Mike Hellawell, QPR FC star winger of the 1955-57 era has sadly recently passed away, aged 85.
He was just one season before my time, so I never got to see him play for the R’s. Although as a young kid, older adult supporters often used to tell me what an exceptional wing-forward talent he was.
Mike played 50 first team games for the R’s during his spell at Loftus Road and scored eight goals. He was far too good for a Division Three (South) standard of football and predictably was transferred to First Division Birmingham City in May 1957 for a fee of £6,000 plus Bill Finney.
Over a period of seven years from 1957 to 1964, he played 178 games for Brum and scored 30 goals. He subsequently played for the likes of Sunderland, Huddersfield Town and Peterborough United.
Ironically Mike was on Huddersfield Town’s books and in their first team set-up when Rangers played them in a Division Two away fixture on the 25th November 1967 (lost 0-1), but for some reason Mike did not turn out for the home side that day.
Yes, certainly a post-war star for QPR FC. But obviously the circumstances of the club at the time prevented him staying with the R’s. More is the pity!
R.I.P. Mike Hellawell.
Bernard Lambert (Kerrins)
Michael Stephen Hellawell was born in St. John’s Hospital, Keighley, on 30th June 1938.
Keighley was essentially a Rugby League town, but his first love was cricket followed by football. He went on to proudly play for Yorkshire Schoolboys against ‘the old enemy’, Lancashire, at Headingley.
One evening in July 1955, a knock on the door revealed a smartly dressed middle-aged man who introduced himself as a Mr Saunders, a school teacher from Leeds, who was also QPR’s northern scout.
He said that he had seen Mike playing for Salts Football Club and asked his parents if he would travel to West London? Mike had played a few youth games for Huddersfield Town, but they decided that he wouldn’t make it as a professional!
Mr Saunders later returned, and after Mike signed up, the seventeen-year-old was told to report to the QPR manager, Jack Taylor.
Jack Taylor had arranged for him to stay with a family in Thorpebank Road, where a number of other R’s players were also living.
He told him to go to a Sports Shop in Oxford Street to buy a pair of boots and put it on the Club’s account. As he tried them on, sitting next to him was no other than Danny Blanchflower, captain of Northern Ireland and Tottenham Hotspur!
Mike’s first team debut came on 25th February 1956 when he was selected to play against Exeter City at Loftus Road. His parents had travelled down from Yorkshire and Rangers won the game 1-0.
At the end of the season, Mike went back to Keighley where he played cricket for his local side in the Bradford League.
Mike then returned to West London for pre-season training. Jack Taylor informed him that he would be a first team regular for the new season and he went on to make 49 league/cup appearances and scoring eight goals.
Mike was called up for National Service in February 1957 and a couple of months later he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps.
Whilst in the Army, Arthur Turner, the manager of First Division, Birmingham City, was given permission to visit him. He was told that Rangers had accepted an offer of £6,000, plus Bill Finney, for his signature.
In September 1957, Major Howell allowed Mike to travel to St. Andrews, where City were going to take on Newcastle United. Birmingham lost the game 1-4, but Mike scored City’s goal.
However, Mike returned to the Army camp and that was to be his only appearance of the season.
Mike was demobbed on 1st April 1959 and returned to Birmingham for the final month of the season.
Whilst still with the Blues, in 1962, England manager Walter Winterbottom called him up for his first full England cap.
And on 3rd October, England drew 1-1 against France at Hillsborough. The side also included; Ron Springett, Jimmy Armfield, Bobby Moore, Maurice Norman, Ray Wilson, Ron Flowers, Chris Crowe, Alan Hinton, Ray Charnley and Jimmy Greaves.
His next international was also his last, when later that month, he played against Northern Ireland in Belfast.
He went on to make over 200 appearances for the Blues before moving on to Sunderland in January 1965.
In September 1966, Mike was transferred to Huddersfield Town. Rangers travelled up to Leeds Road on 25th November 1967, when Mike was named as the substitute, but he wasn’t involved in the game.
The manager of Peterborough United, Norman Rigby, signed him in November 1968. But Rigby soon lost his job and when Jim Iley came in he told Mike that he wasn’t going to be part of his plans.
To help prepare for his future, Mike purchased a Newsagents in Keighley. His former manager at Birmingham City, Gil Merrick, offered him a move to Bromsgrove Rovers, where he would play part-time for the Worcestershire side. He left two years later and concentrated on running his shop.
Whilst at the Rangers, Mike recalled that about an hour before kick-off, he would walk from Thorpebank Road to the ground, chatting to the fans as he went.
After a short talk about the match, he would get changed and following some instructions, he would have a five-minute warm-up.
At half-time it would usually be a cup of tea or an orange, whilst the smokers in the team would also nip into the toilets! A quick shower after the game before walking back to his digs.
Mike sadly passed away on 18th July.
May he Rest in Peace.
(The above photo is from my collection)