The Imps take 7000 to Blundell Park

For those missing a football fix City on Saturday replayed the trip last season to Milton Keynes with an incredible 5556 City fans in attendance, writes Gary Parle.

Much talk at the time was about whether that was the most fans City had ever taken to a regular season Football League away match and whilst it certainly was this century it is impossible to say what was the most ever.   The publishing of away attendance figures is a fairly recent occurrence so a definitive answer will never be known but back in 1948 excitement about a new signing led to a mass “impvasion”, long before the word was ever used, to the north east of Lincolnshire when City visited Grimsby.

City had won the Division 3 North title with a team of part time players in 1947/48 and had kept faith with most of the same players, albeit some had turned professional, for the return to Division 2 but after starting the season with three draws five of the next six games were lost and after a draw at Sheffield Wednesday at the beginning of October City were in 20th position above Nottingham Forest only on goal average and two points ahead of bottom side Plymouth Argyle. Recognising the need to strengthen it the club smashed the previous record transfer fee paid (£2000 for Fred Bett just a month earlier) by spending £6000 on Everton centre forward Jock Dodds.

Born in Grangemouth in 1915 Ephraim Dodds had moved south as a youngster and it was in County Durham where he became known as Jock the name that stuck with him throughout his football career. He joined Huddersfield Town from Medomsley Juniors, where he had scored 48 goals in 32 games, in June 1932 but he made no senior appearances for the Terriers before joining Sheffield United in May 1934. He made his debut in September and scored his first goal a week later eventually finishing top scorer for the Blades with 19 goals in 28 Division 2 games. He repeated that feat in each of the next three complete seasons (34, 23 and 21 goals respectively) and despite being sold to Blackpool for £10000 in March 1939 his 17 goals once again topped United’s scoring chart. He played in the FA Cup Final for United in 1936 hitting the bar shortly after Arsenal had scored what proved to be the only goal.

Despite playing just 12 FL games for his new club he finished joint top scorer with 10 goals (Wille Buchan played 33 games to reach the same total) and had scored three in three games when football was suspended in 1939 after the outbreak of the war. Joining the RAF as a drill sergeant and PT instructor Dodds continued to play for Blackpool whenever possible netting 212 goals in 148 War League games as well as scoring regularly for other clubs he guested for along with winning eight wartime caps for Scotland scoring nine goals.

After the war a dispute with Blackpool over wages (they offered him £7 a week instead of the maximum £9 allowed) he negotiated his own transfer to Dublin side Shamrock Rovers for a £1500 signing on fee and £20 a week but was banned by the Football League for contravening League regulations. His stay in Ireland was brief, just three months, before he joined Everton where again goals flowed being top scorer with 17 in 21 FL games in 1946/47 and 13 in 27 in 1947/48 with even his 6 goals in 7 FL games prior to joining City being bettered by only two other players!

His move to Lincoln hadn’t been entirely unexpected, with the possible transfer being the subject of much discussion in the City’s workplaces as one supporter put it “Dodds has been the cause of more lost production than anything I know” ,as the Imps had been trying to sign him since the previous January when manager Bill Anderson, an old team mate from the Medomsley and Sheffield United days, first approached Everton. Everton didn’t want to part with the player despite Dodds shortly after, without reportedly knowing of City’s interest, asking to go on the transfer list. Everton did promise to let City have first chance to sign Dodds though if they changed their mind about releasing him!

Negotiations were started again at the start of the season when Everton decided to release him once they had a replacement but when Dodds scored a hat trick for the Toffee’s against Preston on September 25th it seemed the wait would go on but the player was determined to leave and City manager Bill Anderson and vice-chairman Charles Applewhite quickly travelled to Liverpool to complete the signing on October 4th

Bill Anderson greets Jock Dodds as he arrives in Lincoln. Jimmy Grummett looks on

His debut came at Grimsby the following Saturday and he made an immediate impression scoring both goals as City fought back from two goals down at half time to draw two all. NHB writing in the following Monday’s Echo said “for a man of his physique the Imps new leader does not use his weight as much as one might have expected. Brain rather than brawn is his chief asset. He makes goalscoring look ridiculously easy, and the two he netted on Saturday did not look possible chances. Lincoln supporters can be assured that here is a centre forward the like of whom they have not seen in the Lincoln colours before”

He scored 17 goals in 24 Division 2 appearances for Lincoln but was unable to prevent relegation and followed up with 22 in 36 Division 3 North appearances, not surprisingly being top scorer on both occasions, in 1949/50.

A colourful character throughout his career, once being banned by a Sheffield greyhound track for painting a dog white as a ringer for a much slower dog then entering it in a race which it duly won at long odds with the scam coming to light when it rained and the paint ran off he wore expensive clothing and drove a Cadillac during his Sheffield days he revealed in June 1950 that he had been acting as an agent offering lucrative contracts to players to go to Colombia and admitted he had no intention of returning to Lincoln For his involvement in that he was banned by the Football League for taking any further part in the competition at meeting later that month.

Applewhite, by now chairman, said afterwards “It is certainly a very bad job for the club particularly from a financial point of view. Dodds is a very likeable fellow. As far as Lincoln City is concerned, he has always been a first-class club man” whilst Anderson remarked “as far as we are concerned our need now is for a centre forward. It is a loss to the club because Dodds has been a great centre-forward and he will be very difficult to replace” An attempt was made by Anderson to try and persuade him to attempt a comeback in November but it proved unsuccessful.

Dodds himself went on to become a successful business man in Blackpool owning or being a partner in a hotel, night clubs, a nut wholesale business and a rock making business as well as serving a brief jail term in the 1960’s for importing powdered milk from America for sale not knowing it was unfit for human consumption!   He died in 2007.

Returning to the original paragraph then and large City away followings the match at Grimsby attracted a crowd of 22169. Given that Grimsby’s previous home crowd had been 15931 and their next home game after Lincoln’s visit attracted 13334 and that the Echo reported prior to the match that “today four loaded trains took 2600 and many went to Blundell Park by car, bus and private coach” the estimation of 7000 travelling fans was probably not too inaccurate.

Main Sources: Lincolnshire Echo, Nottingham Evening Post, Sheffield Daily Telegraph, Sheffield Independent, Sheffield Evening Telegraph, Liverpool Echo, Star Green ‘un all via Who’s Who of Lincoln City, Who’s Who of Everton, Soccer at War

1 Comment

  1. My first game, never forgotten. Jock Dodds, City’s greatest ever player. “Legend” doesn’t begin to describe him. I bore my grand children with tales of his exploits even now.

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