|Full name||John Southworth|
|Date of birth||11 December 1866|
|Place of birth||Blackburn, England|
|Date of death||16 October 1956(aged 89)|
|–||Higher Walton F.C.|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
John (Jack) Southworth, also known as Skimmy Southworth, (born in Blackburn on 11 December 1866, died 16 October 1956), was a footballer who played in the early days of professional football for Blackburn Rovers and Everton as well as being capped three times for England. He was the top scorer in the Football League in 1890–91 and 1893–94.
He began his football career at the age of 7 when he helped form a junior club named Inkerman Rangers.
In the 1885–86 season, despite having signed professional for Chester FC earlier in the season, he turned out for Blackburn Olympic in their First Round FA Cup match. As a result of the subsequent FA enquiry he was suspended for four months. (Source: Shooting Stars: The History of Blackburn Olympic, p. 70)
A keen musician, he took a job with a theatre in Chester and returned to Olympic, resuming his old position of centre forward. Having overcome his injuries, he became a great success as a centre forward and the 1887–88 season saw him finally join Blackburn Rovers, together with his less-talented brother James. Both were involved in performances at the Royalty Theatre in Chester, with Jack playing the violin and James the conductor.
The first season of the Football League began in September 1888. Rovers’ first league game took place on 15 September 1888 at Leamington Road, then home of Blackburn Rovers, when Rovers shared ten goals in an exciting encounter with Accrington. Southworth converted a cross from Harry Fecitt to score Blackburn's first goal in the league. The other scorers for Blackburn were James Beresford, Billy Townley (2) and Fecitt. Southworth scored his first hat-trick (he scored 2 in 1888-1889) for Blackburn at Burnley in November. He also scored two-League-goals-in-a-match twice. In the FA Cup match against Aston Villa Southworth scored four goals as Blackburn registered an 8–1 victory, before going out in the semi-final to Wolves. Blackburn ended the inaugural League season in fourth place; Southworth missed only one of the 22 league games and was Blackburn's top scorer with seventeen league goals, plus four in the cup. As a forward he played in a forward-line that scored three-League-goals-or-more-in-a-match on 11 separate occasions.
Southworth was christened the "Prince of Dribblers". A contemporary wrote that: "His dodging, his neat passing, his speed and general accuracy in shooting won the hearts of the spectators at the Leamington ground. He is built for speed, he plays an unselfish game; he's good at tackling and has excellent judgement. Arguably the finest goal-scorer in the Football League during its early years, Southworth scored in all three of his appearances for England. He won his first international cap for England against Wales on 23 February 1889 and scored one of the goals in England's 4–1 victory. Southworth also scored in the other two games he played for his country against Wales (1891) and Scotland (1892).
In 1889–90 Southworth's goal-scoring form continued. Both he and Nat Walton scored hat-tricks in a 9–1 home success against Notts County, before Southworth netted four of Blackburn’ s goals in a 5–1 victory over West Bromwich Albion at Ewood Park. He repeated this feat in January in an 8–0 victory over Stoke. In the FA Cup he scored the only goal in the semi-final victory over Wolves. Blackburn finished the league season in third place, with Southworth ever-present and again top-scorer with 22 league goals.
In the FA Cup final against Sheffield Wednesday (from the Football Alliance) at The Oval on 29 March 1890, Rovers were the odds-on favourites to win in view both of their record of three victories in the previous six seasons and their superior league placing. Blackburn fielded a team consisting of nine England or Scotland internationals. Rovers lived up to expectations as they romped away with the Cup defeating their Yorkshire opponents 6–1 with goals by Billy Townley (3), Nat Walton, Southworth and Joe Lofthouse.
As Philip Gibbons points out in his book Association Football in Victorian England: "The Blackburn side had given one of the finest exhibitions of attacking football in an FA Cup Final, with England internationals, Walton, Townley, Lofthouse and John Southworth at the peak of their form."
Rovers opened the 1890–91 season with an exciting 8–5 defeat at Derby County with Southworth scoring a hat-trick. He repeated this in a 5–1 win against Aston Villa in December. In the opening week of the New Year, Rovers recorded their biggest League win of the season as Combe Hall (4), Southworth (3) and Billy Townley found the net in an 8–0 home success against Derby County. In the 7–0 FA Cup victory against Chester Southworth netted his fourth hat-trick of the season. His next came in a 4–0 success at Accrington. Southworth missed several games through injury but still finished the season on 26 league goals (plus six in the cup) thus making him top scorer in the Football League.
Blackburn reached the FA Cup Final again in 1891. On this occasion Notts County were their opponents. In the final, played at Kennington Oval on 21 March, Rovers put County under pressure from the beginning and in the 8th minute, centre-half Geordie Dewar scored from a Townley corner. Before the end of the first-half, Southworth and Townley had added further goals. Jimmy Oswald of Notts County scored a late consolation goal but Blackburn finished comfortable 3–1 winners and won the FA Cup for the fifth time in eight years.
In the 1891–92 season Southworth continued his prolific form, scoring freely, including a hat-trick against Bolton Wanderers and four in the FA Cup first round victory over Derby County. By now Blackburn were starting to struggle in the league but finished in ninth place (out of fourteen). Southworth was yet again Blackburn's top scorer with 22 of their 58 league goals. After four league seasons Southworth had scored 87 goals from 85 appearances.
The 1892–93 season was not so prolific as Blackburn again finished the league in ninth place with Southworth scoring ten times in 23 appearances. By the end of the season Blackburn were encountering serious financial problems as a result of the costs of developing Ewood Park which had not resulted in the expected higher match-day attendances. As a result, they were forced to sell their main asset, Southworth, to Everton for £400.
In the five years he spent at Blackburn Rovers he scored 97 goals in 108 league games, plus a further 22 cup goals in 21 appearances. He still holds the Blackburn record for the most individual hat-tricks in a season with five in 1890–91, and the record for the aggregate individual hat-tricks with thirteen.
Everton were to enjoy the skills of Jack Southworth for just over one season. Following his signing from Blackburn Rovers, he replaced the injured Fred Geary, making an immediate impact and soon became a great favourite with the Everton supporters. In his only full season he scored 27 goals in just 22 games, including ten in two games over the Christmas period. He scored three goals in an 8–1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday followed by six in the 7–1 victory over West Bromwich Albion on 30 December 1893; this still stands as an Everton record. Despite Southworth's goal-scoring exploits, Everton finished the season in a disappointing sixth place.
The next season, he started off like he finished the previous with nine goals in nine games before a serious leg injury forced him to retire from the game. In his two seasons at Everton, Southworth scored an amazing 36 goals in 31 games.
Southworth died in 1956 aged 89.
Honours and achievements
- FA Cup winner: 1890 and 1891
- "Golden Boot" (Top scorer in Football League): 1890–91
- Individual hat-tricks in a season: 5 (1890–91)
- Aggregate individual hat-tricks: 13
- "Golden Boot" (Top scorer in Football League): 1893–94
- Most goals in a single match: 6 (v. West Bromwich Albion Football League Division 1, 30 December 1893)
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