Farewell to Bill Perry
Bill Perry, one of the legends of Blackpool football and one of only two survivors from the epic 1953 FA Cup final, sadly passed away on 27 September 2007.
Bill Perry Scoring against Sunderland in 1955
Bill was born in Johannesburg on 10 September 1930 and was signed by Blackpool from Johannesburg Rangers on 31 October 1949 after a recommendation from Billy Butler, an old colleague of manager Joe Smith. He arrived in England on board the Edinburgh Castle docking at Southampton after Charlton Athletic and Birmingham City had been keen to acquire him but he chose Blackpool who gambled on signing the then relatively unknown South African outside left.
After a number of games in the junior sides, he made his Central League debut for Blackpool against Newcastle United reserves on 26 December 1949 when the game was drawn 0-0 and he scored his first goal for the club in his sixth Central League game, a 1-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday reserves on 6 February 1950. His fine form in the reserve team led to his League debut on 18 March 1950 against Manchester United and Johnny Carey reportedly said to him after the game "You've had me running about a lot!" as Blackpool won 2-1.
He went on to play 11 League games in his first season at the club, seven at outside left, three at outside right and one at inside left. He also played nine Central League games, all at outside left, and scored three goals. Although he started the 1950/51 season at outside left in the Central League side, he quickly earned a recall to the League side for the game against Fulham on 4 September 1950 when Blackpool won 4-0. One critic's comment was "The inclusion of Bill Perry gave the line a decision which it had not possessed in those earlier games, and, while bouquets are being thrown about, one should assuredly be presented to the South African for his display in this match." He was rarely out of the side thereafter.
With 15 goals in the 1952/53 season, he became the first outside left to total a double figure aggregate of League and Cup goals for Blackpool in a season. He scored 18 goals the following season when, in May 1953, he wrote his name large in the annals of Blackpool football history with the now famous last-minute winner in the 4-3 FA Cup Final victory over Bolton Wanderers.
He scored a hat-trick against Manchester City when Blackpool won 6-1 on 23 April 1955 and then he scored two hat-tricks in three games, in a 3-3 draw with Portsmouth on 27 August 1955, and in a 7-3 victory over Sunderland on 3 September 1955. His goalscoring feats saw him selected for the England 'B' side, his father was a Londoner, against Yugoslavia at Maine Road on 19 October 1955 and he scored two goals in a 5-1 win. And then he won his first cap for England in a 3-0 victory over Northern Ireland at Wembley on 2 November 1955. He played twice more for England, scoring two goals against Spain in a 4-1 win on 30 November 1955 and in a 1-1 draw with Scotland on 14 April 1956. That 1955/56 season saw him score 21 League and Cup goals in 41 games and he was very unlucky not to add to his tally of three England caps. The following season, 1956/57, was his most prolific for Blackpool as he scored 22 League and Cup goals in 41 games and although there was a slight falling away in 1957/58 he still netted 18 times in 41 games. And in 1958/59 he scored his fourth hat-trick for the club and this one was more than warmly received by Seasiders' fans as it was against arch-rivals Preston North End who were given a sound 4-2 beating on Christmas Day!
Injury plagued his later years at Bloomfield Road and, finishing his Blackpool career having played in 435 League and Cup games in which he scored 129 goals, it was a sad day on 6 June 1962 when he was transferred to Southport, where, even though in the last years of his League career, he was immediately recognised as "the classiest forward seen at Haig Avenue in years". He later played for then non-league Hereford United, South Coast United in Australia where his former team-mate Jimmy Kelly was in charge, Holyhead Town and then lent his experience to local football in the Fylde for a short spell.
After retirement from the game he was a successful businessman in Blackpool and enjoyed a round of golf, with former team-mate Cyril Robinson one of his playing partners. He was ever willing to attend functions at his beloved Bloomfield Road and he will be sorely missed by all those who enjoyed his company at such functions, where he was always modest about his outstanding achievements in the game.