ERNEST NEEDHAM: PRINCE OF HALF-BACKS
“I shall always think that Needham was the finest footballer I have ever seen.”Herbert Chapman (1932), the greatest manager of his era
Rough Jersey’s Extra-Time series is dedicated to providing easy and affordable access to rare and important football texts which make enjoyable reading for the supporter who wants to learn more about the great historical figures plus the historian seeking out primary sources of forgotten times in football.
Ernest Needham is arguably the finest footballer to pull on the red and white stripes of Sheffield United.
Known as ‘Nudger’ the Chesterfield born player generally occupied the left half position but he could and did play in many other positions. He was a superbly talented player who passed the ball well with both feet, possessed amazing stamina, had an eye for a goal and his never say die attitude was an inspiration to those around him.
As captain of the Sheffield United team, which included Billy Foulke, for a decade, Needham guided his men to become Champions of England by winning the Football League in 1897/98 and then to two FA Cup final triumphs in 1899 and 1902.
Needham played 464 League and FA cup matches across 18 years for the club. Known as the ‘Prince of Half-Backs’ Needham, who worked as a miner before becoming a professional footballer, was England’s finest player in his position. He played in 16 internationals - winning eleven and losing just two. He captained his country in 1901 to a 6-0 victory over Wales. He was the first Sheffield United player to do so.
Sadly, a lack of film footage means fans of today cannot ever hope to judge just how good he was. It is through match reports and articles of the time that football fans who love the history of the great game can be transported back to when the early greats played their football.
In 1912, Needham, who was also a fine cricketer who represented Derbyshire at County Cricket, wrote 12 lengthy articles in The Green Un’, the Sports Special of the Sheffield Star. These articles covered his career, his achievements and disappointments, his thrill of the game, some of his big matches, his toughest opponents and greatest teammates plus his general thoughts on football.
We have the pleasure of reproducing those articles. Clive Nicholson and Mark Metcalf Rough Jersey Productions