Fred Spiksley

Fred Spiksley

Fred Spiksley was born on 25th January, 1870. A talented footballer he played as a junior for Gainsborough Jubilee Swifts. At the age of 17 he signed for Gainsborough Trinity in the Midland League. In his second season at the club Spiksley scored 28 goals in 21 games. He was also a member of the team that won the Lincolnshire F.A. Cup, the Gainsborough News Charity Cup and the Midland League.

In 1891 Spiksley signed for Sheffield Wednesday. The following year the club, then known as Wednesday, was elected to the First Division of the Football League. In the 1892-93 season the club finished in 12th place and Spiksley was top scorer with 18 goals in 31 games.

On 13th March, 1893, Spiksley won his first international cap playing for England against Wales. Also in the team that day was Billy Bassett, Charlie Perry, Bob Holmes, and John Goodall. Spiksley scored two goals in England's 6-0 victory. The following month he played in the match against Scotland. England won the game 5-2 and once again Spiksley got two of the goals.

Sheffield Wednesday had moderate success in the Football League: 1893-94 (12th), 1894-95 (8th) and 1895-96 (7th). After beating Sunderland (2-1), Everton (4-0) and Bolton Wanderers (3-1) the club reached the 1896 FA Cup Final. Spiksley scored both goals in Wednesday's 2-1 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Spiksley won his last international cap against Scotland on 2nd April, 1898. The team included Steve Bloomer, Ernest Needham, William Athersmith and Gilbert O. Smith. England won 3-1. Overall, Spiksley scored five goals in seven games and was never on the losing side when he played for his country.

Sheffield Wednesday finished bottom of the First Division of the Football League in the 1898-99 season. Spiksley scored ten goals in the 1899-1900 and helped his club win the Second Division championship.

Ernest Needham played with Spiksley and his autobiography he pointed out: "Spiksley, of Sheffield Wednesday... delights to dribble the ball into the corner and then centre across, and it is seldom he fails to place the ball in the goal mouth for his fellow forwards to put through. He is about ten stone, but what he lacks in weight he makes up in speed. He can play the combination game to perfection, and I can state this at first hand, as I have often had the pleasure of playing with him. When he finds himself in difficulties he will try to give the ball to someone better placed - a form of unselfishness which a good many well-known players might copy. Instead of this, many men would rather lose the ball by trying to beat one or two opponents, than give it to a partner; not so Spiksley."

J. A. H. Catton, the leading football journalist at the time was also a great fan of Spiksley: "Spiksley's control of the ball, his individuality, and his pluck for a man of modest stature, without much weight, were amazing... Fred Spiksley could do almost anything he wanted with either foot, and was a sure marksman. Spiksley as a football player was a wonder."

Frederick Wall, the president of the Football Association, wrote in 50 Years of Football that: "Whenever I saw him (Spiksley) he played well, but never better than at Richmond, for he scored the three last goals in about ten minute s... Conjurers have sleight of hand. Let me vary the phrase and say that Spiksley had sleight of foot. He did most of his dribbling with the outside of the right foot. I do not like making sweeping statements, but I have never seen so thoroughly competent an outside-left as Spiksley, who relied not on weight, or even on speed alone, but upon his craft and power over the ball."

In 1902 Spiksley left Sheffield Wednesday. During a 11 year period he scored 100 goals in 293 league games. He also scored 14 goals in 28 FA Cup appearances. Spiksley also played for Glossop, Leeds City, Southend United and Watford before retiring from professional football in 1906.

In 1911 Spiksley was appointed as coach with AIK Stockholm. After the club won the Swedish Championship he became the coach of Swedish national team. Spiksley also worked with TSV 1860 München and Nürnberg in Germany. When the First World War broke out Spiksley was interned at Ruhleben Detention Camp. Fellow detainees included Fred Pentland, John Cameron, Steve Bloomer and Sam Wolstenholme.

After the Armistice Spiksley continued to coach in Europe. He worked in Spain for three years before spending time in the United States and Mexico. He returned to England in 1924 to become assistant coach at Fulham. In 1926 he returned to Germany and helped Nürnberg win the German football championship in 1927.

Fred Spiksley died in Goodward on 28th July, 1948.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Philip Gibbons, Association Football in Victorian England (2001)

Wednesday were at full strength for the final, while Tennant replaced the injured William Rose in the Wolves' goal, for whom Richard Baugh and Harry Wood were making their third FA Cup Final appearance.

Wednesday dominated the early stages of the final, which resulted in the opening goal when Fred Spiksley slotted an Archie Brash throw-in past Tennant in the Wanderers' goal. The Wolverhampton side were soon on level terms, though, when David Black intercepted a Tom Crawshaw clearance to place the ball wide of goalkeeper Jimmy Massey.

The Sheffield side eventually regained the lead when Harry Davis set up a goal-scoring opportunity for Fred Spiksley, who sent a tremendous shot into the Wanderers' net for his second goal of the game, while Tom Crawshaw saw a shot hit a post as Wednesday continued to dominate the proceedings. Wanderers came more into the game during the latter stages of the final as they sought an equalising goal. However, the Yorkshire side held on to a 2-1 victory as team captain Jack Earp proudly received the new FA Cup from Lord Kinnaird.

(2) Ernest Needham, Association Football (1901)

Spiksley, of Sheffield Wednesday... delights to dribble the ball into the corner and then centre across, and it is seldom he fails to place the ball in the goal mouth for his fellow forwards to put through. He is about ten stone, but what he lacks in weight he makes up in speed. He can play the combination game to perfection, and I can state this at first hand, as I have often had the pleasure of playing with him. When he finds himself in difficulties he will try to give the ball to someone better placed - a form of unselfishness which a good many well-known players might copy. Instead of this, many men would rather lose the ball by trying to beat one or two opponents, than give it to a partner; not so Spiksley. I have heard a great deal of criticism levelled at him because he waits for the ball to be put to him; but when you have a player of the style of Spiksley this method pays. When he does get the ball he is fresher and faster than if he had been working hard to fetch it - most likely from close by his own goal.

(3) J. A. H. Catton, The Story of Association Football (1926)

I will jump to 1892 when Arthur Dunn led on to the field at Ibrox an eleven which were supposed to be ready prey for the Scots even if they had to recall Wattie Arnott, who was then not only beyond his prime but short of practice and training. This English team was called "The Old Crocks." I suppose that was because Arthur Dunn, the Old Etonian, who was one of the two centre forwards against Ireland in 1884, was at last re-called, and came in as a full-back, if you please.

"The Old Crocks" consisted of George Toone, of Notts County, in goal, Arthur Dunn and "Bob" Holmes, of Preston, as backs, John Reynolds (then of West Bromwich), Johnny Holt, that "little devil of Everton" as Sam Widdowson called him, Alfred Shelton (Notts County) as halfbacks, with "Billy" Bassett and Johnnie Goodall on the right wing, Jack Southworth ("Skimmy") in the centre, and Edgar Chadwick and Dennis Hodgetts on the left wing. Why did the Scotsmen and the critics call this lot "the Old Crocks"? The Scottish journalists labelled them in this manner, and the triumph of Scotland was assured.

The evening before the match the players of both teams fraternised. They were not kept in separate camps, or hotels, in those days. Oh yes, these Scotsmen openly boasted what they were going to do with these English "veterans" (vide Bassett, then about twenty-three years of age).

Their confidence was boundless. Sandy McMahon was going to sand-dance round Johnny Holt, carry the ball on his head from the half-way line, and pop it into goal, and do all sorts of wonderful juggling. William Sellar was to score again and again, and Kelly of the Celts, was to put Southworth in his pocket and button it up.

What did Bobby Burns say about the best laid schemes of mice and men? That "little devil" Johnny Holt was "all over" McMahon; he climbed up him and over him, brought him down to earth and sand-danced on him.

For twenty minutes the Scots never touched the ball, and in seventeen minutes the "old crocks" of England had scored four goals, so completely outwitted were Kelly, Dan Doyle, and Wattie Arnott.

Within ten seconds England had scored. John Southworth kicked off, and Goodall tipped the ball to Bassett, who swung a pass towards the left, Chadwick gained possession, dribbled round Arnott, and drove past McLeod, of Dumbarton, the goalkeeper. The trick was done and the Scots had never played the ball.

The "Old Crocks" gave a display such as I have never seen-either before or since. That was not the only goal which was perfect in conception, combination, and execution.

This was a far more wonderful exhibition of the game than that of the following year at Richmond, when England won by 5-2. The Surrey Cricket Club felt compelled to refuse the use of The Oval as part of the cricket ground had been re-laid, and the match was taken to an athletic ground at Richmond, which was well known as a Rugby rendezvous. The match furnished a splendid "gate."

But it also furnished what is far more important-a splendid match. The issue was in doubt in the second half, and I thought that the Scots would win. As a rule, my interest in the issue of a match is negligible, but I do like to see England triumph in this great match. The feeling is only natural in an Englishman.

The match was, however, won by rare combination and enviable endurance. The unity of the team was not really developed until after the interval, when Bassett cross-kicked to the left wing again and again, and Spiksley (by the way, he writes his name without an "e" in the centre) scored three goals in succession in about ten minutes! I cannot remember any other Englishman performing "the hat trick" against Scotland. These goals were brilliants.

The Scots protested on the ground of off-side to the referee, who I think was Mr. J.C. Clegg, but he was against them every time. It seemed to me that the Caledonians were not allowing for the speed of Spiksley, who was much faster than he looked, and a player worthy to rank with Mosforth, Hodgetts, or any other outside-left.

Spiksley's control of the ball, his individuality, and his pluck for a man of modest stature, without much weight, were amazing. Like Hodgetts, Fred Spiksley did his ball work with the outside of the right foot. In fact, Fred Spiksley could do almost anything he wanted with either foot, and was a sure marksman. Spiksley as a football player was a wonder.

(4) Frederick Wall, 50 Years of Football (1935)

During this season of 1892-93 England won her three international matches by so large an aggregate as 17 goals to 3.

Now five of these goals were scored by F. Spiksley, of Sheffield Wednesday, including three in this match at Richmond. He had played against Wales less than a month before the match against the Scots, who declared that he was a "regular flier." That he had extraordinary speed for a young man of his build is beyond doubt.

I should say, at this distance of time, that he was about 5 ft. 8 in., if that, and a light-weight. Long ago, when he was still playing, Spiksley was referred to as weighing 11 st. 71b. I should take two stone off that estimate, as he was a trim trickster, neat and slim and sure in all that he tried to do.

A native of Gainsborough, he played for the Trinity club, and went from that prolific nursery to Sheffield Wednesday. A natural footballer, if ever there was one, he had the advantage of playing both at Gainsborough and Sheffield with some Scotsmen who had the characteristic quality of their race-ball control.

Thus a youngster who could use either foot with equal facility had the advantage of developing his gift to the top of his bent. Whenever I saw him he played well, but never better than at Richmond, for he scored the three last goals in about ten minutes. I cannot recall any other Englishman obtaining three goals in a match against Scotland. It may have been done, but if so it happened before I was keenly interested in these big matches.

The Scots tried to keep the ball away from Spiksley, who had such a clever partner as Edgar Chadwick, at inside-left. Of course, all the credit for these three goals cannot go to Spiksley, for Bassett made long passes of much accuracy, and if Chadwick got the ball he gave his mate a perfect position.

Spiksley was so alert, so apt to anticipate the next move, and so quick that he baffled his opponents.

The Scots were insistent in their appeals for off-side, but Mr. J.C. Clegg, who was the referee, held that the goals were legitimate. Of course, there were people who did not agree with him. That has been the lot of the referee in every age, but, Mr. Clegg, who was not only a good and bold referee, but always trusted his own eyes, was well aware of the speed of Spiksley and where he was positioned when Bassett made his cross-kick.

The moment the ball left Bassett's boot Spiksley was off in a flash. He would trap the ball with his right and crash it into the net with his left. This seemed like one movement because he was so rapid.

Conjurers have sleight of hand. Let me vary the phrase and say that Spiksley had sleight of foot. He did most of his dribbling with the outside of the right foot.

I do not like making sweeping statements, but I have never seen so thoroughly competent an outside-left as Spiksley, who relied not on weight, or even on speed alone, but upon his craft and power over the ball.

When his playing career closed he devoted his thought, experience and energy to teaching football in all parts of the world, from Mexico to Mannheim, or some other place in Germany.

For ten years he played in representative matches for the F.A. and the Football League, and was never on the losing side. He was England's mascot; he has not had a successor and his fortune on the field has not clung to him in more material matters, for he had several trying accidents and was one of the many to whom the European War made such a difference in circumstances.