The modest man who created magic on the football pitch

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From: Don Booker MBE, Hall Place, Monk Bretton, Barnsley.

TOM Richmond’s opinion column about “the beautiful game” (The Yorkshire Post, May 2) put the spotlight on a very genuine and modest Barnsley sportsman, footballer Tommy Taylor.

We attended the same Burton Road Infant and Junior School at Old Mill, Barnsley, mainly during the war years.

He lived at Smithies, about a mile from the school, and was such a lover of ball games that he dribbled and headed a tennis ball on the way to school.

He came from a family that had little money and his “football boots” were a pair of clogs and his short trousers were full of patches. At times you could see his bare backside.

He walked with a slight stoop, as though he was always preparing to head a ball. He also had a trademark basin haircut.

It was a popular style at the time for youngsters in families that were poor. The “barber”, possibly the dad in the kitchen, placed a basin on the head and cut around it, leaving a bushy fringe.

Each playtime, Tommy would get his mates to take off their pullovers to make goal posts and they would kick each other to bits because they loved football.

He did not get much encouragement at Burton Road, because the form teacher with responsibility for sport and games was “Gaffer” Brien, who was grossly overweight and to us youngsters appeared to be in his 70s. He was happy when we missed the games session due to rain and did arithmetic instead.

When he failed his 11-plus exam, Tommy went to Raley Secondary Modern School where he developed his football skills.

His other interest was breeding rabbits in the school boiler-house. He was helped at Raley by a PT teacher, Mr Hudson, and then joined Barnsley FC as a centre-forward.

His skills were soon attracting the attention of Manchester United and England and he went over the Pennines for £29,999 because Barnsley manager Angus Seed did not want him to be the first £30,000 footballer.

Tommy died in that Munich air crash and when I attended his funeral at St Paul’s Church, Monk Bretton, conducted by Father Bill Jubb, the streets were jammed.

He is buried in a cemetery a few yards from where I live and I regularly call at his grave.

The memorial flower vase is always draped with a Manchester United scarf and there are always flowers from the supporters’ club.

He is certainly one of Barnsley’s sporting greats, but there is only a gravestone to remind us of his football magic.