Joe Spence (footballer, born 1898)

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Joe Spence
Personal information
Full name Joseph Waters Spence
Date of birth (1898-12-15)15 December 1898
Place of birth Throckley, England
Date of death 31 December 1966(1966-12-31) (aged 68)
Height 5 ft 8.5 in (1.74 m)
Playing position Outside right
Youth career
Throckley Celtic
1918–1919 Scotswood
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1919–1933 Manchester United 481 (158)
1933–1935 Bradford City 75 (27)
1935–1938 Chesterfield 58 (10)
Total 614 (195)
National team
1926 The Football League XI 1 (1)
1926 England 2 (1)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Joseph Waters Spence (15 December 1898 – 31 December 1966) was an English football player. Spence was purchased from Scotswood in March 1919 by Manchester United. His first game for the club came on 30 August 1919 against Derby County, at the start of the first Football League season after the First World War.

He is currently seventh on the club's all-time goalscoring list with 168 and seventh for appearances with 510. He left the club in 1933.

One of United's few true stars between the wars, Spence's wing play made "Give it to Joe" the most commonly heard terrace chant during his 14 years at Old Trafford. His first season brought 14 goals in 32 First Division games, and in his best season at the club, 1927-28 season, he scored 24 goals; 22 in the league and two in the FA Cup. However, United were relegated to the Second Division twice during his 14 years there.[1]

Indeed, such was his importance to United, and Manchester, he was known locally as "Mr Soccer".

Born in Throckley, Northumberland, the young Spence played for Blutcher Juniors and Throckley Celtic. While with the former, he scored an astonishing 42 of the team's 49 goals in his first season. At 13 he began work as a miner and was conscripted into the army at 17, where he served as a machine-gunner.

He guested for Liverpool, Newburn and Scotswood during his years in service and won the Army Cup with his battalion. But in March 1919, the year after the First World War ended, Spence signed for United from north-east amateur side, Scotswood.

He wasted no time making an impact: scoring four in a 5–1 Lancashire Section drubbing of Bury at Old Trafford on his debut. His official debut came in August when the league programme resumed and he was a model of consistency after that, making 510 appearances and scoring 168 goals.

Sadly for Spence, he failed to win any major honours and it was not until he left United in 1933 that he lifted any silverware – the Third Division North Championship with Chesterfield, in 1936.

It was his misfortune to be at Old Trafford during some of the most difficult years of the club's history, but in a period when United teams often failed to produce the goods, his entertaining presence was a true highlight.

He remains among the top 10 appearance-makers for the club and his 481 league games was a record that stood for 40 years until surpassed by Bill Foulkes.

He left United to join Bradford City in 1933, where he played 75 games in two seasons, scoring 27 goals, including being top goal-scorer in the 1933–34 season. He left City to join Chesterfield in May 1935.

When the Second World War ended in 1945, new manager Matt Busby brought Spence back to United in a coaching and scouting role.

Despite his success at club level player, he was capped only twice by England, his chances of regular international recognition not helped by the fact that he spent several seasons playing outside the top flight.

His son, also named Joe, was on the books of Chesterfield, but didn't make an appearance for them before joining York City in 1950. In four years at York, he made 110 appearances before dropping into non-league football with Gainsborough Trinity.

He died on New Year's Eve 1966, at the age of 68.


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 February 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

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