Joe Payne of Luton Town
On Easter Monday, April 13 1936 Luton Town were faced with an injury crisis for their game against Bristol Rovers. Both of their centre forwards, Jack Ball and Billy Boyd were out injured. So they decided to play Joe Payne, a former centre-forward they were converting into a wing-half, up front. Payne had been signed from Bolsover Colliery but had so far failed to make his mark on the first team, making only three appearances to date.
Over 13,000 fans braved the icy rain which turned first to hailstones then to sleet, to watch the Third Division (South) match. For the first half hour they must have been wondering why they’d bothered. Both sides struggled to master the conditions and the game was goalless. Then everything changed. Payne smashed three goals past the hapless Jack Ellis in the Rovers goal in the next 15 minutes, Roberts added another and the game was effectively over.
But things would get much worse for Ellis and the Rovers defence, and much, much better for Payne, in the second half. Luton scored eight more, with Payne getting seven of them to finish with 10 goals in the match.
Speaking after about his feat, Payne said: “They told me to go out and get two or three goals if I could. But they didn’t tell me what to do afterwards. So I just carried on scoring!”
The following season Payne scored 55 goals, including five hat-tricks and four goals in a match twice, helping Luton to promotion and earning himself a place on England’s tour of Northern Europe. It was there that he won his only full cap, scoring twice in the 8-0 win over Finland.
In March 1938 Payne was transferred to Chelsea and he scored 21 goals in 38 games for the Londoners, giving the promise of much more to come. before World War Two intervened.
The hostilities took away what would have been the prime years of his career. On the resumption of football he joined West Ham United but only played 10 games for the Hammers, scoring six times, before retiring at the age of 32.
Payne finished with a career record of 110 goals in 118 games, plus two in that solitary international start, but left many thinking that, had he been born at a different time, things might have been so different. But his place in the record books has now stood for 81 years and there it is likely to remain. He passed away in 1975 at the age of 61.
When Falkirk broke the World Record
In 1912, West Ham manager Syd King saw a youngster playing for London Schools against Surrey Schools and quickly snapped him up.
The young newcomer, Syd Puddefoot, was born in Bow and faced a tough task breaking into a Hammers team that already had two top forwards in Danny Shea and George Hillsdon. But he forced his way into recognition and with 13 goals in his first 11 games quickly became the main man.
After serving in the Great War, ‘Puddy’ returned to the Hammers and picked up where he left off scoring goals regularly for the Hammers who had by now moved up to the Second Division having competed competing in the Southern League and London Combination previously.
In 1922 with West Ham pushing for promotion to the first division, they shocked football by selling their star man to Falkirk in Scotland for a World record fee of £5,000. Puddefoot never wanted the move but he had no choice as back then contracts could be transferred without any input from the player.
At the time of his transfer West Ham were fighting for promotion from the Second Division but they faded out of contention. Puddefoot meanwhile, complained that his new teammates wouldn’t pass to him and, despite 45 goals in three seasons, never really settled in Scotland.
The forward returned to England in 1925, joining Blackburn Rovers for £4,000 and soon returned to his best form, winning his first England cap, against Northern Ireland.
in the 1927-28 season Puddefoot helped Rovers to the FA Cup Final at Wembley where they overcame hot favourites Huddersfield Town 3-1 to take the trophy.
In 1931 Puddefoot, at 37, returned to his beloved West Ham but despite his best efforts the club were relegated from the top flight and in 1933 he retired.
The stay in Scotland clearly whetted ‘Puddy’s’ appetite for travel as he next moved to Turkey where he coached both Fenerbahce and Galatasaray before returning to England and taking over as manager of Northampton Town in 1937, a post he held until the outbreak of World War Two.
Puddefoot served as a policeman during the war and then worked for the Civil Service before retiring in 1963. He passed away in Essex in 1972.
A winners’ medal from the first FA Cup Final
That Cup Final Jinx
In the past the FA Cup Final was often said to carry an injury jinx. This started with the very first staging in 1872. Lieutenant Creswell of Royal Engineers has his collarbone broken after just 10 minutes of the match against Wanderers. But the plucky soldier played on, seeing out the full 90 minutes in his team’s 1-0 loss.
The winning goalscorer in that first final was Mr P. Betts although he was listed as A. H. Chequer, an assumed name as he had been a member of the Old Harrovians team that had been due to play Wanderers in the first round.
Only 2,000 turned up at the Oval to watch the first final with many said to have been kept away by the exorbitant admission fee of one shilling (5p). Attendances jumped to 3,000 the following year and then stayed roughly the same until 1885 when 12,500 showed up to see Blackburn Rovers play Queen’s Park and attempt to win the trophy for the third time in succession (they succeeded).
In 1893 there was another big jump with 45,000 turning up at Fallowfield to see Wolves beat Everton by a solitary goal. Then in 1901 six figures was reached for the first time, 110,820 were in attendance at Crystal Palace to watch Tottenham Hotspur draw 2-2 with Sheffield United. The replay, at Burnden Park and won by Southern League Spurs, attracted only 20,470.
Writing about the Crystal Palace encounter, a journalist of the time said: “There were many thousands present, and the concomitants of betting, drinking and bad language were fearful to contemplate, while the shouting and horseplay on the highway was a terror to peaceful residents passing homewards.”
‘No Chris, that’s our goal’
When Aston Villa took on Leicester City in March 1976, Villa’s Chris Nicholl had a game to remember.
Twice, Nicholl put Leicester in front with own-goals (the second of which he has since described as ‘the best goal of my career’). Twice he equalised for his own team. The match finished in an exciting 2-2 draw with the Northern Ireland defender claiming all four goals.
But disappointment was to follow for the Northern Irishman “After the game I went to see the referee” recalls Nicholl. “I asked him if I could have the match ball.
“He said no. This is my last match and I’m keeping the ball.
“Just my luck I suppose. My first hat-trick in a Villa shirt and I don’t even get the ball!”
Nicholl was actually the second player to achieve the feat of scoring twice for both team as Sam Wynne did it for Oldham Athletic against Manchester United in 1923.
Wynne later achieved fame of the worst possible kind when he collapsed on the pitch while playing for Bury against Sheffield United and was tragically found to be dead by the time he had been taken into the dressing room after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage.
Duncan Edwards of England
Duncan Edwards was always going to be a star from the moment he started playing football. He appeared at Wembley for England schoolboys twice before his 15th birthday and on leaving school had a string of clubs hopeful of grabbing his signature. “On leaving school I did not face the difficulty of most youngsters – finding a job,” he later recalled. “Football was my future, I had no lack of prospective employers.”
Despite offers from clubs nearer to his Dudley home he chose a move to Manchester United, reasoning; “I thought my future would be better away from the Midlands.”
Nine months later he was making his first team debut; “I went to the ground one Friday morning and was called into Matt Busby’s office,” he remembered two years later. “He quietly told me I was selected for the first team.
“All I could think about was letting my mother and father know the news.”
That first-team debut could have gone better. United and Edwards slumped to a 4-1 loss against Cardiff City and he didn’t play again that season.
By the next campaign however, thanks in part to an injury to England international Henry Cockburn, Edwards earned a regular place in the team.
By 1955, Edwards was playing for his country. He made his debut for his country against Scotland at the age of just 18 years and 183 days, at the time England’s youngest international and this time the debut went quite a bit better with a 7-2 win. Dennis Wilshaw got four that day and Nat Lofthouse two but it was the youngster who left the biggest impression. After the game, Scottish star Lawrie Reilly said to teammate Tommy Docherty; “Where did they find him? They’ve built battleships on the Clyde that are smaller and less formidable.”
The match that cemented Edwards’ place in football folklore came in 1956 when he was part of the England team that travelled to Berlin’s Olympic Stadium to take on World Champions West Germany. He capped a fantastic performance with a stunning goal in a 3-1 win.
England skipper Billy Wright later said of that display; “He was phenomenal. There have been few individual performances to match what he produced that day. Duncan tackled like a lion, attacked at every opportunity and topped it off with that cracker of a goal. He was still only 19 but already a world-class player.”
Edwards made a total of 18 appearances for his country scoring 5 times, all by the age of just 21. Then came Munich and that awful tragedy that claimed the lives of so many bright young stars. It was the loss of the youngster from Dudley that resonated most, and does to this day with people still wondering 59 years later ‘what might have been’.
“It makes me laugh when I hear some of the mumbo-jumbo talked about by modern coaches. Football is basically a simple game. It’s all about getting yourself and the ball into the right place at the right time. The most important things you need are good ball-control and accurate passes”