​​​​​​​​​ Ronnie Clayton 1934 – 2010 | John Byrom Hat-Trick Man | John Byrom's hat tricks | Sam Wadsworth 
The Train to Nelson.. | "In My Opinion, The Greatest Left-Back Playing Football...."
Darwen's Most Famous Sportsman | Anchor Ground Debut | The Great Escape April – May 1986 
 Darwen's Treble Triumph | A Century of a Footballing Family | Verdi Godwin​


 
liverpool goal.jpg
 
 
Ronnie was born in Preston on 8th August 1934 and was first spotted by his home town club but turned down the chance to sign Ronnie and told him to “come back in a year or two when you’re bigger”. They did want to sign his older brother Ken but Ken didn’t want to join Preston without Ronnie so he turned them down.
 
In 1949, Ken and Ronnie’s dad wrote to the Rovers asking if they would be prepared to give his young sons a trial. Blackburn wrote back and told the young boys to come along. They were going to be taken to the trial by a schoolmaster in his car but unfortunately it broke down and they had to hitch a ride on the back of a beer lorry! As Ronnie used to say himself “But for beer, I wouldn’t be here.” Even as they turned up for the trial the drama didn’t finish there as they had only brought along their boots and had to borrow some kit for the trial. Ken found some that fitted but Ronnie’s shorts almost came down to his ankles and the sleeves on his shirt had to be folded back almost to his shoulders. The trial was successful and the Rovers decided to sign the pair of them and a Rovers Legend was born.
 
training.jpg
 
It wasn’t long before Rovers manager Jackie Bestall spotted young Ronnie’s potential and he made his debut at Ewood Park against Queen’s Park Rangers on 25th April 1951 in a 2-1 win. His joy was short-lived however as Ronnie was called up to do his National Service in 1952 which was mainly to blame for Ronnie’s only falling out with the Rovers. Although Ronnie played for the Army whilst doing his duty, he was only entitled to his £6 match fee from the Rovers if he actually played for them and as any former Army recruit knows, it was not easy to get regular time off, even when it was to play League football for your club. His commanding officer also gave Ronnie the impression that the Rovers didn’t always ask for him to be released for the weekend to play for them, so that they didn’t have to pay him his match fee.
 
It started when Ronnie turned up for the Easter weekend matches after taking considerable trouble to get himself a weekend pass and travelled across the country, only to find that the Rovers did not need Ronnie for any game over the Easter weekend, and at that time they played Good Friday, Easter Saturday & Easter Monday! It seemed that the Rovers weren’t too bothered about Ronnie playing for them at the time. Several other incidents passed which began to play on Ronnie’s mind, and he given the impression that Ronnie and his brother Ken where fighting for the same place in the team at Right-Half. This came to a head when Rovers were playing away and Ken, who was only stationed 12 miles from Ewood Park, was unable to come off duty until after the team coach had left for the match but would be able to make it to the ground – but only if the Rovers would put on a car to get him there. Rovers were not prepared to do this and this for the brothers this was the last straw. They both felt that they were being used and decided to put in a joint transfer request.
 
The transfer request was granted in Ken’s case as he was deemed a regular reserve player but they wanted to hang on to Ronnie, however Ronnie was insistent that he wanted to go and eventually the Rovers agreed that both players would be available for transfer. Eventually Ronnie began to realise that he didn’t really want to leave Ewood but he was only supporting his brother and if the Rovers had no further use for him he might as well look for another club with his brother Ken. Arsenal were one club who asked about signing Ronnie but eventually the whole thing blew over and ironically, Ken became a regular in the first team with Ronnie until Ken broke his leg against Middlesbrough in 1957.
 
Apart from this incident however Ronnie’s career went from strength to strength. He almost made history in his first full season with the Rovers. They reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup after beating Burnley 3-1 in the Quarter-Finals only to lose in a replay to Newcastle United. If they had reached Wembley, Ronnie would have been the youngest player to play in an FA Cup final at the time.
 
 
thumbs up.jpg
 
He made his first appearance in the England Under-23 side in September 1955 against Denmark and a month later in the England “B” team against Yugoslavia. During his England career he roomed with perhaps one of the greatest players of all time – Duncan Edwards who was tragically killed in the Munich air-crash in 1958 and he got to know him better than most. His first full International cap was against Northern Ireland in November 1955 in a 3-0 win. Also making his debut that day was the Fulham legend-to-be Johnny Haynes. He kept his place for the following matches again Spain, a 4-1 win which was the first win over them since 1931, and a 4-2 win against Brazil which included 2 missed penalties by England. He became a regular in the England team and also had the distinction of once marking Pele in front of 187,000 fans in Rio De Janeiro. When he was made Captain of his country, taking over from Billy Wright, he always tried to maintain a level head both on the field and in the dressing room. He became the first Blackburn Rovers player to captain England since Bob Crompton.
 
 
eng team.jpg
 
Ronnie was in the 1958 World Cup squad for the finals in Sweden and in the months leading up to the tournament was part of the half-back line which also included Billy Wright & Duncan Edwards. Tragically, the heart of the England team was ripped out at Munich taking not only Duncan Edwards but Roger Byrne & Tommy Taylor also. However, England rebuilt the side and the squad which also included Bryan Douglas, travelled to Sweden for the World Cup Finals.
 
Before the finals started, England played two warm-up matches, the first a 5-0 defeat to Yugoslavia in Belgrade and Ronnie was dropped before a ball was kicked in anger. Without Ronnie England struggled and although they drew all three group matches, including a 0-0 draw against eventual winners Brazil, they lost 0-1 to Russia in a play-off in Gothenburg, where Ronnie made his one and only appearance in the World Cup Finals.
 
 
england run.jpg
 
Ronnie played for his country, in two FA Cup Semi-Finals and a Final but the most exciting experience he had was playing at the Valley in a league match which would decide whether the Rovers or Charlton Athletic were promoted to the First Division. The scenario was that if the Rovers won they were promoted but if it was a draw or Charlton won then they would be promoted. The match started badly as Charlton went into an early lead and missed an easy chance to go 2-0 up but the Rovers fought back and lead 4-1 going into the later stages of the match. Two late goals brought Charlton back to 3-4 but Blackburn hung on to win and gain promotion.
 
Rovers started life in the First Division with a blast, scoring five times in each of their first three matches against Newcastle United (away) and at home against Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur and they eventually finished in a creditable 10th place.
 
The following season was one of tremendous highs and lows for Ronnie and Blackburn Rovers, after a good start to the season they faded and only secured First Division survival after winning their penultimate match against Leeds. They did reach the FA Cup Final for the first time since 1928 after thrilling victories over Tottenham Hotspur (away), Blackpool (after a replay) and Burnley (after being 0-3 down and again after a replay). The real drama began after the semi-final victory over Sheffield Wednesday when there was uproar over the distribution of cup final tickets caused a major rift between the club and its loyal supporters. To make matters worse the centre-forward Derek Dougan, handed in a transfer request on the day of the match, played when he was nowhere near match fit and when the team lost Dave Whelan with a broken leg, it was no surprise that the Rovers, Captained by Ronnie, went on to lose 3-0.
 
cup fin interview.jpg 
 
More disappointment was to follow for Ronnie though when he played against Yugoslavia the following Wednesday when he played in a 1-1 draw at Wembley. Little did he now at the time but this was his last appearance in an England jersey. He played 35 times for his country and captained the side on 5 occasions. He is still the last Blackburn Rovers player to captain his country.

eng handshake.jpg 
 
Sadly this was the pinnacle of Ronnie’s career, and despite its unfashionable tag he remained faithful to the club, even when the maximum wage was abolished in 1961 and he could have joined pastures anew for greater rewards. There were some more highlights to come, the 7-2 thrashing of Tottenham in 1963, another run to the FA Cup Quarter-Finals in 1966 to name but two but even he was unable to save the Rovers from falling from the top flight that very same season. His age was catching up on him but his touch and vision of the game were still there for all to see and he moved to centre-back in his later years to add his invaluable experience to the back four. He remained one of the games finest ambassadors both on and off the field and he made his last appearance for the Rovers at Huddersfield Town in a 2-1 defeat on April 30th 1969. He went to Morecambe as player-manager but returned to Ewood for a star-studded Testimonial match in December 1970.

test2.jpg 
 
He later teamed up with his former colleague Bryan Douglas at Great Harwood before hanging up his boots permanently. He later worked for the tyre company ATS as Area Manager and led the stadium tours at Ewood when the stadium was rebuilt during the Jack Walker era. He was also Honorary President of Wilpshire Wanderers junior football club and was well known for his support of grass roots football. During his playing career he also ran a newsagent in Blackburn Road, Darwen. Can you imagine popping in for your local paper nowadays and being served by Wayne Rooney ?
 
newsagents.jpg
 
He continued to visit Ewood Park for all the home matches along with his good friend Bryan Douglas and appeared on SKY TV on a number of occasions, especially when the Rovers returned to the top flight under Kenny Dalglish in 1992. His appearance on “The Footballer’s Football Show” in 1994 along with former Rover Duncan McKenzie and current players at the time, Alan Shearer & Colin Hendry give a unique insight into the life of the football player of the 1950’s & 60’s compared to the multi-million pound lifestyle they live today. His opinions were always sincere and his love of Blackburn Rovers never waivered. He eventually made 581 League appearances for the Rovers and 665 in all competitions and still lies 2nd in the all-time list of leading appearances for the club.
 
Ronnie died peacefully in the Royal Blackburn Hospital on 29th October 2010, aged 76.  He was from the era when fans used to mix with the players in the pubs and on the streets. He will be remembered as one of Blackburn Rovers greatest ever players and a true gentleman. He lived in Wilpshire with his wife Valerie, two sons and a daughter.
 
By Roger Booth
 
If you want to share your memories of Ronnie with us here at cottontown please e-mail them to community.history@blackburn.gov.uk and we will put them on the website for others to enjoy.

 
ronnie running.jpg

 
 
 

John Byrom Hat-Trick Ma​​​n 

 
John Byrom is the classic story of the local boy made good. John joined the club straight from school after playing for Blackburn Boys, Lancashire Boys and England Youth, alongside future stars such as Francis Lee, Martin Peters, Jim Montgomery & Ron “Chopper” Harris. When the Rovers scout, Jock Campbell, spotted John, a Rovers supporter from birth, his family were extremely proud to have their son sign for his hometown team.
 
After only a handful of Central League matches, Manager Jack Marshall promoted John into the first team after a 0-4 thrashing at West Bromwich Albion the previous week. Although he did not score against Birmingham at Ewood Park in November 1961 in a 2-0 victory he showed enough promise to play in the next nine consecutive games. In fact the forward line that day consisted of four Blackburn-born players – Barrie Ratcliffe, Bryan Douglas, Fred Pickering & John Byrom. I can’t see that happening in today’s football. In one spell John scored 7 goals in 5 matches, including his first goals for the club in a 4-1 win over Manchester City and a Boxing Day hat-trick at West Ham United with future World Cup Winners Bobby Moore & Geoff Hurst in the team. The match report called him “Rovers Young Star” and was comparing him to the Legendary Jimmy Greaves. By the end of his first season he scored 8 goals in 18 league appearances. He also notched a goal in each of the cup competitions, most notably in the League Cup against the future Champions of England, Alf Ramsey’s Ipswich Town, in an impressive 4-1 win.
 
The following season was one of consolidation as John scored another 8 goals in 19 league appearances. He did help send Manchester City to the Second Division with a rather unusual goal against the great Burt Trautmann. John himself takes up the story, “A ball was whipped in from the wing, I swung my right foot and missed the ball only for it to hit my left and spin over the keeper and dropped into the net. I can always remember Trautmann getting up and laughing in disbelief.” The 1963-64 season was a write-off for John, the strike force of Andy McEvoy and Fred Pickering, with 55 league goals between them, proved to much and he was restricted to just 3 league starts.
 
johnbyrom goal wolves sept 1964.jpg
 
In March 1964 Everton paid £85,000 for Fred Pickering and paid Bury £30,000 for 18 year old George Jones from Bury to replace him. However the youngster failed to impress and at the beginning of the 1964-65 season John took his chance. He scored 27 goals, 25 in the league, including 2 hat tricks. One to bring in the new year in a 5-1 demolition of Aston Villa where he even outshone the chart-topping Four Pennies who were performing at half time and inflicted more misery on Bobby Moore & co in a 4-0 romp at Ewood in March.
 
It looked as though he was developing a prolific partnership with Andy McEvoy but the 1965-66 was a disappointment for all, culminating in relegation from the top flight in English football. John & Andy McEvoy struggled to score goals in the league but John excelled in the F.A. Cup, where Rovers reached the Quarter-Finals, by scoring 7 goals in just 5 games, including yet another hat-trick at West Ham in the 4th Round.
 
As Blackburn Rovers rebuilt their squad to prepare for life in the Second Division, John was allowed to join Bolton Wanderers in June 1966 for £25,000 and for the next 10 years he scored almost 200 goals in 500 appearances in all competitions for the Trotters, an excellent return considering he never took a penalty and was a constant thorn in Rovers side.
 
johnbyromfight.jpg 
 
In September 1976, Blackburn Rovers manager Jim Smith brought John back to Ewood in an attempt to solve the club’s goalscoring crisis. A reasonable return of 5 goals in 15 league matches, including a brace in a 2-1 win at Champions Wolves, failed to lift Rovers into the promotion picture and they finished in 12th position. Just after John announced his retirement from football and having no intention to manage or coach, drifted out of the game.
 
John was once asked to pick out one highlight from his career and replied “I was invited to a dinner in London the night before the FA Cup Final. I was sat at a table and Bobby Moore came over and had some complimentary things to say about me which I found quite touching.”​
 
johnbyrommoore.jpg 
 
 
 
Blackburn Rovers career

 
League
FA Cup
League Cup
Total
 
App
Gls
App
Gls
App
Gls
App
Gls
1961-62
18
8
3
1
5
1
26
10
1962-63
19
8
2
1
-
-
21
9
1963-64
3
1
-
-
-
-
3
1
1964-65
40
25
2
1
3
1
45
27
1965-66
26/2
3
5
7
1
0
32/2
10
1976-77
15/1
5
4
2
-
-
19/1
7
 
121/3
50
16
12
9
2
146/3
64

 
 
By Roger Booth with special thanks to John Byrom
 
 
 

John Byrom's Hat T​ricks 

 
v  West Ham United (away) 3-2 - Division One – Tuesday 26th December 1961
 
  
johnbyromwestham26dec61heada1.jpg 
 
“BRAVO, JOHN BYROM. A First Division “hat trick” at the age of 17, after only ten senior games is something to shout about. Particularly when it meant two points for the Rovers when they were least expected.
It made the long, cold trip well worthwhile. Byrom’s feat hit the headlines, as was to be expected, but you need have no worries on that score about this level-headed youngster. He said after the match: ‘It was NOT my best game. I was not in the picture in the second half.’
Any body who can keep such a sense of proportion after such a heady feat like three goals in 15 minutes clearly has what it takes. Jimmy Greaves could not have bettered the way this talented youngster took his chances after the Rovers were apparently doomed to a heavy defeat – two goals down before they found their feet on a bone-hard treacherous pitch…Byrom stood out by his scoring feat and his general lair of purposefulness…”   
18 minutes…”Douglas sent Lawther away and the Irish international turned the ball inside to BYROM who whipped a great right-footer into the corner of the net.”
20 minutes…”West Ham centre-half Ken Brown missed a header and BYROM was in like a flash to stroke the ball past goalkeeper Lawrie Leslie.”
33 minutes…”Douglas again provided a perfect pass to the beautifully positioned BYROM who hammered the ball past Leslie’s left hand from a most difficult angle.”
   Official attendance: 22,250
 
   Teams
 
West Ham United: Leslie, Kirkup, Bond, Hurst, Brown, Moore, Crawford, Woosnam, Tindall, Dick, Musgrove.
Blackburn Rovers: Else, Taylor, Newton, Clayton, Woods, McEvoy, Douglas, Lawther, Pickering, Byrom, Ratcliffe.
 
 
johnbyromwestham26dec61head.jpg

 
v Aston Villa (home) 5-1 – Division One – Saturday January 2nd 1965
 
 
jbyromvillaheadline.jpg

 
“It was a slip and slither day at Ewood Park with the Rovers slipping in the goals and Aston Villa slipping to defeat…”
 
12 minutes…”a through pass from Douglas was brought down cleverly by BYROM. Withers had to come out, but had difficulty in keeping a foothold and as he slithered Byrom coolly sidestepped him and pushed the ball into the net.”
 
43 minutes…”another gem of a goal, economically worked, put the Rovers three up on 43 minutes. England’s 30 yard pass was straight to Ferguson who beat Aitken before centring to the far post were BYROM rose high to meet the ball with perfect timing and crash it into the roof of the net.”
 
89 minutes…”with a minute to go Byrom completed a great hat trick when he headed past Withers from Harrison’s cross.”
 
Official attendance: 18,292
 
   Teams
 
Blackburn Rovers: Else, Newton, Joyce, Clayton, England, McGrath, McEvoy, Douglas, Ferguson, Byrom, Harrison.
Aston Villa: Withers, Lee, Aitken, Pountney, Chatterley, Wylie, Woosnam, Stobart, McLeod, Hateley, Baker.
 
 
  
v West Ham United (home) 4-0 – Division One – Saturday 20th March 1965
 
 
jbyromwesthamheadline.jpg
let - terms and conditions
 
“John Byrom, who sprang to fame with a hat trick against West Ham three years ago, rattled in three more against the Londoners at Ewood Park today”
 
35 minutes…”Clayton put the ball down the middle to Ferguson who tapped it on to BYROM. Standen came out quickly but though he got one hand to the ball he could not stop it going into the net.”
 
58 minutes…”they came right out of defence through Joyce who pushed the ball forward to Sharples. A quick pass to Newton who turned it on to BYROM. His shot seemed straight at Standen, but the ball brushed off the keeper’s body and into the net.”
 
62 minutes…BYROM completed his hat trick with a tremendous goal…Douglas sent Ferguson away and his pass was met by Byrom who, from left of goal, on the turn, beat Standen all the way with a terrific drive, left footed from 18 yards, the ball hitting the roof of the net.”
 
   Official attendance: 8,990
 
Teams
Blackburn Rovers: Jones, Wilson, Joyce, Clayton, England, Sharples, Newton, Douglas, Ferguson, Byrom, Bradshaw.
West Ham United: Standen, Presland, Kirkup, Moore, Brown, Charles, Dear, Boyce, Scott, Hurst, Sealey.
 
johnbyromwestham20mar63goal.jpg
 
v West Ham United (away) 3-3 – FA Cup 4th Round – Saturday 12th February 1966
 
jbyromwest ham 66 head.jpg 
“Blackburn Rovers were condemned to an uphill fight at West Ham after only 12 minutes when their arch schemer Bryan Douglas was injured in a tackle by West Ham’s Eddie Bovington. Up to then the Rovers were well in command and looked capable of adding to their many successes on this ground…”
 
8 minutes…the Rovers were ahead following a beautiful build up by Douglas and Joyce, who went through in a one-two and from Joyce’s pass BYROM, who was well positioned, beat Standen all the way with a low drive.
 
37 minutes…a left wing move. Newton took the ball on from Harrison and Joyce to float in a centre over to the far post where BYROM was waiting to place his header just inside the post, beating Standen all the way again.
 
76 minutes…the never-say-die Rovers were ahead again with Byrom repeating his Boxing Day 1961 feat on this ground by completing a great hat trick. Rovers got a free kick which England placed perfectly for McEvoy to out-jump and knock the ball down for BYROM to force it past Standen.”
 
   Official attendance: 32,350
 
Teams
West Ham United: Standen, Burnett, Burkett, Bovington, Brown, Moore, Peters, Bloomfield, Brabrook, Hurst, Sissons.
Blackburn Rovers: Else, Newton, Wilson, Joyce, England, Clayton, Douglas, Byrom, Harrison, McEvoy, Ferguson.
 
Darwen-born Sam Wadsworth, rejected by his club Blackburn Rovers after four years fighting in the trenches of the First World War,  fought back against illness and disappointment to become Captain of England. HAROLD HEYS looks at the little-known career of a war hero, sportsman and gentleman who extolled the virtues of duty, comradeship and fair play.
 ​

 
 

The Train T​​o Nelson.. 


jb13644 Steam Train.jpg
 
THERE wasn't much over an hour to go before Sam Wadsworth's big chance of resurrecting his football career. But, as the train he had jumped aboard at Blackburn steamed on through the Pennines, he realised to his horror that he was leaving Nelson and his first game for them far behind.
 
"What's the next stop?" he asked the holiday special passengers in desperation. "First stop Barnsley!" they told him cheerfully as he slumped against the door.
 
But luck was with him. The train slowed and stopped just outside Sowerby Bridge to take on a new driver and fireman. And Sam was off in a flash, just managing to jump aboard a train going in the opposite direction.
Luckily it didn't stop and wait at Todmorden and pulled into Burnley with half-an-hour to spare. He was off again, dashing for a taxi. But there wasn't one to be seen. He ran up to Manchester Road and stopped the first car that came along. He explained his predicament and his luck held. "Hop in!" said the driver. And off they raced to Nelson's ground just in time for Sam to make an impressive debut.
 
"What a fine sportsman that motorist must have been!" recalled Sam many years later. "He saved my bacon." The driver little realised that he was saving the career of a man who was to become a star of the 1920s and Captain of England.
 
Like most youngsters, little Sam Wadsworth loved to kick a ball around in the back yard of his terrace home in Darwen. It was non-stop. "You'll kick out more boots than the factories can ever turn out," his dad James used to tell him.
 
But, unlike most youngsters, Sam went on to make a real name for himself in the game. He was a star in the Huddersfield Town team that carried all before them in the 1920s. He became England's regular left full-back and captain and later went on to a successful career in management with Dutch club PSV Eindhoven.
 
 
It was all a long way from the family's little cottage on Hollins Row in the shadow of the Anaglypta Factory at the turn of the century where his father worked as a machine minder before going on to manage the cutting department.
 
Sam Wadsworth is probably the most successful sportsman ever to be born in Darwen, head and shoulders above such heroes as Classic-winning jockey Albert Whalley and Open golf champion Dick Burton.
 
And yet very few people have heard of him. Local libraries, newspapers, historians and sports enthusiasts can come up with very little and it's been a real challenge to piece together Sam Wadsworth's rise from a humble back-yard to the captaincy of England and such unforgettable moments as leading out the national team in front of a roaring 92,000 crowd at Hampden Park for a Scotland v England clash in April 1925.
 
It wasn't a steady climb to the top for the Darren lad. In between there was the horror of the First World War. Sam was working as a clerk and playing with Blackburn Rovers Reserves when, as he said, "the dark clouds came".
 
He was only 17 but told the recruiting sergeant he was 18. "Come back in a month and tell me you're 19," said the sergeant. Sam did just that and he quickly joined his older brother Charlie in France. "It was my duty," he said simply.
 
Service in the trenches of Belgium and northern France as a gunner with the Royal Garrison Artillery left Sam with a shrapnel wound in his left ankle and, recalls the Darwen Royal British Legion web site which is the brief and solitary Internet source for Sam's early life, suffering from blackouts and traumatic stress problems.
 
His lengthy fight back to fitness, both mental and physical, made his later success in England colours all the more remarkable.
 
Sam Wadsworth was born at No 11 Hollins Row. It backed on to Blackburn Road at the top of Hollins Road where Sandringham Road now stands.
 
Father James, born at Churchtown near Garstang, was brought up at Newland Hall near Forton where his parents were employed. Mother Clara, a seamstress, was born at Lancaster.
 
James worked at the Anaglypta factory, Storeys, in Lancaster. However, in 1894, the Wall Paper Manufacturers of Darwen bought the Anaglypta process and production was moved to Darwen.
 
A hundred workers moved over as well and most moved into cottages close to Queen's Mill which had been built especially to produce the sturdy and durable wall-covering. James and Clara would then have been in their early 20s.
 
Sam came along in 1896 and sister Jane (Jennie) the following year. Charles was the older brother and then came Alice and Nellie who went on to teach for many years at Duckworth Street and Hollins Grove.
 
The first team young Sam played for was St Cuthbert's in the local schools' competitions. He trained in his back yard with an old tennis ball and later his father, himself a keen sportsman who played Rugby Union with Vale of Lune, made him train with a football boot on his left foot and a slipper on the other.
 
On Saturdays his father took him to Ewood Park to watch stars such as Bob Crompton ply their trade. Later he had a spell with Darwen Woodfold in the Blackburn and District League.
 
Many years later, in tape recordings of his life which he made when well into his 50s, Sam Wadsworth recalls those early days with pride and affection. The ingrained team spirit and friendship and sense of duty and fair play would stay with him always.
 

Anchor Ground ​Debut 

 
He was 16 when he made his debut for the town team, whose Anchor Ground was just across the field from his home, in 1912. "I didn't cut much ice among the seasoned pros," he recalled. But Darwen won comfortably. Within 18 months Blackburn Rovers had moved in to sign him and he played regularly as a 17-year-old in the Reserves, watched by crowds of five and six thousand.
 
His debut was at Ewood against Manchester City Reserves. "It was a boy's dream," he recalled. He walked down to the ground from Lynwood. "I was the first there. I was the first to get changed." South African Alex Bell and Johnny Orr took him under their wing. "Just do as we tell you and you'll be all right, sonny" they told him.
 
Sam made the first goal, thanks to Scottish inside-forward Johnny Orr. Off he had raced down the left wing. "Pull it back, sonny!" shouted the old hand. Sam did ­ and Johnny smacked it into the back of the net. In the closing minutes, with Rovers leading 3-1, Orr returned the compliment, putting him through and shouting: "Go on, sonny! Go on!" Said Sam: "I went like the wind and hit it hard to make it 4-1."
 
"It was," he recalled in his own modest way, "a very happy ending."
 
With the outbreak of war, all League soccer was suspended and promising footballer Sam Wadsworth like so many more young men, went off to fight.
 
The horrors of that conflict can today be only vaguely imagined. Few came out of it unscathed and Sam was no exception. His elder brother was killed in 1918. He had been wounded but had bravely volunteered to go back. "I came home, but Charlie didn't. He lies in Belgium. I had lost my only brother and my best friend and supporter."
 
Although the War ended in November 1918 Sam recovered slowly from the trauma of the conflict and the loss of his brother. He seldom recounted the desperation of those years in later life and, in hours of tapes he left, just says: "I began to realise that I had to forget all the rough times when we still stood up for more. I had to get on with my life."
 
But it was late in the summer of 1919 before he could face the thought of taking up his promising football career.
 
He caught the bus from his home in Darwen, arrived at Ewood Park, took a deep breath and knocked on the door. Bob Middleton, Rovers long-serving club secretary, told him sadly: "Sorry, Sam. I have not a vacancy. You may have a free transfer."
 
The War marked the end of a glorious era for Blackburn Rovers: Sam Wadsworth was not to be part of the new era.
 
"It had been all I had lived for over four years of life and death in the mud of Belgium and France. My heart was broken. My life's dream had gone with the wind. I was very bitter after nearly five years service. It was not very nice treatment."
 
When young Sam got home, he recalled, his father was there waiting for him or he would have thrown his one pair of boots on to the fire. "Dad, I'll never kick another ball," he vowed.
 
However, Sam had fought hard to overcome the trauma of the First World War and his father was determined that his recovery was not going to be dashed.
 
He managed to arrange a trial for his son with Nelson who were then playing in the Central League and the lad grasped the chance with both hands. He did well in the trial and had a very good game on his debut ­ once he had managed to get to the ground! It was his first-ever game at left full back.
 
Sam played in several positions for Nelson, mainly at centre-half and left-back, and it wasn't long before top clubs came sniffing.
 
Ambrose Langley, the Huddersfield manager, made a good offer ­ it was £1,600 ­ in April 1921 and after three games in the Reserves he made his first-class debut against Chelsea, but only after patiently convincing the chap on the gate that he was actually the club's new left-back and not some chancer trying it on.
 
By then the soon-to-be-legendary manager Herbert Chapman had taken over and Sam, 5ft 8ins and 12st 6lbs, became a regular in one of the greatest club teams of all time. They won the FA Cup in 1922, three successive Championships in 1924, 25 and 26 and were runners-up in 1927 and 1928.
 
The Cup win was very sweet as Town knocked out Blackburn Rovers in the Third Round on the way to Stamford Bridge. The first leg had ended 1-1 although everybody except the referee agreed afterwards that Sam Wadsworth had scored a late winner which was scrambled away from behind the line by goalkeeper Walter Sewell.
 
Town made no mistake in the replay, winning 5-0. "They should have given you your goal, Sam," said Rovers centre-forward Percy Dawson as they trooped off. "It would have saved us this hiding."
 
Wadsworth played a total of 312 games for Town and scored four goals ­ no mean feat for a full-back in those days!
 
  
 

"In My Opinion, The Greatest Left-B​ack Playing Football...." 

 
  
He became England's regular left full-back, making his debut against Scotland at Villa Park in April 1922, and he captained the team on his last four appearances. He won nine caps in an era when international matches were much fewer than today. A rare clash with a team other than one in the Home International series was against Belgium who were given a 6-1 hiding in March 1923.
 
Sam had learnt of his first selection for the prestigious Football League side when he read it in the evening paper. He learnt that he had been appointed captain of England when he saw it chalked on a shopkeeper's board while out in Huddersfield with his wife, Gladys.
 
"I was pleased. But we didn't fuss over these things in those days," he recalled. "I still continued wearing the same size of hat."
 
Wadsworth was injured in the three-game FA Cup semi-final in March 1928 against Sheffield United and didn't get to play in the final against Blackburn Rovers, the once-loved club that had shown him the door. He had reported fit but the doctor didn't think he should risk it.
 
He could only watch as Jack Roscamp bundled ball and 'keeper Billy Mercer into the net in the first minute. Huddersfield, struggling with injuries and illness, folded. Their League season tailed off and they were pipped for another title by Arsenal.
 
The knee injury virtually ended Wadsworth's career although he had a few games with Burnley whom he joined in September 1929. It was a hard time for the Wadsworths. They had lost all their money in a failed garage venture which his wife, whom he had met and married while playing for Nelson, had urged him not to go into. Her health suffered with the worry.
 
He was struggling and desperately missing his playing days when the FA told him that the Delft club in Holland were looking for an English manager. It was the start of a successful new career.
 
He moved to Holland in April 1934 and was manager of PSV from August 1935-1938 when he joined another Dutch side DWS. He had a second spell with PSV from 1945-1951 and was highly regarded in Holland.
 
He returned to Huddersfield in 1951 as manager of PSV who were playing Town in a "Festival of Britain" match. At a banquet after the match Huddersfield director Dick Parker said: "Sam came into a team of stars and it was not long before he was a star in a team of stars. All throughout our great period he was, in my opinion, the greatest left-back playing football."
 
Sam Wadsworth stayed on in Holland and died there of pneumonia in September 1961 aged 64. An obituary in the Huddersfield Examiner the following day said: "Wadsworth had several wonderful attributes, among them a masterly sense of positional play. He was a wonderful kicker of judgment which made him supreme in the art of setting his own attack going from defensive positions."
 
Samuel John Wadsworth was also a gentleman ¬ a rare breed these days. He says in his recollections: "I was taught not only how to live well, but how to lose well."
 
He offers advice to younger players: "Never think you are the best. Always be ready to learn; always listen to good advice. I never think I know it all. I'm well into my 50s now but I can still learn ¬ and I enjoy it.
 
"Please try to be sportsmen. Always play fair; be always ready to congratulate your conqueror and you'll never be sorry for it. I've always played fair and tried to play fair. Even today, many years since I left the field of play, I am still welcome in all circles. Why? Because I played fair. You do the same. You'll never regret it."
 
"I've enjoyed every minute. Memories never to be forgotten," he concluded.
 
My Uncle Sam...
 
ONLY Jenny of the Wadsworth brothers and sisters had any children.
 
Jenny and Tom Holden, who lived on Blackburn Road, Darwen, had a son, Charles, who went to Darwen Grammar School and taught games there in the 50s before going on to Clitheroe Royal Grammar School where he taught from 1961 to 1989.
 
He and his wife lived in Clitheroe and then Chipping which he represented on Ribble Valley Council. They now live in Northwich, Cheshire, near to their family.
 
Charles Holden, now 78, has many fond memories of Uncle Sam. He recalls that he and his wife escaped from Holland to Hull on almost the last boat out before the Germans overran the country. All their possessions were in a large handbag. They worked in London on the War effort but moved back to live with their relatives in Blackburn Road after they had been bombed out.
 
Charles has several of his uncle's England caps and medals and remembers him being technical adviser to the Dutch FA during and after his spells as manager of PSV.
 
"He was a real gentleman and very popular with the folk over there," says Mr Holden. "His grave was a mass of flowers and tributes."
 
By Harold Heys 2004
 
 
 

The Great Esca​pe April – May 1986 

 
 
ROVERS REMEMBERED
After another promotion near miss in 1985, the 1985-86 season started off promisingly with back-to-back wins against Lawrie McMenemy’s new Sunderland and eventual Division Two Champions Norwich City. In fact they were the last team in the country to lose its unbeaten record and by the end of October they stood in 2nd place and another tilt at the big time bandwagon beckoned….until the wheels fell off…the goals dried up and despite knocking Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest out of the F.A.Cup in a memorable Third Round Replay the Rovers won just three matches from the end of October until they found themselves coming to the end of April looking over the precipice of returning to the Third Division. With just three games to play the Rovers lay in 18th place, just above the relegation zone. Of the teams below them, Sunderland were two points behind with a game in hand and Carlisle were three points behind with two games in hand and a disastrous midweek home defeat by fellow strugglers Huddersfield Town looked like another nail in the coffin of Rovers season. They had forgotten how to score, let alone win. It was said that if any of the Rovers forward line had been John Lennon’s assassin, he would still be alive today. Their next opponents were mid-table Sheffield United, who included in their line up the likes of Ken McNaught, member of the Aston Villa Championship winning side only five years previously, the predatory striker Keith Edwards, a prolific striker who would score goals all through his career, albeit all in the lower divisions and colourful goalkeeper John “Budgie” Burridge. Not intimidating certainly but they didn’t need to be with Rovers current form. Their previous meeting was an entertaining 3-3 draw Bramall Lane so this game may have promised goals, “Budgie” Burridge wasn’t quite expecting to be so busy….. 
 
garner goal 1986.jpg
 
………..the action started after just 24 seconds, the team that couldn’t score suddenly hit gold. Amazingly it was Sheffield United who kicked off but wasted possession immediately by just hitting the ball towards the wing as far up the pitch as possible, hoping that one of their players would receive the ball in an advantageous position. It failed miserably by going out of play and immediately the full back Jim Branagan made a quick throw to centre-forward Chris Thompson, who had made himself available in the Rovers half of the field. He immediately turned and passed to ball out to the wing where Ian “Windy” Miller was waiting. The full back Smith had backed off, thinking he had his man covered but he was caught out by the sudden burst of speed of Miller and he was away down the touchline with Smith trailing in his slipstream. As Miller was streaming down the touchline, Rovers legendary record goalscorer Simon Garner was tearing down the centre in anticipation of what was to come. This was Miller at his best and just before he reached the by-line he crossed a perfect ball over onto Garner’s head. The header was bang on target, Burridge remained rooted to the spot and could only watch as the ball arrowed its way into the net. It was a goal of such simplicity but executed with such lethal precision it galvanised the team and they simply swept Sheffield aside. On the half hour local lad Mark Patterson made it two with a stunning volley and they reached half time with a 2-0 lead.
 
As the second half started we awaited the Sheffield fight back and would the Rovers be able to resist and claim a crucial victory. The answer was Rovers continued were they left off and the massacre continued… Chris Thompson cut through the static United defence to make it three….just before the hour mark it was four, Garner pound Patterson in space and another inch perfect cross was converted by Simon Barker. It was now the biggest win of the season, beating a 3-0 victory over newly promoted Bradford City way back in October. Patterson got his second of the game with the goal of the game as he bent a shot with pace that again made goalkeeper Burridge an unwilling spectator.
 
Sheffield eventually broke into the Rovers half of the field late on and in a rare attack Keith Edwards raced through to claim his 200th League goal, a personal chink of light in what was a stunning defeat for the blades. United even further contributed to their miserable afternoon by getting a man sent off late on and to really rub salt into the wounds, Mark Patterson completed his hat-trick from yet another Ian Miller cross. It was an amazing performance considering what had gone before as they had lost their last five home games on the run. For once they had struck first in a game and coming so soon it stunned United and the quality of the goal seemed to destroy the mental barrier that the Rovers had created about their inability to win a game of football.
 
patterson goal.jpg
 
There were now only two matches left to save themselves from the drop. The next match was at promotion chasing Charlton Athletic and the Addicks duly clinched a return to the top flight, brushing Rovers aside 0-3. This left the final two relegation places to be decided between the Rovers (46 points), Shrewsbury Town (48), Sunderland (47), Middlesbrough (45) and Carlisle United (46).
 
On the final Saturday Shrewsbury beat Middlesbrough 2-1 to guarantee their safety and send the Boro down, Sunderland beat Stoke City 2-0 to clinch their spot in Division Two next season. The Rovers were at home to Grimsby Town, who were promoted with Rovers back from Division Three in 1980. Carlisle however were in the last relegation place but they had two games left to play, at home to Charlton on the Saturday and on the Monday night they had to travel to Oldham to play their last match after everybody else had completed their fixtures (in those days it was common for teams to complete their fixtures after the last day of the season if they could not fit them in. It wouldn’t happen today).
 
The biggest worry was that even if the Rovers won their final fixture their destiny was not in their own hands because if Carlisle beat Charlton (now partying after their promotion) would know what they needed at Oldham to send Rovers down. Fate was to lend a hand though, in the early afternoon a deluge of rain cause the Ewood Park pitch to become flooded and the match against Grimsby would be called off at the last minute and moved to the Monday night, the same time as Carlisle’s match at Oldham. To add to the drama, Carlisle then threw away a 2-goal lead to lose 2-3 at home to Charlton and Rovers destiny was back in their own hands, if they matched Carlisle’s result on Monday they were safe…
 
grimsby prog.jpg
 
……….The atmosphere before the match was full of tension but Rovers got away to another flying start, this time it took 42 seconds to break the deadlock with a goal almost identical to the opener against Sheffield, only this time Garner’s header from Miller’s cross was saved this time but he managed to prod home the rebound and score his 100th League Goal for the club. The relief was evident all around the ground but unlike Sheffield, Grimsby were made of sterner stuff and fought back to equalise only four minutes later. A corner from the left has headed home by an un-marked Kevin Moore to get the nerves jangling again. As the first half went on the news came through that Carlisle had taken the lead at Oldham and a draw would now send Rovers down. They fought back and regained the lead after 32 minutes when Simon Garner got clear and sent over a cross to Chris Thompson who then set up David Hamilton to smack it home and Rovers reached half time in front.
 
Carlisle were still leading at Oldham but if Rovers could hang on they would be safe. They then suffered a horrible attack of the jitters and were nearly made to pay for it when a mix-up between Glenn Keeley and goalkeeper Vince O’Keefe let in Gordon Hobson who should have put the Mariners level but didn’t and Rovers breathed again.
 
With just over fifteen minutes to ago Hamilton sent Garner away into the penalty box and Phil Bonnyman brought him down to give Rovers a penalty. Simon Barker stuck the spot kick away to give Rovers some breathing space. Almost at the same time the news came through that Oldham had equalised against Cardiff. The celebrations really started when Oldham grabbed a late winner to condemn Carlisle to relegation and Rovers were safe.
 
At the final whistle the roars around Ewood Park were not only of celebration, but also simply of sheer relief. Even though Rovers had not been in the relegation places at any time during the season, it had been too close a call. If it hadn’t been for two early goals against Sheffield and Grimsby, combined with the weather and Carlisle losing their last two matches after leading in both of them, the Rovers may well have been relegated and in their precarious financial position at the time, could well have ended up in the wilderness for years and the glory days of Jack Walker and Premiership may never have happened. It’s also interesting to note that Carlisle themselves never recovered from the relegation and as I write have still never regained their status in the second tier of the football league 23 years on.
 
By Roger Booth
 
greatescape.jpg
 
 
 

Darwen's Treble ​Triumph 

 
In the 1930/31 football season Darwen achieved the treble of the Combination Championship, Combination Cup and Charity Shield.
 
                                             darwen football article.jpg   Darwen football.jpg
 
 
Back Row: W Duxbury (Director), G Pickup (President), H Harwood (Chairman), J Woods (Director), H Hacking (Director), H Ainsworth (Director).
Second Row: J Woods (Director), B Proos (Assistant Trainer), J Slater, J Bennett, A Amith, J Burke, F Dawson, A Leeming, J Bishop, (Trainer), A Hornby (Director).
Front row: J Briggs (Director), T Williamson, A Robinson, P Quigley, Joe Smith, R Preedy, B Dale, G Shaw, R Jenkinson, J S Entwistle (Director)
Mascot: B Proos.
 


A CENTURY OF A FOOTBALL​ING FAMILY

Everybody who knows anything about football knows about the Allen family who had EIGHT members of their family who played professional football at one time or another. Well, we have a footballing family in our community; the Byrom’s who can beat that! It all started with Tommy Byrom who was an inside right (midfielder) who played for the Rovers four times and scored two goals during the 1914/15 season.  Tommy also played one game in the 1916/17 season while he was still in the army. He also played three times in the 1918/19 season scoring one goal, and, in the 1919/20 season he played nine times, scoring one goal.


Tommy Byrom.jpg
 Tommy Byrom, Blackburn Rovers 1912/13

Tommy’s brothers, Albert and Robert, played for the Rovers during the 1916/17 season. Albert, a right winger, played eleven times in all competitions, scoring one goal. Robert, a left winger, played for the Rovers once, scoring one goal in the 1916/17 season and he played twice scoring one goal during the 1918/19 season.

William Byrom, a full back, played thirty times for Rochdale during the 1946/47 season. William was also on the books as a professional at Burnley and Queen's Park Rangers.  Raymond Byrom, a winger, played for Accrington Stanley nine times, scoring one goal during the 1957/58 season . He also played for Bradford Park Avenue seventy times, scoring fourteen goals throughout seasons 1958/60. Raymond’s son, Alan, was a professional at Preston North End but he was released by the then manager, Nobby Stiles, without making a first team appearance during the 1977/78 season. David John Byrom, a full back, played at Stockport County three times in the 1984 season; he is the great gandson of Robert, who played for the Rovers.

The most famous footballer in the Byrom family is, of course, John Byrom, who played for the Rovers 106 times plus 2 substitute appearances. John scored 45 goals before he was transferred to Bolton Wanderers for ten years. John returned to the Rovers in 1976, making 15 appearances  and 1 sub appearance. He  scored 5 goals before he retired in 1976. John was also an England Youth International.
 


John Byrom_NEW.jpg 
John Byrom

As a footnote, John Byrom was the first substitute to be used by Blackburn Rovers when substitutes were first introduced to the game in 1965/66. John came on for Mick McGrath at Old Trafford in a 2-2 draw with Manchester United. The following week at Ewood Park, coming on for Mike Harrison, John became the first goalscoring substitute for the Rovers in a 4-2 win over Newcastle United.
 

Alan’s son Joel who is currently playing for Northampton Town completes this footballing family tree. Joel started his career aged 14 years at Blackburn Rovers, and spent four and a half years on the club's books, progressing from their centre of excellence to the reserve team. He did not, however, make any first-team appearances for the club and was subsequently released in summer 2006.        
Joel Byrom
Joel Byrom.png
 Image by kind permission of Peter Norton
 
Joel joined League Two outfit Accrington Stanley before the start of the 2006/07 season, but only managed a total of two appearances. He was released by the club in January 2007, and opted to join local side Clitheroe on a short-term basis. Byrom then joined Southport, scoring twice in two appearances for the side, before rejoining Clitheroe in August 2007; captaining the side at the age of 20.
 
Joel then attracted the interest of Northwich Victoria, who subsequently signed him for a small four-figure fee in January 2008. Byrom spent a year and a half at the Cheshire club, before joining Stevenage for a fee of £15,000 in May 2009; helping them achieve promotion to the Football League for the first time in the club's history. Byrom was also part of the Stevenage side that earned back-to-back promotions to League One during the 2010/11 season. He has also played for the England C team and earned his solitary cap in a game against the Belgium U21 team. 
 
​Year Team​​ ​Appearances ​Goals
​200​5/06​ ​Blackburn Rovers ​0 ​0
​2006/07 ​Accrington Stanley ​2 ​0
​2007 ​Clitheroe ​21 ​11
​2007 ​Southport ​2 ​2
2007/08​ ​Clitheroe ​18 ​3
​2008/09 ​Northwich Victoria ​49 ​9
​2009/12 ​Stevenage ​77 ​9
2012/15​ ​Preston North End ​33 ​4
2015​ ​Northampton Town ​40 ​4
   

Over a hundred year period from Tommy Byrom, nine members of the Byrom family have played professional football; a record to be proud of!

This local footballing family also had a relative who fought at the Battle of Waterloo: Henry Byrom: Waterloo Veteran
 
Researched by Jeffrey Booth (Community History Volunteer) from an idea by Roger Booth and with considerable help given by John Byrom.
 
 

 
back to top

 

Verdi Godwin​​​​

Verdi Godwin, B.E.M.​, from Professional Footballer to Professional Lifeguard​

Verdi Godwin was born in Blackburn on 11th February 1926; his parents were obviously opera fans as he was named after the Italian Opera Composer Giuseppe Verdi. He lived in Moss Street and attended Bangor Street School. When he was seventeen he worked as a Bevan Boy and he used to cycle every day to work at Bank Hall Colliery in Burnley.

Image 1V G.jpg
Verdi playing for Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park Against Preston North End
1947/48 season as Rovers Score the first goal in a 2-3 defeat.
The gate was 47,000.

After the Second World War he was signed up by his local side Blackburn Rovers, who were then in the old first division (the top division). Verdi scored six goals in two seasons at Ewood Park, he then joined Manchester City in the summer of 1948. He scored three goals in eight matches for Manchester City before joining Stoke City whose manager Bob McGrory saw Verdi as the answer to Stoke's goal scoring problem in 1949-50. However, despite scoring on his debut  he only scored one more goal in the next 20 matches and, by January, he was used as a part exchange with Third Division Mansfield Town for Harry Oscroft. He then became a journeyman striker spending short spells at  Grimsby Town, Brentford, Southport, Barrow, and finally, Tranmere Rovers.

Image 2 V G.jpg
Verdi Godwin playing for Southport 1954 and 1955 season's.

When Verdi stopped playing he became a scout for Blackpool, Liverpool, Plymouth and Vancouver Whitecaps; he worked at Liverpool with the great Bill Shankley and when he was scouting for Plymouth Argyle he discovered Paul Mariner playing for Chorley who eventually became an England player. He and his wife Daphne  lived in Southport and his wife worked at the sea boating lake; one day her boss said that they needed Life Guards on the beach, Verdi applied and got the job. He eventually finished up as Chief Lifeguard; he had a book which recorded over 800 rescues and not a single fatality in all the time he worked there (36 years).

In the 1980s Verdi was mentioned in the Southport Visitor paper because he found the wreckage of a ship called the Atlantic which was wrecked off Ainsdale beach in January 1883, it was on its way from Liverpool to North America with a cargo of salt. Verdi took the trouble to draw a map of where the wreck was and to deposit a copy of both the map and the photo in the Botanic Garden Museum . The actual nameboard is deposited in the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Verdi was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1987 in recognition of his service. Verdi died on December 1st, 2013 aged 87 years.

Image 3 V G.jpg
Verdi on Ainsdale beach showing part of the wreck of the Atlantic

Article by Jeffrey Booth, Community History Volunteer with help from Mr Butterworth, Verdi's cousin, March, 2017.