Bert Sproston

Bert Sproston

Bert Sproston was born in Elworth on 22nd June 1915. After playing for Sandbach Rangers he joined Leeds United in 1933. He soon became the team's right-back during the 1933-34 season.

Sproston won his first international cap for England against Wales on 17th October, 1936. The England team that day also included Cliff Bastin, Sammy Crooks, Freddie Steele and Ray Westwood. Wales won the game 2-1.

In the 1937-38 season Bert Sproston played for England against Northern Ireland (5-1), Wales (2-1), Czechoslovakia (5-4) and Scotland (0-1). Stanley Matthews, who played with Sproston for England, considered him an outstanding full-back. In his autobiography, The Way It Was, he remarked that Sproston was "a tough and uncompromising full-back... who, according to the joke of the time, lived on a diet of raw meat and wingers like me."

In May 1938 Sproston was selected for the England tour of Europe. The first match was against Germany in Berlin. Adolf Hitler wanted to make use of this game as propaganda for his Nazi government. While the England players were getting changed an Football Association official went into their dressing-room and told them that they had to give the raised arm Nazi salute during the playing of the German national anthem. As Stanley Matthews later recalled: "The dressing room erupted. There was bedlam. All the England players were livid and totally opposed to this, myself included. Everyone was shouting at once. Eddie Hapgood, normally a respectful and devoted captain, wagged his finger at the official and told him what he could do with the Nazi salute, which involved putting it where the sun doesn't shine."

The FA official left only to return some minutes later saying he had a direct order from Sir Neville Henderson the British Ambassador in Berlin. The players were told that the political situation between Britain and Germany was now so sensitive that it needed "only a spark to set Europe alight". As a result the England team reluctantly agreed to give the Nazi salute.

The game was watched by 110,000 people as well as senior government figures such as Herman Goering and Joseph Goebbels. England won the game 6-3.

Sproston retained his place in the England side against Switzerland on 21st May 1938. Unfortunately, Eddie Hapgood and Stanley Matthews both suffered serious injuries during the early part of the game and with only nine fit men lost the game 2-1. In the third game of the tour England beat France 4-2.

Leeds United was suffering from money problems and in June 1938 Sproston, who had played 130 games for the club, was sold to Tottenham Hotspur for a fee of £9,500. However, he found it difficult to settle in London and in November 1938 he was transferred to Manchester City for £10,000.

Sproston won his last international cap for England against Norway on 9th November, 1938. The England team that day also included Frank Broome, Stan Cullis, Eddie Hapgood, Tommy Lawton, Stanley Matthews and Vic Woodley. England won 4-0.

On Sunday 3rd September Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany. The government immediately imposed a ban on the assembly of crowds and as a result the Football League competition was brought to an end. During the Second World War Sproston guested for Port Vale, Millwall, Aldershot and Wrexham, and made 3 appearances for England in wartime internationals.

After the war Sproston returned to Maine Road and helped Manchester City win the 1947 Second Division title. In 1949 he moved to non-league Ashton United.

Bert Sproston died on 27th December 2000.