Scunthorpe’s promotion from the last regional Third Division. By Geoff Wallis
The long-term significance
This season sounded the death knell of the two regional divisions that had occupied the third tier of English league football since the early 1920s. The top division of the Southern League had been absorbed into the Football League as the Third Division for the 1920-21 season, adding the suffix (South) when its northern counterpart, drawn from a variety of minor leagues, was formed a year later. Only one team from each Third Division was promoted each season, while the bottom club in both sections had to apply for re-election. For 1958-59 the two regional sections were merged, with the top and bottom halves forming new Third and Fourth Divisions respectively, thus introducing the delights of Tyneside to Torquay United fans and the hotspots of Colchester to their Bury counterparts.
Story of the season
Managed by Ron Suart (who would take on the managerial role at his hometown club, First Division Blackpool, for the following season), Scunthorpe’s success was founded upon an unbeaten run of 15 matches from mid-December until the beginning of April. The team also set a new overall club scoring record of 88 goals, which still stands. Ronnie Waldock led the way with 21 goals, while left-back Jackie Brownsword (who was halfway through his record-breaking run of 595 appearances for the club) added another six. At the end of the season, the club changed their identity, with Lindsey, the former Lincolnshire local government administrative unit, being dropped from the full name of Scunthorpe & Lindsey United.
Under Scotsman Walter Galbraith, runners-up Accrington finished in the top three for the fourth season running. Conversely, Crewe Alexandra were forced to apply for re-election for the third time in a row, three seasons in which their defence let in 308 goals while only 140 were netted at the other end. Meanwhile, fans of Mansfield were able to witness 192 goals, a ratio of exactly four per game, in the same season that First Division Manchester City became the only club ever to score and concede a hundred goals or more.
For the record books
Both Darlington and Scunthorpe achieved their best ever FA Cup run in reaching the fifth round. Before crashing 6-1 at Wolves, the Quakers walloped Chelsea 4-1 in the fourth round at Feethams. Scunthorpe achieved a remarkable 3-1 victory on Newcastle’s home turf in round four, before losing 1-0 at the Old Showground to Liverpool.
Same place today
Six teams are at the same level – Bradford City, Carlisle United, Chesterfield, Oldham Athletic, Scunthorpe United and Tranmere Rovers.
Moved furthest away
Bradford City, Oldham and Carlisle are the only two teams to have spent subsequent seasons in the top flight (Oldham reaching the old First Division and staying on for the Premiership, City playing in the latter). But Hull City are the only side now playing at a higher level than the third tier.
Financially strapped Accrington Stanley resigned from the league in 1962 and were reformed in 1968, though it was almost a further 40 years before they were able to reclaim their League status. Bradford Park Avenue went into liquidation in 1974, four years after failing to secure re-election, and were re-established in 1988. They currently play in the Northern Premier League First Division. Gateshead endured several different identities after losing their League place in 1960 and are now members of the NPL’s Premier Division. Barrow and Workington are one tier higher in the Conference North, while Halifax and Southport are in the Conference itself.
Went on to greater things
Les Cocker ~ The Accrington striker moved on to Luton Town and thence, in 1960, to Leeds, subsequently becoming the team’s trainer under Don Revie and fulfilling the same role for England when Revie became the national manager in 1974.
Jimmy Greaves ~ The then 17-year-old striker was dropped for Chelsea’s 4-1 FA Cup defeat at Darlington, but went on to become the youngest ever player to score a 100 goals in League football.
Graham Taylor ~ Spent his teenaged Saturday afternoons watching Scunthorpe and would shortly sign for Grimsby Town as a trainee.
Disappearing from view
Alf Ackerman ~ “Ack Ack”, a South African striker, hit 37 goals this season for Carlisle. Moved to Millwall in 1959 and retired in 1961. Became a Dartford newsagent.
Ivor Broadis ~ The former England inside-left was, possibly, the only player-manager ever to transfer himself – from Carlisle to Sunderland for £18,000 in 1949. He returned to Brunton Park in 1955, but left for Queen of the South in 1959.
Arthur Rowley ~ This remarkable striker moved from Leicester, for whom he had notched 241 goals in 303 games, to Shrewsbury, for whom he scored another 152. His League career tally of 434 is a record.
From WSC 242 April 2007. What was happening this month