Updated: Friday, 3rd July 2020 @ 7:20am

Appeal to find mystery author of rare football statistics handed to Tameside charity

Appeal to find mystery author of rare football statistics handed to Tameside charity

| By Matt Ford

A collection of historic English and Scottish football league records found in a suitcase in a home in Didsbury has been handed over to the English National Football Archive – but mystery surrounds the identity of the author.

The handwritten records, which date from the 1940/41 to 1963/64, contain details of results, attendance figures, goal scorers, goal timings and even the names of referees.

The only thing missing is who actually compiled the data.

The 20 leather-bound ledgers were donated to homelessness charity Emmaus in Mossley, Tameside, after which the organisation passed them on to statistician Tony Brown at English National Football Archive (ENFA).

Tony told MM that the information contained in the ledgers will be added to the ENFA database and fill in gaps in the history of the game.

“We consider it our public duty to ensure our archive is as comprehensive as possible,” he said.

“This man has managed to compile certain pieces of information which is quite hard for us to find and present in a clear and concise way.

“Certainly the timings of goals and the referees' names will be a useful addition.

“The database currently contains details of approximately 650,000 goals scored, but we only have the timing of goals for about 250,000 of them.

“In these ledgers, the timings of goals are available for weekend fixtures from 1960 onwards – about the same time the Sunday People began publishing such details in their match reports, which explains why the times are missing for midweek fixtures.

“In about 10% of cases the author has also included the names of referees – usually for Manchester-based fixtures.”

The mystery scribe also seems have been particularly interested in injuries to players, an issue of particular significance in the days before substitutes when teams would be obliged to play with ten men if a stricken player was unable to continue.

Indeed, Manchester United’s Northern Irish centre-half Jackie Blanchflower famously played in goal in the 1957 FA Cup final after goalkeeper Ray Wood was injured.  

But the identity of the studious writer who compiled the records remains unknown, although Tony suspects they were a Manchester City supporter.

“There were a couple of other items in the house which give us a clue,” he explained.

“The person had constructed a model of what looks like the Etihad Stadium and the ledgers also contained paper cuttings of the 1956 FA Cup Final [in which City beat Birmingham City 3-1].”

Intriguingly, the records for some of the later seasons in the late 1950s and early 1960s break off abruptly in mid-season in November, December or January.

Alison Hill, project director at Emmaus, has launched an appeal for information, and Tony shared some speculations on what the man may have done for a living.

“His job must have involved him suddenly being away for extended periods of time,” he said.

“Perhaps he was in the merchant navy or something like that.

 “I’ve seen similar things before – they represent peoples’ lifetimes’ work and are often simply passed on to relatives, friends or neighbours who end up throwing them away.

“We are grateful to Emmaus for taking the trouble to contact us; on many occasions, valuable work such as this ends up as scrap paper.

“If your grandfather, father or uncle leaves anything like this behind, don’t throw it away!”

Tony will now start sifting through the records and expanding the ENFA’s database, before donating the ledgers to the National Football Museum’s archive in Preston.

It’s taken him two weeks just to go through one ledger, so he estimates that he will be finished sometime in 2017.

He had better get a move on though as it seems not everyone shares his fascination for the find.

He said: “The living room is full of old ledgers and newspaper cuttings so my partner, Helen, isn’t best pleased!”