Looking Back At: David Helliwell

Date of birth: 28th March 1948

Born: Blackburn

Height: 5ft 8in

Position: Midfield

City appearances: League: 11(2), goals: 1
FA & League Cups: 2
Total: 13(2), goals: 1

David Helliwell was an apprentice with his home town club Blackburn Rovers, making his debut for the Second Division (now Championship) club at the age of 18 and seen as a leading contender to replace club legend and England international Bryan Douglas in midfield. However, he struggled to command a regular first team place, making just 15 league appearances in three seasons and scoring one goal.

In 1969 he was an early close-season signing for City by manager Ron Gray, joining for a fee of £4,000 at the age of 21. The previous season had seen a series of partners in the Imps midfield for Jim Smith, and when Smith himself moved to Boston United as player-manager Helliwell made up a new midfield along with other new signing Billy Taylor from Nottingham Forest.

Dave Helliwell made his City debut alongside Taylor in the first game of the 1969/70 season against Colchester United at Sincil Bank which saw the Imps scrape a 3-3 draw after at one stage being 2-0 in front, Maurice Burton in his Football Echo match report stating ‘Helliwell was seldom in the picture’.

In what was to be his longest run in the side, Helliwell featured in all of the first seven games of the season which produced four draws and three defeats including a League Cup exit at Watford. After a home defeat to Oldham he lost his place to Alick Jeffrey before returning for one match, playing on the wing in another defeat away to Notts County. He was then out of the side again following the return from injury of regular right winger Gordon Hughes. He returned to the side for two games towards the end of November, playing on the left wing this time as Dave Smith was switched to midfield in the absence of Jack Lewis.

The first of these games produced his first win in a City shirt, and his only goal for the club as Darlington were beaten 3-0 at Sincil Bank. He was to make just four more appearances, two of them as a substitute, including coming on for broken leg victim Trevor Meath in a 4-0 defeat at Chesterfield. His last two starts both came when deputising on the wing, including the last game of the season which brought only Helliwell’s second appearance in a winning side for City, oddly as with his first, also against Darlington.

Often described as ‘pencil slim’, he had in fact been nicknamed ‘Spider’ when at Blackburn because of his skinny and frail build, and it seemed he was too lightweight for the City midfield, soon being relegated to reserve winger and finding few opportunities due to the form of Gordon Hughes and Dave Smith. It was therefore no surprise when he was released on a free transfer during the summer of 1970, joining Workington where his slight build was evidently no obstacle to his holding down a regular first team place as he played around 200 games for the Cumbrian side, scoring 21 goals, and often featuring against City over the next five seasons.

Given a free transfer prior to Workington’s last season in the Football League Helliwell then spent a year with Rochdale before joining Northern Premier League side Morecambe in 1977.

He died in his home town of Blackburn at the early age of 54.

Dave Helliwell ‘s Football League appearances totalled 256, with 25 goals scored.


  1. He never played in a strong wind as he would have been blown over. I did wonder whether he was home sick due his later success at Workington! We have had it with a lot of players who failed at City, but once a move back to home territories saw them hace some sort of success. Brendan Bradley case in point as already featured. As I understand it was Bradley’s wife who was the one that was home sick. Nice to see thee former players featured. What about Alan York. he came from Bradford City with a decent reputation yet spent his one and only season stuck in the reserves.

  2. I think Alan York’s only first team appearance was in a Lincolnshire Cup game so difficult to find much to say about him! I might have a look in the future though.

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