5 Sept 2009

Forget Souness, Yeats and Carra: This was Liverpool FC's original 'hard man'

Before the likes of Gerry Byrne, Ron Yeats, Tommy Smith and Jamie Carragher, the defender who had his opponents shaking in their boots was Liverpool's original hard man, Walter Wadsworth from Bootle.

After reading through several match reports at the time it becomes quite evident that Wadsworth was the quintessential tough man who refs had on quite a few occasions give a talking to because of the severity of his challenges.

Wadsworth didn't just go around kicking people though - he was quite an accomplished footballer, playing 242 games for Liverpool from 1912-1926 and also featuring in 112 war-time games for the club.

Wadsworth was at the heart of one of the best defences in the history of the club with Elisha Scott, full-backs Ephraim Longworth and Donald MacKinlay and his fellow half-backs Jock McNab and Tom Bromilow. Equipped with this excellent back five Liverpool won and retained the League championship in 1922 & 1923.

Wadsworth's temper tended to boil over on the field to his opposition players' suffering, but the fans of his adversaries also had to watch out. Spectators gave the players an ear-bashing as well back then and in one particular game vs. Sheffield United on 1st of December 1923 at Bramall Lane Wadsworth snapped when goaded by a United fan.

Wadsworth was unrepentant about this incident as evident by his article in the Topical Times, which was published the following week:

"Let me state here and now that I hit a spectator, I admit it. I think I was justified because a spectator called me something that I will allow no man to call me. It must not be imagined that because a spectator has paid his bob that he can, willy-nilly, help himself in the epithets department.

"He has no justification for something worse than swearing at the players. He has not the right to shout vile words at them. I hope the action I took will lead to the offenders realising that they cannot lean over the railings and offer vile insults at footballers.

"After the match I begged the people of Sheffield to bring the man to the dressing room to see me. No-one came, I am sorry to say, and I am more than sorry that the man has not gone to court, for then the facts would be published and it would be seen by all in the game of football how some spectators carry on."

Wadsworth portrayed as tackling a bit high!

Wadsworth's career low came on 14th February 1925 at Anfield. Newcastle's Urwin threw mud at Wadsworth who in return punched him in the face. Wadsworth was banned by the League for the remainder of the season and only made a further four appearances for Liverpool.

He signed for Bristol City in May 1926 at the ripe old age of 36, became City's captain and led the team to the 3rd division south title. Wadsworth also featured in 27 Second division games, and he played into his 40's with Oswestry Town.

In his obituary it was said that one of his slogans were: "Ball may pass me, but man never!" Wadsworth was a tremendous competitor who never gave in for Liverpool or any other team's cause!

Images from the Liverpool Echo
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