Only Once a Blue (8) Walter Smalley

Everton had just excepted the invitation to become founder members of the Football League when Tommy Costley declared himself ‘unavailable’ for the home game on 2 April. His place was taken by the elder brother of the club goalkeeper, Walter Smalley.  

Born 1864 at Over Darwen in Lancashire, he was the eldest child of Thomas, a cotton mill manager, and Jane. The 1881 census recorded the Smalley family, now with four children, living in a larger home at St Matthews Terrace in Preston, where Walter had found employment as a clerk. He has also become a member of North End Football Club. 

On 9 April 1882, Walter was in the side when the they faced their powerful neighbours, Blackburn Rovers. He got on the score sheet, but Preston North End were crushed by thirteen goals to two. Major William Sudal then took command of the club and began importing players from Scotland whom, it was alleged, were being paid for their services. They began the 1883-84 FA Cup campaign with 4-1 win over Great Lever, which in turn granted them a home tie with London based side, Upton Park. The encounter was destined to change the face of the association game forever.

Rumours now began to circulate that the visitors, who were all amateurs, were about to lodge a protest against the professional players in the Preston side. The game produced a capacity crowd who cheered loudly when Walter Smalley gave the home side a first half lead. The visitors however, were a well-experienced side, and returned home with a draw courtesy of a goal scored by their England International, Segar Bastard. They then entered a protest.

The Upton Park club lodged an objection on the grounds that certain Preston players had been brought in from outside the area for the sole purpose of playing football, while being supported finically by the club. Major Sudal, when called before the games governing body, stated… ‘his club was only doing the same as many other prominent clubs all over the country.’

The FA committee however, found in favour of Upton Park, and Preston North End were expelled from the tournament.

Walter, in the meantime, made an appearance in the colours of the Lancashire FA when they took on the Birmingham FA at the home of Blackburn Rovers at Leamington Road. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. He was later appointed player/secretary of the Preston North End Second X1 where he was joined by his younger brother Robert. They remained at Deepdale till 1886, and then joined Lostock Hall, who they represented in the Lancashire Junior Cup. The following season Robert joined Everton, while Walter, who was now residing on Merseyside, joined the Wigan based side, Park Lane Wanderers.

On 21 January 1888, Walter Smalley, by then a book keeper, married Warrington-born Mina Campbell at the church of St Thomas in Seaforth.

Three months later, he made a guest appearance for Everton against Bolton Wanderers.

Played on a blustery Monday evening at Anfield, Walter was given a warm welcomeby the crowd of 8,000 people who attended the game. It was the first time the two clubs had met since their controversial FA Cup-tie, and the visitors too were given a warm welcome. They took an early lead but a goal, scored by Walter Smalley, brought the sides level. Bolton Wanderers, who finished stronger, scored a second goal to win the match. Walter Smalley now retired from playing the game and became a referee.

By 1891, Walter and Mina, and their two daughters, were residing at Lauderdale Street in Preston. Ten years’ on they had moved to Irving Place, Blackburn. There were now another two daughters, and Walter declared himself to be a commercial traveller. The following year in 1902 a son was added to the family and he appeared on the 1911 census with the rest of the family, still resident at Irving Place.

Walter Smalley died shortly afterwards on 29 December 1912 and was buried in Preston Cemetery.

By Tony Onslow

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