DAY three of our hunt for the greatest Blackpool FC players of all time, today it is the turn of the centre-halves.
After naming six full-backs in our Hall of Fame yesterday, we can now add five centre-backs to the list.
They have been voted for by readers via email and Twitter, and remember – it isn’t necessarily about the best, it is about players who might not have been world-beaters but, for one reason or another, became crowd favourites and cult-heroes.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame so far are: John Burridge, Steve Banks, Gordon West, Iain Hesford, George Farm, Jimmy Armfield, Eddie Shimwell, Stephen Crainey, Alan Wright, Mike Davies and Bill Bentley.
On Tuesday, we move on to central midfielders. We need five of them, and there are two different ways to vote for your favourites.
You can email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, here are the five centre–backs to make it in.
Has there been a more popular figure at Bloomfield Road in recent times? Probably not. Evatt joined from QPR in summer 2006, essentially to help bolster the back four after Peter Clarke’s exit to Southend. Initially struggled to get into the side, but as soon as Simon Grayson gave him a chance, he grabbed it with both hands. His wholehearted defending endears him to managers, team-mates and fans alike and he has experienced the whole range of emotions while at Blackpool, rising from League One to the Premier League, and back to the Championship. Turned 30 in November and became a dad when his wife gave birth to twins earlier in the year. Racked up almost 250 appearances for Pool, and was the only ever-present during the season in the top flight.
The fella who lifted the FA Cup at Wembley in 1953, a terrific player and an even better captain. Spent his entire playing career with the Seasiders and voted Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year in 1951. Born in 1919, Johnston signed for Pool as a 15-year-old apprentice, and made a man-of-the-match debut three years later in a 2-0 defeat to Preston. After the second world war (when he served in the Middle East), Johnston became the foundation on which the successful Pool team of the 1940s and 50s was built. Played his last game in 1955, aged 36. His club appearance record of 398 league games was later broken by Jimmy Armfield. Won 10 England caps and had a successful spell as manager at Reading. When he died in 1973, aged only 54, the whole of the Fylde mourned too.
The Hall of Fame has to include players who were the most influential during the era they played in. That’s why Clarke’s in, for he was such an important part of the Blackpool side he played in. Pool spent two years trying to sign him from Everton. When they eventually succeeded, the £250,000 fee seemed a bargain. Playing under Colin Hendry in an average side (and that’s being kind), Clarke almost single-handedly kept the club in League One for two seasons running. He was superb, not only a rock at the back, but scoring vital goals at key moments. In total, he made 84 league appearances, scoring 11 goals. It says much that when he left for Southend in summer 2006, it was the front page news in the Gazette. Ironic that Pool went up to the Championship that season, while Clarke – who left to join Southend – has only just got back there with Huddersfield.
Another who can rightly be ranked among the best ever to have pulled on a tangerine shirt, gentle Welsh giant James was a rock at the heart of the defence in the 1960s and 70s. A one-club man, he made almost 400 appearances for the Seasiders before hanging up his boots and opening up a dry-cleaning business – with his former club among his clientele. Educated at Oswestry Boys School, James was recommended to Pool by former Wales international Billy Matthews, then a Seasiders scout. Made his debut in 1960 in a goalless draw at Leeds. Scored his first goal against Manchester City in an FA Cup tie six years later ... then scored in the league three weeks later. Capped nine times by Wales, still lives locally and goes to games.
One of the all-time great Seasiders. Began his career at Bloomfield Road in 1952 and made his debut two years later, ousting from the side the great full-back Eddie Shimwell (who played in all three FA Cup Finals - 1948, 51 and 53). A couple of years later, with Harry Johnston leaving to manage Reading, Gratrix moved to centre-half and remained there for the rest of his distinguished career. An ever present in the 1956-57 season, when Pool were one of the top clubs in English football. One area he didn’t excel in, though, was in front of goal. Famously failed to score in any of his 436 games for the club. Imagine the tension then when he stepped up to take a penalty against Manchester United in 1957 ... only to blaze it over the bar. A terrific player, who spent 11 years at the club, Gratrix died in 2002, aged 70.
AND A FEW WHO MISSED OUT...
An immensely talented defender, skilful enough to play in midfield when required. Signed from Stockport in 1973. Five years and 143 starts later, he was snapped up by Leeds for good money – £300,000. Famously, Hart went on to score for Nottingham Forest in the 1983-84 UEFA Cup semi-final against Anderlecht but the goal was disallowed for seemingly no reason. Later Anderlecht admitted they had bribed the officials. Manager at eight clubs, most recently Swindon Town.
A bloke I wouldn’t have liked to have been up against. Built like a brick outhouse Morrison didn’t take any prisoners. Indeed he was recently voted second in a list of football’s hard men. Morrison was at Blackburn when they won the Premier League title in 1994 (though he couldn’t break into the side) and came to Blackpool in a £245,000 deal later that year. Booked on his debut and suspended for two games. Played 50 games in two years before eventually going onto skipper Manchester City ... and getting sent off for sticking his tongue out at Stan Collymore.
A stalwart of the side throughout the 70s, when he made more than 250 appearances – 53 of which came in the 1978-79 campaign, when he was an ever-present. Played for five different managers – Harry Potts, Allan Brown, Bob Stokoe, Stan Ternent and Alan Ball. Went on to have a successful spell at Hull.
Known as Rambo, which says it all. No-nonsense, tough-tackling defender who didn’t mess around when it came to getting stuck in. Arrived at Blackpool in 1989 from Oxford (where he’d become a cult-hero, helping the club win the Division Two title and the League Cup) and made 137 league appearances for the Seasiders over the next six years. Flourished under Billy Ayre. After retirement played in the Blackpool Sunday Alliance. Has an executive box named after him at Oxford.
Excellent defender who had already made 250 appearances prior to arriving at the Theatre of Dreams, aka Bloomfield Road. Was at the tail-end of his career when he signed in 1986, aged 31, but became a virtual ever-present for the next four years. Those who liked a dabble at the bookies would have made a fortune if they’d backed him to score. Despite being centre-half, he racked up 50 career goals due to the fact that he loved going up for corners. Prior to arriving at Pool, he played for Wigan, where he was voted Latics’ Best Football League Player of All Time. High praise indeed.
Came through the YTS scheme at Blackpool and made his debut in 1980 at the age of 16, not long after he’d done his O Levels (Michael Gove would approve). He became the youngest player ever to play for the club ... until Trevor Sinclair broke that record nine years later. Racked up more than 700 league appearances before retiring in 2000 while at Wigan. Now a keen golfer, plays off a scratch handicap and is trying to qualify for this year’s Open.
Mr Professional introduced ice baths to the Seasiders dressing rooms. Not popular with everyone, but Jacko insisted all the players use them. No one argued and little wonder as he did the business on the pitch, skippering the Seasiders to promotion in the 2006/07 campaign. An inspired signing by Simon Grayson.