Tommy Lawton

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Tommy Lawton
Personal information
Full name Thomas Lawton
Date of birth (1919-10-06)6 October 1919
Place of birth Farnworth, Bolton, England
Date of death 6 November 1996(1996-11-06) (aged 77)
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1935–1936 Burnley 25 (16)
1936–1939 Everton 87 (65)
1945–1947 Chelsea 42 (30)
1947–1951 Notts County 151 (90)
1951–1953 Brentford 50 (17)
1953–1955 Arsenal 35 (13)
National team
1938–1948 England 23 (22)
1939–1946 England (wartime) 23 (24)
English League XI 3 (2)
Teams managed
1953 Brentford
1956–1956 Kettering Town
1957–1958 Notts County
1963–1964 Kettering Town
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Thomas "Tommy" Lawton (6 October 1919 – 6 November 1996) was an English association footballer who rose to fame a short time before the outbreak of the Second World War and enjoyed a successful career which lasted until well into the 1950s.

Playing career[edit]

Born in Farnworth, Lancashire, Lawton's precocious talent won him a trial for the England schoolboy team in which he scored a hat trick but this never led to a junior cap. In 1935, he signed for Second Division club Burnley. Lawton later wrote, "I remember my first meeting with Hughie Gallacher. It was after I had had a bad game for Burnley Reserves against Derby County Reserves. I was walking off the pitch with my heart in my boots when Hughie, who was the Derby centre forward, came up to me and said, "Look, son, you must learn to cover the ball with your body. If you are being tackled on your right, keep the ball on your left foot, so your opponent will have to come across you to get at it, and it's the same the other way round. If you do that they won't take it from you." I shall never forget the great Hughie Gallacher for that."

Despite flat feet and needing to wear orthotics, as a striker, he rapidly achieved fame for his pace, heading ability and two-footed effectiveness in front of goal.

By the start of 1937, 17-year-old Lawton had been bought by First Division Everton for £6,500 to play alongside the phenomenal, but ageing, Dixie Dean. Exposure and experience in the top flight led to his selection for England in the international against Wales in October 1938, two weeks after his nineteenth birthday. Lawton scored from the penalty spot in the 4-2 defeat. England would play seven more internationals before the outbreak of World War II, with Lawton playing in all of them. He scored in the first six of these games, equalling a record for goals in consecutive internationals held by Tinsley Lindley and Jimmy Windridge, and never equalled since. He also scored 34 goals for Everton in the final season before World War II, helping the club to win the league title.

For the duration of the war, Lawton served in the army as a physical training instructor. As well as continuing to play for Everton, under wartime conditions he also guested for other clubs, which led to some unusual situations.

On Christmas Day 1940, he played for Everton against Liverpool at Anfield in the morning and for Tranmere Rovers at Crewe Alexandra in the afternoon. Explaining this later, he said, 'The Tranmere people came into the dressing room and asked if anyone wanted to play as they were two men short. I said, "Go on, I'll help you out." And I did.'[1]

He also guested for Chester, scoring five times in a match against a Royal Air Force XI in May 1943, and ventured into Scottish football, guesting for Greenock Morton.

Post-war, he joined Chelsea for £11,500. He made his debut for Chelsea in their friendly match against touring Soviet side FC Dynamo Moscow in November 1945, scoring with a powerful header in a 3-3 draw. Lawton scored 26 goals in 34 league games in the 1946–47 season, but struggled to settle in London and came into conflict with Chelsea manager Billy Birrell, which resulted in him requesting a transfer.

Despite being at the peak of his playing career, he shocked the football world with a move to Third Division Notts County for a record transfer fee of £20,000, probably attracted by manager Arthur Stollery, who had formerly been physiotherapist at Chelsea. At County, he immediately realised an iconic status and real rapport with the Nottingham public, scoring 103 goals in 166 appearances for the club over five seasons and helping them win promotion to Division Two in 1950. Lawton was capped 23 times for England, scoring 22 goals, including a further sequence of five consecutive internationals in which he scored.

In 1952, Lawton took the player-manager role at Brentford but enjoyed little success. During his time at the club he appeared in the film The Great Game. In November 1953 he joined Arsenal for £10,000 and saw out his professional playing career there. In his two years for the Gunners he scored 15 goals in 38 matches, including one in the Gunners' 1953 Charity Shield win over Stanley Matthews' Blackpool.

He retired from playing at the end of the 1954–55 season after a career which lasted 20 years. By the time he played his last game, he was 35 years old.

Career statistics[edit]

[2]

Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
England League FA Cup League Cup Europe Total
1935–36 Burnley Second Division 7 5
1936–37 18 11
1936–37 Everton First Division 10 3
1937–38 39 28
1938–39 38 34
1939–40 3 4
1946–47 Chelsea First Division 34 26
1947–48 8 4
1947–48 Notts County Third Division South 19 18
1948–49 36 20
1949–50 37 31
1950–51 Second Division 30 9
1951–52 29 12
1951–52 Brentford Second Division 10 2
1952–53 24 13
1953–54 6 2
1953–54 Arsenal First Division 9 1
1954–55 18 6
1955–56 8 6
Total England 383 235
Career total 383 235

Later life[edit]

A second attempt at the player/manager role at non-league Kettering Town was more successful but Lawton could hardly resist the opportunity to manage Notts County when it arose. County's dream appointment ended in disappointment and relegation to the Second Division at the end of the season and Lawton decided to retire.

A short-lived appointment as a scout was followed by a period of some financial difficulty, hardly mitigated by fees for a column in the Nottingham Evening Post. Everton arranged a testimonial match for him in 1972. He later said that as he walked out onto the pitch to greet a large evening crowd at Goodison Park for his testimonial he realised he never should have left. He returned to management with Kettering Town for the 1963–64 season as a caretaker following the resignation of Wally Akers, but the season ended with Kettering being relegated from the Southern League Premier Division.[3]

Lawton's health deteriorated in his old age and he died in November 1996, aged 77, as a result of pneumonia. His ashes are lodged at The National Football Museum. In 2003 Lawton was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of his talents.[4] The Hall of Fame is also housed at the National Football Museum.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Anton Rippon - 'Gas Masks for Goalposts - Football in Britain during the Second World War' - Sutton Publishing 2005
  2. ^ Tommy Lawton at National-Football-Teams.com
  3. ^ "Tommy Lawton (2)". Kettering Town managers. www.poppiesfans.com. Retrieved 25 October 2010. 
  4. ^ "Everton FC 12 days of Christmas - 12 Hall of Fame legends". Liverpool Echo. 24 December 2010. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Lawton, T (1950) Tommy Lawton's all star football book ISBN B0000CHTOA
  • Lawton, T (1954) Soccer the Lawton way ISBN B0000CIYT5
  • Lawton, T (1955) "My Twenty Years of Soccer" ISBN B0007JENCK
  • Lawton, T (1973) When the Cheering Stopped ISBN 0-901482-17-X
  • McVay, D &, Smith, A (2000) The Complete Centre Forward: The Authorised Biography of Tommy Lawton ISBN 1-899807-09-8
  • Sumner, Chas (1997) On the Borderline: The Official History of Chester City F.C. 1885–1997 ISBN 1-874427-52-6
  • Rippon, Anton (2005) 'Gas Masks for Goal Posts' Sutton Publishing ISBN 978-0-7509-4031-3

External links[edit]