After five trying years at the helm of Leeds United, manager
Major Frank Buckley quit
at the end of the 1952-53 season, having
lost patience with the continual financial constraints at Elland
Road. He had achieved much while he was in charge and had revolutionised
the club from top to bottom, although he never quite managed the
breakthrough of promotion back to Division One. Immediately following
Buckley took charge at Third Division club Walsall, sending out
the clear message that he thought Leeds were going nowhere. He
had led a number of assaults on promotion, but in the season just
ended they had finished a hugely disappointing 10th.
When casting around for a successor, chairman Sam Bolton and
the Leeds board sought another known and proven quantity. They
eventually settled on Raich Carter,
who had a glittering playing career in the Thirties and Forties
as England's most gifted inside forward, starring for Sunderland
and Derby County.
His silky soccer skills had delighted millions for two decades
and he showed his flair in an off the field role when succeeding
Buckley at Third Division Hull City in 1948. He doubled up as
player manager and inspired a Division Three championship win
the following year before departing Boothferry Park in 1952 after
a number of disagreements with the board.
After a brief and successful spell in Ireland with Cork Athletic,
he answered the call from the Elland Road Board without hesitation
and arrived with the stated intention of regaining the First Division
place Leeds had lost in 1947. Buckley had done some first class
groundwork, establishing effective youth development and scouting
programmes which had unearthed one of the stars of the 1950's
in Welsh giant John Charles.
After blooding him as a centre half, Buckley switched Charles
to centre forward and was duly rewarded when the Welshman rattled
home a shedful of goals.
In his first season at the club, Raich Carter generally kept
faith with the Buckley eleven that had performed so well in the
second half of 1953-54, with one notable exception. Winger George
Meek was away for a year on National Service and in his place
the new manager enlisted an old ally, 40 year old Eddie Burbanks.
The veteran had played alongside Carter in Sunderland's FA Cup
triumph in 1937 and for him in Hull's promotion winning team in
1949. The move to Leeds wasn't a success and Burbanks retired
a year later, after captaining the team in the last game of the
season. Burbanks played in the opening 12 games but then 23 year
old Arthur Tyrer, who had signed three years before from non-League
Mossley, took over from him on the left wing.
The rest of the team that kicked off Carter's spell in charge
was tried and tested. 25 year old keeper John Scott had made the
spot his own after arriving from Workington in 1950; reliable
full backs Jimmy Dunn and Grenville Hair were quick, tactically
aware and both unlucky not to win full international honours during
lengthy Elland Road careers; a sound half back line up of Eric
Kerfoot, Jim McCabe and Buckley's skipper, Tommy Burden, provided
the backbone of the team. Between them, Scott, Dunn, Hair, Kerfoot
and Burden had only missed five games throughout the whole of
the previous campaign.
Welsh winger Harold Williams and inside forward Ray Iggleden
were skilled providers for the twin menace up front of Charles
and 29 year old Albert Nightingale, a fiery forward who had done
the rounds with a number of Yorkshire clubs and was a constant
thorn in the side of opposing defenders. It was a strong and potent
side and one that had been unlucky on several occasions to miss
out on promotion.
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The team kicked off the new season in determined style with two
memorable wins at Elland Road - 6-0 against Notts County (John
Charles scoring four times) and 4-2 over Rotherham with another
Charles hat trick. Leeds were then unlucky to lose by the odd
goal in seven in the next match, away to Swansea, but faced a
rude awakening on 29 August when they crashed 5-0 at Leicester.
Though they won their next game, the return at Elland Road against
Swansea 3-2, they then went through a nightmare spell,
winning just one of the next nine games. By the time they drew
2-2 at Blackburn on the last day of October, they were well off
the promotion pace, some eight points behind leaders Leicester
City and way back in 12th position.
They were proving a deadly proposition in front of goal, however,
with Charles hitting 19 goals in 15 matches and Nightingale adding
another 6. Winger George Willis played three matches as replacement
for Burbanks, but quickly gave way to Tyrer on the left, while
Bobby Forrest covered for Charles and scored a hat trick in the
3-3 home draw with Bristol Rovers at the beginning of October.
Other team changes saw Jack Marsden take over at number 5 from
Jim McCabe, while 23 year old Roy Wood made his debut in goal
and had a run of 10 matches when Scott was out injured. Wood went
on to have a long and distinguished career at Elland Road.
Manager Carter's touch was proving less assured than in the Third
Division, although a brief improvement in form during November
saw his new club climb the table. A Nightingale hat trick saw
off second placed Doncaster Rovers by 3-1 at Elland Road on November
7, another Charles hat trick was the highlight of an amazing 4-4
draw at bottom club Bury and goals from Forrest and Nightingale
earned a 2-1 home win over struggling Oldham. However, a 2-1 reverse
at third placed Everton on November 28 sparked off another spell
of mediocre form, with just one win in six games in the run up
to the New Year.
That isolated success featured yet another Charles hat trick
(his fourth of the season), as Leeds won 4-2 away to a Rotherham
side in the running for promotion, but two defeats by Nottingham
Forest on Christmas Day (5-2 away) and Boxing Day (2-0 at Elland
Road) plunged Leeds back down to 11th place, now 10 points behind
Leicester, who headed the table. It was with much trepidation,
then, that United prepared for the leaders' visit to Elland Road
on January 2.
As it turned out, Leeds had a field day, hammering the long time
table toppers by 7-1 with Ray Iggleden hitting a hat trick against
his former club and Williams, Charles, Nightingale and Tyrer getting
a goal apiece. How could a team that could play so brilliantly
struggle so badly and become bogged down in a mid table morass?
But inconsistency was the word, and, following the customary third
round FA Cup exit (1-0 away to First Division Tottenham after
a 3-3 draw in the first match at Elland Road), Leeds suffered
three straight defeats - 4-0 at Stoke City, 2-1 at home to Fulham
and 5-2 at West Ham. They had now sunk to 15th, just five points
clear of the relegation positions.
Carter was suffering the same sort of headaches that all his
Elland Road predecessors had experienced. He was exasperated by
the fluctuating form, particularly when Charles' fifth and final
hat trick of the season inspired a 5-2 triumph over Lincoln on
February 13 to once more bemuse the critics. Hopes of a promotion
spot had long since faded, but there was still much to do to guard
against an unprecedented fall into the Third Division.
The self assured Carter had developed an unswerving self belief
during his playing days, when he had won everything the English
game had to offer by the time he was 24. His unabashed self promotion
bred unrest among the players and the new broom was ruffling a
few feathers. He was convinced of his abilities and scathing and
dismissive in his put downs of the players, whom he deemed lesser
talents. Team spirit suffered as he lavished all his attention
on the star player, John Charles. The modest young Welshman was
embarrassed by such patronage and his humility was in stark contrast
to the high self esteem of The Silver Fox, who refused to accept
that any of the side's failings were down to him, but that all
their successes stemmed directly from his leadership. It was not
good for team spirit.
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However, despite all the mutterings, the side had not suddenly
become a bad one overnight and the Lincoln win marked the start
of a strong closing burst. They went six games without defeat
and, in fact, only lost two matches out of the last 13, easily
securing a mid table finish. The focus had switched, however,
from the form of the team towards the individual triumphs of Charles.
His three goals against Lincoln in February moved him onto 32
in just 28 League games.
The Welshman had been consistently deadly in front of goal throughout
the season. The most games he went without a goal at any one time
was two, and he was always likely to pop up at the vital moment.
After his astonishing opening burst of 4 on the opening day against
Notts County and a hat trick in the next game against Rotherham,
he simply kept on plugging away and the goals continued to flow.
The statistics from then on made amazing reading:
August 27 Swansea away - 1 goal, August 29 Leicester away - 0,
September 2 Swansea home - 2, September 5 Stoke home - 1, September
away - 1, September 12 Fulham away - 2, September 16 Plymouth
home - 0, September 19 West Ham home - 1, September 26 Lincoln
away - 0, October 3 Birmingham away - 1, October 17 Brentford
away - 1, October 24 Derby home - 2, October 31 Blackburn away
- 0, November 7 Doncaster home - 0, November 14 Bury away - 3,
November 28 Everton away - 1, December 5 Hull home - 0, December
12 Notts County away - 0, December 19 Rotherham away - 3, December
25 Forest away - 1, December 26 Forest home - 0, January 2 Leicester
home - 1, January 9 Spurs home in the Cup - 1, January 13 Spurs
away in the Cup - 0, January 16 Stoke away - 0, January 23 Fulham
home - 1, February 6 West Ham away - 0, February 13 Lincoln home
The club's record scorer in any one season was still the phenomenal
Tom Jennings, who had bulldozed his way to 35 back in 1926-27.
The marvellous form in front of goal that Charles had shown all
year had put him within touching distance of Jennings' long lasting
record. There were 12 games still to play and the odds were in
the Welshman's favour. He drew a blank in the next two games,
both 1-1 draws, but then notched another two goals in the 4-0
victory at Elland Road against struggling Brentford on March 6.
The following week saw a 2-0 victory away to Derby County, but
Charles missed the game and had to watch his replacement Bobby
Forrest notch both goals. However, Charles was back a week later
for the next match, a home game against Blackburn Rovers. He got
the winner from the penalty spot in a 3-2 victory to draw level
on 35 goals with Jennings' record, and there were still seven
games to go.
The suspense did not last long, and Charles hit his 36th, record
breaking goal in the very next match, when he scored United's
second in a 4-2 defeat away to Oldham.
It was a remarkable achievement, for it was just his 33rd game.
What was even more startling was that Charles had started the
season with only 38 goals in 136 games since his debut in April
1949. The improvement had been startling and since Charles had
moved permanently to the number 9 shirt on October 11 1952, he
had hit a startling 62 goals in 61 games. He wasn't finished yet,
however, and hit another six goals in his last four matches of
the season to push the new record up to an incredible 42 goals
from just 39 matches.
He had rapidly become one of the hottest properties in the game
and firmly imprinted his name on the nation's consciousness. After
becoming the youngest Welsh full international debutant back in
1950, he was now an established international with 9 caps to his
name. His Welsh record in 1953-54 was three goals in 4 games,
so with his Cup goal, his remarkable return was 46 goals from
45 matches. It was difficult to remember that this colossus of
the British game was as yet still just 22 years of age.
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For all their centre forward's startling efforts, however, Leeds
United had had a lacklustre season. Albert Nightingale had contributed
a further 17 goals, but the rest of the squad could only scrape
between them. The club finished in 10th place with 43 points,
exactly the same as in 1953, a full 13 points behind champions
Leicester and runners up Everton. It was unfortunate, because
on their day United could mix it with any side in the division
and they had beaten all of the top three teams at home, notching
up 13 goals against just four conceded. In fact, of the top seven
teams, only Nottingham Forest came away from Elland Road with
a win and only 13 points were conceded on home turf all year.
Had they been able to find anything like decent form on their
travels, Leeds would have been well up with the promotion candidates,
but for the time being Raich Carter and his men basked in the
reflected glory of Charles' incredible season and prepared for
better things in the year to come.
Other Football Highlights from 1953-54
- All the hard work that Stan Cullis had put in at Wolverhampton
was repaid when his team won the League championship for the
first time. Wolves won the title by four points from West Bromwich
Albion, scoring 96 goals in the process. Cullis had suffered
two great disappointments as a Wolves player - losing the 1939
FA Cup final and missing out on the championship in the 1946-47
season in his last match before he retired
- West Bromwich Albion beat Preston 3-2 in the FA Cup final
- Hungary, the 1952 Olympic champions, came to Wembley in November
1953 to take on England and went away leaving the home side
shell shocked after a stupendous footballing lesson. England
had never lost at home to Continental opposition, but that record
was going from 60 seconds when Hidegkuti opened the scoring
from 20 yards. The Hungarian was notionally playing at centre
forward, but took a deeper role and the Magyars were simply
too swift thinking and flexible for an England team that looked
clumsy and slow by comparison. Ferenc Puskas pulled the strings
for most of the game, hitting two to put alongside Hidegkuti's
hat trick as the Hungarians ran out 6-3 winners. England's long
held delusions of supremacy were swept away for ever
- Six months after the 6-3 mauling that England took at the
hands of Hungary at Wembley, they set off for Budapest intent
on getting revenge, but came away with their tails between their
legs. They made seven changes in the side, but again had no
answer to some breathtaking football as Hungary ran out emphatic
- Alf Ramsey scored a penalty in the last minute to spare England's
blushes as they came back from 3-1 down to salvage a 4-4 draw
with the Rest of Europe in a match at Wembley as part of the
FA's 90th anniversary celebrations
- Sam Bartram set a League record when he made his 500th appearance
for Charlton on March 6
- Celtic, who had not won the championship since 1938 and had
won the Scottish Cup only once since that, ended their barren
period by walking off with the Double. Even more remarkable
was that the architect of their triumph was a veteran has been,
Jock Stein. He was plucked from Welsh League obscurity with
Llanelli and injuries brought him to the fore in the team
- UEFA was formed at a meeting during the World Cup finals in
- England reached the quarter finals of the World Cup before
going out 4-2 to reigning champions Uruguay
- Hungary were clear favourites to become the new champions
and breezed through to the final. They had already beaten their
opponents 8-3 in a group came so were understandably confident
and things looked good as they took a 2-0 lead within eight
minutes. However, Puskas was carrying an injury and was a liability
as the Germans came storming back to take the trophy 3-2
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