Franklin (Frank) Buckley was born in Urmston, near Manchester, on 3rd October, 1882. His father, John Buckley, was a sergeant in the British Army and was responsible for the military training of the local yeomanry and territorial units.
Buckley won a scholarship to St Francis Xavier's College for Boys in Liverpool. He enjoyed the sports and physical activities that were an integral part of the Jesuit philosophy of Muscular Christianity an idea developed by Charles Kingsley and Thomas Hughes.
In 1898 Buckley left school and began work as an office clerk. He was also a member of the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. On 24th February 1900 he signed-up for a 12 year engagement with the 2nd Battalion of the King's Liverpool Regiment. He expected to be sent to South Africa to fight in the Boer War but instead was despatched to Ireland.
In September 1900 he was promoted to the rank of Corporal. By 1902 he was a Lance-Sergeant and the following year he gained the rank of Gymnastics Instructor (First Class). While in Ireland he represented the regiment at football, cricket and rugby.
A talented footballer, he played for King's Liverpool Regiment against the Lancashire Fusiliers in the final of the Irish Cup. He was "spotted" by a scout from Aston Villa who suggested he go to England for a trial. He did this and George Ramsay persuaded him to join the club. On 30th April 1903, Buckley paid a fee of £18 to buy himself out of the army.
Buckley joined a team that included Jimmy Crabtree, Alex Leake, Howard Spencer, John Devey, George Wheldon, Stephen Smith, George Johnson, Bobby Templeton and Charlie Athersmith. Buckley failed to make the first team and the following year, along with his brother, Christopher Buckley, moved to Brighton & Hove Albion in the Southern League.
In 1906 Buckley joined Manchester United. He made his debut against Derby County on 29th September 1906. He joined a team that included Charlie Roberts, John Picken, John Peddie, Sandy Turnbull, George Wall, Jimmy Turnbull, Billy Meredith, Charlie Sagar, Dick Duckworth and Alec Bell.
A centre-half, Buckley served as understudy to Charlie Roberts, who at the time was playing for England in this position. He spent most of the time in the reserves. In April 1907 Thomas Blackstock collapsed after heading a ball during a reserve game against St. Helens Town. Buckley, who was standing nearby, helped to carry Bradstock, who was only 25 years old to the changing-room. Blackstock died soon afterwards. An inquest into his death returned a verdict of "Natural Causes" but Buckley believed he had died of a heart-attack or seizure.
After only playing three games for Manchester United Buckley decided to move to neighbours Manchester City. He played in 11 games in the 1907-08 season before joining Birmingham City. Buckley earned himself a regular place in Birmingham's first-team and scored 4 goals in 55 games during the next two seasons.
In May 1911 Buckley joined Derby County in the Second Division. Buckley and the team's top goalscorer, Steve Bloomer, played an important role in Derby winning the league title and promotion to the First Division of the Football League in the 1911-12 season. Buckley was described by one football journalist as being "tall, heavily built, pivotal, hard-working and forceful when attacking."
Buckley won his first international cap for England against Ireland on 14th February, 1914. The English team that day included Bob Crompton, Sam Hardy, Edwin Latheron, Jesse Pennington and Danny Shea. England lost the game 3-0 and Buckley was dropped from the team.
After scoring 3 goals in 92 games for Derby County Buckley moved to Bradford City in May 1914. Buckley only played in four games for his new club before the outbreak of the First World War. In October 1914, the Secretary of State, Lord Kitchener, issued a call for volunteers to both replace those killed in the early battles of the war.
On 12th December William Joynson Hicks established the 17th Service (Football) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. This became known as the Football Battalion. According to Frederick Wall, the secretary of the Football Association, Buckley was the first person to join the Football Battalion. The first commanding officer was Henry Fenwick, a career soldier. As Buckley had previous experience in the British Army he was given the rank of Lieutenant. He eventually was promoted to the rank of Major.
Within a few weeks the 17th Battalion had its full complement of 600 men. However, few of these men were footballers. Most of the recruits were local men who wanted to be in the same battalion as their football heroes. For example, a large number who joined were supporters of Chelsea and Queen's Park Rangers who wanted to serve with Vivian Woodward and Evelyn Lintott.
The Football Association eventually called for all professional footballers who were not married, to join the armed forces. Some newspapers suggested that those who did not join up were "contributing to a German victory." The Athletic News responded angrily: "The whole agitation is nothing less than an attempt by the ruling classes to stop the recreation on one day in the week of the masses ... What do they care for the poor man's sport? The poor are giving their lives for this country in thousands. In many cases they have nothing else... These should, according to a small clique of virulent snobs, be deprived of the one distraction that they have had for over thirty years."
By March 1915, it was reported that 122 professional footballers had joined the battalion. This included the whole of the Clapton Orient (later renamed Leyton Orient) first team. Three of them were later killed on the Western Front. At the end of the year Walter Tull who had played for Tottenham Hotspur, Northampton Town and Glasgow Rangers joined the battalion. Buckley soon recognised Tull's leadership qualities and he was quickly promoted to the rank of sergeant.
On 15th January 1916, the Football Battalion reached the front-line. During a two-week period in the trenches four members of the Football Battalion were killed and 33 were wounded. This included Vivian Woodward who was hit in the leg with a hand grenade. The injury to his right thigh was so serious that he was sent back to England to recover.
Major Buckley's batman, Thomas Brewer, who had played football for Queen's Park Rangers, was killed by a German sniper. Buckley was so upset by Brewer's death that he offered to pay for the education of his three children.
The Football Battalion had taken heavy casualties during the Somme offensive in July. This included the death of England international footballer, Evelyn Lintott. Major Buckley was also seriously injured during this offensive when metal shrapnel had hit him in the chest and had punctured his lungs. George Pyke, who played for Newcastle United, later wrote: "A stretcher party was passing the trench at the time. They asked if we had a passenger to go back. They took Major Buckley but he seemed so badly hit, you would not think he would last out as far as the Casulalty Clearing Station."
Buckley was sent to a military hospital in Kent and after operating on him, surgeons were able to remove the shrapnel from his body. However, his lungs were badly damaged and was never able to play football again.
In January 1917 Buckley was back on the Western Front. The Football Battalion attacked German positions at Argenvillers. Buckley was "mentioned in dispatches" as a result of the bravery he showed during the hand-to-hand fighting that took place during the offensive. The Germans used poison gas during this battle and Buckley's already damaged lungs were unable to cope and he was sent back home to recuperate.
In 1919 Frederick Wall, the secretary of the Football Association, suggested that Buckley should become manager of Norwich City in the Southern League. Buckley developed the reputation for finding talented young players. According to Patrick A. Quirke, the author of The Major: The Life and Times of Frank Buckley (2006): "Buckley relied on tips and advice from his old Army comrades who lived in various areas around Britain. This country-wide scouting network, which he was to call upon time and again during his long managerial career, was the envy of many, as his scouts were all former players and knew what to look for in a young footballer."
While at Norwich City Buckley discovered Samuel Jennings, a miner, playing for Basford United. However, the club was in serious financial difficulties and Buckley was forced to sell Jennings to Middlesbrough for £2,500. In March 1920 a Football League made an illegal approach for one of Buckley's young players. When the directors refused to make a complaint to the Football Association, Buckley left the club.
For the next three years Buckley worked as a commercial traveller for Maskell's, a confectionary manufacturer based in London. The job involved travelling all over England. While travelling on a train in 1923 he met Albert Hargreaves, a director of Blackpool football club. He arranged a meeting with Blackpool's president, Linsay Parkinson, and as a result he was appointed manager of the club. At that time Blackpool was in the Second Division of the Football League.
Buckley's first decision was to abandon Blackpool's traditional strip and brought in players' shirts of bright orange, or tangerine as it became known. Buckley wanted the club to be seen as "bright and vibrant" and a representative of the "new age".
In his first season Blackpool finished 4th. The club's star player was Harry Bedford, who was the country's top goalscorer with 34 goals. After scoring 112 goals in 169 games for Blackpool, Bedford was transferred to Derby County for £3,000 in 1925.
Buckley signed William Tremelling from Retford Town as a replacement for Harry Bedford. He made his Football League debut against Manchester United in March 1925. Unfortunately, he broke his leg the following season and did not return to the team until the 1926-27 season. Tremelling ended up as the club's leading scorer with 30 goals in 26 games.
Buckley believed strongly in the importance of physical fitness. He imposed strick orders as to what the players could eat and drink. They were instructed to have early nights two days prior to a fixture and not to socialise during this time. Buckley introduced physiotherapy and gained a reputation for getting injured players back to fitness in a short time.
In May 1927 Buckley moved to Wolverhampton Wanderers. As Patrick A. Quirke, the author of The Major: The Life and Times of Frank Buckley pointed out: "His experience at both Blackpool and Norwich of acquiring skilled and talented players at little or no cost and then selling them on at a healthy profit was extremely appealing to those concerned with club finances."
As at Blackpool he introduced a new football strip. He designed the shirts himself. They were deep gold with black trimmings. He also brought in new training methods he had used at Blackpool. This included exercises with Indian clubs and weight training.
Buckley gave each of his players a small pocket book in which was printed details of the conduct he expected from them. As well as advice on not smoking, he insisted that they did not go out socialising for a least two days prior to a match. Buckley also informed the Wolverhampton public of these regulations and asked them to contact him if they saw a player breaking the rules.
Over the years Buckley built up a network of football scouts who attempted to discover talented young players. In 1927 he purchased Dai Richards from Merthyr Town. This was followed by Reg Hollingsworth, a centre-half from Sutton Junction, Billy Barraclough from Hull City, Billy Hartill a centre-forward who was playing for the Royal Horse Artillery and Charlie Phillips from Ebbw Vale.
Noel George, the club goalkeeper, was diagnosed as being terminally ill with a disease of the gums and died in 1929. He had played in 292 games for Wolves. Buckley was convinced that George's death was due to ill-fitting dentures. From that time on he made sure that all his players who wore dentures were examined by a dentist every six months.
Wolves lost to lowly Mansfield Town 1-0 in the FA Cup in 1929. Buckley was so upset with the performance of his players that he organized a training-run through Wolverhampton town centre for the first-team players on a market-day during the following week.
The following season Wolves finished 4th in the Second Division. Billy Hartill was again top scorer with 30 goals in 39 appearances. Buckley added Tom Smalley for his first-team squad in 1931. He was a coalminer who had been playing his football for South Kirkby Colliery. Smalley was to develop into an important member of the team.
Billy Hartill scored 30 goals with hat-tricks against Plymouth Argyle, Bristol City, Southampton and Oldham Athletic, in the 1931-32 season and helped the club win the Second Division championship. Charlie Phillips was also in great form adding 18. The club scored 118 goals that season.
The championship winning team that season included only one player that had not been signed by Buckley. The Wolverhampton Express and Star report on the success included the following tribute: "By his splendid work with the Wolves he has built up a reputation as a football manager second to none in the country... At the Molineux Ground he has proved himself a splendid judge of a player. His ability to find a young talent is unequalled and despite the handicaps with which he is faced when joining the club he has discovered a whole team, which has taken Wolves into the highest flight."
In August, 1933, Buckley purchased Bryn Jones from Aberaman for a fee of £1,500. In his first season at Wolves he scored 10 goals in 27 appearances. Although very popular with the fans, Jones was unable to immediately turn Wolves into a successful side. Billy Hartill remained in good form scoring 33 goals. This included four against Huddersfield Town and hat-tricks against Blackburn Rovers and Derby County. In the 1933-34 season they finished in 15th place in the First Division. However, crowd attendances had doubled and the board declared profits of £7,610.
Stan Cullisjoined Wolves in 1934. Cullis later recalled: "Major Buckley, apparently, decided very quickly that I might make a captain." When Cullis was only 18 years old and in the "A" team he was told by Buckley: "Cullis, if you listen and do as you are told, I will make you captain of Wolves one day."
1934 also saw the arrival of Jimmy Utterson, a goalkeeper from Glenavon in the Irish League. Unfortunately, he only played in 12 games before he died from head injuries he had received in a game against Middlesbrough.
Major Buckley continued to search for new talent and in 1934 he signed Billy Wrigglesworth, a winger from Chesterfield, David Martin from Belfast Celtic and Tom Galley, a midfielder, from Notts County. In the 1934-35 season Wolves finished in 17th place in the First Division winning only 15 of their 42 games. Billy Hartill was again top scorer with 33 goals.
In 1935 Buckley signed Alex Scott, a goalkeeper, for a fee of £1,250 from Burnley. However, he upset the Wolves' fans by selling Billy Hartill to Everton. A few months later he sold Charlie Phillips to Aston Villa for £9,000. It seemed that Buckley and the Wolves board were more concerned with making a profit than winning the First Division championship. Wolves again struggled in the 1935-36 season finishing in 15th place, only five points above the relegated teams, Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers.
Wolves started the 1936-37 season badly. They won only four games out of their first 14 and after a 2-1 defeat at home to Chelsea the crowd invaded the pitch from the South Bank and called for the resignation of Major Buckley. The crowd uprooted the goalposts before police reinforcements restored order. Buckley was offered police protection but he refused and walked home alone. Newspaper reports suggest that over 2,000 people were involved in the demonstration against Buckley.
Buckley later recalled that the main cause of this hostility was his policy of selling established players in order to balance the books. However, he argued this enabled him to play, younger, more talented players who became known as the "Buckley Babes".
In January 1937, Buckley again upset the Wolves' fans by selling Billy Wrigglesworth to Manchester United, who had the very good record for a winger, scoring 21 goals in 50 games for the club. However, Wolves had a good run in the league after Christmas and eventually finished in 5th place behind champions Manchester City.
In the summer of 1937 Buckley was approached by a chemist called Menzies Sharp. He claimed he had a "secret remedy that would give the players confidence". It is believed that Sharp's ideas were based on the experiments of Serge Voronoff, a French doctor, who had been born in Russia. Between 1917 and 1926, Voronoff carried out over five hundred transplantations on sheep and goats, and also on a bull, grafting testicles from younger animals to older ones. Voronoff's observations indicated that the transplantations caused the older animals to regain the vigor of younger animals.
Sharp's "gland treatment" involved a course of twelve injections. Buckley later explained: "To be honest, I was rather sceptical about this treatment and thought it best to try it out on myself first. The treatment lasted three or four months. Long before it was over I felt so much benefit that I asked the players if they would be willing to undergo it and that is how the gland treatment became general at Molineux."
Two Wolves players, Dicky Dorsett and Don Bilton, refused to undergo the "gland treatment". According to Patrick A. Quirke, the author of The Major: The Life and Times of Frank Buckley (2007): "Dorsett, a well-established and experienced footballer, had stood up to Major Buckley's insistence (some might say bullying) on a number of occasions."
Don Bilton recalls that he was signed by Major Buckley from York City. On his arrival at the club he was instructed by Buckley to report to the medical room for gland injections. Bilton replied: "I'm sorry Sir, but I am only seventeen and still under my father's guidance. He will not want me to have injections." Buckley told him that he was under contract and had to do as he was told. Bilton's father went to see Buckley the following day and after a heated row the manager backed-down. However, Bilton claimed that: "Buckley was not at all pleased by this and I never did much good at Wolves after that!"
Rumours circulated that Wolves players were being injected with "gland extracts from animals". Tommy Lawton, who was a member of the Everton team that lost 7-0 to Wolves, believed that these injections were improving the performance of the players. He claimed that before the game he tried to speak to Stan Cullis but "he walked past me with glazed eyes".
On 9th April, 1938, Dicky Dorsett and Dennis Westcott both scored four goals when Wolves beat Leicester City 10-1. After this defeat the club complained to Montague Lyons, the Leicester member of the House of Commons that the Wolves players were being injected with monkey glands. Lyons demanded that the government instigate an investigation into this treatment. When Walter Elliot, the Minister of Health, rejected this request, Emanuel Shinwell, the Labour MP, suggested that considering Wolves' impressive form, ministers of the Conservative government should be put on a course of these injections.
The Football League carried out an investigation into the "monkey gland" treatment. However, it refused to ban these injections but they did arrange for a circular to be posted in the dressing rooms of every club in England and Wales. This declared that players could take monkey glands but only on a voluntary basis.
At the beginning of the next season Buckley appointed Stan Cullis as captain of Wolves. In his autobiography, All for the Wolves (1960), Cullis claimed: "Buckley spent many hours drilling me in the precious art of captaincy, telling me in no ambiguous terms that I was to be the boss on the field. No youngster of eighteen could ask for a better instructor than the major, who laid the foundations of the modern Wolves during his sixteen years at Molineux".
Patrick A. Quirke, the author of The Major: The Life and Times of Frank Buckley argues that Buckley developed a unique style of management: "At whichever club he was at, to his players Major Buckley was not only their manager; he was their coach and trainer.... Buckley used training methods that might now be seen as crude forms of psychological behaviour modification."
For example, Gordon Clayton, the Wolves centre-forward, went through a barren period when he was unable to score. He got barracked by the Molineux crowd so badly that he considered giving up the game. Buckley considered him a "grand centre-forward" and argued that it would be a "football tragedy" if this happened. Buckley's wife suggested that Clayton should have a "course of psychology" with a local doctor. This was a great success and Clayton went on to score 14 goals in the next 15 matches.
After finishing the course of treatment Gordon Clayton wrote to Dorothy Buckley: "I just learnt that it was you who was actually responsible for my treatment. I am very pleased with my success so far and I know you will be equally pleased. I cannot really thank you enough for what you have done... As you no doubt know the very name of Wolverhampton Wanderers was a nightmare to me. I detested the place. I do not think I was liked or respected by a single person with the exception of Major Buckley, who I have no doubt was always interested in my welfare, even though I must have exasperated him often."
Major Buckley did not like the idea of football players being married. He thought that wives might "get in the way" of players concentrating on developing their skills. He also thought that a wife's anxiety about her husband's safety might affect him and his performance. Buckley had forty players in his 1937 squad and all were bachelors.
Buckley developed a more direct style of playing football. "It was simply the task of the defenders to get the ball forward as quickly as possible and not to over-elaborate their roles. The wingers were to take opposition defenders on and cross the ball to the central attackers whose job it was to put the ball in the net... He wanted fewer dribbling moves and more passing." Stan Cullis said that players were expected to do exactly as Major Buckley ordered otherwise "you'd very soon be on your bicycle to another club."
In the 1930s football teams travelled to away grounds on the day of the match. Buckley observed that players often arrived tired and fatigued. He therefore arranged for players to stay overnight in hotels when playing distant away fixtures. Buckley even argued "that where possible players should be ferried to games by air" and predicted that in future every top club would have its own helicopter to do this.
It was claimed that sometimes Buckley resorted to underhand tricks. John Jones of Everton recalls going to Molineaux and finding the ground "a sea of mud" even though there had been no rain for sometime. Jones complained that "we were on our bottoms more than our feet" during the game whereas Wolves had no trouble in this regard as they were all wearing long studs. Everton complained to the Football Association about what had happened and soon afterwards the FA banned the over-watering of pitches.
Buckley wanted to take his team on a tour of Europe before the start of the 1937-38 season. However, the Football Association refused permission for this to go-ahead due to "the numerous reports of misconduct by players of the Wolverhampton Wanderers Club during the past two seasons." There had been seven sendings-off while Buckley was manager of the club. However, as Buckley pointed out, four of these were accounted for by two players, Charlie Phillips and Alex Scott.
Stan Cullis and his teammates wrote to the FA claiming: "We would like to state that far from advocating the rough play we are accused of, Major Buckley is constantly reminding us of the importance of playing good, clean and honest football, and we as a team consider you have been most unjust in administering this caution to our manager."
Major Buckley was gradually building up a very good squad that included Stan Cullis, Gordon Clayton, Bill Morris, Dennis Westcott, George Ashall, Alex Scott, Jack Taylor, Tom Galley, Dicky Dorsett, Bill Parker, Bryn Jones, Joe Gardiner and Teddy Maguire.
Buckley sold Gordon Clayton to Aston Villa in October 1937. Dennis Westcott replaced Clayton as centre-forward and scored his first hat-trick against Swansea City. In the 1937-38 season Wolves finished second to the mighty Arsenal in the First Division. Westcott finished the season as top scorer with 22 goals in 28 appearances.
At the time, Arsenal dominated the First Division championship, having won it four times in six years. Alex James, their creative inside-forward, had recently retired. The club was looking for a replacement and Buckley decided to sell his star player, Bryn Jones for the world record fee of £14,000 (£6.9 million in today's money). Politicians were outraged by the money spent on Jones and the subject was debated in the House of Commons. Buckley later recalled that people would spit at him and his wife as they walked around Wolverhampton after he sold Jones.
As Stan Cullis pointed out: "Throughout the middle years of the 1930s, Major Buckley steadily built up the team he believed would capture most of the honours in England. From the large numbers of lads he brought to Molineux for trials, he signed enough professionals both to form his team and to bring in a fortune from the transfer market. At a time when a five-figure transfer fee still astounded the football public, Major Buckley earned £130,000 for Wolves in five years before the 1939-45 war. This spell established Wolves as one of the wealthiest football clubs in Britain."
In 1938 Major Buckley agreed a new ten-year contract with Wolves. He told the local newspaper: "Since coming to Wolverhampton ten years ago I have become so bitten by the Wanderers bug that no other club could ever interest me. It has been a pleasure to work in the town and, while we have had our differences, they have been plainly stated. I shall be happy to spend my football life with the club I so love."
In the 1938-39 season Wolves finished second to Everton. The centre-forward Dennis Westcott scored 43 goals in 43 appearances. His fellow striker, Dicky Dorsett managed 26 goals that season. The captain of the side, Stan Cullis, was generally acknowledged as the best centre-half in the Football League. That season also saw the arrival of teenagers, Billy Wright, Joe Rooney and Jimmy Mullen, in the side.
Wolves also enjoyed a good run in the FA Cup and beat Leicester City (5-1), Liverpool (4-1), Everton (2-0), Grimsby Town (5-0) to reach the final against Portsmouth at Wembley. Wolves lost the final 4-1 with Dicky Dorsett scoring their only goal. Major Buckley's Wolves became the first team in the history of English football to be runners-up in the sport's two major competitions in the same year. Afterwards, it was discovered that the Portsmouth players, like those of Wolves, had also been injected with monkey glands.
The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 brought an end to the Football League. Buckley attempted to re-join the British Army but at the age of 56 he was considered too old. However, he did encourage all his players to join and according to the Football Association publication, Victory Was The Goal (1945), between 3 September 1939 and the end of the war, 91 men joined the armed forces from the club.
In 1940 Buckley took command of a Home Guard unit in Wolverhampton. Buckley held nightly meetings at the local Territorial Army Hall that was situated near his home at St Jude's Court. According to Patrick A. Quirke, the author of The Major: The Life and Times of Frank Buckley: "Being totally dedicated to individual physical fitness, Major Buckley would often march his men to the Molineux where they would use the club's exercising facilities and the pitch itself as a training ground."
The government imposed a fifty mile travelling limit on all football teams and the Football League divided all the clubs into seven regional areas where games could take place. Wolves joined the Midland League with West Bromwich Albion, Birmingham City, Coventry City, Luton Town, Northampton Town, Leicester City and Walsall. Wolves won the 1939-40 championship. Top scorers were Dennis Westcott (26), Dicky Dorsett (16) Jimmy Mullen (7) and Billy Wright (5).
Wolves also won the Football League War Cup in 1942 beating Sunderland 4-1. The team included Eric Robinson who was to be tragically killed during a military training exercise soon afterwards. Joe Rooney was killed in action in 1943. Bill Shorthouse was badly wounded during the D-Day landings but survived to play for Wolverhampton Wanderers after the war.
Buckley retained his belief in youth and in September 1942 he gave a debut to Cameron Buchanan. At the age of fourteen years and fifty-seven days he was probably the youngest teenager to play for a Football League club. He played in a further 11 games before joining Bournemouth before the end of the war. Buckley also played Emilo Aldecoa, a political refugee who had been forced out of his own country by the Spanish Civil War.
Buckley resigned as manager of Wolves on 8th February 1944. This shocked the directors as they had given him a ten-year contract in 1938. During his 18 years at the helm, Buckley made £100,000 for Wolves in transfer dealings. The following month he joined Notts County in the Third Division on the extraordinary wage of £4,500 a year. While at his new club he signed Jesse Pye. He later sold him for £10,000 to Ted Vizard, the new manager of Wolves.
In May 1946 Buckley moved to Hull City, another Third Division side. The club finished in 5th place in the 1947-48 season. In May 1948 Buckley joined Leeds United. In his first season he signed John Charles, who was later to become a football superstar. Buckley later commented: "I shall never forget that morning when I first met John Charles. I was sitting in my office when they bought in a giant of a boy. He told me he was fifteen. He stood 6ft and weighed more than 11st."
Buckley was unable to get Leeds United promoted to the First Division and in April 1953 he moved to Walsall. Buckley was now aged seventy. Although he still had plenty of energy, "his scouting network, so long the mainstay of his talent spotting, was breaking up as his scouts became old and retired." The club finished bottom of the Third Division in the 1953-54 season and Buckley retired the following year.