Blackpool record holder Alan Withers passes away

Withers pictured back in 2015
Withers pictured back in 2015
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Former Blackpool player Alan Withers, the first player to score a hat-trick on his debut in the top flight of English football, has passed away at the age of 87.

Withers only made 15 first team appearances in the famous tangerine, but his impact in one match in particular was stunning.

The Gazette's report of Wither's hat-trick

The Gazette's report of Wither's hat-trick

Playing what was then the inside-left role, Withers scored a hat-trick on his debut in the 3-1 home win against Huddersfield Town on November 18, 1950.

He became the first player to do so in the top flight of English football, all his goals coming in the first half and in a purple patch amounting to 33 minutes.

It was quite a baptism of fire for Withers, whose only previous experience before his call-up had been playing Lancashire Combination football.

That season the Seasiders finished in third position in the top flight behind champions Tottenham Hotspur and runners-up Manchester United.

Speaking to The Gazette about the match back in 2015, Withers said: “I remember Stanley Matthews telling me before the match not to go anywhere near the wing where he was playing and to stay inside. It turned out to be good advice.

“I went down to the ground on the Sunday and Matthews, who had all that day’s papers, showed me all the reports of my hat-trick.

“But the manager at the time, Joe Smith, brought me right down to earth.

“He told me to forget about the hat-trick and it was the next match that was important. That was just like Joe Smith. He was a fair man but quite firm.”

Withers was the man on the spot to get on the end of a Perry centre for the first goal after 11 minutes.

He scored the second four minutes later, the ball being handled by a Huddersfield defender in the build-up, but Withers made certain by forcing the ball home.

He recalled: “The referee told me afterwards that he would have given a penalty if I had not scored.”

Huddersfield pulled it back to 2-1 before Withers struck again a minute before half-time, converting after typically mesmerising wing work by Matthews.

Of course, nowadays when a player scores a hat-trick he makes a bee-line to the referee at the final whistle to grab the match-ball, but that is strictly a modern-day trend.

Indeed, such a souvenir would be a highly prized-possession these days, with collectors clamouring to get their hands on it.

Withers said: “There was nothing like that back then.”

Withers had joined Blackpool after being discovered by club scouts playing junior football in the Nottingham area. He joined the Seasiders for just £10.

In a five-year spell at Bloomfield Road, starting in 1950, Withers only managed six goals in his 15 appearances.

He was eventually sold for the princely sum of £350 to Lincoln City in February, 1955, making 97 appearances at Sincil Bank until his departure in 1958.

After that it was on to Notts County and by the time his Football League career had come to an end in 1962 he had made 121 appearances for the Magpies in his native Nottinghamshire.

That threesome against Huddersfield was his one and only hat-trick for Blackpool, but he certainly had the happy knock of scoring in threes having registered six more hat-tricks in his career.

Withers died in his hometown of Nottingham on Wednesday, November 29.