Bill Perry

Bill Perry

William (Bill) Perry, the son of an English man and a South African woman, was born in Johannesburg on 10th September, 1930. An outside-left he joined Johannesburg Rangers in 1946.

In 1949 Joe Smith signed Perry and made his league debut for Blackpool the following year. He joined a team that included Stanley Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Harry Johnson and Hughie Kelly.

In the 1950-51 season Blackpool finished in 3rd place in the First Division of the Football League. Blackpool beat Stockport County (2-1), Mansfield Town (2-0), Fulham (1-0) and played Birmingham City in the semi-final of the FA Cup. Perry later recalled how he scored the winning goal: "England keeper Gil Merrick was in goal for Birmingham. I picked up the ball around the halfway line, made my way up the wing and beat the full-back towards goal. I was going to cross the ball because I could see Morty (Mortensen) coming up behind me. I don't know why, but I changed my mind and at the last moment and had a go at goal. The very fact that I assumed to send over a centre meant Gil came out anticipating it, was wrong-footed and the ball went in."

Blackpool played Newcastle United in the 1951 FA Cup Final. The defences were in control in the first-half. The deadlock was broken in the 50th minute when Milburn collected a pass from George Robledo to fire home. Five minutes later, Ernie Taylor cleverly back-heeled the ball and Milburn scored with a powerful shot. As Milburn later recalled: "I struck it with all my might and from 28 yards it flew straight as an arrow into the back of the net." The game ended 2-0 and Perry had failed to win a cup winners' medal.

In the 1952-53 season Blackpool beat Huddersfield Town (1-0), Southampton (2-1), Arsenal (2-1) and Tottenham Hotspur (2-1) to reach the FA Cup final for the third time in five years. Hughie Kelly was injured in a game against Liverpool and Cyril Robinson was selected to play at left-half in the final.

Robinson claimed that Joe Smith, the Blackpool manager "was never very tactical, he was very blunt with his instructions". According to Stanley Matthews he said: "Go out and enjoy yourselves. Be the players I know you are and we'll be all right."

Cyril Robinson was later interviewed about the match: "We kicked off and within a couple of minutes we had a goal scored against us. That's about the worst thing that could happen. Gradually we got some passes together, got Stan Matthews on the ball and Mortensen got the equaliser, but they went back ahead straight away."

Stanley Matthews wrote in his autobiography that: "At half-time we sipped our tea and listened to Joe. He wasn't panicking. He didn't rant and rave and he didn't berate anyone. He simply told us to keep playing our normal game." Harry Johnson, the captain, told the defence to "be more compact and tighter as a unit." He also added: "Eddie (Shinwell), Tommy (Garrett), Cyril (Robinson) and me, we will deal with the rough and tumble and win the ball. You lot who can play, do your bit."

Despite the team-talk Bolton Wanderers took a 3-1 lead early in the second-half. Robinson commented: "It looked hopeless then, I was thinking to myself at least I've been to Wembley." Then Stan Mortensen scored from a Stanley Matthews cross. According to Matthews: "although under pressure from two Bolton defenders who contrived to whack him from either side as he slid in, his determination was total and he managed to toe poke the ball off the inside of the post and into the net."

In the 88th minute a Bolton defender conceded a free kick some 20 yards from goal. Stan Mortensen took the kick and according to Robinson: "I've never seen one taken as well. It flew, you couldn't see the ball on the way to the net." Matthews added that "such was the power and accuracy behind Morty's effort, Hanson in the Bolton goal hardly moved a muscle."

The score was now 3-3 and the game was expected to go into extra-time. In his autobiography, Stanley Matthews described what happened next: "A minute of injury time remained... Ernie Taylor, who had not stopped running throughout the match, picked up a long throw from George Farm, rounded Langton and, as he had done like clockwork through the second half, found me wide on the right. I took off for what I knew would be one final run to the byline. Three Bolton players closed in, I jinked past Ralph Banks and out of the corner of my eye noticed Barrass coming in quick for the kill. They had forced me to the line and it was pure instinct that I pulled the ball back to where experience told me Morty would be. In making the cross I slipped on the greasy turf and, as I fell, my heart and hopes fell also. I looked across and saw that Morty, far from being where I expected him to be, had peeled away to the far post. We could read each other like books. For five years we'd had this understanding. He knew exactly where I d put the ball. Now, in this game of all games, he wasn't there. This was our last chance, what on earth was he doing? Racing up from deep into the space was Bill Perry."

Stanley Matthews added that Perry "coolly and calmly stroked the ball wide of Hanson and Johnny Ball on the goalline and into the corner of the net." Bill Perry admitted: "I had to hook it a bit. Morty said he left it to me, but that's not true, it was out of his reach." Blackpool had beaten Bolton Wanderers 4-3.

Bill Perry won his first and only international cap for England against Northern Ireland on 1st November, 1955. England won the game 3-1. In his next game for his country, Perry scored two of the goals in England's 4-1 win over Spain. Perry won his last cap against Scotland on 14th April 1956.

In 1960 Perry had a serious knee injury and was forced to have a cartilage operation. Unable to get back into the first-team, Perry was transferred to Southport in 1962. During his time at Blackpool he scored 119 goals in 394 games. He also played for Hereford United (1963-64).

After leaving football Perry ran a printing business in Lancashire. He was also director of Fleetwood Town between 1967 and 1970.

Bill Parry died on 27th September 2007.

Primary Sources

(1) Bill Perry, Match of My Life (2007)

My journey to Blackpool started in Johannesburg, South Africa, a country better known for its rugby players than soccer players. Today, that is no longer the case, but in the 1940s when I was growing up, the Springboks were the best-known sporting icons.

I played rugby union at junior school in Johannesburg and as a loose forward proved quite useful before attending Queens Junior High School. Queens didn't play rugby union, so I took up soccer. I was 14 and naturally right-footed, but the only position vacant was outside-left. I was terrified of the sports master, so knew I would have to get my left leg going to cross the ball and keep my place in the side. I practiced all the time by kicking a tennis ball against a wall and must have done enough because I represented the U14 and U15 sides on a regular basis. My constant practicing did me a favour because when I joined Johannesburg Rangers after I left school at 16, I was competent both on the left and right wing.

All sides were amateur in those days, so I began an apprenticeship at a car parts factory whilst playing and waited for my opportunity. It quickly came when the regular outside left was injured and I never looked back. For around three years, I played in Rangers' U16 and U18 sides and represented Transvaal Province against Cape Province in the Currie Cup.... During the summer of 1948, Charlton Athletic manager Jimmy Seed approached me to consider trying my luck in England. Our football season ran opposite to the English football season, so Jimmy regularly scouted in South Africa looking for talent. It was a great opportunity for players because all we wanted as a guarantee was our return fare if we did not make the grade. It was like a working holiday....

I was only 18, so discussed the options with my parents, but I also took advice from Rangers coach Billy Butler, who'd played in the first cup final at Wembley in 1923 for Bolton Wanderers. Billy often told us what it was like to play at Wembley with the crowd and atmosphere, so the competition was something special to me from an early age.

Billy told me not to rush into a decision. If I was thinking about joining Charlton, other teams might be better suited. Billy told me it would be easier to play in a good team than a bad team. He knew Blackpool manager Joe Smith, who captained Bolton in their win over West Ham, and asked if Joe would take me on. Joe agreed. Charlton were not a bad team, but Stan Matthews was at Blackpool and everyone knew what a great player he was. My fate was sealed.

Blackpool had lost to Manchester United in the 1948 final, so I was aware of the club, and, of course, I knew all about Stan's reputation. Eventually, in October 1949, I boarded an ocean-liner at Cape Town and arrived at Southampton two weeks later. It was my first time outside South Africa. After a trial, Blackpool offered me a one-year contract on the understanding that if I didn't make it, I had my return ticket paid. I was determined to succeed.

Stan Matthews was a factor in me coming over, but he wasn't the main reason. I had a contract based on my own ability and Blackpool was a good place to be as I would be beside the seaside. In the 1950s there were no package holidays abroad, families travelled to British seaside resorts, so Blackpool was packed during the summer season. The town was buzzing.

I recall at the time in England that there was still rationing of sweets and meat, but clothes were not restricted. My salary was £12 a week; we got £2 bonus if we won and £1 if we drew. Blackpool was a team packed with international players. Over the years, supporters have often asked me what our team would be worth today. It is impossible to speculate. How could you put a value on the likes of Stan Matthews and Stan Mortenson, skipper Harry Johnson, Ernie Taylor and Jackie Mudie? Our team was packed with star names and we always entertained.

Crowds at football matches were massive. There was no swearing like today and no segregation, everyone mingled. The atmosphere was fantastic; there was tremendous banter between the players and supporters and there was no better time to be a professional footballer.

George Farm was a very good goalkeeper. He was brave, but rather unorthodox when catching a ball because it looked as if it may slip between his arms, but it rarely did. George was strong, but not a great dead ball kicker, so Eddie Shimwell took a lot of the goal-kicks. Eddie played right back and was a strong tackler. He was tough and preferred to slide tackle rather than shoulder charge. Left-back Tommy Garrett complemented Eddie at full-back. Tommy was skilful and preferred to play his way out of trouble rather than hoof the ball clear.

Centre-half Eric Hayward was underrated, but strong in the air and a solid tackler. Captain Harry Johnston played half-back and was the rock in defence. Harry was a very good skipper, forceful but very fair. He played hard and expected every one else to do the same thing. Harry led by example. Ewan Fenton broke into the side at half back, was a shrewd passer of the ball and joined the attack at every opportunity.

Ernie Taylor may have been only five foot four inches tall, but he was a very good ball player, as accurate as David Beckham in his heyday in his passes. Although he played inside-right, many of my goals for Blackpool came from Ernie's passes. Hughie Kelly was a sturdy wing-half and superb passer of the ball and complementing him was Allan Brown, who scored crucial goals from midfield. Jackie Mudie would soon break into the side and prove a good striker.

Stan Mortenson led the attack. Morty had a tremendous shot, a bullet header, was quick and scored fantastic goals. I think he scored more with his head than his feet. Stan was an old-fashioned type centre-forward and led the line brilliantly. Morty was as good as any centre-forward in the First Division and was also the biggest character in the dressing room. He was a bit of a comedian, always cracking jokes about the place and kept everybody in good spirits. Morty was also the most superstitions amongst us, coming last on to the field.

Then, of course, we had Stan Matthews, and what a player. When you played alongside someone like Stan, you really appreciated his skill. I played with him week in and week out, both in training and in matches, and he was absolute magic. Stan had a fantastic body swerve and superb balance, his timing was brilliant. The first five yards is the most important when you are a winger and that was true for Stan. In those first five yards, that is when he got away from his full-back. Once Stan was past, he was never caught.

As a person, Stan was quiet, modest and trained on his own. Not that he didn't want to mix with the other players, it was just his manner. He used to get butterflies before every match, loved the tension and got worked up before he went out. Stan used to say, "if I don't get butterflies before a match I am not right for the game". Blackpool was the most popular away team for crowds and that was mainly due to Stan playing. They said that Matthews would put 10,000 on any gate and if he didn't play fans would get upset. Managers quipped to Joe Smith that if Matthews wasn't fit he should include him in the team anyway to make sure the crowds came, then they'd announce before the match he was unwell...

Speed was my asset on the left wing. I was faster than Stan was and played more of a direct game. Stan would get on the ball and then work his way slowly up the wing, tormenting his marker, whereas I was looking for a lot of through balls from the inside-forwards and wing halves. I had pace and strength and must have made an impression on Joe because inside three months I had forced my way into the first team. The number 11 must also have been lucky for me because I played just 11 games in the third team before being promoted to the reserves, then again 11 games in the reserves before being promoted to the first team, and, of course, I played in the number 11 shirt.

Joe's strength as manager was that he bought players into the team to suit certain positions. We were not coached as such and mainly did circuit training to keep fit. Some clubs had grounds nearby to train on, so they didn't cut up the pitch, we didn't. At Blackpool, we played a full-scale practice match every Tuesday. The pitch would cut up during a season and there would only be grass in the four corners by the end of the campaign. We also played with the old heavy ball unlike today's that move about. It would be interesting to see how keepers coped with Morty ripping a shot at them!

There was never a great rousing team talk by Joe, we hardly saw the manager from one Saturday to the next. Joe never spoke about tactics, but would always try to give us a bit of a gee up. He'd say, "come on lads, we can do it". There was no ranting and raving, he would come in and say, "I've read the papers and they don't give us a chance. Now, go out and show them what we can do."

(2) Stanley Matthews, The Way It Was (2000)

A minute of injury time remained. What happened then no scriptwriter could have penned because no editor would have accepted a story so far-fetched and outlandish. Ernie Taylor, who had not stopped running throughout the match, picked up a long throw from George Farm, rounded Langton and, as he had done like clockwork through the second half, found me wide on the right. I took off for what I knew would be one final run to the byline. Three Bolton players closed in, I jinked past Ralph Banks and out of the corner of my eye noticed Barrass coming in quick for the kill. They had forced me to the line and it was pure instinct that I pulled the ball back to where experience told me Morty would be. In making the cross I slipped on the greasy turf and, as I fell, my heart and hopes fell also. I looked across and saw that Morty, far from being where I expected him to be, had peeled away to the far post. We could read each other like books. For five years we'd had this understanding. He knew exactly where I d put the ball. Now, in this game of all games, he wasn't there. This was our last chance, what on earth was he doing? Racing up from deep into the space was Bill Perry. "Head over it Bill, don't blast it. Don't blast it!" I said to myself.

I was doing Bill an injustice. The "Original Champagne Perry" was as ice cool as the finest vintage in the coldest of buckets. He coolly and calmly stroked the ball wide of Hanson and Johnny Ball on the goalline and into the corner of the net. From 1-3 down it was now 4-3! Those in the seats took to their feet, those on the terraces and already standing, leapt into the air as Wembley erupted.

Perhaps it was down to the fact I swallowed hard to get some saliva into my dry mouth, or that the sudden eruption of sound was momentarily too much for my eardrums; maybe it was a combination of the two. For a brief moment, although conscious of the pandemonium that had broken out about me, I didn't hear a thing. I watched the ball hit the back of the net, looked back at Bill as he raised his arms and was for a split second rendered totally deaf. I looked at my team-mates jumping for joy and the only noise was a low, droning buzz in my ears. It was as if I was dreaming it. Swallowing hard again, my ears suddenly popped and were immediately assailed by the loudest and most resounding roar I'd ever experienced in a football stadium. It burst from the terraces and roared down and across the pitch like some terrifying banshee.

Having regained my feet, I watched as every player bar George Farm made a beeline for me. Morty's arms were outstretched his face beaming as he sprinted towards me; Bill Perry had an ecstatic smile on his face, his head going from side to side as if in disbelief; Ernie Taylor skipped and jumped as he ran in my direction, punching the air with a fist and yelling `It's there! It's there!' Harry Johnston, who always left his part top set of dentures in a handkerchief in his suit pocket, unashamedly bared his gums to the world. I felt Ewan Fenton's wet and clammy arms across my face as his hands ruffled my hair. It was all I could do to keep my feet as my team-mates mobbed me.

(3) Bill Perry, interviewed by David Millar (1990)

I had to hook it a bit. Morty said he left it to me, but that's not true, it was out of his reach. Ernie Taylor changed the run of play. He didn't get the credit but he was the main man. I'd contributed much more in the semi-final against Spurs. Of course, Stan was special, the ability he had. If a player had a choice of pass, me or Stan, they'd give it to Stan, knowing he'd get to the line and take two opponents with him. For speed I'd beat him every time over 50 yards, but never over five, or 10 yards.

(4) Bill Perry, Match of My Life (2007)

Going down Wembley Way, the sight of all the fans was fantastic once again and walking on the pitch and changing in the dressing room the expectancy grew. Walking out the noise was deafening and the atmosphere electric. I was fortunate to meet the King against Newcastle, this time I met the Duke of Edinburgh.

Suddenly it was game on, but we got off to a terrible start with Bolton scoring on two minutes when George Farm was deceived by a speculative shot from Lofthouse that bounced in front of him before going into the net off his arm. It was a shock, but the goal had come early so we had time to recover. We failed to settle, though, and Lofthouse almost made it 2-0. Fortunately, Nat hit a post. Slowly we found form. Jackie Mudie went close with a snap shot and Bolton had a problem because left half Eric Bell had torn a muscle, forcing him to switch positions with inside-left Harold Hassell. These were the days before substitutes, so we had an advantage as we had 11 fit men.

Taylor almost got Morty in the clear before we equalised on 35 minutes when Jackie flicked a ball through for Morty to fire home from 10 yards. His shot deflected off Hassell past keeper Stan Hanson. Unfortunately, our lead was short lived because Bolton went 2-1 ahead on 40 minutes when Willie Moir touched home a Bobby Langton lob. It was a poor goal to concede because George Farm should have cleared Langton's lob. We were disappointed to go in behind at half time after we had fought back, but we were determined to hit back in the second half. Within 10 minutes of the resumption though, our chances seemed over when Bell, making light of his injury, headed home a Doug Holden cross.

The thing I remember most about the final was this moment because I was really dejected and had the feeling that we would walk off the pitch having lost again. Bolton, though, were tiring and it soon became evident as Stan started to roam around the pitch looking for openings. A tactical change by Joe, 25 minutes from time, saw Jackie Mudie and myself switch positions, and it immediately paid dividends. Ewan Fenton and Ernie Taylor found Stan, who glided past Ralph Banks before sending in a terrific cross that Hanson failed to hold. In the scramble for the ball, Morty stuck out a foot to poke it into the net. That goal gave us a tremendous lift. One more nudge would put us on even terms.

We could sense that Bolton were simply trying to hold on. Stan was causing the Bolton defenders trouble every time he was in possession. They were so so tired and Stan stil had plenty of energy in those old legs of his. The pressure had to tell. Morty went close with a shot, I put another effort wide, Jackie Mudie was off target with another strike, and then a minute from time Jackie won a free-kick just outside the penalty area. Morty lined up his shot and blasted it straight through a gap in the wall past Stan Hanson and into the roof of the net for our third goal. Incredibly, we were level and I remember thinking, "now we have a chance, providing the final whistle doesn't go."

Historically, Morty became the first player since James Logan of Notts County in 1895 to score a hat-trick in a final, a feat that has still not been matched by any other player. Footage of that goal is always memorable, but also remarkable is the knowledge that Nat Lofthouse applauded at the very moment of his team's demise, an act of incredible sportsmanship.

Deep into injury time, Jackie Mudie was almost the hero, but struck a shot past the post and then in the very last minute, my moment came. George Farm cleared up field to Ernie Taylor, who in turn passed to Stan. Whenever Stan got the ball, all the forwards made for the goalmouth because nine times out of ten, Stan would beat his full-back and we knew the ball would be coming across. That is what I anticipated and sure enough, Stan got the ball on the wing, and crossed it, although he slipped as he did so, meaning he cut it back a little sharper than he had meant to. Morty let it go by at the near post as he wasn't in a good position and it came to me along the ground. It was just about on the penalty spot when I let fly with my right foot and I was so glad to see it hit the back of the net. For the first time in the match, we were ahead and we knew then that the Cup was ours. It was a marvellous moment and one I will never forget.

When the whistle sounded I thought, "We've won it!" There was elation and, of course, Joe Smith came running up onto the pitch congratulating everybody. The Bolton players took the defeat very well. Strange as it may seem, you do feel for the opposing team especially when you know what it is like to lose.

(5) Brian Glanville, The Guardian (8th October, 2007)

Standing 5ft 9ins and weighing 11 stone, he modestly insisted that he was neither fast nor especially skilful, but he was highly effective and a brisk opportunist. His hero was Liverpool's powerful Scottish international left winger, Billy Liddell...

He made his league debut in 1950 and played for the Seasiders for more than a decade. His goalscoring record there was prolific: 119 in 394 appearances after a slow beginning in his first season; just five in 33 games. Subsequently he regularly attained double figures until his last season, 1961-62, with just two in 10 games.