Fred Spiksley: The remarkable life of a forgotten England star

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By Phil Dawkes
BBC Sport
A record-breaking goalscorer for club and country, an advanced coach who worked on three continents, a theater co-star of both Charlie Chaplin and also an escapee from Germany. Fred Spiksley may be of.
A soccer superstar before the sport was familiar with the idea , the winger promoted its message it off and practised the match that was beautiful on the pitch.
He was likewise a character – a gambler and womaniser who aspired to ride horses but settled for gambling away his cash on them as an adult.
Born in 1870 in Lincolnshire in Gainsborough, the son of the boilermaker would go to Europe, throughout his career into Mexico, Peru and the United States of America.
However, before all that, there was Sheffield and putting a club named Wednesday about the football map.
“Our captain told me to shift from left to right half to prevent the external left. I might also have tried to halt the wind… ah, Fred had been a jewel of a player in these days!”
As England captain and one of the finest footballers of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Ernest’Nudger’ Needham knew gift, also Spiksley’d bags of it.
A little and slick winger, Spiksley has been lightning quick – the”fastest guy in soccer” according to England international team-mate Billy Bassett.
He had been a dribbler – a skill honed in the narrow cobbled streets of Gainsborough through youth practise using a rubber band. He was peerless in his capacity and crosses with the exterior of the foot, making him a nightmare to shield against. He was a celebrity.
“For a brief period, there’s a strong case for putting Spiksley as the greatest forwards. In the big games, he had been supreme. You read a number of the reports by the 1902-03 season and he was unstoppable with his pace,” Mark Metcalf, the co-author of’Flying Within An Olive Grove’, a book on Spiksley’s life, told BBC Sport.
When Spiksley combined Sheffield Wednesday in 1891 – Wednesday then known – they had been he an exciting gift plus a club with a record. He’d scored 131 goals in 126 looks for hometown team Gainsborough Trinity.
By the time of his departure Wednesday were reigning First Division winners who had won the FA Cup for the first time, also Spiksley had added that a century of league goals to his name.
The very first of the two strikes who won the 1896 FA Cup last for Wednesday is believed to be the quickest in a closing at 20 minutes. He obtained the first goal at the new Owlerton Stadium of the club which would become Hillsborough, and his finish in the 1902-03 season’s last game helped seal the league title by a single point.
His England career was sporadic – but eventful. There’s sufficient evidence to indicate he was the first England player to score some.
In that second match he scored the first treble with an Englishman from Scotland, and was cheered from the touchline at Richmond Park with a barefooted, handkerchief-waving Princess Mary of Teck, who would later marry England’s Prince George and become Queen.
Spiksley would include only five caps and one purpose for his tally during the following five years to get a competition for positions, favouring then and of players injuries stymied his aspirations.
The physical cost of a career being booted around the pitch by ruthless (and often humiliated ) defenders finally ended his affiliation with Wednesday.
He would attempt to recapture some of the former glory with the likes of Leeds Watford City and Southern United before retiring. However he never fully recovered from a serious knee injury suffered in a pre-season game in 1903 – the year he abandoned Wednesday.
Little did Spiksley understand this exact identical injury would keep him from a barbarous war just more than a decade later.
For the majority of England’s Football League pioneers, retirement in enjoying spelt public life’s conclusion. Not too for Spiksley.
Though many of his peers took up returned to tasks, he joined the circus, placing his playing abilities and fame impresario Fred Karno’s sketch series’The Football Match’.
The production told the story of a stunning cup tie involving the Midnight Wanderers and Middleton Pie-Cans, with the footballers involved (Spiksley was not the sole ex-player to lend his talents) providing credibility through their ball tricks.
In addition, it provided what might be the first talking lines for a young actor who Karno described as”pale, puny and sullen-looking” and”appearing much too bashful to do any good in theater”.
It’d be fair to say Charlie Chaplin soon overcame his shyness to establish Karno laughably wrong.
But while movie stardom and Hollywood called for Chaplin, Spiksley’s future would take him round the globe, once again as a advocate for its game that is beautiful.
Spiksley had been frustrated in previous attempts to get to coaching, missing out to the function in QPR and Tottenham and rejected on his predilection for gaming.
But seeing the growth of soccer throughout the world and also the requirement for knowledge of coaches and the increased experience, he spied a chance.
The next 20 years would see him move from country to country including stints from Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain and starting, Mexico, Peru and the United States.
He was particularly real in Sweden, in which his job with the inexperienced nationwide team led to huge improvements and his coaching of AIK Stockholm’s players brought them a name in 1911 – an achievement he would replicate in Germany 17 years after with Nuremberg.
English sides seemed unconvinced by his own charm – although Spiksley did have an failed two-year stint using Fulham near the conclusion of his training profession – but fledgling parts of the soccer world were blindsided with his own innovative teachings on technique and the pass-and-move game.
Passion and his skill lay in the growth of players and that he owned strong remarks on how this should be achieved, some of which he recorded in a Pathe News movie along with Evening News content – .
Back in 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, Spiksley was managing in Nuremberg. A decree has been issued to detain and imprison any foreigners aged between 45 and 17.
Then elderly 44, Spiksley along with his son, Fred Jr., were locked up. They fed and had been beaten on a diet of blackened bread and water.
His wife Ellen managed to procure their release with the aid of Spiksley’s club and the American consul, however they still needed to escape Germany to neutral Switzerland, with the extra complication that he would be enlisted to fight if decreed fit back home.
The injury to his right knee had finished his playing career, but it came to his rescue.
When examined, the otherwise fit and healthier Spiksley was able to dislocate the knee (thanks to an early rise that morning and two hours of applying boiling hot water into your joint), leaving him unable to operate and, at the opinion of the doctor, unfit for support.
He and his family were able to return to England and then he spent the rest of the war before resuming his training career, working as a munitions inspector at Sheffield.
Spiksley’s final coaching role was operating with the pupils at King Edward VII School in Sheffield, the most successful season of which came in 1933-34 and watched that the first XI win 20 of the fittings, scoring 181 objectives in the process.
This was the accomplishment that the Ardath Tobacco Company comprised King Edward’s school team in their football cigarette photograph collection in 1935-36 alongside top sides of this time.
But his enduring and first love has been the racecourse.
There were several successes with gambling – his family remember him ironing the creases from a wad of 5 carried back to his house in a suitcase and notes he had won in the races. But the declines were often destructive and frequent, leading to court appearances debts and, in 1909, insolvency.
There was a costly divorce in Ellen to deal with later.
“There are plenty of traits of Fred’s that were not attractive. He had been a politician and I also suspect his relationship with his first wife wasn’t ideal,” says Metcalf.
“In a way, this also must have influenced how he played the pitch. He had been an outsider. He was a team participant. He did not reside at Sheffield, he continued to live in Gainsborough so possibly was not a part of the group ”
Spiksley life observed him glow as among the finest footballers of his creation and also make the jump that was odd before enjoying success as a trainer, despite battle and his standing as a gambler and womaniser.
Its end’s conditions were fitting. Back in 1948 he fell and died from a heart attack.
Clasped in his hands was a unclaimed winning ticket.
You can read about Fred Spiksley in detail in’Flying Over An Olive Grove’ from Ralf Nicholson, Clive Nicholson and Mark Metcalf. A movie about the life of Spiksley is now in production.

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