Welcome to a bumper ‘Looking Back’ at, courtesy of our resident historian Malcolm Johnson.
Date of birth: 2.2.48
Born: Wallsend, Newcastle
Height: 5ft 10in
City appearances: League: 102(10), goals: 1
FA & League Cups: 6(1)
Total: 108(11), goals: 1
Thomas William Brooks, usually known as Tom, was spotted by Lincoln City’s northern scout after playing for the Northumberland Association of Boys’ Clubs at the age of 14 as they won a national trophy. He joined City’s ground staff as an apprentice in July 1963 having turned down the chance to join clubs in the north-east. Playing for the youth side he soon progressed to turning out for the reserves and turned professional on his 17th birthday in February 1965.
Regarded as one of the brightest centre half prospects City had unearthed for years Brooks was given his first team debut at the age of 17, replacing the experienced Brian Heward in the side to face Darlington at home on 10th April 1965. City’s player-coach Roy Chapman had recently been placed in charge of team affairs in place of the unfortunate Con Moulson and it was a happy debut for the youngster as the 2-0 scoreline was the first win in 15 games. Although after giving away a late penalty for a foul on the Quakers’ centre forward Brooks was personally relieved when Imps goalkeeper Bob Graves saved the spot kick. Nevertheless, the young player received a well-deserved cheer from the sparse crowd at the end of the match, drawing praise from Echo sportswriter Maurice Burton who considered that once Brooks had adjusted to the pace of league football his had been a highly promising debut, and suggested that he could become a permanent feature of City’s line-up very quickly. Brooks kept his place in the side for the remaining four games of the season.
With Brian Heward out of the picture City started the 1965/66 season with the 20-year-old Jim Grummett at centre half alongside new signing from Gillingham Alec Farrall, but after a poor start with Heward returning for a couple of games, Brooks caused some controversy by turning down the chance of a first team place because he didn’t think he was playing well enough and didn’t want to let the rest of the team down. Maurice Burton, however, was unimpressed by this, and considered that with Grummett struggling for form, Tom Brooks, as a player rated an outstanding prospect and a full-time professional as opposed to the part-time Grummett and Heward, should not be allowed to dictate to the club whether he played or not. At any rate – still only 17 years old it should be remembered – he was in the side for the next game, another visit from Darlington and gave a determined display in a 4-1 win – the first at home in the season. However, after two further games he was out of the side again as City solved the centre half problem by signing the experienced former Derby County player Les Moore who had latterly been playing for the newly-formed Boston FC.
Meanwhile, the teenager had been called up for training with the England Youth squad, and City had also received an enquiry from Doncaster Rovers about whether Brooks was available for transfer after he had played against them in an FA Youth Cup tie. Off the field, he had begun attending Lincoln College of Art, that subject being his ‘second love’.
After being tried in the reserves at right back Brooks returned to the side in that position replacing the long-serving Alf Jones and although the game saw a 2-0 defeat at Aldershot, he drew praise from Roy Chapman for his ability to play in another position. With Les Moore cup-tied Brooks was back at centre half for an FA Cup defeat to Barnsley, being praised for his performance against the visitors’ “dangerous and clever centre forward” George Kerr. Reverting to full back again he was a regular in that position until a New Years’ Day 2-0 home defeat by Wrexham in which he scored a late own goal in a game which Maurice Burton described as “abysmal” although rating Brooks “as good as anyone”. Whether player-coach Chapman agreed with that assessment or not he was out of the side until the end of March as City, after the sale of leading scorer Barry Hutchinson sank to the bottom of the league. It took a 7-0 thrashing away to Crewe for Brooks to get another chance at full back, replacing the injured Alf Jones as City put an end to an 11-game winless run by beating Barnsley 4-1 at Sincil Bank. However, after five games Jones was back in the side as an improved end of season run was not enough to see City escape the re-election zone, Brooks having played in a total of 18 league and cup games.
Tom Brooks’ first appearance in the 1966/67 season came when he replaced the injured Les Moore for a Second Round League tie against Division Two outfit Huddersfield who were beaten 2-1. Despite the next game seeing a 4-0 home defeat by Southport he retained his place for his longest run in the side to date, although following another heavy defeat, this time by 5-0 at Hartlepools he was switched to right back in place of the injured Jones with trainer Bert Loxley resuming his playing career at centre half. The poor run of results saw the end of Roy Chapman’s spell in charge of the team as he was replaced by new manager Ron Gray. Brooks retained his place at full back, including taking part in the memorable 8-1 win over Luton Town that autumn, before being left out in mid-January as veteran Jeff Smith was brought back into the side for a few games, with Brooks appearing off the subs’ bench in three of them. On his return to side to the exclusion of Smith he had what was to be his longest-ever run in the side, retaining his place mostly at full back until the end of the season which ended with City having to make a third successive re-election plea. Brooks’ appearance at centre half in the last two games of the season, including a remarkable 5-4 win at champions Stockport County seemed to be a pointer to what lay in store for him. His total of 43 league and cup games was the highest number he achieved in a season.
However, despite seeming to be part of Ron Gray’s new-look side and one of only five players retained by the manager from before his appointment, the summer 1967 signings of centre half Ray Harford and right back Mick Brown signalled that the remainder of Tom Brooks’ career was to be that of a reliable reserve, usually only called upon in case of injury.
Although occasionally featuring on the subs’ bench times in the first three months of the 1967/68 season Brooks only got onto the pitch once before making a first start at right back in a 2-1 defeat at Southend as Brown was rested in advance of the Fourth Round League Cup replay with Derby County. Brooks himself came off the bench for the last 10 minutes of the game in front of Sincil Bank’s record attendance, replacing the injured Billy Cobb. With Brown sent off in that game, Brooks retained his place for a second successive league match as Brown was left out of the side despite not yet being suspended. However, the older full back then returned for a couple of games before his official suspension kicked in, leading to Brooks’ longest run of the season of five games. He then had a game in midfield replacing flu victim John Gregson at Halifax before being consigned to the reserves until filling in for Brown again in a 3-1 win at Brentford towards the end of April, scoring his only goal for the club with a 35-yard shot. Despite this Brooks was out of the side again for City’s next match before suffering an injury in a reserve game. He returned to make a brief appearance from the bench in the last match of the season as City finished outside the re-election zone for the first time in four seasons. His total for the season was just 10 league and cup games.
With Mick Brown having left the club during the summer of 1968 Tom Brooks then found himself second choice to another full back with the signing of Graham Taylor from Grimsby. With the Ray Harford/Jim Grummett partnership in the middle of defence going from strength to strength and with the 19-year-old Phil Hubbard increasingly being called upon to feature in defence when necessary Brooks was now beginning to fade out of the first team picture and when Taylor broke a bone in his foot it was Hubbard who deputised. It was the middle of March when Brooks was preferred to Hubbard in central defence for a couple of games due to a re-shuffle caused by injuries. He was then out of the side again apart from two substitute appearances before stepping into the side at centre half for the last three games of the season after an injury to Ray Harford. One win and a draw from these three matches was not enough to put City in a promotion place as they finished a disappointing eighth. Despite having featured in just seven games Brooks was nevertheless once again on the City retained list for the 1969/70 season.
With Phil Hubbard as well as Graham Taylor now ahead of him in the pecking order for the right back position plus the established Harford/Grummett partnership in the centre, Brooks continued to be sidelined. However, he did come into the side for a couple of games in early September, replacing Grummett who was moved into midfield as Ron Gray tried to improve City’s poor start to the season. After sustaining an injury in the second of these games he recovered in time to deputise for the injury-hit Ray Harford at centre half for a three-month spell, this run of games coming to an end when he sustained a broken nose in a home match with Grimsby. Upon his recovery from this Harford was back in the side but after a spell as the regular no. 12 Brooks returned to action alongside the centre half as Jim Grummett was pressed into service up front, with Maurice Burton commenting on one occasion that Brooks was “playing as well as ever”. He went on to feature in all but one of the remaining eleven games of the season as City once again finished a disappointing 8th. His total for the season came to 28 league and cup games.
For the 1970/71 season Brooks was once again on the retained list under new manager Bert Loxley, promoted from trainer in place of Ron Gray. But despite some highly-rated performances in the second half of the previous season it appeared he was not considered as a likely first choice player, with the club reportedly pursuing Luton Town’s Terry Branston as replacement for the want-away Grummett.
By now Tom Brooks had become a part-time professional while continuing to study Art, and with the eventual signing of Terry Branston he now found himself fourth choice for both centre back and right back. Ahead of him in the latter position being both Graham Taylor and Phil Hubbard plus Branston who was also being played there on occasion as Jim Grummett remained at the club. Given his lack of involvement with the first team it was then a surprise when Brooks was included as a third centre back in a one-off team selection as City deployed a packed defence to secure a 0-0 draw at promotion favourites Notts County, although he had to go off injured at half time.
City’s gradual decline into the relegation zone during the season saw another change of manager with Bert Loxley reverting to trainer and the appointment of David Herd. The new boss recalled Brooks for a place on the subs’ bench in one game before playing him at right back on Good Friday with City suffering from injury problems. He retained his place for five further games before his City career came to an end when he was substituted by Grummett during City’s last win of the season with two games to go.
One of City’s longest-serving players, although still only 23, Tom Brooks was not retained by David Herd and his one-club career totalled 112 Football League games and one goal.