Dennis Wilshaw was born in Stoke-on-Trent on 11th March, 1928. A talented footballer, he played for Packmoor Boys Club in the North Staffordshire League before joining Wolverhampton Wanderers as an amateur in 1944. However, he continued his education and eventually qualified as a schoolteacher.
Wilshaw was loaned to Walsall in the Third Division in 1946. He scored 26 goals for the club before being recalled to Wolves by the new manager, Stan Cullis, and he made his first-team debut in the 1948-49 season.
Wilshaw joined a team that included Johnny Hancocks, Sammy Smyth, Jesse Pye, Jimmy Dunn, Jimmy Mullen, Billy Crook, Roy Pritchard, Billy Wright, Bert Williams, Bill Shorthouse and Terry Springthorpe. Although he scored 10 goals in 11 games that season he failed to make the team that beat Leicester City in the 1949 FA Cup final.
The following season Wilshaw played in only eight games. He was kept out of the team by Jesse Pye who scored 18 goals that season. The emergence of Roy Swinbourne also did not help Wilshaw get many games in the first-team. However, Pye was sold to Luton Town in July 1952, and Wilshaw was able to develop a partnership with Swinbourne.
In the 1952-53 season Wolves finished in 3rd place with Wilshaw scoring 17 goals in 29 games. According to Brian Glanville: "Slim but strong, at 5ft 10in and 10st 7lb, Wilshaw was quick and direct, with a powerful shot... Essentially left-footed but effortlessly versatile, Wilshaw could play with equal success at outside-left, inside-left, or even centre-forward."
Another journalist, Ivan Ponting, pointed out: "Wilshaw was strong, resilient and direct, an awkward customer for any opponent to control, and thus was perfectly suited to Stan Cullis's formidable all-action Wolves side... He was capable of sudden bursts of searing acceleration which equipped him ideally to exploit gaps in opposition defences. His shooting was explosively powerful, especially with his left foot, and he was combative in the air."
Wilshaw won his first international cap for England against Wales on 10th October 1953. England won the game 4-1 with Wilshaw scoring two of the goals. The England team that day included Tom Finney, Tommy Garrett, Harry Johnston, Nat Lofthouse, Jimmy Mullen and Billy Wright.
Wolves won the First Division championship in the 1953-54 season with four more points than their nearest challenger, West Bromwich Albion. They scored an impressive 96 goals. The top goalscorers were Wilshaw (25), Johnny Hancocks (25), Roy Swinbourne (24), Jimmy Mullen (17) and Peter Broadbent (12). Wilshaw did not enjoy a good relationship with his manager, Stan Cullis. However, he claimed that the club's team spirit was good "because we all hated his guts".
Wilshaw was recalled to the England team against Switzerland on 20th June 1954. He scored one of the goals and kept his place for the game against Uruguay (2-4). Wilshaw's most memorable game was against Scotland on 2nd April 1955, where he scored four goals in England's 7-2 victory.
In the 1954-55 season Wolves lost the services of Roy Swinbourne who was injured early in the season and the club could only finish second to Chelsea. Wilshaw scored 20 goals in 38 league games that year.
Wilshaw was less successful in the 1955-56 season scoring only 6 goals in 26 games. He was a member of a team that included Jimmy Murray, Harry Hooper, Peter Broadbent, Eddie Clamp, Ron Flowers, Johnny Hancocks, Jimmy Mullen, Bill Shorthouse, Bill Slater, Billy Wright, Bert Williams, Eddie Clamp, Norman Deeley, Eddie Stuart and Bobby Mason.
Wilshaw won his last international cap for England against Northern Ireland on 6th October 1956. He had the impressive record of scoring 10 goals in 12 games for his country.
Wolves won the League Championship in 1957-58 by 5 points from Preston North End. The club scored an amazing 103 league goals that season. Jimmy Murray was the club's leading scorer with 32 goals in 45 games. Wilshaw was out of the side for most of the season scoring only 4 goals in 12 games.
After scoring 105 goals in 211 games for Wolves Wilshaw was sold to Stoke City. Over the next three seasons Wilshaw scored 41 goals in 95 games before retiring from professional football after breaking his leg in a FA Cup tie.
Wilshaw returned to work as a schoolteacher and eventually became head of a school in Stoke. Later he joined the Service and Community Studies department at Crewe and Alsager College of Education. He also qualified as a FA coach and sports psychologist.
Dennis Wilshaw died following a heart attack in Stoke-on-Trent on 10th May 2004.
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