played his last game for the club in 1930/31.]
He had married Miss Marjorie Gregson of Park Road, Blackpool and lived in Marton so it was no surprise when he played cricket for Blackpool Cricket Club in the 1939 season and he scored a century on his debut for the Second XI, making 107 in 80 minutes. As for his football for Blackpool, he was a one-game man for he was "recruited at the last minute" to play against Sunderland on 13 March 1946 when Alex Roxburgh was a late absentee with influenza. Unfortunately his one game for the Seasiders ended in defeat as Blackpool lost 3-1. He later played for Stalybridge Celtic and his son, Iain, was a Blackpool goalkeeper of a later era.
Peter Doherty was born in Magherafelt, Derry on 5 June 1913 and he is the only one of the four players featured who played firstly for Blackpool and secondly for Huddersfield. Blackpool signed the inside forward from Glentoran on 8 November 1933 for a fee of £1,900 plus an agreement that they would play a friendly against Glentoran during the latter part of the 1933/34 season.
He made his Blackpool debut for the Central League side against Aston Villa reserves on 11 November 1933 and he scored two goals as Blackpool won 3 2. Then, after scoring seven goals in five Central League games, he made his League debut against Bradford City on 23 December 1933 when Blackpool won 2 1. And his first season at the club saw him play in 19 League games, scoring four goals, two FA Cup ties, scoring two goals, and nine Central League games, scoring eight goals.
He was still in much demand and when playing for Ireland in an international in Belfast in October 1935, many First Division clubs were interested in signing him but Blackpool told them all "Hands off". However, with Blackpool's financial position none too healthy, he was transferred to Manchester City for a fee of £10,000, a record for both clubs, on 19 February 1936 with £5,000 to be paid by 1 March and £5,000 by 1 May 1936. He was granted permission to continue training at Bloomfield Road for the rest of the 1935/36 season and to report to Maine Road on a Saturday for home games and on a Friday for away games. He had played in 27 League games, scoring 11 goals, and two FA Cup ties for Blackpool before his transfer.
He won a First Division championship medal with Manchester City and scored almost 100 goals for the club before he moved on to Derby County for a fee of £6,000 in the 1946/47 season, having played for the club as a guest during World War II. His stay at Derby was short-lived as there was a falling out over his wish to become a publican so he was transferred to Huddersfield Town during the 1946/47 season and he played 83 League games and scored 33 goals in a three-season stay at the club.
He later became Doncaster Rovers player/manager in the 1949/50 season, taking the club to the Third Division (North) championship in his first season, was manager of Northern Ireland when the country reached the final stages of the 1958 World Cup, was assistant-manager at Sunderland under Bob Stokoe in the 1970s, spent some time as manager of Bristol City, had a number of coaching appointments, was chief scout at Bloomfield Road from 1978 to 1981 and was subsequently chief scout in the north for Tottenham Hotspur.
However, after several Central League games, he made his League debut in a 3-3 draw with Charlton Athletic on 16 September 1954 but it was to be one of only 24 League games that he was to play for the Seasiders over a three-year period because, as happened to others, the maestro outlasted him. He even played a couple of games at the unaccustomed position of outside left and he play 74 Central League games in which he scored five goals to add to the two League goals that he scored.
Recommended to Southport by Stan Mortensen, he was transferred to that club on 6 July 1957 for a fee of £750 and he later played for Wisbech Town but a car crash subsequently ended his career.
These are just four players featured in this splendid book that is recommended reading for all football fans whether they support Huddersfield Town or not.
Details can be found at http://homepage.ntlworld.com/roger.pashby