Thanks to our resident historian Malcom Johnson for another in his series of yesteryear’s stars, this time Nobby Lawton.
Date of birth: 25.3.40,
Born: Newton Heath, Manchester
Height: 5ft 9in
City appearances: League: 20
League Cup: 1
Norbert Lawton, like his Manchester United contemporary Norbert Stiles, was usually known as Nobby and attended a school where one of the teachers was also a scout for the Old Trafford club. Therefore, after representing Lancashire Schoolboys it was a short step to joining his local league club as an amateur at the age of 16 while working for a coal merchant.
Nobby Lawton was part of Manchester United’s successful FA Youth Cup winning team in 1957 – playing and scoring a goal in the two-legged final. A year later, following the Munich air disaster, Lawton signed professional forms with Manchester United although illness was to put him out of action for several months before he eventually made his first team debut just before his 20th birthday in 1960. Over the next couple of seasons, Lawton forged a partnership with Bobby Charlton on the left side of the United forward line, including scoring a hat-trick against Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day 1961, but by the 1962/63 season the emergence of Pat Crerand meant his first team opportunities became increasingly limited. This resulted in his sale to Second Division (Championship) side Preston North End in March 1963 for a fee of £14,000 after a total of 44 games and 6 goals for Manchester United.
Appointed captain by Preston at the age of 23 he inspired them to a third- place finish, just missing out on promotion to the First Division, and to the 1964 FA Cup Final where they lost to First Division West Ham United in a close game by 3-2.
Lawton continued as captain of the Preston side for three further seasons, making 143 Football League appearances and scoring 22 goals before a succession of knee injuries resulted in his sale to Brighton & Hove Albion in September 1967 for a fee of £8,000. He made 112 league appearances, scoring 14 goals for the Third Division (League One) side until losing his first team place in February 1971.
Requesting a transfer, he was allowed to join Lincoln City on a ‘free’, signed by manager Bert Loxley along with Brighton team mate Alan Gilliver in a bid to arrest City’s gradual slide down the league table on the back of a series of injuries. Thrown in at the deep end against runaway leaders Notts County, home defeats to the Magpies and third-placed Bournemouth saw the replacement of Loxley as manager by Lawton’s former Manchester United colleague David Herd. There was little improvement in results however, with just one win in the last 12 matches seeing City finish in the re-election zone, Lawton missing two of these through injury.
There was an optimistic air at the start of the 1971/72 season for City which opened with Nobby Lawton providing some creativity in midfield alongside Phil Hubbard. However, the sixth game of the season, a 4-2 defeat at Stockport, saw the latest recurrence of his knee trouble and it proved to be his last appearance in the first team although he managed half a dozen reserve games before being advised to call it a day due to the risk of being permanently crippled.
The following March Nobby Lawton was the beneficiary of probably one of the best-ever testimonial matches to take place at Sincil Bank, with a City Xl taking on an All-Star Xl. Lawton had been on the committee of the Professional Footballers Association whose chairman at the time was the well-known Wolves and Northern Ireland centre forward Derek Dougan, and the ’Doog’ took part in the match along with other top players including Johnny Giles and Peter Lorimer from Leeds, Bobby Moncur of Newcastle, Lawton’s former Preston team mate Alex Dawson, Nobby Stiles from Manchester United and City boss David Herd. Bobby Charlton was also present at the game but did not play. A crowd of over 10,000 saw a win for the All-Stars by 9-7.
Lawton then worked at several jobs outside football before returning to his native Manchester in 1977 to work as sales director for an export packaging firm. He died from cancer in 2006 not long after his 66th birthday.
Nobby Lawton’s Football League record totalled 311 appearances with 42 goals scored.