Thanks to Colin Woodley for sending me this superb newspaper article that appeared in ‘Football Weekly’ on 14th November 1936, as part of a series, ‘From Soldier to Soccer Star.’ The R’s had been knocked out of the FA Cup by Margate though, but I love the account of how he had found out that he’d been selected to play in an international trial match. The picture is not of the best quality, but what a wonderful period image it is of a young R’s fan meeting one of his heroes:
‘The other week I told you how, when I was in a dazed state, I scored from a penalty against the Palace. Let me tell you of another penalty which, with all my faculties alive, I missed ! The match was against Margate in the First Round of the FA Cup, just seven days after the Palace game, and it stands out vividly as one of the most extraordinary in which I have ever played. Margate, inspired by such men as Preedy and Lambert, ex-Arsenal, were a revelation. They simply romped away from the first whistle, and we soon realised that we were in for the fight of our lives. With our backs to the wall, we struggled hard. But Margate scored. A beauty ! They followed it up with another. Half-time found them leading 2-0.
In the second half, I thought the luck was going to change. Straight from the kick-off we took the ball down to the “Seasiders” goal. Centre came over from the right and as the ball faltered I dived to head the ball. It bounced, the back recovered, and slammed at the leather, only to send it crashing against my head, from where it rebounded into the net. Call that a funny goal ? I do. But it counted and made us a different team. Time to get another. It was all Rangers now. Smashing, do-or-die football, with the Margate crowd yelling madly to their favourites to keep us out.
They did that all right. And they scored again – from a breakaway. Ten minutes to go, still we were good for a draw, if only the luck would change ! Then came that penalty. I was entrusted with the kick. If we scored, it would be 2-3, with time for us to score an equaliser. I placed the ball and took the kick. The leather sailed low for the corner of the net, but, to my astonishment, Preedy dived head-first and caught it. A save in a hundred ! And our last chance gone.
Margate were grand that day – good enough for any team in the country. They deserved their success – just as much as they deserved their victory over the Palace by the same score, 3-1, in the next round. I felt just a little bit let down when we got back to the dressing-room. Despite the merit attaching to Preedy’s save, I ought to have made sure of that penalty. But no one said anything about it. Real fellows my colleagues !
Those Rangers – good pals all of them – have always been ready to hand me the glad hand when success has come my way. One memorable evening last season, I came out of a Shepherd’s Bush cinema and walked across the road to buy a paper. Who should I see standing by the kerb but Dicky March, my team-mate. He stuffed an evening paper under my nose with one hand and grabbed my fist with the other. “Congratulations, Tom !” he said. “You’ve been picked to play in the international trial match !”
I stared at Dicky, who was grinning from ear to ear with delight. Was he pulling my leg ? Then, in the Stop Press news, I saw my name, I blinked. No leg-pull about this. There it was, in black and white – my name, with twenty one others. I was to play with the cream of England’s football talent ! When the type on the paper stopped dancing, I realised that Dicky March was still shaking my hand. He was beaming all over – beaming with genuine pleasure at the honour conferred on me. Great chap, Dicky.
Didn’t I look forward to that game ! I knew that I was specially honoured, because I had not yet completed my first season in big football. But I didn’t lose my head. I just played steadily for my club, and counted the days to the date of that big match. I’ll confess to one thing – the thought of being injured and so losing my chance. But I just put the trial out of my mind and settled down to my usual play.
It was just as well, for in one of our league matches, that against Gillingham at home, Rangers had one of the stiffest fights for years. Let me tell you about this scrap. We thought we were in for a fairly comfortable win, but Gillingham went right away from the start, and before we knew where we were, Rangers were two down ! Wasn’t that just a shock ! The crowd couldn’t believe it. Neither could we ! They shouted us on, and we bundled into the fray. Just before the half-time whistle, with Fisher, of Gillingham, off the field injured, a visiting defender put through his own goal, giving us a fluky point. Half-time,1-2.
This wasn’t the form for a team with championship aspirations. We had a pow-wow in the dressing room, and then came out to do-or-die. Rangers’ supporters won’t forget that sizzling forty-five minutes. Harry Lowe almost smashed the crossbar with a pile-driver, and Jimmy Allan followed up with a scorcher along the carpet which sent Holland, in goal, diving full length. It was a great shot, and just as great a save. Would we never get that equaliser ? At last I seized a chance and broke through. This time the keeper had no earthly. We were level ! And before the end our total was five !
All’s well that ends well, but Gillingham had given us a real fright. I shan’t forget that match in a hurry. Nor shall I forget that International trial – but I must tell you about that next week.’
I wonder how many more articles he wrote for Football Weekly ? If anyone has any others, please get in touch. Thanks again Colin.