Ernie Beecham: ‘Smashed by Soccer’

Ernie was born in Hertford on 23rd July 1906 and attended Cowper School. He joined Fulham in 1925.

The following article appeared in the ‘Daily Mirror’ on 6th December 1938:

‘They called him the “boy wonder.” At nineteen he was on top of the football world, acclaimed as one of England’s greatest goalkeepers.

Yesterday he said: “Fortunately I have a fine wife. If she had not kept my spirits up I don’t know what would have happened to me. I have a boy of 11, and I’m determined that he shall never be a footballer.”

Today ex Fulham goalkeeper, Ernie Beecham broken in health, is finished forever with the game, which brought him fame but no fortune.

He is almost forgotten by the crowds who twice in successive Cup battles invaded the field and carried him shoulder-high to the dressing room.

As he sits with his wife and three children in his little home in Gashouse Lane, Hertford, he thinks of the days when the critics called him the “second Hardy” and of how fate stepped in at the very peak of his career and dashed his hopes in a few fatal seconds.

Haunting him is the memory of a tragic November afternoon when an accident in a game against Exeter left him paralysed, with his neck dislocated and little chance of ever walking again.

Eight weeks he lay at the home of Joe Bradshaw, the Fulham manager, knowing that a movement of his head might mean death.

When he was moved to hospital, doctors said his football days were over. But Ernie pulled through, and by the end of the following year was back again on the football field.

He was not the same, however, and three years ago he went into a sanatorium hoping to regain his lost health. Operations were performed, but when he went home twelve months later, he was only a shadow of his former self.

Today he can only do a little work and that has to be out of doors. He helps his brother, Joe, in the plastering trade, dreading the cold days because of the recurrence of his old trouble, but determined to show that he is not yet beaten.

“I daren’t go to watch a football match for fear of the memories which it would bring back”, he told me. “Who had better prospects than I? Yet look at what I got out of it.”

“Luck seems to have been against me. I was chosen to tour with the English team on the continent, but an injured leg prevented me from going.”

“I was seven seasons with Fulham and made 157 consecutive appearances before my accident. Later I was transferred to Queen’s Park Rangers, then Brighton and Swindon.”

“When I was in the sanatorium the Rangers supporters made a collection for me and that helped as I had no money coming in.”

QPR signed him from Fulham and he made his debut against Brentford at the White City on 27th August 1932. He went on to make 95 appearances for the R’s.

A transfer to Brighton & Hove Albion followed in September 1935, but he never played for them. Then a few months later he moved on to Swindon Town and made an appearance when their keeper was injured.

Ernie passed away on 14th August 1985 in the same house that he had been born in.

Steve Russell

(Thanks to Colin Woodley for sending me the newspaper article. The cigarette card is from my collection)

2 thoughts on “Ernie Beecham: ‘Smashed by Soccer’

  1. Dear Steve Russell,

    I am a Fulham FC supporter, and this is the first time I’ve visited the Independent R’s site, a serendipitous occurrence. I very much appreciated the article on Ernie Beecham, which was very informative and well-written. And thanks for including your charming Ernie Beecham cigarette card.

    I was also curious about the reference to his being the “second Hardy,” so I googled that player and found information on “safe and steady Sam” Hardy.

    Kind Regards,

    Kirby F. Smith

  2. Thanks for that nice comment Kirby Smith. Quite a sad story about Ernie Beechams circumstances.
    My late father who was born in 1915 and his father(my grandfather) were life long Fulham supporters. I turned out the black sheep of the family by supporting QPR FC lol!
    As a very young kid myself in the 1950’s my Dad often reminisced to me about Fulham players from days of yore. Ernie Beecham “Bonzo” Newton and Alf Tootill were names that always came up.

    No chance though of me ever changing my allegiance from QPR to Fulham!

    Bernard Lambert(Kerrins)

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