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The Giant Killers

Every F A cup slaying since 1888

Giant Killers


1952 - 1954

Gateshead 1-0 Liverpool

Third Round: Saturday January 10th 1953

Attendance: 15,193

Scorer: Ian Winters {85}

Ranked at the time: 99

In their complicated history, it was arguable whether or not Gateshead had a tradition as Giant Killers. Prior to 1930 the club were known as and located in nearby South Shields and as such had vanquished three top flight clubs in the 1920s. In 1930 however the club moved, lock stock and barrel to Gateshead and promptly changed their name without the same type of outcry that Milton Keynes Dons would find when performing the same action decades later. As Gateshead, the club often came close to promotion to the Second Division in an era where only the two regional Champions were promoted and in the early part of the 50s, Bill Tulip moulded a team that battled hard to win the Third Division South title but just didn't quite have that extra bit of quality to achieve their ambition. A run of just one win in seven League games had all but ended their title ambitions for another year.

Their opponents were a side that appeared to be in decline. Liverpool came out of the traps roaring after the war, winning the first post war title and threatening to end their elusive wait to get their hands on the FA cup for the first time with a trip to Wembley in 1950. They started this season in fine form and topped the table in September but dreams of another title win were decimated as the dark days of winter approached and the Reds managed to win just one of fourteen League games. They slumped down the table and needed to rekindle some degree of form to avoid being dragged towards the relegation battle. Their trip to Redheugh Park failed to provide that desperately needed spark in a dogged contest, played under the threat of the famed fog on the Tyne encroaching onto the pitch.

That same fog had brought a premature end to cup holders, Newcastle's start to their defence of the trophy less than five miles away. The referee there calling a halt after just six minutes. Many of the Magpies' stars made their way across town to take a seat in time for the second half of the action in this tie and were no doubt made aware that Gateshead could have been three up at the break but for Russell Crossley. Johnny Campbell, Ken Smith and Ian Winters had all looked poised to break the deadlock before the Liverpool guardian came to their rescue. At the other end the Reds struggled to make an impact with just a Jack Smith effort troubling Bobby Gray. The biggest danger to Gateshead appeared to be the fog stopping the game and Liverpool probably would have taken that as they struggled to impose their superior class on the tie, being relieved to see the referee, Mr Coultas disallow a Gateshead goal as the game battled to get to a conclusion and a probable replay at Anfield.

There were just six minutes left when Ian Winters rose to head home the winner, although a great portion of the crowd only had the roar from behind the goal to tell them the ball was in the net. There were no complaints from the Liverpool players as the game managed to survive to a conclusion.

A trip to Second Division strugglers, Hull offered the chance of more cup shock glory thanks to a 2-1 victory secured through an own goal. Round five again brought the Tynesiders out against Second Division opponents and a arduous journey to the south coast to promotion chasing Plymouth where they once more defied the critics to claim a third scalp of a higher level club, this time by the only goal of the game.

Gateshead were now through to the quarter finals of the cup for the first time in their history where they faced top flight Bolton Wanderers and their star man, Nat Lofthouse. As was the custom for a colour clash, both sides wore a change kit with Gateshead opting for a very Newcastleesque Black and White striped outfit. The day would be remembered for desperately bad fortune for the Third Divisioners when they were denied a late penalty for handball and from the clearance that followed, Lofthouse scored the goal that settled the tie.

Gateshead: 1:Bobby Gray, 2:Bobby Cairns, 3:Billy March, 4:Jack Callender, 5:Tom Callender, 6:Billy Brown, 7:Johnny Ingham, 8:Ken Smith, 9:Ian Winters, 10:Johnny Campbell, 11:George Wilbert. Manager:Bill Tulip

Liverpool: 1:Russell Crossley, 2:Ray Lambert, 3:Ronnie Moran, 4:Jack Heydon, 5:Bill Jones, 6:Roy Saunders, 7:Mervyn Jones, 8:Kevin Baron, 9:Jack Smith, 10:Bryan Williams, 11:Billy Liddell. Manager:Don Welsh

Hull City 3-1 Charlton Athletic

Third Round: Saturday January 10th 1953

Attendance: 37,531

scorers: {City} Bill Harris, Viggo Jensen {pen-42}, Ken Horton {48}: {Athletic} Stuart Leary

Ranked at the time: 135

By 1953 there was almost something of a complacency in Hull City putting a top flight club to the sword to the extent that when the demise of Charlton ensured Hull’s appearance among the giant killers for the third consecutive year the Boothferry Park faithful felt little by way of surprise.

The Addicks were not in the same bracket as the Manchester United side that fell to Hull the previous season but were still a respected mid table side with a good recent cup pedigree, winning the trophy in 1947. On the day however, timing was everything with a Viggo Jensen penalty three minutes before the interval and a Ken Horton goal three minutes after the restart doing the damage.

The irony of Hull’s giant killing was that they came during a trio of seasons of struggle in Division Two. So there was an inevitable frustration in their fourth round home defeat by Third Division fellow giant killers, Gateshead.

City:1:Joe Robinson, 2:Wilf Hassall, 3:Ernie Phillips, 4:Bill Harris, 5:Andy Davidson, 6:Denis Durham, 7:Ken Harrison

, 8:Ken Horton, 9:Syd Gerrie, 10:Viggo Jensen, 11:Brian Cripsey. Manager:Bob Jackson

Athletic:1:Sam Bartram, 2:John Hewie, 3:Frank Lock, 4:Benny Fenton, 5:Derek Ufton, 6:Cyril Hammond, 7:Gordon Hurst, 8:Eddie Firmani, 9:Stuart Leary, 10:Charlie Vaughan, 11:Kevin Barry. Manager:Jimmy Seed

Halifax Town 3-1 Cardiff City

Third Round: Saturday January 10th 1953

Attendance: 23,162

Scorer: {Halifax}: Derek Priestley {22}, Eddie Murphy {62}, George Holt {82}: {Cardiff} Billy Baker {85}

Ranked at the time: 92

Halifax: 1:David McCormick, 2:Eric Williams, 3:Albert Cox, 4:Andy Geddes, 5:Edgar Packard, 6:Jackie Moss, 7:Alan Hampson, 8:George Holt, 9:Jimmy Moncrief, 10:Eddie Murphy, 11:Derek Priestley. Manager:Gerry Henry

Cardiff: 1:Ron Howells, 2:Derek Sullivan, 3:Alf Sherwood, 4:Billy Baker, 5:Stan Montgomery, 6:Doug Blair, 7:Cliff Nugent, 8:Wilf Grant, 9:Ken Chisholm, 10:Jack Mansell, 11:George Edwards

Halifax Town 1-0 Stoke City

Fourth Round: Saturday January 31st 1953

Attendance: 35,621

Scorer: Derek Priestly {43}

Ranked at the time: 165

Since their formation in 1911 Halifax Town had rarely given cause to trouble the sports writers of the national press. The original members of the Third Division had gone close to promotion in the early thirties and although they reached the fifth round of the cup in 1933, they did so without facing a side higher than their own third tier status. Dreams of a big quarter final tie back then were shattered in hugely disappointing fashion by Luton, causing them to miss a day out at League Champions, Everton.

The post war era was one of struggle to avoid facing re-election each season although the appointment of Gerry Henry as manager during the summer had added a bit of grit to the team. Promotion was never likely but a healthy placing in the top half of the table and winning more often than losing was a novel experience the fans hadn’t experienced for seventeen years.

The cup almost produced its usual anticlimax when non-League Ashton United almost produced a cupset of their own in the first round. Having survived the scare, Halifax won their way through to round three and the height of hope for their fans each season. To be drawn against a side from the First Division.

Cardiff City, in truth were the least appealing of the elite division’s twenty-two clubs. Last season’s Second Division runners up were back in the big time for the first time in twenty-three years and lacked much in the way of big name stars. Their life back in the top tier was proving a struggle against relegation, wins were hard to come by and confidence was low when they arrived at the Shay on third round day.

Despite preparations for a sell out the Halifax directors would be left disappointed by a distinct lack of interest from the fans of the First Division club who had to return the major portion of their 500 tickets and there was unusually plenty of space in the stands for fans to enjoy the tones of the pre match entertainment of the local brass band.

On the field Cardiff didn’t seem that interested either and struggled to get into any sort of rhythm in the early stages, surviving an early scare when George Holt hit the post. Halifax kept at their high tempo and were duly rewarded midway through the half when good work from Holt laid on the opportunity for Derek Priestly to send a drive past Ron Howells.

To their credit, The Bluebirds responded strongly to the setback and pressed hard for an equaliser in the remainder of the half with Ken Chisholm’s headed effort being the closest they came as it fizzed wide of McCormick’s post.

The Halifax custodian was having a rare opportunity in goal due to the Shaymen’s first choice custodian being absent through injury and in the first twenty minutes of the second half he produced an inspired performance to preserve his team’s lead as a rejuvenated Cardiff changed their tactics and posed a much greater threat. Chisholm, Grant and Sullivan were all denied by McCormick, the first of which was a fantastic reflex save from barely a yard out.

Yet just when it seemed certain Cardiff must level the tie, Halifax stole a second and killer goal when Eddie Murphy’s rising shot was caught on the sweet spot that ensured Howells remained nothing more than the best placed spectator of a superb goal.

With clear daylight to defend, the Halifax rearguard showed the assurance of a top flight defence that Cardiff simply couldn’t find an answer to and their fate was sealed eight minutes from time when Howells was left hopelessly exposed by his defence to give Jimmy Moncrieff a tap in to leave those in the stands barely able to believe what they were seeing. A moderate top flight side Cardiff may have been but they were top flight nonetheless and the score, although perhaps a little harsh, told that they had been easily beaten. Billy Baker’s screamer two minutes later did little to alter the mood but at least gave the few hardy Welshmen who made the journey north the consolation of the best goal of the game having been in their favour. The now almost compulsory pitch invasion was the only act of the scene left to be delivered at the final whistle on arguably the greatest day in Halifax’s history to that date.

Cup fever, perhaps slightly lacking on third round day, was ensured when the two required elements of a home tie against a top flight team were duly delivered. Stoke would be the visitors this time.

Although a much bigger name than Cardiff, Stoke were a side in turmoil. Their talismanic manager, Bob McGrory, the man who so nearly brought the title to the club but was also responsible for Stan Matthews leaving the Victoria Ground, resigned after two poor campaigns. Under his replacement, Frank Taylor, Stoke made a terrible start to the season, although by the time they arrived at The Shay they were showing some small shoots of an improvement in form that might just ensure they retained their top flight status. Town player, George Holt was sent to watch them in a league game against table toppers, West Brom and despite seeing the Potters producing a shock and outstanding 5-1 demolition of the Baggies, his assessment upon his return was that Stoke had clear weaknesses to be exploited.

Injury forced Henry into one change as the unlucky Hamspon missed out through injury with Des Frost coming in. Again the Shaymen were without their first choice keeper but this time faced an opponent in the same boat as they handed a debut to new signing Frank Elliott, who’d not yet experienced a top flight game.

This time the directors could smile as the crowd queued up for well over an hour before the gates were opened, Stoke sold their tickets and when the turnstile counters finished their work they could record the ground record attendance had been set with over 35,000 in the stadium.

Unlike the impressive start against Cardiff, Halifax this time found themselves under the cosh in the early stages as Stoke took advantage of a strong breeze at their backs to press hard for a nerve calming breakthrough. Frank Bowyer came closest when stinging the palms of McCormick but most of Stoke’s other attempts proved wasteful.

Opportunities at the other end were limited but when it came, just before the interval, The Shaymen took it, though only just as Moncrieff’s header was well saved by Elliott before Priestly managed to stab the ball home after a brief game of goalmouth pinball. The confidence physically sapped out of many of the Stoke players who were a little fortunate to survive the remaining three minutes of the half as Halifax poured forward in an attempt to kill the tie.

With the wind at their backs in the second period, and a goal to defend, Halifax were a much better side in a very entertaining half when both keepers were kept busy. The Shaymen came closest when cracking Elliott’s bar while McCormick yet again continued to impress with a dramatic diving save to keep out the visitor’s best chance of an equaliser through Oscroft. Every Stoke attack in the closing minutes proved nerve wracking, though in truth they struggled to fashion a clear cut chance and once again the field was awash with fans chairing off their heroes at the final whistle.

For only the second time in history Halifax were in the last sixteen of the cup, though this time it had been done impressively. Once again the draw was perfect for the Shay fans, home to a First Division side and this time it was a side that really did contain stars. Tottenham were the League Champions just two years earlier and lay tenth in the division this time around. They had a point to prove to their fans however as their last outing had been a humiliating hammering at Highbury against bitterest rivals, Arsenal. The cup was something very much in the sights of a team that hadn’t won the trophy for over thirty years.

Gerry Henry had told the press after the Stoke game that his lads deserved great credit for their teamwork and confidence and would be in there trying against Tottenham. His counterpart, Arthur Rowe told the press that his team would be treating Halifax like the League Champions.

Heavy overnight snow left the game in doubt but the pitch was sufficiently cleared for it to go ahead, with the pitch marked out by blue dye. Yet again a record attendance of over 36,000 was recorded but this time they were presented with a poor first forty-five minutes of Football where the conditions spoiled the game.

In the second half Tottenham got to grips with the conditions and their superior class told and they ran out a deserving three goal winners, although Halifax too performed well on the tricky surface. The Shay has never witnessed as large a crowd or a fifth round cup tie since and it would be another seventeen years before the heroics of the ’53 team would be upstaged.

Halifax: 1:David McCormick, 2:Eric Williams, 3:Albert Cox, 4:Andy Geddes, 5:Edgar Packard, 6:Jackie Moss, 7:Des Frost, 8:George Holt, 9:Jimmy Moncrief, 10:Eddie Murphy, 11:Derek Priestley. Manager:Gerry Henry

Stoke: 1:Frank Elliott, 2:Brian Doyle, 3:John McCue, 4:Frank Mountford, 5:Ken Thompson, 6:Johnny Sellars, 7:Jack Malkin, 8:Frank Bowyer, 9:Don Whiston, 10:Alan Martin, 11:Harry Oscroft. Manager:Frank Taylor

{Thanks to the Halifax Town club historian for his assistance and research in this article}

Newcastle United 1-3 Rotherham United

Fourth Round: Saturday January 31st 1953

Attendance: 54,356

Scorers: {Newcastle} Vic Keeble {63}: {Rotherham} Jack Grainger {68}, {87}, Walter Rickett {76}

Ranked at the time: 156

Newcastle entered the 1953 cup competition as the only 20th Century cup winner to successfully defend their trophy. Now they sought to achieve the hat-trick, not completed since the FA had to fork out for a giant shield for Blackburn Rovers almost seventy years earlier. The first hat-trick cup winners, Wanderers had given the cup back after winning it outright back in the 1870s on condition the concept of winning the trophy outright was scrapped. When the Magpies were drawn at home to Second Division Rotherham in round four there must have been some lowly FA employee asked informally to look into the prospect of finding some form of suitable trinket to present to the Geordies should they do another lap of honour in early May.

Times had never been better at Rotherham who’d had their best ever finish in the Second Division last season and looking like strong promotion candidates in the first half of this season. A run of seven defeats in nine games in December and January destroyed their promotion hopes but a big day out up at St James’ Park would make up for it. Especially so for their manager, Andy Smallies who bagged almost a goal a game in three seasons at Newcastle as a player just after the Great War.

Newcastle however hadn’t won any of their last five League encounters and were stuck in mid table mediocrity, which lent itself well to the buzz generated by a return to their favourite action of knock out Football.

A routine passage into the fifth round seemed assured when Vic Keeble broke the resistance of a plucky Rotherham side with just under half an hour to go but when Jack Grainger levelled the tie five minutes later the stadium was stunned. Newcastle still looked the likelier of the two sides but in front of an increasingly nervy crowd, Rotherham prayed on the home jitters to force the replay they now so richly deserved.

There were fourteen minutes left when the Magpies were caught by a sucker punch from Walter Rickett, himself a cup finalist five years earlier with Blackpool. Now the home fans were willing to settle for a replay but their misery and shock was complete in the dying minutes when Grainger completed his brace and put the tie beyond Newcastle.

If that trinket was in their thoughts, the FA could now safely put their wallet away. Newcastle meanwhile slumped to a run of eleven games without a win and stumbled towards possible relegation, only staved off by the defeats of others before Newcastle’s final game.

Millmoor was packed for the fifth round against another First Division side, Aston Villa and on an icy uneven surface the Millers again threatened to come from behind. This time however Villa were able to regain their lead and stretch it to seal a 3-1 victory.

Newcastle: 1:Ronnie Simpson, 2:Bobby Cowell, 3:Alf McMichael. 4:Bob Stokoe, 5:Frank Brennan, 6:Tommy Casey, 7:Tommy Walker, 8:Reg Davies, 9:George Robledo, 10:Vic Keeble, 11:Bobby Mitchell. Manager:Stan Seymour

Rotherham:1:Jock Quairney, 2:Jack Selkirk, 3:Dennis Warner, 4:Jack Edwards, 5:Norman Noble, 6:Danny Williams, 7:Jack Grainger, 8:Gladstone Guest, 9:Jack Shaw, 10:Colin Rawson, 11:Walter Rickett. Manager:Andy Smailes

Luton Town 5-1 Manchester City

Fourth Round replay: Wednesday February 4th 1953

Attendance: 21,991

Scorers: {Town} Gordon Turner {2, 44, 88} Roy Little {own goal-8} Bert Mitchell {49}: {City} Bill Spurdle {11}

Ranked at the time: 115

Half day closing in Luton witnessed the biggest crowd of the season descend on Kenilworth Road, not least to see a cup tie but also to see if Second Division promotion chasing Luton would be a worthy top flight replacement for struggling First Division Manchester City. The Citizens went into the tie on the back of a morale boosting drubbling of Middlesbrough in the League but they were unable to repeat the dose against the confident Hatters and were forced back to Bedfordshire for a mid-week replay.

The game would be arguably one of the most entertaining ever played at the compact stadium, as well as one of the most comprehensive cup upsets on record. After helping Derby win the cup in 1946, Dally Duncan arrived at Luton, initially as player manager and created a long process of turning the Hatters from a relegation threatened Second Division side into a promotion chasing one. It was the signing of Jesse Pye from the mighty Wolves that looked set to finish the job with promotion in 1953.

Pye arrived at the ground on cup replay day in the midst of a heavy dose of flu but insisted on playing. Duncan accepted the word of his forward that he was fit and would be greatly rewarded with a man of the match performance. Within two minutes of the kick off Pye crossed for Luton's star striker, Gordon Turner to fire past Bert Trautmann. There was no time for City to recover before another rampaging attack ended when the inexperienced Roy Little could only steer the ball into his own net, A damaging action that had a negative effect on his performance for the rest of the tie. In a breathtaking opening, Roy Spurdle brought City back into the game with only eleven minutes on the clock and there were countless opportunities for City to draw level and for Luton to increase their lead before the break.

The next goal in the tie would be the most crucial and it came a minute before the interval with Pye yet again creating the chance for Turner to rifle home from close range. If the goal right on half time was a critical blow then Bert Mitchell's goal, four minutes after the restart, was as good as fatal. Yet again Pye was the craftsman and a now beaten City side could well have sunk to a total humiliation but for some heroic goalkeeping from Trautmann. In the death throes of the tie, Les Jones headed off the line from Meadows but it would have been little more than a consolation and, within a minute, Turner earned the match ball and rounded off a day that few who witnessed it would ever forget. Luton's cup run was halted by a narrow home defeat in round five against Bolton but the prospect of First Division Football, for the first time in history remained tantalisingly close. Failure to win any of their remaining four games would ultimately prove costly as the Hatters missed out on promotion and a rematch with the Manchester City side who only narrowly avoided relegation.

Town: 1:Ron Baynham, 2:Les Jones, 3:Tom 'Bud' Aherne, 4:Bob Morton, 5:Les Hall, 6:Charlie Watkins, 7:Mick Cullen, 8:Bernard Moore, 9:Jesse Pye, 10:Gordon Turner, 11:Bert Mitchell. Manager:Dally Duncan

City: 1:Bert Trautmann, 2:Ken Branagan, 3:Roy Little, 4:Don Revie, 5:Dave Ewing, 6:Roy Paul, 7:Jimmy Meadows, 8:Bill Spurdle, 9:Johnny Williamson, 10:Ivor Broadis, 11:Bobby Cunliffe. Manager: Les McDowall

RefL G.F.J. Sawyer {Weston Super Mare} 

Chelsea 0-4 Birmingham City

Fifth Round: Saturday February 14th 1953

Attendance: 45,872

Scorers: Ted Purdon {57}, {70}, Peter Murphy {78}, Cyril Trigg {80}

Ranked at the time: 278

Disappointingly the press didn't race to be the first to run a St valentine's day massacre headline, perhaps it still being the pre red top era made it too sun for such drama but few who trundled out of a chilly Stamford Bridge before the final whistle of this tie would have argued with such a description. Although Chelsea were battling against relegation, their post Christmas form of just one defeat in eleven games suggested they were sowing the seeds of a timely upturn in fortunes. That run included a marathon four game tie against West Bromwich Albion that killed Midlands excitement at a big local derby cup tie. Brmingham fans had just three days to change their plans of a local bus ride across town to a trip to London to watch their promotion chasing heroes in action. The Blues, who arrived at Stamford Bridge in red to avoid the colour clash, had themselves gone on a six game unbeaten run to put them fourth in the Second Division. A tense first half exploded into life just before the hour when Ted Purdon headed home Jackie Stewart's cross. It wasn't until the closing twenty minutes that Chelsea collapsed though when South African, Purdon doubled the visitor's advantage. As Chelsea pushed on to save themselves it only served to give Birmingham the space to kill the tie off with two further goals in two minutes from Murphy and Trigg. By then the locals were heading for the early busses and those who made the journey south were plotting a quarter final tie. That was against more London based First Division opposition in Tottenham, which took three games and five hours to be settled in the Londoner's favour. Birmingham ultimately missed out on promotion while Chelsea did enough to retain their top flight status.

Chelsea: 1:Chic Thompson, 2:Sid Tickridge, 3:Stan Willemse, 4:Ken Armstrong, 5:Jack Saunders, 6:Bill Dickson, 7:Eric 'Rabbit' Parsons, 8:Billy Gray, 9:Roy Bentley, 10:Johnny McNichol, 11:Miles Spector. Manager:Ted Drake

City: 1:Gil Merrick, 2:Jeff Hall, 3:Ken Green, 4:Keith Bannister, 5:Ray Ferris, 6:Len Boyd, 7:Jackie Stewart, 8:Ted Purdon, 9:Cyril Trigg, 10:Peter Murphy, 11:Roy 

Warhurst. Manager:Bob Brocklebank

Everton 2-1 Manchester United

Fifth Round: Saturday February 14th 1953

Attendance: 77,920

Scorers: {Everton} Tommy Eglinton {32}, Dave Hickson {64} : {United} Jack Rowley {27}

Ranked at the time: 138

Everton:1:Jimmy O'Neill, 2:Thomas Clinton, 3:Jack Lindsay, 4:Peter Farrell, 5:Tommy E Jones, 6:Cyril Lello, 7:Ted Buckle, 8:George Cummins, 9:Dave Hickson, 10:John Parker, 11:Tommy Eglinton. Manager:Cliff Britton

United: 1:Ray Wood, 2:John Aston, 3:Roger Byrne, 4:Johnny Carey, 5:Allenby Chilton, 6:Henry Cockburn, 7:Johnny Berry, 8:Eddie Lewis, 9:Jack Rowley, 10:Stan Pearson, 11:David Pegg. Manager: Matt Busby

Aston Villa 0-1 Everton

Quarter Final: Saturday February 28th 1953

Attendance: 60,568

Scorer: Dave Hickson {75}

Ranked at the time: 235

Most clubs with a long top-flight history and League titles in the bank tend to overlook the leaner periods of their history and Everton would find it easier than most to do this. Only Manchester United have been national champions in more decades than the blues who can look back with pride at seven different eras where they produced the best team in the land. And yet the early 1950s is still an era looked at with fond remembrance by the Toffeemen, perhaps, if only for a single individual, Dave Hickson.

Much like Wayne Rooney in the 21st Century, it’s to the great regret of most Evertonians that Hickson’s era coincided with the weakest Everton team in history. The Merseysiders had a tradition of leading the way in Footballing innovations before the Second World War but were caught alarmingly out of touch with the immediate post war era of the emergence of the tracksuit manager. By the time Everton addressed it with the appointment of Cliff Britton, it was already too late. The club were in steep decline and Britton, a title winning hero of 1939, was still more trilby and trench coat than tracksuit, despite having taken Burnley to the cusp of both League and cup as manager at Turf Moor.

He was unable to stave off the club’s second ever relegation from the top flight in 1951 and then had the ignominy of overseeing the first season in history where Everton finished lower than Second Division promotion.

Amid all this, a young Hickson emerged as a new Goodison hero. Dubbed the Cannonball kid by the Gwladys Street, he typified all that Evertonians held dear in their forwards. Fearlessness and a bit of muscle, that got him into trouble on occasion, but most of all goals. Despite this, Everton went through a miserable period in late 1952 that saw them deep in the lower half of the Second Division for the first time in their history as they faced up to Third Division Ipswich on cup 3rd round day.

The gathering sense of gloom around the ground was heightened when the Suffolk visitors went in at half time 2-1 to the good before Everton rallied in the second half to secure their passage by the odd goal in five.

Round four presented an all Second Division encounter with a Nottingham Forest side the Toffeemen shared six goals with in an entertaining draw at the City ground the week after the Ipswich tie.

In a match notable for a howling gale, compounded by hundreds of blue balloons billowing all over the ground and the, in this era, unusual feature of a white ball being used, Everton blew Forest away in a comfortable 4-1 victory. The joy of that result, in an otherwise dismal season, was soon dampened when Evertonians found they would have to entertain reigning League Champions, Manchester United in round five.

Matt Busby’s Reds had the look of a side in transition and it must have been a worrying season for the former Manchester City and Liverpool player that his great post war United team was aging rapidly. Busby, and assistants, Bert Whalley and Jimmy Murphy were however in the first tentative steps of experimenting with promoting the young talent in the reserves up to the first team. It wasn’t paying off as an inconsistent United lay well off the League title pace, though still safely in the top half of the table. As the Champions set off down the East Lancs Road some pundits dared to have the audacity that they might leave Goodison having been dumped out of the cup.

The week up to Valentine’s Day saw Britain plagued with strong wintery showers but Merseyside had been fortunate to avoid the worst of the snows. The Goodison pitch remained a heavy patch of land for a Football match as the two sides emerged for what was being billed as a classic encounter in front of a packed house.

The early stages of the game suggested the form book would best the pundits as an assured United took control and pressed to silence the hostile locals. Ultimately it would take twenty-seven minutes before United achieved their objective. Johnny Berry was the conductor of the red orchestra and it was his shot that came back off Everton keeper, Jimmy O’Neill’s chest with Jack Rowley being quickest to respond to break the deadlock.

The next hour of Football would go down in Everton folklore as one of the great days in an otherwise dark period. It was also a game that would immortalise Dave Hickson as an Everton legend. The key came from the emergence of Everton’s backs into the game as they gained control of the wings as an uncertain United coiled up. Hickson now had his first of several great moments in the game. Sweeping past a bemused Allenby Chilton, before crossing for Tommy Eglinton to beat Ray Wood and level the tie.

Goodison was rocking and shortly before half time, Hickson almost put the Blues in front with a brave diving header that flashed wide. The forward emerged with blood pouring from a nasty head wound and he was forced to leave the field before the interval.

When Everton emerged after the break, minus Hickson, there was almost a collective groan at the fear that a golden chance was going to be lost, then a huge roar signalled the fair-haired forward’s emergence from the tunnel, complete with some hastily inserted stitches. If ever a team were given a tonic, this was it as Everton poured forward and kept United hemmed in on the edge of their own box for a solid ten minutes.

Chances came thick and fast as Hickson was felled for what surely looked like a penalty but then proceeded to head the resultant corner against the woodwork, reopening his stitches in the process. Despite blood pouring down his face, Hickson was still able to lash in another effort brilliantly saved by Wood while only Johnny Carey was coming out of the game with any credit in a United shirt as he twice pitched in with last ditch tackles to keep Tommy Eglinton out.

The pressure had to tell and with Chilton being run ragged, he buckled just after the hour as Hickson picked up the ball on the half way line, danced through the red shirts, laid it off to Eglinton who then returned the ball perfectly for a right foot shot to be lashed past Wood. A blood soaked Hickson saluted the Gwladys Street end, ignoring the pleas from team captain, Tommy Jones to leave the field and receive treatment.

United desperately reshuffled to try and save the game but to no avail as Hickson again forced two great saves from Wood, the second of which had gasps from the stands and Everton players looking at each other wondering how on earth the game wasn’t over.

A team as good as United are never down and out though and still had the capacity to see Johnny Berry carve out two late opportunities to try and bring the tie back to Old Trafford but even the most diehard United fan had to admit an equaliser would have been harsh on a day when the gallant Hickson could easily have had five goals but for the heroics of Ray Wood.

The defeat itself was a minor upset but for Matt Busby, the manner of the defeat served as a wakeup call and he set out the following week to refresh his first team with more youth. The nucleus of the Busby Babes was born and it could be argued that Dave Hickson helped in the birth.

The quarter final draw took Everton to another First Division outfit, Aston Villa and a nostalgic encounter with a former hero. George Martin was in charge at Villa Park, having once been a Gwladys Street hero in Everton’s 1928 title winning side. Now he was trying to mastermind a largely unexpected return of the FA cup to the West Midlands as the Villains had done little since their last success almost thirty years earlier. This time the press predicted a tight encounter that the First Division side should just about get through and they were pretty close to the mark.

Villa Park was bathed in glorious spring sunshine as the home side marginally held the better of things in a first half devoid of any real opportunities. The fates would be against the home side in the second period however as keeper, Dennis Parsons picked up a hand injury and though it didn’t appear to affect him, his outfield players seemed to lose the initiative. Everton’s confidence grew and the concern from the Holte End began to filter down to the pitch. The Toffees were on top and deservedly took the lead when Dave Hickson yet again produced another superb goal. Just as he did against United, he took the ball from the halfway line before this time using Ted Buckle as his foil, laying off the one, two before firing past Parsons. There were just fourteen minutes remaining and Everton’s lead was never troubled as their fans started to dream of Wembley.

Despite being the only side from outside the top tier in the last four, Everton were in fact the most recent cup winners of the quartet, though that was twenty years earlier. It still bested opponents, Bolton, proud of their undefeated Wembley record in three visits in the 1920s. The other semi-finalists, Tottenham last won the trophy in the year before Wembley opened while Blackpool hadn’t won it at all. The Tangerines, complete with Stanley Matthews were the hot favourites to lift the trophy this time though, and carried the neutral hopes of the nation but Everton were surprisingly widely expected to make up the opposition at Wembley once they despatched Bolton.

The pundits placed their faith on the blue’s excellent cup form rather than their continued erratic league form, which now seemed certain to deliver the club’s lowest ever League placing.

Bolton may not have been a top drawer First Division side but they contained plenty of wise heads and a lethal finisher in Nat Lofthouse who ensured his side were in front early. The Trotters were two up and in complete control by the time Everton talisman, Dave Hickson was knocked unconscious in a challenge and while the Cannonball Kid was being treated, a third and seemingly killer goal followed. When Lofthouse made it four just before the break, one of the most one-sided cup semi-finals in history appeared settled. George Cummin’s woefully poor penalty right on the interval compounded Everton’s misery, leaving the field, having squandered the only real opportunity presented to them.

An out of sorts Hickson was on the Maine Road field for the start of the second half when Everton gave their fans what seemed little more than a consolation through John Parker almost immediately. Bolton still had the game at arm’s length and Lofthouse came a post away from killing the tie before Peter Farrell went up the other end and pulled the arrears back to two goals. Everton couldn’t pull this out of the fire, could they? Seven minutes from time the Merseyside contingent went barmy when Parker netted again. 3-4, Bolton reeling and only one team seemingly capable of scoring again. What must have gone through George Cummin’s head now only he could say as his penalty miss looked ohh so costly.

Despite a supreme second half effort, Everton couldn’t fashion the goal that would force extra time and a mightily relieved set of Bolton players celebrated at the final whistle. Their own destiny would be a heart breakingly unlucky day at Wembley that now sits in the folklore of the cup. For Everton came the need to use the cup run to get back where they belonged. From the ashes of their worst ever League campaign came a 1953/54 season where they gained promotion back to the big time, which they’ve never since lost. Cliff Britton would leave Everton in 1956, feeling hugely let down by a board seemingly unwilling to give him the power he felt he needed to turn the club back into a genuine contender. Ironically, Johnny Carey, captain of the vanquished United team of ‘53, would succeed Britton. Sadly, for Carey, after delivering Everton’s best post war finish in 1960, he was famously fired in the back of a cab. To this day, Everton managers know they’ve lost the fan’s confidence when the shouts of Taxi for…. Ring around Goodison Park.

1953 was the closest Dave Hickson would ever come to glory and soon he would be seen as surplus to requirements by a team that would be crowned Champions a decade later. It was a bitter blow for the Cannonball Kid who would later publicly state that he would have broken every bone in his body playing for his other major sides, Aston Villa and Liverpool but would have died or Everton. It was a sentiment never forgotten by the club and he was a regular feature in corporate hospitality for the better part of thirty years at Goodison Park before passing away in 2013.

Such was the esteem with which Evertonians held Hickson that when Everton asked their fans to pick their greatest ever team, some fifty years after His final appearance, he was the only member of the eighteen man squad who hadn’t won League or cup at Goodison Park.

Villa: 1:Dennis Parsons, 2:Peter Aldis, 3:Harry Parkes, 4:Danny Blanchflower, 5:Frank Moss, 6:Dickie Dorsett, 7:Ken Roberts, 8:Tommy Thompson, 9:Dave Walsh, 10:Johnny Dixon, 11:Billy Goffin. Manager:George Martin

Everton:1:Jimmy O'Neill, 2:Thomas Clinton, 3:Jack Lindsay, 4:Peter Farrell, 5:Tommy E Jones, 6:Cyril Lello, 7:Ted Buckle, 8:George Cummins, 9:Dave Hickson, 10:John Parker, 11:Tommy Eglinton. Manager:Cliff Britton