I Had Not Thought Death Had Undone So Many

I’ve just been groping through piles of statistics and have come across a thoroughly melancholy fact, namely that there are no survivors of England’s pre-War internationals.

The earliest international match for which we have a living English representative is Northern Ireland v England on 28th September 1946: Sir Tom Finney (b. 5th April 1922) scored on his war-delayed debut.

But there’s relief in that Sir Tom isn’t actually the oldest surviving international: that honour belongs to Phil Taylor of Liverpool, born on 18th September 1917. Taylor actually made his league debut on 28th March 1936, so we are still in the company of pre-War footballers, if only just.

Bert Williams, goalkeeper against the USA in 1950, is also still in the land of the living. “The Cat” may be the oldest surviving player with a nickname: he was born on 31st January 1920.

All this means that there are at least three former league players who predate the grouping of the railways.

Here’s Sir Tom Finney, combining with Sir Stanley Matthews to score against Uruguay in the 1954 World Cup:

9 Replies to “I Had Not Thought Death Had Undone So Many”

  1. Nope – I’m looking at a keeper who SAVED every penalty he faced, including shootouts.

  2. Ah, fair enough. Knowing your interests I’d guess it must be early 20th century or very soon after the War? Hmmm. Really no idea – the shootouts point though suggests later.


  3. Well, penalty kicks themselves didn’t come in until… but you’re on the right lines. The club involved is Aston Villa.

    As to how many have saved two, including shootouts, well, trick question of course: NO England keeper has saved two penalties. Not even Shilton or Safe Hands.

  4. It isn’t someone like Nigel Spink is it?

    Your stat about the war is fascinating- I started having a look and you are obviously right. The last living representatives are people from the late forties early fifties team- the Finney-Lofthouse-Matthews generation and the people who saw Hungary 56 first hand. In a sense what’s happening as well is the people who thought that English football was innately superior are dying out- I suppose Finney is the last international footballer who played for the country before we decided to enter world cups?

  5. I looked at those who played (or were meant to play such as Bradman) in the final Ashes test before the war (1938 Oval). All are dead, and for the England team the last to go was Dennis Compton in 1997. I guess cricketers tend to be older, but no England player from that team lived beyond 79. The last Australian however only died in 2008 – Bill Brown.

  6. That, too, is profoundly depressing news.

    Mind you, looking at the Edwardian scene, comparatively few stars of either sport of that era made it through to World War II. It could be argued that the Brylcreem Boy and his pals fared relatively well. But it’s still depressing.

  7. Also there’s not that many people left from the pre-war era in any walk of life – I was wondering if Michael Foot was the last person alive, with the obvious exception of The Queen, who was a public figure before 1945 (and then he wasn’t before 1939).

    Or have I missed anyone obvous?

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