One of the legends of Blackpool Football Club passed away on Friday 23 February 2007. Ephraim 'Jock' Dodds died peacefully at Blackpool's Victoria Hospital aged 91.
Jock was born at Grangemouth on 7 September 1915 and he began his football career with Bargeddie Public School where he was a bustling centre forward. When his mother remarried, the family moved over to Durham and he continued his football career with Shellmex and Medomsley Juniors in Consett and he won representative honours with Durham Schoolboys.
Huddersfield Town manager Clem Stephenson spotted his tremendous potential and he moved to the club as a 16-year-old to join the groundstaff. He signed as a professional for the club the following year and he played in the Huddersfield reserve side for two seasons, 1932/33 and 1933/34, walking four miles to the ground, returning home for his lunch before repeating the walk to cut the grass and undertake other groundstaff tasks in the afternoon. Huddersfield reluctantly released him on a free transfer after the 1933/34 season as they had their quota of 34 professionals and, in 'Jock's' own words "I hadn't come on as well as some of the others."
He immediately joined Sheffield United and embarked on a career that saw him play 178 League games and score 114 goals between 1934/35 and 1938/39, Huddersfield's loss was Sheffield United's gain. Armed with a strong recommendation from the Huddersfield assistant-manager, Sheffield United signed him and he started at Bramall Lane in the reserve side. After half a season in the reserves he was introduced to the first team and was an immediate success both with his team-mates and the crowd who adored his bustling, and goalscoring, style. He finished his first season with the club having played in 28 League games in which he scored 19 goals.
He was an ever-present the following season and scored 34 goals in the 42 League games and he was at centre forward as his side lost 1-0 to Arsenal in the FA Cup final. Ted Drake scored the all-important goal but almost immediately after Arsenal had taken the lead, 'Jock' was unlucky not to equalise. One match report stated "A furious attack on the Sheffield right wing saw the ball come over from Barton to Dodds. For once, Robert's head was nowhere near and Dodds, six yards away from goal, headed away from Wilson. The ball hit the junction of bar and post with Wilson isolated."
'Jock' himself often recalled the incident vividly with "Alec Wilson [later to be Blackpool's trainer] was in their goal and a cross came over from the wing as I spotted him off his line. I went up for the ball and was just about to direct it down into the net when a wee fellow called Copping went up behind me and, in striving to get to the ball, punched me in the back. This had the unfortunate effect of knocking my head backwards so the ball thudded against the crossbar instead of nestling itself in the back of the net." And philosophically he used to add, "But for that incident, who knows, things might have turned out differently."
Despite 'Jock' showing "what a great centre forward he could be by his determined dashes for goal", there was no more scoring and Sheffield United had to be content with a runners-up spot. But in the League 'Jock' continued his goalscoring exploits; 23 goals in 39 games in the 1936/37 season and 21 goals in 40 matches in 1937/38. And it was early in the 1937/38 season that Blackpool first turned their attentions to trying to sign him. The club were prepared to pay £8,000 for his signature but Sheffield United, already having taken some criticism from their fans for selling Barclay, were not prepared to let him go.
Training with Stan at the old Stadium, South Shore - Blackpool Borough's
The 1938/39 season saw 'Jock' score 17 goals in 29 games and in January 1939 the former Blackpool captain Frank Hill recommended him to Blackpool once again. He was watched in a game against Bury when he did not perform to his usual standard and the message came back to the Blackpool directors that he was "now too big and slow moving to be of service to us". How wrong can an assessment be? He was watched in a subsequent game when he was said to have been "clever in everything he had done, played good football and was always dangerous". Overall he was deemed to have been "much better than when last watched" and Blackpool signed him for a fee of £10,000 on 10 March 1939. His starting weekly wage at Bloomfield Road was six pounds per week plus an extra two pounds when he played in the first team.
Blackpool were fighting against relegation and wanted 'Jock' to score some goals to ease the situation. He made a losing start but did score Blackpool's consolation goal in a 3-1 defeat by Charlton Athletic on 11 March but by the end of the season, his 10 goals in 12 games had helped his side to a comfortable 15th place in the table. The investment was already beginning to pay off. In the meantime his previous club Sheffield United won the First Division title and 'Jock' missed out on a bonus because he had not seen the season through! He received £600 from the transfer fee but he always recalled with a smile, "It should have been £650 but Sheffield kept £50 back as I did not complete the season."
War clouds were already gathering when the 1939/40 season began and after three games official football was suspended for the duration of the war. By that time 'Jock' had scored three goals in three games as Blackpool, the only undefeated club in the First Division, topped the table. The players were called into the services and 'Jock' joined the RAF as a Physical Training Instructor and, fortuitously, was stationed at Blackpool.
Wartime football was just as competitive as the real thing and huge crowds turned up to watch. Blackpool were a power in the land and twice won the Northern Division title and also won the Northern Cup and defeated Arsenal in a North versus South Challenge Cup Final. 'Jock' played no small part in this success for in 157 games he netted an incredible 230 goals, including an eight, a seven, two sixes and three or four on a remarkable 20 occasions. He scored the eight against Stockport County when Blackpool won 9-2 and in the game he even managed to miss a penalty, which in itself was a rare occurrence. Speaking of penalties, there is a story which has 'Jock' taking a penalty in a wartime League game when the goalkeeper left his charge and reportedly said, "You have it 'Jock'" for he did not wish to risk injury!
One of 'Jock's' hat-tricks in wartime football went down as the quickest on record and entered the Guinness Book of Records as such. Against Tranmere Rovers on 28 February 1942 he scored three in an amazing two and a half minutes and went on to score seven in a 15-3 victory. Blackpool eased off in the following game only beating Burnley by 13-0! And 'Jock', too, took his foot off the gas as he only scored five goals in that game.
Jock and a friend on his 80th birthday
During the war 'Jock' also made guest appearances for Manchester United, Fulham and West Ham United, the last two named when he was stationed down south. It was during these years that he teamed up with Stanley Matthews and the maestro crossed many a ball for 'Jock' to knock into the net. 'Jock' struck up a great friendship with Matthews and remembered, "We did have a good understanding. When he went outside I took up a particular position and similarly when he went inside. The ball often ended up in the net."
International games continued throughout the war and 'Jock' played in nine games for Scotland in which he maintained his goalscoring record and scored nine goals. The highlight was a 5-4 victory over England at Hampden Park in which he scored a hat-trick. He remembered it well in later life and said, "It was a gloriously sunny day and there were many thousands locked out of the ground. Those who saw the game say that it was the best international ever played with Bill Shankly scoring the winning goal." 'Jock' always laughed at the memory of that winning goal and said, "Shankly raced away and no-one could catch him before he hit the ball into the net to give the victory to Scotland."
Once the war was over, 'Jock' returned to Blackpool where he had married and set up business. But there was a minor dispute with the club and he ended up playing at Shamrock Rovers. The Irish side were delighted to have signed him and gave him a nice little bonus for joining them but after a handful of games for the club, in which their investment paid off handsomely with huge crowds attending their games, FIFA ordered 'Jock' to return to Blackpool.
This he did and Sheffield Wednesday and Everton were keen to sign him. 'Jock's' comment at the time was "If Blackpool want to transfer me, and presumably they do - I will go anywhere within reason. Everton? Sheffield Wednesday? Yes, if terms can be settled." And 'Jock' joined Everton for a fee of £8,250 in November 1946.
He played a total of 58 League and Cup games for Everton and scored 37 goals. While at Goodison Park he was described as "an enormous, no-nonsense centre forward who led the line with his own distinctive brand of robust football". After almost two years at the club he was transferred to Lincoln City where an old friend, Bill Anderson was manager. He cost Lincoln a club record £6,000 and he was described as "easily the biggest name ever to join Lincoln City". Seven thousand fans travelled to watch his debut at Grimsby and he did not let them down, scoring twice to salvage a 2-2 draw from 2-0 down. He eventually played 60 League games for the club and scored 38 goals before turning his hand to promotional work after two seasons.
His promotional work involved recruiting players to go to Bogota in Columbia and this brought him into dispute with the FA and, as in 'Jock's own words, "they imposed a ban". It was very quickly lifted but 'Jock' had then decided to retire and concentrate on his business interests in Blackpool. He was offered the manager's post at Port Vale and also at Stoke City but he said in later life, "I didn't fancy it" and he continued to expand his business at the seaside.
He played a number of charity games and even turned down an offer to play for Lytham in the Lancashire Combination as late as September 1959. At the time he commented, "It was a hard decision to take. I was greatly tempted to accept the offer, for, although I shall be 44 on Monday, I am still pretty fit and very keen on the game."
Thereafter 'Jock' was always keen to follow the fortunes of the Seasiders and was often at Bloomfield Road to give them his support. In retirement he lived happily with his delightful wife, Frances, in St Annes until her death a couple of years ago.
Now he has gone and it is unlikely that the club will see his like again. He was a delightful man, a true friend and tremendously entertaining company, and, despite his massive and often intimidating presence on the field, he was a gentleman through and through. He will be sadly missed.