Wales' Greatest Players: Ivor Allchurch

Known as the “Golden Boy” of Welsh Football, Sir Bobby Charlton called him a great player, with footballing presence and charisma, Bobby Moore called him “one of the best inside-forwards I have ever played against” while Sir Matt Busby said he “never needed a number on his back for identification. His polish, his class could not be missed. He vies with the greatest of all time, yet he has a modesty that becomes him.

Born in the year of the Great Wall Street Crash, Ivor Allchurch began and ended his career with hometown club Swansea Town before playing for Newcastle United and arch rivals Cardiff City. Allchurch would score in double digits for all but four of his seasons, he picked up four Welsh Cups before being awarded an MBE in 1966 for recognition of his services to Welsh Football. 

However, it was at the international stage where he would leave behind a legacy. The Welshman was called up to play for Wales at the age of 21 having played only 30 times for the Swans and remained a regular member of squad for many years before being called up for the World Cup squad in 1958 held in Sweden. 

But before all the success he would bring the accolades he would receive and the honours he picked up and the broken records he set, Allchurch’s career could have taken a different path. 

Youth

Allchurch was the sixth of seven children to Charles and Mabel Allchurch as they lived in a three bedroomed house on Landeg Street in Plasmarl. After leaving school the age of 14 he would work in an office at Baldwin's Foundry, a company that manufactured bomb casings, but was frustrated with the role and moved on to become a porter in a local fish market. 

It was during this period Allchurch started to play football locally at under 18 Cwm Level Park where he was spotted by Swansea Town scout Joe Sykes. 

Swansea Town:

After watching the teenager play, Sykes who said he “stuck out like a sore thumb”, would go up to him and ask him for his name and address before agreeing a deal with his father that when he was 15, he would sign as an amateur and train two days a week. 

After finishing National Service in 1949, Allchurch would join up with the Swans, making his debut on Boxing Day that same year against West Ham United. Having impressed, the 20-year old was given his second start a week and half later against First Division Birmingham City in the FA Cup third round where he netted his first goal. Despite defeat in the next round to Arsenal, Allchurch would impress prompting Joe Mercer to say he "nearly frightened us to death.”



His consistent form continued as he picked up his first silverware of his career. picking up the Welsh Cup after a 4-1 victory over Wrexham and a season later would he would become the youngest player in the club’s history to feature in every match of an entire campaign. 

A year earlier he made his first appearance for Wales in a 4-2 defeat to England at Roker Park, going on to play a further 26 consecutive appearances for his country ahead of the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

Wales: 

After being part of the team that defeated Israel in the Play Offs where he would score in both legs, Allchruch’s would be called up for the squad alongside his brother Len. Allchurch would play in all five matches Wales played including scoring two goals against Mexico and Hungary in the Play Offs to send the Welsh to their quarter final tie with Brazil.

His goal against the Hungarians was what Allchruch was all about, a great flick up by John Charles found its way into the path of Allchurch, whose intelligence, technique and precision saw him volley home first just inside the of the area to level the scores.

Despite the exit to the Brazilians after a goal from Pele, captain Dave Bowen was full of praise for his teammate. “They looked at Ivor and wondered where he had been hiding. He could have played for any of the teams out there, including Brazil". 

On his return, his days with the Vetch Field club was numbered. Having been with the Welsh club for eight years and after scoring 134 goals in 358 appearances, he moved to Newcastle United in the first division on the 10th October, just a few months after his heroics in Sweden. 



He had been the subject of a move to Arsenal in September 1952 but their £30,000 bid was rejected by Swansea which was £5,000 behind the British record transfer fee that Sheffield Wednesday paid for Jackie Sewell at the time.

Newcastle:

A day after his move for £28,000 the inside forward scored twice on his debut in a 3-1 win over Leicester City, where he would form a strike partnership with George Eastham and Len White after the trio would score 48 goals of the 81 scored.

Despite an impressive first season in Newcastle with 16 goals in 27 appearances, he would go on to hit double digits a season later but after a poor start to the campaign saw the Tyneside club sit in 18th place in October, the board refused to allow the Welsh international access to play for Wales.

This action saw Allchurch, put in the first of his transfer requests after believing the club had “broken their word” however he would go on to score double digits for the second season running. A second rejected transfer request followed after he wanted to move to South Wales so that his wife Esme could be closer to her family in South Wales.

After being moved to from his inside forward role to the number nine role as the club’s main striker, Allchurch would refuse to play on three occasions and felt that Len White was the club’s best centre forward saw manager Charlie Mitten back down and after reassurance over his wife, the forward would be named captain after injury to Jimmy Scoular saw Bob Stokoe commenting that "there's no one better equipped for the job" 

After relegation to the Second Division, Allchruch would face a hard season on and off the pitch and despite making more than 30 appearances saw the board again block his call up to the national side leaving him resign from captaincy and after the death of prematurely born daughter saw him announce his intention to leave the club and move closer to his wider family.  

Cardiff City:

After 51 goals in 154 appearances for United, Allchurch signed for Cardiff City in 1962, the same year he received the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year for the first time and winning his 50th international cap to overtake Billy Meredith and make him the most capped player of all time.

A strong start to the season and after captaining the Bluebirds and scoring in a 4-4 draw against Newcastle on his debut saw the South Wales Echo comment that he was "one of the best skippers the club has ever had. Allchruch would go on to lead City to tenth place in the table and formed a prolific striking partnership with Pete Hooper after the pair scored thirty-four goals between them.

Despite relegation to the third division a season later, Allchurch finished as the top goal scorer and pick up his second Welsh Cup winners medal after victory over Bangor City to see the Welsh Club go into the European Cup Winners Cup for the first time in their history. 

Despite missing four months of the next season, Allchurch would return in February and would lead the Bluebirds to their second consecutive Welsh Cup victory and would again pick up the top scorer award including picking up a hat trick against former club Swansea to relegate them to the Third Division.    

Swansea City:

Allchurch would move back to Swansea in a £8,000 move to sign with the Swans for a second spell in 1965 prompting a significant increase in the sale of season tickets and was greeted by a large "welcome home Ivor" banner in his first game on his return.

At the end of his first season with the club would see him pick up his fourth Welsh Cup and for the third season in succession with Allchurch scoring the winning goal against Chester City.

1966 would see him pick his second BBC Sports Personality of the Year and see him play his last game for Wales. After 68 appearances and 23 goals over a 16-year period saw him have the most caps until it was beaten by Joey Jones and his goals scored saw him tied with Trevor Ford before that was beaten by Ian Rush.

His time with Swansea was coming to an end too and would play his last game on the 11th May 1968 at the age of 38 after setting another record as the all-time record goalscorer with 186 goals in 502 appearances overall.

After his Career:

However he would go on to play football until the age of 50 after playing for Worcester City and as player-manager of Haverfordwest County before ending his career at Pontardawe Athletic

Like fellow Welsh greats from the World Cup squad of 1958 Cliff Jones and John Charles, Allchurch is one of a handful of players to be induced as a member of the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame and the English Football Hall of Fame in 1995 and 2005 respectively. 

Like Fred Keenor outsider the Cardiff City Stadium, his recognition has not gone unnoticed and legendary status has been confirmed, after a statue of Allchurch was unveiled outside the newly opened Liberty Stadium on the 15th October 2005.

Despite his death at the tender age of 67 in 1997, his talent will still be seen as as one of the best players the world and Welsh football has ever produced and now as Allchurch’s towering presence looks over the fans that come to watch the home games, he will do so probably as the greatest player in the history of Swansea City.


This piece was written kindly for @TFHBs by Welsh writer - Josh Thomas - follow him on Twitter: @JDPThomas

Check out more of our Wales' Greatest Players Series:
We discuss our Wales' Greatest series on Episode 1 of our #TFHBPodcast, please check it out!

The Football History Boys, 2019

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