Researching the history of Lincoln City has become a lot easier in recent years thanks to the internet and the availability, albeit at a cost in terms of subscriptions, of websites such as the English National Football Archive, British Newspaper Archive, Find My Past and census returns and historical sites for other clubs, writes Gary Parle.
Sometimes though something as simple as a letter (or rather an email) to a newspaper can also lead to interesting discoveries.
Having finished runners up the previous season hopes had been high that City would mount a serious challenge for the 3rd Division North title in 1928/29 and by the end of October, the team lay second behind Wrexham. The two teams met at Sincil Bank on November 3rd watched by a season-high League gate of 10625 sharing the points in a one-all draw but just four wins and two draws in the next twelve games had seen them drop to eighth in the table as February began with a trip to Halifax Town on this date in 1929, a match the City Supporters Club had chosen for their annual organised outing.
The City supporters in the crowd of 3927 didn’t see the new month herald any change of fortune as on a heavy pitch City goalkeeper Len Hill performed heroics to “avert a rout” as the Nottingham Journal headline reported. He was eventually beaten after 25 minutes by Ernest Dixon but against the run of play Frank Pegg (or Harry Pringle depending on the source) equalised but by halftime Hugh Hubbert and Dixon added two more goals to make it 3-1. Ted Savage pulled one back after the interval before Ernest Coleman added a fourth to make the final score 4-2. Despite his heroic performance the game proved to be Hill’s last one in the City goal!
The defeat saw a drop of another place but a recovery was made during the rest of the season as ten victories were recorded in the final fifteen games (the other five were lost) leading to an eventual final position of 6th although a massive fifteen points behind the champions Bradford City.
Why though select a seemingly random game from 91 years ago to look into? The answer lies in the scorer of City’s second goal, Ted Savage.
Savage was born in Louth and attended Louth Grammar School where he was considered a notable athlete with one of the first mentions of his football prowess coming in May 1928 when he scored for Boston Reserves in a 3-3 Lincoln League draw against Horncastle where it was noted: “he should develop into a useful player when he has learned to control the ball” By mid-December he was appearing in City’s Midland League side and made his first team debut in a 3-1 defeat at Carlisle on New Year’s Day 1929. It was the first of 96 FL appearances for City, scoring three times, and in May 1931 he joined Liverpool for a reported fee of £2500, at the time a club record, going on to spend seven seasons at Anfield although only making 100 1st Division appearances scoring twice.
In December 1937 he left Liverpool for Manchester United, who reportedly beat Chester for his signature, for £1500 but only played four times before making 26 FL appearances for Wrexham before the war brought an end to his senior career. During the conflict, he served in the army but managed to make occasional guest appearances for seven clubs before he sustained a broken leg and damaged ankle in an accident whilst on service in 1945
During his playing career he had interests in a florists in Lincoln and worked as a car salesman in Liverpool whilst post-war he spent time coaching in Holland, had a spell as manager at South Liverpool, scouted for Derby, worked as an engineer and for a time in the late 1950’s wrote match reports for the Liverpool Echo although he was the landlord of the Primrose Hotel in Wallasey when he died suddenly in his sleep on January 30th 1964 aged just 52 although he had been suffering from heart trouble for a few years.
What though was the significance of his goal at Halifax? As might be have been spotted he was 52 when he died which would indicate a birthdate in 1911 or 1912 which would make him a very young Football League goalscorer for City. In most sources, including the Lincoln Who’s Who and Official History, it is just given as 1912. His birth was registered in the 1st quarter of 1912 but the release of the 1939 Registers provided an actual birthdate of November 30th 1912….although that surely couldn’t be right as on signing for City he was said to be 17, on signing for Liverpool he was said to be 19 and when he died he was 52 none of which would be correct with that birthdate.
Given the fact that a birth has to be registered within six weeks and his was registered between January 1st and March 31st 1912, it seemed plausible that he was actually born on November 30th 1911 which would have made him 17 years and 65 days old when he scored against Halifax and thus would have been City’s youngest known Football League goalscorer until Andy Hutchinson scored at 17 years and 34 days against Bradford City in April 2009. Proof came when a copy of his birth certificate was obtained from the GRO and Ted Savage can now be credited with a record he held for so long and no one knew about it.
Of course, though with numerous birthdates of earlier City players still either unknown or unconfirmed there may yet be another hitherto unknown younger scorer still waiting to be discovered!
Sources: Various newspapers via the https:/ /www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk, https://www.findmypast.co.uk, 1939 Register, http://enfa.co.uk, General Register Office. Thanks to Michael Joyce, Ian Nannestad, Maureen McGreal and Walter Volleamere for providing ideas and tips and especially to Ted Savage’s son Robbie who contacted me as a result of the letter that appeared in the Liverpool Echo and provided some of the personal information contained in this article.