Bygones: Vardy eyeing scoring run of IRA soldier who joined the Blades

JAMIE VARDY’s achievement in scoring in 11 consecutive games for Leicester City broke the Premier League record held by Ruud van Nistelrooy for Manchester United.

The Sheffield United team featuring the prolific Jimmy Dunne. Back row, from left: G MacGinley, Pat Carrigan, Jack Smith, Jack Kendall, Harry Hooper, Bill Anderson, Jock Gibson. Middle: Secretary/manager Ted Davison, Jim Holmes, Bertie Williams, Tommy Sampy, George Hall, Jimmy Dunne, A Stuart, Percy Thorpe, George Green, Wilf Adey. Front: Bernard Oxley, Harry Gooney, Bobby Barclay, Mick Killhoury, Robert Oswald, Fred Tunstall, Fred Cheesemur.

But the overall record for English football’s top-flight belongs to former Sheffield United forward Jimmy Dunne, whose feat former Stocksbridge Park Steels and Halifax Town striker Vardy will equal if he nets for a 12th successive match when Leicester visit Swansea on Saturday.

Between October 24, 1931 and New Year’s Day, 1932, Dunne scored in 12 consecutive fixtures for Blades in the old First Division.

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For those who think that football only started with the birth of the Premier League in 1992, it is a timely reminder of the game’s rich history.

Leicester City's Jamie Vardy.

Dunne is a long-forgotten figure to contemporary eyes (at least beyond a respectable radius of Bramall Lane).

Born in Dublin in 1905, he was a rebel, a socialist, and a member of the Irish Republican Army – not your usual footballing CV.

During the Irish Civil War in 1922-23, Dunne was jailed and only took up football seriously during five-a-side games while interned at Curragh and Portlaoise as a member of IRA’s ‘D’ Company.

He even spent time on hunger strike before his release from prison, after which he joined Shamrock Rovers.

A rough-and-ready five-feet 10 inches with a powerful physique, Dunne showed instant promise and soon attracted the notice of English clubs.

In November, 1925, he joined New Brighton in the old Third Division North, scoring six goals in eight games. His big break came three months later when Division One Sheffield United signed him for £800.

Initially, Dunne struggled to cement a place, playing 11 league games in his first three seasons, but that all changed in 1928-29 when he became a goal-scoring ‘sensation’ practically overnight.

The 24-year-old was the First Division’s top scorer with 36, including four against West Ham United on January 1, 1929 – and another four against Leicester three days later.

The following season he did even better, scoring 41 goals in the league – still the highest total recorded by an Irishman in English football’s top flight.

By now, Dunne – who played either centre-forward or inside-forward, and who was particularly adept in the air – was also captain of his country.

Another 33 goals followed in season 1931-32, Dunne’s achievement of passing 30 in three consecutive seasons not matched until Alan Shearer did it for Blackburn in the 1990s.

Dunne’s remarkable sequence of 12 goals in successive games during that 1931-32 campaign began when he netted twice in a 2-0 win at Grimsby. Dunne scored again in a 3-0 victory at home to Liverpool and then in a 4-3 defeat at Leicester City.

Another brace followed in a 4-0 home win over Bolton before Dunne hit the mark in a 2-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday and again in a 4-2 home win over Chelsea. Dunne scored a hat-trick in a 4-3 defeat at Middlesbrough and netted for an eighth successive match with a brace in a 5-4 victory over Aston Villa at Bramall Lane.

Dunne was on target again in a 5-3 defeat at Newcastle, scored twice in a 4-1 home win over Arsenal on Christmas Day, and netted against the same opponents in the return game on Boxing Day, which brought a 2-0 win. His sequence ended after he scored twice in a 3-2 home win over Blackburn.

One month after Dunne’s golden run, Arsenal bid £10,000 for him and were turned down. Dunne stayed at Bramall Lane and scored 26 times in season 1932-33, but United were not immune to the ‘Great Depression’ and they accepted a reduced bid from Arsenal of £8,250 in September, 1933.

Ironically, United were relegated that season and Arsenal won the title, Dunne contributing nine goals in 23 games.

Dunne lost his Arsenal place after the arrival of prolific striker Ted Drake from Southampton in 1934. Dunne made only eight appearances in two seasons and was dubbed “the most expensive reserve player in English football”.

In 1936, Dunne moved to Southampton, where he was nicknamed “Snowy” by the fans on account of his fair hair. He was Saints’ leading scorer in 1936-37 with 14 in 36 games, a return which helped them avoid relegation to the Third Division.

At the end of the season, Dunne turned down a new contract and returned to Shamrock Rovers.

However, a measure of the affection in which he was held in Southampton was shown when, 18 months after leaving, he was given a rousing salute by Southampton dockers as he passed through the port with the Ireland team.

Dunne, who played for both Ireland sides at the time, the Northern Ireland-based IFA and the Irish Free State-based FAI, helped Shamrock to the League of Ireland title in 1938 and 1939.

Also in 1939, he was captain of an Irish side that was the last to visit Germany before Hitler’s invasion of Poland.

Dunne and his team-mates were told to follow England’s example from the previous year and give the Nazi salute before their match in Bremen.

Dunne refused to raise his arm and encouraged his colleagues to do the same.

Dunne, who also coached Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians, died suddenly from a heart attack in November, 1949, aged 44.

He was buried in Dublin in his Sheffield United shirt.

He was a principled man, a remarkable individual and, of course, a gifted footballer.

And in those few golden weeks in 1931-32, he created one of football’s most notable records.

Archives show how records were set ...

ON the subject of goal-scoring records, the English National Football Archive is a leading authority.

According to the ENFA, the longest individual scoring run in successive league matches played by a club is 13 by Tom Phillipson for Wolves in Division Two from November, 1926.

Then comes Jimmy Dunne with his unmatched top-flight sequence of 12, while others to net in 12 games on the spin are George Camsell for Middlesbrough in Division Two from October, 1926, and Dixie Dean for Everton in Division Two from December, 1930. Bill Prendergast also scored 12 in a row for Chester in Third Division North from September, 1938.

The longest interrupted goalscoring sequence by one player (ie, he missed some of his team’s games through injury during his sequence) is 15 by Stan Mortensen for Blackpool in Division One from December, 1950.

Go back to September, 1950, and Mortensen actually scored in 23 out of 26 appearances for his club, and Camsell bettered that by scoring in 24 out of 27 games for Boro from March, 1926.

Dunne himself scored 13 times in a row, netting against Everton in October, 1931 before missing United’s next match ahead of his stunning 12-game sequence.