John Sewell (footballer)

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John Sewell
Personal information
Full name John David Sewell
Date of birth (1936-07-07) 7 July 1936 (age 80)
Place of birth Brockley, England
Playing position Defender
Youth career
Bexleyheath and Welling
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1955–1963 Charlton Athletic 185 (5)
1963–1971 Crystal Palace 231 (6)
1971–1972 Leyton Orient 7 (0)
1972–1975 St. Louis Stars 58 (4)
Teams managed
St. Louis Stars
California Surf
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

John David Sewell (born 7 July 1936[1] in Brockley, South London) is a former professional footballer who had a long career in the Football League, before continuing as player and coach in the North American Soccer League (NASL) during the 1970s. Nicknamed "The Duke", because of his good dress sense,[2] Sewell also boasts the distinction of never having been booked during his English playing career & only once throughout his entire playing career.[2]

Early career[edit]

As a young athlete, Sewell played fly-half at rugby and was twice selected to play for England Schools’ Under 15 team. On leaving school, he first became a sprinter with Blackheath Harriers, and then signed as a professional footballer for Bexleyheath & Welling in 1954.

A key man at centre-half in the Kent League team at Bexleyheath, Sewell was transferred to Charlton Athletic on 5 January 1955. Almost immediately, however, he spent two years in national service, and finally made his league debut for Charlton at right-half against Sheffield Wednesday in January 1957, a year in which the club struggled (and ultimately failed) to avoid relegation from the First Division. After not making the first team the following season, he was named again in the squad in December, 1958 – this time at full-back, a position he played for the rest of his career.

Crystal Palace[edit]

Sewell made 204 first team appearances for Charlton, scoring five goals, before signing for London rivals Crystal Palace on 25 October 1963. Between 1963 and 1971, he made 258 appearances for Palace, scoring nine goals, mainly from the penalty spot. He became club captain in 1967-68, when Alan Stephenson left to join West Ham, and in 1969, led Palace to the First Division for the first time in the club’s history.

In 1970, his last season with Palace, he scored his best remembered goal in the closing seconds of a Division One match against league leaders Leeds United. The visitors were a goal up when the ball came to Sewell, thirty yards from goal, who chose to hit a speculative lob back into the penalty area. The Leeds goalkeeper, Gary Sprake, caught the ball at his goal line, and then inexplicably dropped it behind him into his own net.

In 1971, Sewell received a testimonial for his services to Palace, against Belgian club RFC Bruges. It was his last game in a Palace shirt. That same year, he joined an exodus of players leaving Selhurst Park to join their former coach George Petchey at Leyton Orient.


After just one season, however, Sewell left for America to play in the fledgling North American Soccer League for the St. Louis Stars. Sewell spent four seasons (1972–1975) playing with the Stars, seeing time in 58 games and scoring 4 goals. In 1975, he was named NASL Coach of the Year, for his success guiding a St. Louis squad comprised almost exclusively of home-grown American players, an oddity in the era of Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, and other high-priced imports. At the end of the 1977 season, the Stars moved to Anaheim, California where the team became known as the California Surf. Sewell made the move to California with the team and continued to coach through the end of the 1981 season.


His soccer career at a close, Sewell stayed in California for almost thirty years, before retiring to Washington state in 2006. He and wife Maureen live in the Seattle area.


  1. ^ Mike Purkiss & Nigel Sands. Crystal Palace: A Complete Record 1905–1989. p. 340. ISBN 0907969542. 
  2. ^ a b Mike Purkiss & Nigel Sands. Crystal Palace: A Complete Record 1905–1989. p. 87. ISBN 0907969542. 

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