George Utley

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

George Utley
Personal information
Full name George Utley
Date of birth (1887-05-16)16 May 1887
Place of birth Elsecar, Barnsley, England
Date of death 8 January 1966(1966-01-08) (aged 78)
Place of death Blackpool, England
Playing position Half Back
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1906 Sheffield Wednesday 0 (0)
1907–1913 Barnsley 170 (8)
1913–1921 Sheffield United 103 (4)
1922 Manchester City 1 (0)
Total 274 (12)
National team
1913 England 1 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

George Utley (born 16 May 1887 in Elsecar; died 8 January 1966 in Blackpool) was an English footballer who played for Barnsley, Sheffield United and England. He was strong and powerful half back who could shoot at goal when required.[1]

Utley was born in Reform Row, Elsecar,[2] which lies south of Barnsley. He was the 11th and final child of James and Mary Utley. His father was an engine tender at a colliery and his brothers worked in the local coal mines and foundries.[3]

Club career[edit]


On leaving school he became a joiner,[3] but by 1907 he had signed with Barnsley. During his time with Barnsley the club made it to two FA Cup Finals. The first was in 1910, when they were beaten by Newcastle United 2–0 in a reply after a one all draw, and the second was in 1912, when Barnsley managed to defeat West Bromwich Albion by one goal in the replay after the first game ended in a goalless draw.[4]

He made a total of 170 league appearances, with 8 goals for Barnsley.[5]

In season 1913–14, Sheffield United were looking for a replacement for Ernest Needham who had been a leader in the midfield of the team. The Football Committee who ran Sheffield United at the time were looking for a player with outstanding football ability, and someone to captain the team. Following a letter of recommendation from United player Billy Gillespie the man they targeted was George Utley.[6]

Sheffield United[edit]

Utley leads Sheffield United out for the 1915 FA Cup final.

The committee were not unanimous about signing the highly rated Utley, who they feared would fetch a large fee. Bolton Wanderers had offered £1,500 and it had been rejected by Barnsley. The Blades offered more and were also turned down. United increased their offer to £2,000 and this was accepted, making him the most expensive player in Britain at the time. Utley signed a long contract with United, and became the captain and the leader of the team through the ensuing years.

He made his debut for Sheffield United against Manchester United at Bramall Lane on 22 November 1913; in a match the Blades won 2–0.[7]

In the 1914–15 season, Sheffield United progressed through the rounds of the FA Cup, this improvement in United's Cup performance when compared to the previous seasons was credited to Utley.[1] In the Semi-Final they beat Bolton Wanderers 2–1 on 27 March 1915. It included a goal by Utley, which was described as 'the best of his career'[8] as he dribbled the ball from the half-way line to score for United in front of 22,500 fans. Utley made it to a third FA Cup Final in 1915, when Sheffield United defeated Chelsea 3–0 on 24 April 1915. Utley, as captain, worked hard and decisively throughout the game, breaking up many Chelsea attacks and provided many passes to the Sheffield forwards.[9]

He left Bramall Lane in 1922, transferring to Manchester City but retired within twelve months of the move.[10]


After leaving Manchester City, Utley went on to hold the position of trainer at Bristol City before moving to Sheffield Wednesday in May 1924 to the position of coach. He then moved on to become a trainer at Fulham in July 1925, a position he remained in until 1927.[10]

International career[edit]

In February 1913, while still with Barnsley, Utley was selected to play for England against Ireland. England were defeated 2–1, Ireland's first victory over England; He was not selected to play for England again.[11] This remains the only full international appearance by a Barnsley player.

Football Legacy[edit]

It could be argued that Utley's greatest impact on the game of football in England was that regarding the award of testimonial and benefit games. Usually players were awarded a benefit game for long service and allowed to choose a match, excluding derby games and large visiting clubs, from which to receive the gate receipts as recognition of their services.[12]

Utley challenged this in 1920 and was granted a benefit match against the then mighty Sunderland after only being at the club for four years, eventually receiving around £1,000. The board had been willing to make an exception for Utley, citing his importance to the team and wishing to ensure he stayed with the club.[12]

This extraordinary move by the club caused unrest in the dressing room and nine of the first team signed a letter to the United directors, written by Billy Gillespie, complaining that this preferential treatment was unfair.[12] The game went ahead a few days later without Utley although ironically Billy Gillespie scored twice in a 3–1 win in front of over 36,000 spectators.[13] Utley stayed at Bramall Lane for another two years.

The Football League discovered the unrest this benefit had caused at the club and changed the rules governing such matches. They stipulated that testimonials could only be played after an agreed period of time stated within a players contract when agreed or upon their career being unexpectedly cut short. This ruling remains to this day.[14]

Life outside football[edit]

Utley worked as an assistant cricket coach at Rossall School from 1911 until 1931 and from 1929 until 1931 he also worked as assistant groundsman.[15]

Regarded as astute in financial matters, Utley married into a wealthy family following the death of his first wife. Having no children from either marriage he returned his second wife's money to her family upon her death claiming he had enough to keep him. Living in a large house he kept two housekeepers to whom he bequeathed a home on the estate for peppercorn rent upon his death.[12] During the later part of his football career he authored articles for boys magazines including:[16]

Utley died in January 1966.


Sheffield United


Career stats[edit]


Season Division League Apps League Goals FA Cup Apps FA Cup Goals Total Apps Total Goals
1908–09 Division Two 15 1 0 0 15 1
1909–10 Division Two 35 0 9 1 44 1
1910–11 Division Two 38 1 2 0 40 1
1911–12 Division Two 34 4 12 0 46 4
1912–13 Division Two 36 1 3 0 39 1
1913–14 Division Two 12 1 0 0 12 1
Total 170 8 26 1 196 9

Sheffield United[edit]

Season Division League Apps League Goals FA Cup Apps FA Cup Goals Total Apps Total Goals
1913–14 Division One 23 1 7 4 30 5
1914–15 Division One 30 1 7 1 37 2
1919–20 Division One 16 0 0 0 16 0
1920–21 Division One 23 2 0 0 23 2
1921–22 Division One 15 0 1 0 16 0
Total 103 4 15 5 118 9


  1. ^ a b Unknown (1915). Cup Final Programme.
  2. ^ Utley, George (1887). Birth Certificate.
  3. ^ a b English Census James Utley Household. 1901.
  4. ^ John Harding. "The Uncompromising Legends". Professional Footballers Association. Retrieved 31 October 2007.[dead link]
  5. ^ "English National Football Archive". English National Football Archive. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  6. ^ Armstrong, Gary; Garrett, John. Sheffield United FC: The Biography. p. 120. ISBN 1-874718-65-2.
  7. ^ Dennis Clareborough and Andrew Kirkham (1999). A Complete Record of Sheffield United Football club 1889–1999. Hallamshire Press. p. 118. ISBN 0-9508588-2-X.
  8. ^ Clarebrough, Denis. (1989) Sheffield United F.C., The First 100 years. ISBN 0-9508588-1-1
  9. ^ "The Cup Final". Manchester Guardian. 26 April 1915. p. 9.
  10. ^ a b The Official Encyclopedia of Sheffield United by Tony Matthews, Dennis Clareborough and Andrew Kirkham, ISBN 1-904103-19-7, Page 253
  11. ^ "English International Database". The Football Association. Archived from the original on 29 October 2007. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
  12. ^ a b c d Sheffield United FC: The Biography by Gary Armstrong and John Garrett, ISBN 1-874718-65-2, Page 121
  13. ^ A Complete Record of Sheffield United Football club 1889–1999 by Dennis Clareborough and Andrew Kirkham, ISBN 0-9508588-2-X, Page 130
  14. ^ Sheffield United FC: The Biography by Gary Armstrong and John Garrett, ISBN 1-874718-65-2, Page 122
  15. ^ "Utley Leaving Rossall". Manchester Guardian. 29 August 1931. p. 17.
  16. ^ Steve Holland. "British Juvenile Story Papers and Pocket Libraries Index". Archived from the original on 20 October 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2007.