The Way We Were
With the four-yearly World Cup football carnival currently dominating the airwaves, newsprint and cyberspace, it’s an opportune moment to turn our gaze from the happenings in Brazil and reflect on a bygone sporting age, when an England football international could spend his summer close-season earning some extra money by switching to leather and willow as a professional with a Scottish cricket club.
Those at the highest international echelons of both sports now have year-round commitments, which means specialisation in one sport only. Current England goalkeeper Joe Hart showed promise as a teenage left-arm pace bowler with Worcestershire’s Cricket Academy, while England batsman Ian Bell was attached to Coventry City’s Football Academy as a youngster. But gone are the days when Hart and Bell could have pursued complementary careers in both cricket and football.
The last England international footballer able to combine his winter sport with professional cricket was Sir Geoff Hurst, hat-trick hero of England’s 1966 World Cup triumph, who represented Essex in the early 1960s during the West Ham United close-season.
Curiously, the last first-class cricketer to be involved in a football World Cup was our own Andy “The Goalie” Goram, who was on the bench for Scotland’s three games at Italia ’90, before controversially quitting the squad just two weeks before the Scots’ opener with Brazil at France ’98.
Back in 1950, when Brazil last hosted a football World Cup, the England squad contained Sunderland wing-half Willie Watson, who was also a left-handed batsman for Yorkshire. Watson gained four England international football caps during 1949/50. Perhaps fortunately for him, he sat in the stand in Brazil, being spared England’s humiliating 1-0 loss to the USA. The following summer he made his England Test debut against South Africa, playing 23 Tests over eight years, hitting two international centuries with a highest first-class score of 257 for MCC against British Guiana at Georgetown during 1954.
Former Manchester United, Everton and England full-back Phil Neville is currently doing World Cup TV commentary in Brazil. As a young cricketer, Neville was rated by Lancashire as an outstanding prospect as a batsman, and represented England Schools at both cricket and football, captaining the cricket XI. Having broken Lancashire Schools' batting records set by Mike Atherton and John Crawley – both of whom played Test cricket for England – former England coach and Lancashire captain turned television pundit David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd reckoned Neville a better batting prospect than either Atherton or Crawley. Neville's situation highlights how disadvantaged cricket now is when trying to woo such talented youngsters. In another era, Neville would have successfully combined both sports, probably emulating Willie Watson as a Test cricketer/international footballer. If born a generation earlier, he might have faced an agonising choice over which sport to concentrate on as a career. Today, however, the massive financial clout of football ensures there is no contest.
It was different story in the first-half of the 20th century, when football and cricket salaries were on a par, with Scottish cricket able to tempt two then current England football internationals into playing as a club professional in cricket north of the border: Harry Maskrey (Derby County and England) with Clydesdale in 1909, and Gordon Hodgson (Liverpool and England) with Forfarshire in 1935 and 1936.
Harry Mart Maskrey, son of a stonemason, was born in the north-east Derbyshire mining village of Unstone, between Dronfield and Chesterfield, on 8 October 1880. Raised in another Derbyshire mining town – Ripley – Maskrey became a coal miner on leaving school. In 1898, while aged 17 and over 6 feet in height, he signed as goalkeeper for Ripley Athletic, leaving the pit in December 1902 to join Derby County as a professional aged 22. Maskrey possessed a phenomenal reach as a goalkeeper, described as being 6 feet 7 inches from finger-tip to finger-tip of his outstretched arms.
He would spend almost seven years as first choice ‘keeper with ‘the Rams’, playing over 200 games for the Baseball Ground club and earning the nickname of ‘Big Mass’. He was a consistent and brave goalkeeper, with a contemporary report noting that he had “…all the collier's contempt for hard knocks.”
At the same time, Maskrey was also prominent in Derbyshire league cricket. A forcing, free-scoring batsman and a fast, right-handed bowler, he spent the summer of 1905 assisting Derby Nomads CC in the Derby and District League, capturing 34 wickets at an impressively low cost of just 4.35 each, attracting the interest of the Derbyshire county club, as the Nottingham Evening Post of 1 May 1906 reported:
“The ground staff has been increased by the engagement of H. Maskrey, the Derby County goalkeeper, who has some pretensions as a fast bowler, and got a heap of wickets in local cricket last year…”
As well as groundstaff duties with Derbyshire, Maskrey played cricket in 1906 for Ley's CC, the club representing Derby's Vulcan Iron Works, owned by Sir Francis Ley, committee member of Derbyshire CCC and pioneer of British baseball. Legendary Derby County and England forward Steve Bloomer was a cricketing team-mate of Maskrey'swith Ley's. Surprisingly, Maskrey was never given an opportunity to appear for Derbyshire in a first-class match.
Maskrey gained his first football representative honour in October 1905, keeping a clean sheet as the Football League defeated the Irish League 4-0 in front of 13,000 at Manchester City’s Hyde Road ground.
He gained his solitary international football cap on 8 February 1908, helping England defeat Ireland 3-1 at Belfast’s Solitude, with over 20,000 in attendance.
In September 1908, now spending his summers assisting Derby’s Midland Railway Cricket Club, Maskrey agreed terms with Clydesdale CC to be their professional the following season, being recommended to the Titwood club by Yorkshire and England batsman the Hon. F S Jackson, with the Dundee Courier reporting that Maskrey:
“…may remain in Scotland all the year round, and give his football services to a First League Club.”
In previewing Clydesdale’s prospects for the 1909 season, The Scottish Referee of 19 April 1909 noted that:
“The club has this season engaged Maskrey, the Derby County goalkeeper, as professional, and he is reputed to be both a good batsman and a good bowler, and altogether a first class man.”
Maskrey and his wife Agnes had yet to arrive in Glasgow when Clydesdale opened their season against Glasgow Accies on 24 April 1909 – Maskrey was still engaged with Derby County, and this conflict of sporting interests would have more serious repercussions later in the season.
The Scottish Referee's of Friday 30 April 1909, though, echoed the early-season optimism surrounding the new pro’s arrival:
“The Titwood team will introduce Maskrey their new professional to the Scottish public, and it is hoped that he will prove equal to his reputation. He is a lively looking chap and may be the means of giving the Clydesdale team that assistance which they so badly needed last season.”
Maskrey’s debut for Clydesdale was on Saturday 1 May 1909, at Titwood, against Kelburne. He opened the batting and made 29 in the total of 160. The Paisley side were dismissed for 82 to give the Titwood team a comfortable 78-run victory. The Scottish Referee reported that:
“Maskrey'’ initial appearance as a batsman for the Titwood team impressed one favourably. He is a fine, clean, and powerful bat, who drives and cuts with precision and judgement. He had 29 runs before being out to a catch at point by J.B. McKinlay.”
The Referee, however, was less impressed when Maskrey opened the Clydesdale attack:
“In bowling, however, he was not quite so successful. He bowled 9 overs, three of which were maidens; 16 runs were struck off his bowling, but he did not secure a wicket. Nevertheless he bowled well, and Clydesdale are confident that with the advent of the real summer and good wickets that their new man will be all right.”
Unfortunately, Maskrey was unable to better his opening day score for Clydesdale. In 10 Western Union innings, 1 not out, he scored just 106 runs for an average of 11.77. He fared little better with the ball, bowling 217.3 overs, 44 of which were maidens, conceding 618 runs while taking 37 wickets for an average of 16.70.
Maskrey took his benefit match at Titwood on Saturday 21 August 1909, in what turned out to be his last match for Clydesdale. He opened the batting, but was dismissed for just 7 as Clydesdale were all out for 122. Kilmarnock in turn were dismissed for 109, with Maskrey claiming three wickets for 68 runs off 16 overs, to secure Clydesdale a narrow 13-run triumph.
There was to be no happy ending to Maskrey’s time at Titwood, however, as the Glasgow Herald of 13 September 1909 recorded:
“The truth that no man can serve two masters is admirably illustrated in the case of Maskrey, who kept goal for Derby County and until recently acted as professional for the Clydesdale C.C. Maskrey had not completed his season’s engagement with the Titwood club when he was requested by Derby County to return for practice. Between the devil and the deep sea, he did not know very well what to do, but in the long run he left Clydesdale in the lurch and returned to Derby. Prior to this, he had been re-engaged by Clydesdale for next season, but in view of what has taken place the engagement has been cancelled. Maskrey had made himself very popular with the Clydesdale membership not so much for what he accomplished in their matches as for the diligent and obliging way in which he fulfilled his duties.”
Ironically, in a few short weeks after his recall from Glasgow by Derby County, Maskrey found himself transferred to top division rivals Bradford City in October 1909. He spent two seasons with the Valley Parade club, before dropping to non-league football and returning to his hometown team Ripley in May 1911, moving on to Stalybridge Celtic later that year.
He survived the First World War, serving with the Grenadier Guards, although his elder brother Isaac was killed on the Western Front in 1917. Harry Maskrey returned to live with his family in Derby in 1919, playing football for the British Cellulose team in the midweek Derby Works League and cricket for the same club in the Derby and District League every summer Saturday.
Early in the 1920/21 football season, aged almost 40, Maskrey returned to league football as emergency goalkeeper for Derby County, playing five matches. He had now entered the licensing trade, being ‘mine host’ of the New Inn on Derby’s Russell Street. He was in the yard at the rear of his pub on the morning of 21 April 1927 when he collapsed suddenly and died. He was aged just 46. Harry Maskrey was survived by his wife and son, also named Harry.
Gordon Hodgson, born in Johannesburg, South Africa to English parents, on 16 April 1904 was a goal-scoring phenomenon with Liverpool FC over more than ten years from 1925 to 1936.
Hodgson first came to England during 1924/25 as a 20-year-old with the visiting South African national amateur football team, netting fifteen goals on their tour and drawing interest from Liverpool. He waited until completing his apprenticeship as a boilermaker before returning to the UK to sign for Liverpool in December 1925, joining his compatriots Arthur Riley and James Gray. He would create a plethora of club goal-scoring records at Anfield, some of which have yet to be beaten. Hodgson scored a remarkable 233 goals in 358 League games, and 241 goals in 377 games in total (four more than Ian Rush.) Viewed as Liverpool's answer to Everton legend ‘Dixie’ Dean, he was a prolific marksman and in 1930/31 he set a new club record of 36 league goals in a season, a feat not surpassed until the emergence of Roger Hunt in the 1960s. Hodgson’s record of seventeen Liverpool hat-tricks, however, is yet to be broken. Only Roger Hunt has scored more in league games for Liverpool, but all of Gordon Hodgson's 233 league goals came in England’s top division and at an outstanding goals-per-game ratio.
Such form brought him three England international ‘caps’ during 1930/31 (his selection was unusual at that time when a birth qualification was the norm, but his eligibility came through both his parents being English-born.) His first England appearance came on 20 October 1930 at inside right in a 5-0 win over Northern Ireland at Bramall Lane Sheffield. Although he did not score, The Scotsman reported that:
“Hodgson, the South African, stood out perhaps as the greatest individual of the match. His success was complete. Very clever in distributing the ball…Hodgson could consider himself unfortunate to be the only England forward who did not score.”
A month later he was again at inside right in a 4-0 win over Wales at Wrexham, in which he scored the second goal, on 22 November 1930. His final international appearance was in front of 129,810 at Hampden Park on 28 March 1931 when he was England’s best forward in a 0-2 defeat by Scotland.
Hodgson had also twice represented his native South Africa, against Ireland and the Netherlands in 1924, and appeared on several occasions for the Football League representative side, but his England international recognition was limited due to contemporary native-born centre-forwards of the quality of ‘Dixie’ Dean, Jimmy Hampson, George Camsell and, Tom Waring.
On completion of ten years’ service with Liverpool he was rewarded by the club with a benefit of £650, an enormous sum in 1935.
Playing in a local church league in Liverpool, once taking ten wickets for just 13 runs against a Liverpool Police XI, his cricketing abilities had come to the attention of Lancashire in 1927, as the Yorkshire Evening Post of 3 September 1927 noted:
“Gordon Hodgson…has now joined the Lancashire County Cricket Club staff at Old Trafford.
“He is an extremely fast bowler, and may be looked upon in light of a successor to Macdonald in due course.
“He is an expert baseball and tennis player, and when tried out at cricket surprised and pleased.”
Australian fast-bowler Ted Macdonald was a hard act to follow, and Hodgson would play 56 first-class matches for Lancashire between 1928 and 1933 as a right-arm fast bowler, taking 148 wickets at a cost of 27.75 runs each, with his best return being six for 77 against Middlesex at Lord’s in June 1932. With the bat, he scored just 244 runs in 52 innings (17 times not out) for an average of only 6.97. His highest score was also made in June 1932, when he hit 20 for Lancashire against the Indians at Liverpool’s Aigburth ground. Although his football career clearly was Hodgson’s priority – he didn't play a single game of cricket in April or September (and only one Second XI match in August) throughout his time at Old Trafford – he was still able to twice help Lancashire win the County Championship, in 1928 and 1930.
During his five years with the Red Rose County he was often loaned out as a substitute pro to various Lancashire League clubs, including deputising for the great Learie Constantine with Nelson. Released by Lancashire at the end of the 1933 season, Hodgson played cricket in the Liverpool Competition during 1934, even assisting a Liverpool FC XI to victory over an Everton FC XI in their annual charity cricket match! He signed as Forfarshire professional in September 1934 and would have been well-briefed on what to expect in Scottish Counties’ cricket, as his Liverpool team-mate, the ex-Rangers player Archie McPherson, returned to Alloa every summer to play cricket for Clackmannan County.
The new pro arrived in Dundee at Tay Bridge Station on the evening of 2 May 1935, with the local press reporting that he stood 6 feet one inch in height, weighed in at 13 st. 9lb., and still retained his South African accent! His first game for Forfarshire was against Watsonians at Forthill on 4 May 1935, and he made an immediate impression – hitting 80 runs, with his 50 coming in only 30 minutes, including 3 sixes, one of which smashed the windscreen of a car.
Altogether he scored 676 runs at an average of 33.80 for Forfarshire in his first season. He took 49 wickets at 14.69 and collected a sum of £50 from his benefit in the inter-county derby with Perthshire at Forthill.
His highest knock was 87, against West Lothian at Forthill on 29 June 1935, described thus by the Courier:
“His 87 runs were obtained by correct and tremendous hitting in 85 minutes...he hit 13 boundaries and a 6. It was a real treat to watch his fierce driving along the ground, his confident strokeplay, and his quick footwork.
“Also, he placed the ball so well that the sorely tried West Lothian leather-hunters often could do no more than stare as the ball sped sizzling to the boundary.”
Although he was well-used to scoring ‘hat-tricks’ of the football variety with Liverpool, his first hat-trick in any class of cricket came on 25 July 1935 at Union Park, Montrose for ‘C Parker’s Forfarshire XI’, when his six for 29 (including the hat-trick) saw Montrose all out for just 69.
Disappointingly, local rivals Perthshire won the 1935 Scottish Counties’ title, but Hodgson endeared himself to the Dundee public when he almost single-handedly won the North Inch derby on 27 July 1935, taking five for 35 as Perthshire were dismissed for 92, then making 53 as Forfarshire won by seven wickets.
There was further good news for Forfarshire that week-end, as reported by the Sunderland Daily Echo of 27 July 1935:
“Liverpool F.C. have granted an extension of three weeks to Gordon Hodgson, their international forward, who is cricket professional to Forfarshire. This will enable Hodgson to figure in all Forfarshire’s county cricket games, the last of which is with Clackmannan on 17 August at Alloa.”
He returned to Dundee for the 1936 season, but by that time he was an Aston Villa footballer, being sold by Liverpool to the Birmingham club in January 1936 for £3,000. Unfortunately for Hodgson, he could do nothing to prevent Villa’s relegation from the First Division.
In his second Forfarshire season he scored 490 runs at an average of 35.00. With the ball, though, he took only 25 wickets at 17.44, with the Forthill inter-county derby with Perthshire providing him with a £40 benefit.
His highest score was 94 against Arbroath United on Saturday 16 May 1936. It was made in 75 minutes and contained 14 boundaries, with the Courier describing it as: “… an exhilarating knock, full of tremendously hard driving and superb placing.”
Sadly, Villa were less tolerant of his Dundee cricketing commitments than Liverpool had been. They notified him on 22 July 1935 that he was to report for pre-season training on 5 August, meaning he would miss Forfarshire’s final four league games.
He went out with a bang, however. His last Forfarshire match was the North Inch derby on 1 August 1936 – and his eight for 25 was instrumental in dismissing Perthshire for 93, giving Forfarshire a narrow 17-run victory; Hodgson was carried shoulder high from the field by jubilant Forfarshire team-mates and supporters.
Surprisingly, Gordon Hodgson wasn’t the first England international footballer to represent Forfarshire at cricket. Dundee FC goalkeeper Jack Hillman kept wicket for Forfarshire during 1897, but he didn’t receive his England football ‘cap’ until 1899, by which time he was a Burnley player.
Hodgson didn’t settle in Division Two at Villa Park, and he returned to the top flight in March 1937 when Leeds United signed him for £1,500. He was a great success at Elland Road in the seasons immediately prior to World War Two and he still holds the club record as the only Leeds player to have scored five goals in a game, which he did against Leicester City in October 1938. The goals he scored for Leeds in the First Division helped him became one of the very few men to have scored over three hundred goals in Football League matches.
Hodgson continued with his cricket after leaving Forthill: he spent the summer of 1937 as professional with Heaton in the Bolton and District League, while he was pro to Eppleton of the Durham Senior League in 1938, and played in the Bradford League with Spen Victoria during 1939, when he was one of two paid players.
He obviously enjoyed his two summers in Broughty Ferry, as he applied – unsuccessfully – for the vacant Dundee FC manager’s post in May 1937.
Less than a year later, however, his life was tragically shattered by the death of his wife, as the Dundee Evening Telegraph of Wednesday 9 March 1938 reported:
“His many friends in Dundee and district will learn with regret of the bereavement of Gordon Hodgson, the Leeds United centre-forward, and former Forfarshire C.C. professional, whose wife died at their home in Preston Parade, Beeston, Leeds, yesterday.
“Mrs Hodgson was 27 years old and a native of Liverpool. She leaves two children, a boy and a girl, with whom she spent two happy summers in Broughty Ferry while Hodgson was attached to the Forthill club.”
Hodgson worked in a munitions factory during World War Two, returning to Elland Road as coach in 1945 before being appointed as manager of Third Division Port Vale in October 1946. He was at the Potteries club for over four years, overseeing their move to a new stadium at Vale Park in 1950. Sadly, after being hospitalised for four weeks, Gordon Hodgson returned to his Burslem home where he succumbed to cancer on 14 June 1951. He was aged only 47.