Sunday, 28 March 2010
JIM'S COLUMN 27.3.10 Two stars of the 1950s pass away
Today is Legends Day at the Ricoh Arena, the fourth year running that the Former Players Association have organised a major reunion of ex-Coventry City players. Around 40 former players will be entertained to lunch in the Eon lounge and then will be presented on the pitch at half-time. Players representing seven decades will be present stretching from 89-year old Trevor Lewis who made his debut in 1948 through to Claus Jorgensen who scored the first ever goal at the Ricoh in 2005. If you’re going to the game today I encourage you to stay in your seat at half-time and give the Legends a great ovation to celebrate our heritage.
After the game, around 5.30 the ex-players will be guests of the G-Casino and mingling with fans in the casino. The casino have been immensely supportive to the FPA this season and every home game has seen a former player making an appearance there. Thanks go to the key men at G-Casino Quinton Korsma and Paul Davis.
This week I received the sad news that two former City players from the 1950s died recently. Former goalkeeper Charlie Ashcroft passed away, aged 83 earlier this month and another Charlie, Dutton, died aged 75, last October but news of his passing has only just reached me.
As a twelve-year old Chorley-born Charlie was already six feet tall and the natural choice to play in goal at school. Liverpool spotted him playing for Eccleston Juniors in the Preston & District League. His full debut for Liverpool was a 7-4 win over Chelsea in September 1946 and he went on to make 89 appearances over nine years for the Reds as well as winning an England B cap.
He joined Ipswich Town and played under Alf Ramsey but after two seasons at Portman Road manager Harry Warren signed the six-foot two-inch keeper for City in 1957. He had previously broken an arm, which had not healed properly and he could not straighten it properly. Poor Charlie was on a hiding to nothing at Highfield Road, having to replace the famous Reg Matthews especially during one of the club’s worst post-war seasons. He started the season as first-choice keeper but in the fourth game of the season, a home defeat to Newport County, he was badly at fault for one of Newport’s two goals. The Newport winger, Thomas, handled the ball which ran loose to Ashcroft. City players appealed for the free-kick but the referee waved play on as City had the advantage. Then Charlie, obviously thinking he had awarded the free-kick, inexplicably threw it straight to Thomas who gleefully lobbed it into the goal. After the game a fuming Ashcroft and several other City players were adamant they had heard a whistle.
In the following game Ashcroft was dropped and replaced by 17-year old Graham Spratt. Soon afterwards manager Warren was sacked and replaced by Billy Frith and after a horrendous 7-1 defeat at Southampton in February 1958 Charlie was recalled for the shell-shocked Spratt as the team slid towards Division Four. He played in most of the remaining games that season before being transfer-listed in the summer, joining Chorley where he played for four years. He worked at the Royal Ordnance factory at Euxton and lived in Eccleston,near Chorley, where he built his own house. A keen cricketer, he was playing cricket at the age of 56.
Charlie Dutton was a crowd-pleasing centre forward signed by manager Harry Storer from Derby County as an 18-year old in 1952. Storer loaned him out to Rugby Town almost immediately and he scored prolifically for the non-league side including five goals in one game against Sutton Town. He scored on his City debut in a 2-0 victory over Bournemouth in September 1953 and a week later scored the winner in a 2-1 victory at Millwall. Despite three goals in six games he was back in the reserves when regular centre-forward Eddie Brown was fit. That tended to be the story of Dutton’s career at Coventry. When he left to join Northampton in March 1956 he had made 28 appearances and scored nine goals.
His stay at Northampton was short and he was soon at Lockheed Leamington where he found his scoring boots and later enjoyed a successful career in non-league football with Bedworth, Rugby, Hinckley Town and Brereton Social. Charlie spent his later years back in his home town of Rugeley but died after a long fight against Motor Neurone Disease.