Wednesday, 24 July 2013

George Elliott: The Middlesbrough player who finished as top scorer in Division One in 1913/14

Re-produced from the Golden Boot book published by Amberley Publications and co-authored with Tony Matthews.


George Elliott 31 goals of 77 goals by Middlesbrough who finished in 3rd place 
21 home, 10 away

George Elliott’s sporting enthusiasm saw him ignore his family’s advice to go to Cambridge University, instead signing for Middlesbrough on 3 May 1909. He’d already shown enough promise that when Derby County enquired about re-signing Steve Bloomer in September the following yea,r Middlesbrough were happy to let him return south. Having hit four goals in his first season, Elliott proceeded to steadily up his scoring record with 10, 17 and 22 league goals in the following three seasons. The Teessiders though had struggled in the 1912-13 season, finishing in sixteenth place in Division One. The 1913-14 was to be very different, as with Sunderland born Elliott in rampaging form Middlesbrough were to finish in their highest ever League placing of third. 

Elliott got his goal tally off the ground by netting twice against Derby County. Having being on the end of a fine move with a ten-yard header he banged home a ‘grand goal, with the ball striking the foot of the post before going into the net’ reported the Middlesbrough Gazette

He went one better at Ayresome Park in the local derby with reigning champions Sunderland. It was a brilliant game played at a cracking pace, and with the result in doubt to the very end.  At 0-0  ‘Elliott eluded Gladwin and Ness with a pretty dribble and gave Butler no chance of saving his hard drive into the net’ reported the Newcastle Journal. Then, after hitting home a penalty, he brought his side back into the game at 3-4 with a close-in finish, but with the home side having lost Andrew Jackson at half-time the ten men couldn’t force home a late equaliser against a Sunderland side that was more than prepared to stretch the rules to capture both points, with a late tackle leaving the Boro centre-forward injured and absent for the following three games. 

Back in the side against Newcastle United, Elliott earned and scored a penalty and his two goals were enough to ensure a comfortable 3-0 victory. Debutant Walter Tinsley had been signed from Sunderland to play alongside Elliott at inside left. The two were able to form a deadly partnership with the new man able to grab 19 League goals in just 23 matches before the end of the season, including three in the following home game that saw Aston Villa beaten 5-2. ‘Rarely, if ever has the five forwards that represented the club been equalled’ reported the Gazette

On New Year’s Day, Elliott lifted a John Carr centre high into the net for the winner in a five-goal thriller against Derby County. Two weekends later, League leaders Blackburn Rovers arrived at Ayresome Park to find Elliott in sparkling form, constantly picking up the ball to find wingers Cook and Stirling before getting on the end of their crosses to hit home all three goals in the match. It was the third time he had hit a Middlesbrough hat-trick, his first having come against Bolton Wanderers during the previous season.  

‘Elliott was in international form’ reported the Gazette and to confirm that was the case he scored both his sides goals in a 4-2 defeat at Roker Park the following weekend. His first, and that of the game, came on 34 minutes when ‘Stirling dashed away leaving Ness trailing in his wake and from his centre Elliott scored a lovely goal’ reported the Newcastle Journal. Towards the end he reduced the away sides three-goal deficit with a simple finish. 

Two weeks later, he might have scored a lot more than his single effort against Everton. But what a goal it was and in its reporting - courtesy of the Liverpool Echo - we catch a glimpse of the Boro centre-forwards assets.

The scoring of the second point was worth going far to see, as to taking the ball there was no hesitancy and flashing between the backs, he simply rendered Fern, who made a gallant effort to arrest the lighting shot, practically helpless…….As a distributor and an opportunist, Elliott had no compere, and the honours that have come his way have undoubtedly been well merited. 

Elliott’s superb form brought him a place in the England line-up against Ireland in the Home International Championship. With the game being played at Ayresome Park he was on familiar territory. Ireland were no mugs and Elliott had been part of the England side the previous season when they’d won for the first time ever in games between the sides. With Liverpool’s Billy Lacey in sparking form the away side showed the result in Belfast had been no fluke by winning 3-0.  There was therefore to be no place for Elliott against Scotland at Hampden Park and when the Boro man did finally make it back into his country’s colours in March 1920 he suffered the agony of losing for the third and final time. 

Despite the Ireland disappointment, Elliott continued to score regularly as the 1913-14 season came to its conclusion. He hit a beauty against Manchester United, but remained just behind Danny Shea of Blackburn Rovers in the scorers’ chart. 

Then, at home to Sheffield Wednesday, he hit his third hat-trick of the season and when he then scored twice to help push PNE towards relegation, he had moved up to 28 League goals for the season. Bashing home a late winner at Turf Moor, he moved onto 30 with a fine effort in a narrow 3-2 home defeat to Sheffield United. 

Shea was to have the honour of collecting a League winner’s medal but the Blackburn man was not going to earn the title of the seasons ‘hot-shot’ and with Tinsley scoring twice Elliott ended the season with another goal in a 3-1 defeat of runners up Aston Villa. Reward, if that’s not stretching the English language too far, came from knowing that a bonus totalling £165 could be paid to the players for finishing third, £15 per position divided by the number of games played by each player. Having missed a sixth of the season through injury and playing for England Elliott would have lost out on £2.50. 

Elliott’s Ayresome Park career continued to be a fine one. It was cut short by the World War, but in 1919-20 he again scored 31 League goals. When he finally quit, he left behind a record that read 365 first team appearances and 213 goals, leaving him second behind George Camsell in the list of all time Boro scorers. 

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