Tony StoreyThe Sole Society, a Family History Society researching Sole, Saul, Sewell, Solley and similar names

Shooting Stars

By Tony Storey

This article was originally published in the August 2005 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society

When I left home to get married many years ago, two things happened. First, Mum took all my Matchbox toys, in excellent condition and in their original boxes, and gave them to the little boy next door. It was a generous and very practical decision, but half a lifetime on I hardly dare think how much those model cars would be worth today. Second, Dad took my numerous football programmes and lovingly and carefully packed them away for the distant day when, he knew, I would want to look at them again.

 

That day arrived recently when I decided to tidy the attic. Dad passed away in 1993 so when I found the box with his writing on the outside I opened it with some emotion, but certainly with no thought of writing an article for Soul Search.

 

Charlton Athletic ProgrammeI cut the string and peeled back the newspaper wrapping from 1971 and was immediately confronted with a photograph of a footballer on the front of a match programme for Wednesday 31 August 1960. Charlton Athletic were playing Norwich City, kick-off time 6.10 pm as there were no floodlights at the Valley in those days. Under the picture the caption read:

 

John Sewell

 

True to the Charlton tradition, Johnny is quite versatile, and apart from full-back has played in the League team at right-half and centre-half. Do you remember his fine performance at centre-half against Fulham in the last home game of the 1958-59 season? He is a strong and speedy defender and a splendid club type.

 

At school at Brockley County, Johnny played fly-half at rugby so well that he twice played for England Schools’ Under 15 team. But he also played soccer, and for a long time it was a question of rugby in the morning and soccer in the afternoon every Saturday. Turning to athletics on leaving school, Johnny became a good sprinter with Blackheath Harriers, and of course, getting in as much football as possible.

 

When he signed professional forms for Bexleyheath & Welling in 1954 he had to resign from Blackheath Harriers according to the rules of the Amateur Athletic Association.

 

Johnny became a key man at centre-half in the Kent League team at Bexleyheath, and was transferred to Charlton on January 5, 1955 – the day he joined up for national service. He made his League debut at right-half against Sheffield Wednesday in January 1957, taking part in that hectic series of matches in which Charlton vainly struggled to avoid relegation from the First Division. “I shall never forget those matches,” says Johnny, “Every one was as tense as a Cup-tie.”

 

Strangely enough, Sewell didn’t make the first team at all in the following season, when Charlton only missed regaining First Division status by a single goal. He came back into the first team at Christmas, 1958 – this time at full-back. Johnny is married and lives at Bexleyheath.

 

Football programmes can contain snippets of personal detail about the players that the club thinks might be of interest to the fans. For example, for Charlton’s game against Leyton Orient on 18 March 1961 the programme reveals that ‘Johnny Sewell, Charlton’s right-back, fills in some of his spare time in coaching the boys of Creek Road Secondary School, Deptford, in the elementary skills of soccer.’

 

John David Sewell was born in Brockley, south London on 7 July 1936. It seems he played for Forest Hill Wanderers and Bexleyheath before signing for Charlton Athletic. He made 204 first team appearances for Charlton, scoring 5 goals, before joining Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace programme for the game against Charlton describes John Sewell as ‘a fullback, 5ft 7½in, signed from Charlton on 25 Oct 1963.’

 

Between 1963 and 1971, John Sewell made 231 appearances for Palace, scoring 6 goals. His final club was Leyton Orient. Joining them in August 1971 he started just 5 games, coming on twice as a substitute.

 

* * *

 

My collection of football programmes also covers the career of Frank L Saul, born Canvey Island on 23 August 1943. The earliest mention I found was in the Official Handbook of Tottenham Hotspur Football & Athletic Company Limited, season 1960-61, price one shilling:

 

Playing Staff

Frank Saul (centre-forward) 5 ft. 10 in.

These “Pen Pictures” would not be complete without the inclusion of Frank Saul, the 16-year-old who was the regular centre-forward in our Combination side last season, scoring 12 goals from 26 appearances. Frank also played in Youth Internationals for England against Scotland (at Newcastle), Wales (at Canterbury), Ireland (in Ireland) and East Germany (at Portsmouth). He also played for England in the International Youth Tournament in Vienna. He must be one of the most travelled young players in the game as he was also in our party to visit Turin in the summer and played in the International Youth Tournament in Berrenrath, and finally spent his holidays in Jersey.

 

Spurs won the League Championship and F.A. Cup in 1961 but even double-winning sides grow old and in subsequent years Frank established himself as a first-team player. From the Leicester City programme notes for the match against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday 19 August 1967 we read:

 

Frank Saul. Forward. 5ft 10ins. Made his name as a centre-forward but has since played in a variety of attacking positions and filled the outside-left berth in the closing matches of last season. Born on Canvey Island and signed amateur forms in August 1958. Turned professional two years later on his 17th birthday. Won youth honours for England both in this country and on the Continent. Made 24 League and F.A. Cup appearances last season, scoring six goals, which included the second goal in the final.

 

In the same programme is a team photograph captioned:

 

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR F.A. CUP WINNERS – SEASON 1966-1967

Back Row – Left to Right: Joe Kinnear, Eddie Clayton, Mike England, Pat Jennings, Alan Mullery, Dave Mackay, Cyril Knowles

Front Row: Jimmy Robertson, Jimmy Greaves, Alan Gilzean, Terry Venables, Frank Saul, Cliff Jones

 

The end of Frank Saul’s career with Tottenham Hotspur was announced in the Spurs programme for the home game against Arsenal on Saturday 20 January 1968.

 

The much-publicised transfer of Martin Chivers, the England Under-23 forward, was finally concluded on Wednesday of last week, and Frank Saul made the reverse move.

 

We had no wish to part with Frank Saul, but he was the player wanted by Southampton as part of the deal. In the light of this situation, our decision was taken in what we regard as the best long-term interests of the club.

 

Saul was a valuable member of our staff, and we are sure our supporters share our appreciation of the good service he gave to the club. We wish him the very best of luck with the Saints, for whom he made his debut at Leeds last Saturday.

 

It is of interest that Frank made history as the youngest-ever player to appear in our Combination team when he played against Southampton – how’s that for the long arm of coincidence? – in August, 1959. He was then one day short of his 16th birthday.

 

In League, F.A. Cup and European competitive matches he made 124 appearances for us and scored 45 goals. In addition he played four times as substitute in League matches. Scoring highlights of Saul’s career as a Spur were his two goals against Feijenoord of Rotterdam in the European Cup of 1961, and those he netted against Nottingham Forest in the F.A. Cup Semi-final, and against Chelsea in the Final at Wembley last season.

 

Frank Saul made 46 League appearances for Southampton, coming on as a substitute in a further 7 games but scored only 2 goals for them. He was a little more successful at Queens Park Rangers, for whom he signed in May 1970, scoring 4 goals in 33 full games and a further 3 games as a substitute. Finally, he transferred to Millwall in March 1972 and over four seasons started 85 matches, made a further 11 substitute appearances and scored 4 goals.

 

* * *

 

The third footballer I remember from my youth is Jackie Sewell, although the only occasion I recall seeing him play was in the 1957 Cup Final on television.

 

John (Jackie) Sewell was born in Whitehaven on 24 January 1927. He played non-league football for Whitehaven before signing for Notts County. Between 1946 and 1951 he scored 97 goals in 179 games for County and was described as ‘a direct inside-forward of thrusting penetration and speed’.

 

He became Britain’s most expensive player when Sheffield Wednesday paid Notts County £34,500 for him in March 1951. According to press reports at the time, it made him ‘the first footballer to be worth his weight in gold’. Although he arrived too late to prevent Sheffield Wednesday being relegated from the first division in that campaign, he helped them win the second division championship in 1951/52.

 

He played in the 5 games on England’s 1951/52 tour of Australia, and won 5 more England caps against Austria, Switzerland, Ireland and in the two infamous matches against Hungary. Unbeaten at Wembley in more than thirty years, England lost 3-6 to the ‘Magnificent Magyars’ in November 1953 and were then trounced 1-7 in the return fixture in Budapest. Possibly the most notable of his three goals for England was against Austria, the game in which Nat Lofthouse was knocked unconscious scoring the winner and earned the soubriquet ‘Lion of Vienna’.

 

After 164 appearances for Wednesday in which he scored 86 goals, Jackie Sewell was transferred to Aston Villa for £17,000 in December 1955 and collected an F.A. Cup winner’s medal against Manchester United in the F.A. Cup Final of 1957. He scored 36 goals in 123 games for Villa. His last club was Hull City, which he joined in October 1959, scoring 8 times in 44 matches. He left for Rhodesia in 1960 in order to coach.

 

* * *

 

A century ago there were comparatively few professional clubs and these were predominantly in the north of England. The Football League tables of that time mention many clubs whose names are now unfamiliar, for example, Burslem Port Vale, Glossop, Gainsborough Trinity, Burton Swifts and Newton Heath.

 

Old photographs show huge, good-natured crowds standing on steep terraces that would horrify today’s Health and Safety Executive. Strange to our eyes is the almost total absence of bare heads. Everyone wore a hat or cloth cap in those days. The game was clearly popular but although some footballers achieved a degree of fame in their time, they were certainly not wealthy men. Some of these forgotten heroes are listed here.

 

Ernest Charles Saul (known as Charles Saul) played just one game in 1900 as centre-half for Division 1 runners-up Sheffield United.

 

Percy Saul, born in Rotherham in 1881, played predominantly at right-half but could also fill either full-back position. Initially playing non-league football for Thornhill, he signed for Gainsborough Trinity in 1901, making 69 appearances in Division 2 and scoring 9 goals. He returned to non-league football in 1903, this time with Plymouth Argyle, before joining the Division 1 champions, Liverpool, in 1906. After 75 matches and 1 goal in Liverpool colours, he resumed non-league football in 1908, playing for Coventry City, Rotherham Town and finally Rotherham County.

 

Charles A Sewell played for Division 2 side Burton United in 1904, making 2 appearances at left-back.

 

After the First World War, the Football League was expanded by the creation of a third division split on a regional basis and between 1919 and 1923 the number of league clubs doubled from 44 to 88, not very different from today. The game’s popularity continued to grow but the maximum wage imposed by the clubs restricted a player’s earnings and would remain in force for another forty years.

 

Ronnie Sewell was born William Ronald Sewell on 19 July 1890 at Wingate.

He began his goalkeeping career with non-league Wingate Albion but signed for Division 2 team, Gainsborough Trinity, in 1911, making 38 appearances. Between 1912 and 1919, interrupted by the First World War, he played 23 games for Burnley and helped them win promotion to Division 1. He was transferred to Blackburn Rovers, also in Division 1, in 1919 and kept goal for them on 227 occasions until 1926. In 1924 he won his only England cap in the 2-1 defeat against Wales at Blackburn. Ted Vizard scored the winning goal for Wales after Sewell could only parry a shot from Nicholls. Ronnie Sewell ended his playing days back at Gainsborough Trinity who by 1926 had lost their Football League status. He died in 1945.

 

George W Sewell was born on 3 June 1898 in Newcastle. A left-half, he joined Division 2 side, Barnsley, in 1921 but failed to make the team, instead transferring to Tranmere Rovers in Division 3 North, for whom he played 33 games in 1922. In 1923 he made 14 appearances for Merthyr Town in Division 3 South.

 

Monty Saul appeared just once as outside-right for Stalybridge Celtic in Division 3 North in 1922.

 

Albert Sewell, born in Crewe, played left-half for Crewe Alexandra in 1927 and 1928, making 55 appearances in Division 3 North.

 

Joseph Sewell played for Darlington in Division 3 North, making 11 appearances at outside-right in 1931 and 1932.

 

Alf Solly was born Alfred William Solly on 6 August 1906 in Battersea. A goalkeeper with non-league Dulwich Hamlet, he was signed by Arsenal in 1931 but did not get a first-team place. He moved to Newport County the following year and made 38 appearances for them in Division 3 South. In 1933 he joined Portsmouth but once again did not feature in a league match. In 1934 he had a trial at Aldershot, playing two games for them in Division 3 South. He died in 1954.

 

Charles Basil Solly, known as Bert Solly, was born in Battersea on 28 March 1912. An inside-right, he played non-league football with Wimbledon and with Sutton United either side of a solitary league appearance for Newport County in 1932. He died in 1978.

 

Arthur Sewell played non-league football for Bishop Auckland. In 1954 he made a single appearance at inside-left as an amateur for Bradford City in Division 3 North.

 

***

 

So what started as a New Year’s resolution to tidy the loft ends in another example of how varied are the sources for family history research. Thanks Dad, for keeping my old football programmes. They may not have any great monetary value but as a chronicle of my carefree teenage years, they’re priceless.

 

Thanks are also due to the Football Association who recommended the following books to aid my research, and which you will find invaluable if you suspect there may be footballers in your family.

 

Football League Players Records 1888-1939 by Michael Joyce, a SoccerData publication.

Rothmans Football League Players Records 1946-1981, Rothmans Publications

 

Dedicated to the memory of Frederick John Storey 1918-1993

Return to The Sole Society Home Page