Monday, 26 September 2011

Jim's column 24.9.11

Hugh Richmond was one of Coventry City’s star players in the early 1920s and I recently had correspondence from Hugh’s grandson Steve Richmond, who lives in the North East. Steve is researching his grandfather’s life, specifically his football career, and I was able to fill him in on some of the facts of his time at Coventry City. Steve was also able to give me a fair bit of information about Hugh that I didn’t know about.

Hugh Richmond was born in the small town of Galston near Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, Scotland in 1894. He was on Kilmarnock’s books before the First World War but did not play for Killie’s first team. Like most young men he went off to the war, with the Seaforth Highlanders, but was sent back from the front to complete his apprenticeship in the Great Munition Works on the River Clyde.

In 1916 he was recorded as playing for and captaining Scottish Second Division club Arthurlie but soon after the war ended he headed south and signed for Leicester City in March 1919. A tall man, Hugh could play at wing-half or centre-half, and had prodigious heading ability, which resulted in him getting the nickname, ‘Rubberneck’.

At Leicester he was loaned out to Nuneaton Town for a spell in 1920 and in three seasons at Filbert Street he played only 24 first team games for the Foxes but according to Steve he captained the reserves to the Central Alliance League title. He did however appear for Leicester’s first team in a famous Second Division game against Stockport County on the final day of the 1920-21 season. Stockport’s Edgeley Park ground was closed by the Football Association, presumably because of crowd disorder, and the game was switched to Old Trafford where it should have been behind closed doors. 13 spectators allegedly paid to watch the game, a Football League record low, although contemporary reports suggest there were around 2,000 people inside the stadium for the match.

In 1922 he arrived at Highfield Road and was soon a regular in the half-back line but often got switched to centre-forward where his heading prowess came to the fore. He scored twice in the 7-1 home win over Wolves on Christmas Day 1922 and the following season he appeared more often in attack than defence and netted 14 goals in 30 games including a hat-trick against Nelson in November 1923 and another Christmas Day brace, against Sheffield Wednesday.

In 1924-25 he struggled to win a place in the first team and made only 12 appearances, and in May 1925 he signed for Queens Park Rangers but played only 10 games in a frustrating season before heading to the North East to sign for Blyth Spartans in the North Eastern League.

Steve now takes up the story: In 1926 Hugh joined Blyth Spartans as Player Manager, and also Blyth's first professional player. In his first game at Blyth, they played the previous years champions Newcastle United Reserves. Headlines in the 'Sunday Sun' on 29th August 1926 read 'SHOCKS IN NORTH EASTERN LEAGUE' - 'SPARTANS LOWER CHAMPIONS COLOURS'. Hugh scored 2 goals, from centre half, in a 2-1 victory and 'Richmond was undoubtedly the star performer'.

Hugh's duties at the club also included managing the Blyth Wednesday league team,  and under his supervision they finished as Champions of their league in their first season, and runners up in their second season. In 1929 Hugh had to leave Blyth Spartans when financial difficulties meant that the club could not offer him new terms. In three seasons with Blyth he played 111 games and scored 28 goals. He then signed for Spennymoor United prior to the start of the 1929-30 season.

Spennymoor also hit financial difficulties part way through that season, although they finished the league campaign, they could not keep their professional players and Hugh played out his final season as a player with Bedlington United.

That was not the end of Hugh’s football career though. Steve tells me that in December 1937 he found a small piece written by 'Crofter' in the Blyth News/Ashington Post - 'FORMER BLYTH PLAYER' 'Hughie Richmond the ex-Spartans centre half is now acting as trainer for Ashington first team. I am glad to hear that Hughie has made a good impression in his new role, yet it was just the sort of information I could expect, because of having known him as a real enthusiast, with a likeable manner to earn the respect of officials and players met with in his football experience.

Hugh later worked as a fitter/turner in the workshops of Ashington Colliery. Ashington, of course is famous for its footballing sons, Jackie Milburn and Bobby and Jack Charlton. Hugh passed away in Bedlington in 1962.

A great story and a big thank you to Steve Richmond for sharing it with me.

Following last week’s story about Coventry City’s longest drought without a home goal, Mike Young, fellow Former Players Association committee member, was in touch to firm up the record number of minutes without a goal. He tells me that in 1919 City’s drought last 596 minutes. On 4 October Tommy Lowes scored City’s goal in the 1-2 home defeat to Leicester in the 50th minute. There then followed six goalless home games (four of them 0-0) before Billy Walker netted in the 16th minute of the 3-2 Christmas Day victory over Stoke City. City’s recent run that ended in the Derby home game was 413 minutes and we all hope that the 1919 record will never be tested!

If you would like to learn more about the advantages of joining the Association as an Associate Member (£10 per season) please contact the Membership Secretary Mike Young through the website or on 07528016870.

1 comment:

  1. Did Hugh play a game as a WWI guest for Manchester United on March 29th, 1918?