Friday, 5 December 2014

Charlie Hurley on Malcolm Finlayson and vice versa

Part 3 on the recently departed Malcolm Finlayson, who has been a big help to me when I have been writing a number of football books including in 2008 the authorised biography of Charlie Hurley titled "The Greatest Centre Half the World has Ever Seen." Below is Malcolm's contribution. 
Get out the way Charlie before Malcolm flattens you! 

Unfortunately the Den was rarely anywhere near full to its capacity of around 40,000. At the end of Hurley’s first season the average match gate was only 13,502 for a team that had been relegated from Division Two at the end of the 1947-48 season and was now playing in Division Three South alongside Watford, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Norwich City. 

Hurley’s made an immediate impact of his home debut as Millwall overcame neighbours Southend and was singled out for praise by the South London Press report who wrote: “Only the determination of Brian (sic) Hurley, making his home debut and the brilliance of keeper Finlayson enabled Millwall to hold out against persistent Southend pressure for both points on Saturday. Hurley kept so tight a grip on opposing centre-forward Grant that the visitor was given few openings.”  

Charlie says: “I played a lot of games in front of Malcolm Finlayson the ‘keeper. He was a great goalkeeper who helped me a lot when I got into the first team, he was big strong and brilliant at crosses and very brave.

“I was very young when I got in the side and he was a big fella, bigger than me. He told me he’d seen me in the reserves and in training and that I’d nothing to worry about. That gave me an awful lot of confidence. He was very important to me at the start. 

“I wasn’t surprised he later did well at Wolves because he was big and he wasn’t frightened. Also when he came out for the ball you got out of the way or else you ended up on the floor.”  Finlayson was 6’ 1” tall and weighed 13 and a ½ stone. 

Finlayson remembers that “Charlie was only a young boy when he started playing, but he grew a lot in the three years I played behind him to become a big strong lad. He came in for Gerry Bowler, a ball-playing centre back who didn’t tackle very much. You’d be playing on a muddy pitch and he’d be the only one who’d come off looking immaculate. Charlie, however, was a never say die player, always tackling people. And you could see as a youngster that he had this great ability. 

“I went to Wolves in 1956 and then, in ’57-58, I played against Charlie when he went to Sunderland. We were at opposite ends of the pitch after we’d been in the thick of it at Millwall; we won 2-0. It was the season when Sunderland got relegated. He looked a good player even that day but he wasn’t fully developed, as he was still only about 20 or 21. He didn’t dominate the game the way he did later on as he got more experience and became physically intimidating for opponents as well. 

“He was a good lad. A goalkeeper has to command his area and the one thing that can happen when you’re playing is that you’re giving instructions and someone’s taking no notice of them – you’re coming for a ball and they also go for it. Charlie always did exactly as he was instructed to do.

“I saw Charlie at the ‘Dockers Day’ at the New Den in February 2007. It was the first time since I played against him at Roker. Don’t forget you are talking fifty years ago and I greeted him exactly as I did then ‘hello, Charlie son how are you?’ and he said ‘Hello Dad.’  Football is a funny business, you meet so many people but it’s often not for very long. When he came to Millwall he was very quiet but he was very young boy. I’d joined the club when I was young myself and so you think ‘I’ll listen first before I start to give any opinions out’ and that was what Charlie was like – he was trying to work out what was happening. Millwall had some good players even though we didn’t do that well, Pat Saward went to Villa, Charlie to Sunderland, and I went to Wolves and won 2 championships and an FA Cup. 

“I played behind Billy Wright and then Bill Slater at Wolverhampton, both excellent, but I would rate Charlie as a very, very good centre-half.  I wouldn’t like to compare him with Billy Wright or Bill Slater, as they were different eras. Billy Wright wasn’t the hardest tackler in the game but he had the ability to know where the ball was going before it was kicked. If Danny Blanchflower had the ‘ball and was going to put it down the inside track Billy Wright could see him trying to do that and would get across to cut it out. He was the best reader of a game I ever saw."

Malcolm Finlayson is third from the right in the back row with Charlie Hurley on the far right. 

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