Friday, 27 November 2015

When Easington born Jimmy Trotter of Sheffield Wednesday was top scorer in Division One

Jimmy Trotter was, like myself, born in Easington Colliery, Co Durham and so in the week of his birth (in 1899) here is a reproduced tribute piece on the 1926-27 season from my GOLDEN BOOT co-authored book with Tony Matthews on Football's Top Scorers. 

SEASON: 1926-27
Goals scored: 37 (out of 75) 26 home, 11 away
Percentage: 49% (of Wednesday's goals in the season)
Runner-up: Hughie Gallacher (Newcastle United) 36 
Sheffield Wednesday finished sixteenth 

County Durham-born Trotter’s finest football season was without doubt 1926-27. He’d spearheaded Wednesday’s promotion challenge the previous season, scoring 37 times, twice what he’d notched during the previous three seasons.   Almost a quarter had come from just two September games, with nine goals entering the nets of Preston and Stockport County. Trotter’s five against the latter was the second time he had achieved such a feat as he had scored all his side’s goals in a 5-2 beating of Portsmouth in December 1924.

Pitched against local rivals Sheffield United in the first match of the 1926-27 season, Trotter showed signs that his fine form of the previous campaign was going to continue. He equalised just before half time. Timing his run perfectly he met Jack Wilkinson’s cross, and soon after the restart he put his side ahead with a shot from the edge of the area. The Blades, though, had their own danger man and two goals from Harry Johnson proved just enough to give them a narrow 3-2 victory.

Trotter then scored in the following two away games, but even though Wednesday managed three goals at Spurs and Leicester City, his goal at Filbert Street coming after Wilkinson found him with a fine through ball, it was not enough to collect even a single point in 7-3 and 5-3 defeats. There was therefore real relief when Trotter scored the only goal as West Ham was beaten at Hillsborough. 

Trotter then scored for his fifth consecutive game as Everton went back over the Pennines well-beaten 4-0. With Wednesday already leading 1-0, ‘Trotter received the ball on the left of the penalty area. He was tackled by two men but held on and in spite of Baker rushing out and others closing in the centre-forward scored with a beautiful oblique drive to the far corner.’ Another powerful shot and a late header rounded off the scoring for his first hat-trick in Division One. He might even have had another five, but Ben Howard Baker in the Toffees goal had a fine game and prevented his side being much more heavily beaten.

Having failed to score in the sixth game, a 0-0 draw, Trotter then bagged three in his next two matches. Two came at Ewood Park, a 32nd-minute shot and then one on 56 minutes that seemed certain to give the away side both points. Ted Harper, though, hadn’t finished top scorer in the previous season for nothing, and after scoring a penalty he forced a late Blackburn equaliser. Back at Hillsborough, Trotter hit a well-directed shot out of Huddersfield keeper Billy Mercer’s reach in a 1-1 draw. It meant he had scored ten times in eight games. 

After two matches without a goal Trotter hit his eleventh goal of the season, a rising shot from a Wilkinson pass on 38 minutes that helped Wednesday win a thrilling game 3-2 against WBA. Against Derby County, a fierce cross drive on 74 minutes was enough to see Trotter’s side home in a 2-1 victory.

In early December Wednesday beat leaders Newcastle United 3-2 at home. Trotter got two, heading into an empty net on 12 minutes and then seizing on a mistake by Joe Wilson to push the loose ball beyond the keeper to make it 3-1. At Leeds the following weekend he scored again, his last minute effort reducing the arrears to 1-4. On 28 December he scored his 19th and 20th League goals of the season to ensure Spurs were beaten 3-1 at Hillsborough. It was, though, to be almost two months before he next scored in the League. 

Championship-chasing Sunderland were the side to suffer as Trotter raced to 23 League goals. Wednesday roared into a three-goal lead in just 20 minutes and dominated throughout in a 4-1 success. ‘Their flank men finessed cleverly especially Wilkinson and Trotters leadership was excellent with first-time and accurate shooting’ reported the Newcastle Journal. Trotter’s hat trick goal came ‘with a great shot on the run’ reported the Journal.

Two more flashed into opponents WBA’s net on his next appearance. First, he headed home Hooper’s high dropping cross. Then using every ounce of his 12 stone 6 pound frame he muscled his way to a second to put his side 2-0 up in the second half. However, hopes of a first away victory of the season were dashed as the Baggies rallied to grab a point. 

 On 12 March he scored his third hat-trick of the season as Arsenal were beaten 4-2 at Hillsborough. First, he dived bravely to head home Wilkinson’s cross before then scoring on the rebound after Dan Lewis had saved his shot, adding his third with a close in shot. Goal of the game however, came from Tony Leach, whose shot from 40 yards sailed beyond the ‘keeper and into the net to the tremendous cheers of the 21,252 spectators. 

There were ten thousand fewer spectators for the game against Manchester United, and they missed a rough affair in which a number of players were to be issued with cautions from the referee.  Trotter scored both the goals, hooking home the first as he fell backwards and then, after forcing Alf Steward into making two fine saves, beating the keeper when Wilkinson cut the ball back to him. ‘The irrepressible Trotter gives Wednesday another win,’ reported the Sheffield Saturday Sports paper. 

He got another two against Bolton Wanderers at Burnden Park, but the away side continued to struggle on their travels losing 3-2. Back home, Trotter hit a great drive to open the scoring in a 3-1 success against Aston Villa. He got two more against Villa’s great rivals Birmingham City in a thrilling 4-4 game before hitting his 37th and final goal of the season against Leeds United on the season’s final day. He had hit the crossbar in the first half before scoring the only goal of the game on 77 minutes. The victory was enough to push Wednesday up to sixteenth place 

The Owls had scored seventy-five times, with Trotter getting almost half of his sides efforts. No wonder the local paper, in its review of the season, reported that, ‘Trotter’s goalscoring abilities has been a godsend. This hard and enthusiastic worker is to be complimented on his distinction and his skill.’ 

Wednesday continued to struggle the following season. Trotter did well by scoring sixteen times, but was overtaken as the club’s highest scorer by Mark Hooper with twenty-one. The Owls looked doomed as the season entered March, but a magnificent seventeen points from the last ten matches helped pull off ‘the Great Escape,’ in which Spurs ‘reject’ Jimmy Seed scored in both matches against his former club to help send them down. 

Twice capturing the title, 1928-29 and 1929-30 were to be the best seasons in  Wednesday’s history. Key to the success was the form of Jack Allen, previously an inside forward who took over at centre forward when Trotter was injured for the game at Portsmouth. Having scored at Fratton Park, Allen then hit a hat-trick against Birmingham and four against Bury and after fourteen games in his new position, he had scored twenty-two from it. It was the beginning of the end for Trotter and his final game came in a 1-1 draw against Sheffield United in February 1929. 

After 160 first team appearances from which he scored 114 goals, Trotter moved on to Torquay United, where he continued to regularly hit the net, scoring twenty-six times in his first season. A spell at Watford was ended when a knee injury forced him to retire from playing, after which became trainer at Charlton Athletic for over two decades before taking over for a five-year spell in charge as manager.

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