Bill Rowley

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Bill Rowley
Billy Rowley.JPG
Personal information
Full name William Spencer Rowley
Date of birth 1865
Place of birth Hanley, Staffordshire, England
Date of death 1939 (aged 73–74)
Place of death United States
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)[1]
Playing position Goalkeeper
Youth career
Hanley Orion
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1883 Stoke 0 (0)
1884–1886 Burslem Port Vale 0 (0)
1887–1896 Stoke 124 (0)
1898 Leicester Fosse 1 (0)
National team
1889–1892 England 2 (0)
Teams managed
1895–1897 Stoke
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

William Spencer "Bill" Rowley (1865–1939) was an English footballer who played as goalkeeper for Stoke in the 1880s and 1890s, also making two appearances for England. He later became Stoke's manager between 1986 and 1898.[2]

He played for Burslem Port Vale, before joining Stoke in 1887. He played in the first ever season of the Football League, before helping the "Potters" to the Football Alliance title in 1890–91. He also won England caps in 1889 and 1892. After struggling with injuries, he was appointed player-manager at Stoke in 1896, and took the club to sixth in the league. However he left the game for good after being censored for arranging his own transfer to Leicester Fosse in August 1898.

Football career[edit]

Rowley was born in Hanley, Staffordshire and started his professional career playing in Stoke's reserve team as a forward[3] before joining local rivals Burslem Port Vale in April 1884.[1]

Burslem Port Vale[edit]

Immediately establishing himself as the first choice goalkeeper, he played 66 games in his two and half years with the club. He even scored a goal, being one of the scorers in a 12–0 route of Ironbridge in the final of the 1885 Burslem Challenge Cup.[4] He was called up to the England national team for the match against Ireland in 1886, to act as William Rose's reserve.[1]

He broke a rib in a 3–1 friendly defeat at Stoke on 1 May 1886; nevertheless he returned to Stoke in early 1887.[4] This move came after he signed a contract to play exclusively for the Vale and, despite the case being upheld in a Burslem court, Vale allowed him to leave for Stoke in December 1886.[4]


He was a member of the Stoke side that were founder members of the Football League in 1888. Stoke finished at the bottom of the table in both 1888–89 and 1889–90 and in 1890 dropped down to the Football Alliance.[2] The following season, Stoke were champions of the Football Alliance and returned to the Football League, where they once again struggled, finishing second last in 1891–92, before finishing in mid-table in 1892–93.[2]

Described as a "brave and cool goalkeeper",[5] Rowley was a virtual ever-present throughout his first six years with Stoke and his form earned him a call into the national team for the match against Ireland on 2 March 1889. The match was played at Anfield, then the home of Everton, and the selectors made eleven changes to the side that had beaten Wales a week before with nine new caps, including Rowley's Stoke team-mate, Tommy Clare at right back.[6] England won the match "quite comfortably"[7] 6–1, with John Yates scoring a hat trick in his only international appearance.

Rowley's only other England appearance came three years later, also against Ireland, at the Solitude Ground, Belfast, when he was joined by his Stoke team-mates Tommy Clare and Alf Underwood as the two full-backs.[8] Harry Daft of Notts County marked the occasion by scoring twice, either side of half-time, in an "unconvincing victory".[9]

A number of serious injuries interrupted his career, with Tom Cain taking over in goal for most of the 1893–94 season. Although Rowley recovered his place for the next season, he suffered from further injuries, including a broken breastbone,[5] with George Clawley replacing him. Clawley now established himself as first-choice 'keeper, and in his final three seasons at the Victoria Ground, Rowley managed only twelve further League appearances.[2]

In 1896, he ceased playing and became Stoke's player-manager, a position he held for two years.[2] He guided Stoke to their highest league position to that point of sixth in the 1895–96 season and 13th in his second season in charge.[2] In September 1897 Horace Austerberry was appointed secretary-manager of Stoke and Rowley was made general secretary.[2] A charismatic wheeler-dealer, Rowley often paid transfer fees from his own pockets, and even took Alan Maxwell from Darwen in exchange for a set of wrought iron gates.[1]

In August 1898 Rowley transferred himself to Leicester Fosse and even agreed his own signing on fee. This transaction caused uproar by the FA, who suspended Rowley resulting in his retirement.[2]

He later emigrated to America where he lived the rest of his life.[2]

Style of play[edit]

Clare picked up numerous injuries from his fearless play in defending his goal from sometimes violent attackers, and his resilience made him a popular figure with football supporters across the country.[1] Despite this, he was often criticised for his poor distribution skills.[1] He could withstand kicks and brutal charges only to then throw or kick the ball to the opposition.[1]

Career statistics[edit]

Playing career[edit]

Club Season Division League FA Cup Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Stoke[2] 1886–87 N/A 1 0 1 0
1887–88 4 0 4 0
1888–89 The Football League 21 0 0 0 21 0
1889–90 21 0 4 0 25 0
1890–91 Football Alliance 6 0 0 0 6 0
1891–92 The Football League 24 0 4 0 28 0
1892–93 First Division 30 0 1 0 31 0
1893–94 10 0 2 0 12 0
1894–95 7 0 0 0 7 0
1895–96 1 0 0 0 1 0
1896–97 4 0 0 0 4 0
Total 124 0 16 0 140 0
Leicester Fosse 1897–98 Second Division 1 0 0 0 1 0
Total 1 0 0 0 1 0
Career total 125 0 16 0 141 0


Team From To Record
G W D L Win %
Stoke[10] June 1883 April 1984 66 29 4 33 43.94


with Burslem Port Vale
  • Burslem Challenge Cup winner: 1885
  • North Staffordshire Charity Challenge Cup winner: 1885 (shared)
with Stoke


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Stoke City 101 Golden Greats. Desert Islands Books. 2002. pp. 12–14. ISBN 1-874287554. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Matthews, Tony (1994). The Encyclopaedia of Stoke City. Lion Press. p. 212. ISBN 0-9524151-0-0. 
  3. ^ Gibbons, Philip (2001). Association Football in Victorian England – A History of the Game from 1863 to 1900. Upfront Publishing. p. 118. ISBN 1-84426-035-6. 
  4. ^ a b c Kent, Jeff (1996). Port Vale Personalities. Witan Books. p. 256. ISBN 0-9529152-0-0. 
  5. ^ a b Betts, Graham (2006). England: Player by player. Green Umbrella Publishing. p. 208. ISBN 1-905009-63-1. 
  6. ^ "England 6 – Ireland 1". 2 March 1889. Retrieved 24 April 2009. 
  7. ^ Association Football in Victorian England – A History of the Game from 1863 to 1900. pp. 120–121. 
  8. ^ "Ireland 0 – England 2". 5 March 1892. Retrieved 24 April 2009. 
  9. ^ Association Football in Victorian England – A History of the Game from 1863 to 1900. p. 188. 
  10. ^ "William Rowley". Soccerway. Retrieved 21 May 2012. 

External links[edit]