Chelsea Transfer Target
Sep 30, 2008, 11:10 AM
Location: Paignton, South Devon
Team(s): Stevenage FC & Buckland Athletic
Post #1 of 3
The death of Tommy Northcott, at the age of 76, will sadden many fans with happy memories of a time when the world of football wore a broader smile and rested its hand more on its heart, less on its wallet.
Robin Stubbs — he and Northcott formed a deadly partnership in the early 1960s — said: "Of all the people I ever played with up front, Tommy was the best.
"For his height, he got up well in the air. But he was also a very good player, with a real football brain.
"I think he was a bit suspicious when I first arrived — me, just down from Birmingham and probably full of myself — but we got on very well after that, on and off the pitch."
Current Wigan Athletic Director of Football John Benson, who joined United in 1964, soon became captain and ended up playing more than 250 games for the club, said: "I thought Tommy was a very underestimated player.
"He had a lot more ability than some people gave him credit for. In fact, it surprised me that he didn't play at a higher level in his career.
"As well as being a fine player, he had a terrific football brain and, with him in the side, we all felt we were in with a chance in any game.
"When I arrived, I remember it took a good season for him to take to me, but once Tommy decided you were OK, you were in.
"I'm very to sorry to hear this news."
The temptation, for anybody who played in Northcott's position as the leader of the attack during the 1950s and 1960s, is to label him as an 'old fashioned' centre-forward.
In fact, Tommy was much more than that.
Fearless and talented enough to win England Youth caps against Scotland and Wales, he was often at his most effective dropping deeper to receive the ball.
It created space for teammates to run into and, of course, Northcott was good enough to deliver the ball to them in even more dangerous positions.
He created hundreds of goals for colleagues that way.
A Barton boy to his bootlaces, Northcott signed for United from Hele Rovers on his 17th birthday — December 5, 1948.
John McNeil, the manager who captured him, commented at the time: "The lad has moments of genius."
He was still only 17 when he made his first team debut less than five months later. He wore the No.11 shirt!
Within a couple of years Northcott had established himself as United's No.9, playing for a while alongside Sammy Collins, who would go on to be the club's record goalscorer.
He took time out to complete his apprenticeship as a plumber and do a spell of National Service before Cardiff City, who always had a good relationship with United in those days, snapped him up in 1952.
He played 76 league games for the Bluebirds before Lincoln City paid £4,000 for him in 1955.
A 20-goal season for the Imps in 1955-56, in what is now the Championship, proved his worth.
But Tommy hankered after a return home, and it was a major coup when Torquay allowed player-manager Eric Webber to buy him back for £5,000 in November 1957.
Plymouth Argyle and Exeter City both wanted him at the time.
It was money wonderfully well spent.
By the time Northcott returned to Plainmoor, he could line up again with Collins in the twilight of his 219-goal career — and Tommy's younger brother George, a centre-half who had signed for United in 1954 and went on to play 172 games for the club.
Tommy returned with a bang, scoring 13 goals in 25 games in what remained of the 1957-58 season, 20 in 1958-59 and 15 in 1959-60 when, with Graham Bond helping himself to 21 goals and winger Ernie Pym 11, United won promotion under Webber.
Pym, Bond, the Northcott brothers, Plymouth-born J.V. Smith, goalkeeper Mervyn Gill from Exeter — they were all Devon lads.
Several goalscorers, including Reg Jenkins and Brian Handley, fed off Northcott until, in the summer of 1963, Webber paid Birmingham City £5,000 for a promising young forward by the name of Robin Stubbs.
They hit it off straight away.
Over the next three seasons Northcott and Stubbs scored 37, 53 and 24 goals between them.
They gave mighty Spurs a mighty scare in the 3-3 FA Cup thriller at Plainmoor in January 1965, Stubbs scoring twice.
There wasn't a better or more feared double-act in the lower divisions, and it all culminated in promotion under new manager Frank O'Farrell in 1966.
A few eyebrows were raised when O'Farrell chose not to include Northcott, then 34, in his retained list that summer.
But O'Farrell, who went on to make the club a power in the old Third Division, commented: "Although Tommy was coming to the end of the career when I met him, he was a very good centre-forward to play off, and he was an important part of our promotion team.
"I was sorry to hear that he had been ill."
Having made 443 appearances for his beloved United, and scored 152 goals, Northcott played out his career with Bridgwater, Barnstaple and finally in local football.
Only four other men — Ronnie Shaw, Dennis Lewis, Ian Twitchin and Kevin Hill — have played more than 400 games for the club.
In retirement Tommy returned to the trade he had learned as a young man, running a plumbing and central heating business in and around Torquay.
He spent the last few years of his life fighting Alzheimer's Disease.
As well as his brother George, he leaves a widow Margaret, three daughters — Joanne, who married 1970s United defender Peter Darke, Jill and Julie, five grandchildren, all girls, and one great grandson, Jacob.
His funeral will be held at Torquay Crematorium this Thursday at 10.30am
Stevenage FC - Hertfordshire's finest!
Buckland Athletic- Pride of South Devon!
First Team Star
Sep 30, 2008, 11:38 AM
Team(s): Torquay United/Dawlish United
Post #2 of 3
I was sorry to read the news about Tommy Northcott. I was lucky enough to see him play on a number of occasions for Torquay United after I moved to Paignton in 1964. He was a chunkily built player who was always busy, always causing problems for defences and absolutely never gave up whatever the odds. I was at the FA Cup game against Tottenham Hotspur in 1965. As was often the case, Robin Stubbs grabbed most of the headlines, but it was Tommy whose ability to link with him towards the end of his career provided some of my best memories of United in those years. Thanks to Nick for bringing this sad news to our attention.
Chelsea Transfer Target
Sep 30, 2008, 6:14 PM
Team(s): Oxford City, Bridgwater Town.
Post #3 of 3
Very sad to hear this. Oddly, it was just last week that I was looking at the "Best of Charles Buchan's Football Monthly" and noticed a photo of Tommy in Lincoln City kit.
Bridgwater Town benefited greatly from ex-Torquay players in the mid-1960s. Tommy, Ernie Pym, Denis Penford, Geoff Cox and Brian Handley amongst others, helped us to our first Western League Championship in 67/8 after several years of going close. They were great days, and with Tommy, in particular, in the team you expected, and got, goals.
I'm sure this must be him challenging for a header in the photo below ...