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Simply Red

Simply Red

Having watched Wednesday since the early 1950s I have accumulated a back catalogue of memories, mostly nearlys, should haves, could haves and WTFs, but that is what makes our club so special to each of us.

In the 1950s following football was a different cultural experience in many ways, largely due to the social conditions prevailing. Maximum wages meant players by and large stayed with one club for their whole career. Media coverage was very basic, unlike the saturation coverage provided today. Local players were heroes, and occasionally villains to the fans. They travelled on the same buses, lived in the same streets, frequented the same shops and drank in the same pubs as the rest of us. They were part of the furniture.

One of my first heroes made his debut for Wednesday some 2 years 7 months before my birth (5/1/1946) and his final appearance shortly before my 12th birthday (30/4/1960). If Eric Taylor was Mr Sheffield Wednesday off the pitch then Redfern (simply Red) Froggatt was the on field counterpart.
The Froggatts were a footballing dynasty. Frank Froggatt, in season 1925/26 , captained Wednesday to win the Second Division title. He was the first Sheffielder to captain the team on a permanent basis since the legendary Tommy Crawshaw. His son Redfern was born in the city shortly before this success in 1924 (23 Aug) and his nephew Jack, whose father ran a butchers shop in Sheffield was born in 1922. The cousins would play in the same England side. Continuing the family dynasty in the late 1960s, Red’s son Paul would feature in Wednesday’s youth team.

As a youngster, Red played cricket for Sheffield Schoolboys but not football and he was an athlete of high repute. Being in a reserved occupation during the Second World War, he played football at every opportunity and was signed by Wednesday after a scout saw him in the YMCA team that won a 5- a- side tournament in Millhouses Park. He signed part time professional forms in 1943 and played in war time fixtures for the duration, then signed full time forms.

He made his official debut away at Mansfield Town in the FA Cup on 5th January, 1946. It was to be the first of 458 league and cup matches that spanned 14 years, culminating in his final appearance in a Division 1 fixture at West Ham on April 30th 1960, making him number six on the list of players who have made most appearances for the club. If you were to add the 80 war time appearances to the tally it would total 538 and rank him second behind Andrew Wilson.

During his career I served my childhood apprenticeship as an Owls fan. The Sheffield Telegraph Annual Football Guide, a must for the local football season, was studied and updated whenever necessary. Kids’ comic giveaways like League Ladders, booklets showing club colours, picture cards – which were sometimes given away with items of confectionary and cigarettes and any football ephemera were sought after items. The Star and Telegraph sports pages, The Green ‘Un, Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly and anything football related was eagerly devoured. Wednesday had about 6 sides playing throughout the season in various leagues and on different days. My dad took me to as many as he could, and judging by the attendances it was a popular diversion. Apart from the pictures (cinema to those from Dore) there was sod all else to entertain. Somethings through that period were constant. The tooth fairy would leave me sixpence (2 ½ new pence) for every tooth I left it. There would be a sock containing an apple, an orange and an assortment of nuts along with my Christmas presents – strange living in a house possessing no nutcrackers. Redfern Froggatt would always be in Wednesday’s first team, barring injuries.

It was still the era of standing up to view being the preference of most fans. I asked my dad what had happened to all those fans wearing hats the size of dinner plates that I’d seen in old photographs at Hillsborough? “There was a war, son. All clubs lost players and fans.” The significance of which gradually dawned on me over the years but at the time it whizzed over my head. Our fans now had woolly blue and white bonnets, scarves and gloves. The dinner plates had transformed into rosettes and the precursor of the godforsaken band was in its embryonic stage. Namely, there were more bells than in a Scottish distillery and the whirling clicking of wooden rattles wound up the atmosphere. Naturally, some of these exuberant supporters got a slap if their instrument of torture twatted a neighbouring fan.

I was to make my Hillsborough debut as an Owls fan on August 23rd 1952. It was a birthday present apparently, because I became four years old the week before. It was a Division 1 fixture against Newcastle and we drew 2-2. I cannot remember much about the game – in fact nothing at all apart from the excitement of visiting the promised land. I now know that Jackie Sewell and Red Froggatt scored for us and that the attendance was 55,126. That season there were ten 40+000 crowds and three 50+ 000 crowds at Hillsborough. Who needed Executive boxes? Froggatt’s goal was to be one of the 148 he scored during his career at Sheffield 6, plus, a further 17 during wartime. The third highest scorer in Wednesday history.

Players came and went during his era but the transfer market was never a busy place and with the maximum wage, clubs would employ upwards of 40 players. He was not an overly flamboyant player but you always knew he was there. He had a presence. He was 5’ 11” tall – the same size as Duncan Edwards - extremely fit, although you never saw him darting past a player doing him for speed. He didn’t have to. A very intelligent footballer, his brain saved his legs and he displayed a knack of being in the right place at the right time. He also possessed the desired qualities of both being capable of creating goals for others and scoring them for himself. Froggatt was a versatile player which benefited the club in the early 1950s when two good quality inside forwards, Jackie Sewell and Albert Quixall forced their way into the team. Froggatt was moved to Outside Right (7), a position where he proceeded to score a third of his goals from and create many more for our attack with pin point crosses and sweeping passes across the pitch. Wednesday, in the 1950s , were nicknamed the yo-yo club . Promotion was gained to the First Division in 1950, 1952, 1956 and 1959 and relegation from that division in 1951, 1955 and 1958. Just think of the money we would have made under the present promotion moneys and parachute payments!

At international level Red gained four England caps playing in the same side as his cousin Jack. In 1952 he featured against Wales and Belgium and in 1953 he faced Scotland and the USA. He scored two goals in those games. Pundits wondered if he were playing for a bigger club would he have represented his country more often? Personally, I don’t think so because, a) there were plenty of quality inside forwards at the time in competition – notably our own Quixall and Sewell who were both capped, and b) England did not have a team manager then and the side was selected by a bunch of old farts at the FA.

Red Froggatt was a constant at Hillsborough during this period and in 1959 he was the captain of the team which won the Second Division championship, achieving the same honour that his father had back in 1926. At the last home match of the 1958/59 season, the club were presented with the winner’s trophy. Celebrations were enhanced as Barnsley were slaughtered 5-0 with Red netting twice. For matches like these my father favoured the terracing in front of the seated North Stand as he found the view better. Probably, the poshest terracing at Hillsborough at that time and certainly the coldest by far.

A totally unselfish player he looked after youngsters like Quixall, Finney and Fantham when they started their first team careers. Such was the measure of the man, that after his last first team game, he elected to play in the reserve team for the next two years so that he could pass his knowledge on to our younger players. As a fitting rewards the club arranged a classy benefit game for Froggatt when he retired against Ajax on October 17th 1962 which we drew 2-2, thanks to goals from Bronco Layne and Peter Johnson.

Redfern Froggatt continued to live and work in Sheffield and worked sometimes as a part time commentator at Hillsborough for hospital radio. He died aged 79 on Boxing Day in 2003.

My abiding memory of Red is due to the fact that I used to be a goalkeeper. I was stood on the Kop with my father watching a Division 1 game against Arsenal (research says it was November 23rd 1957). Jack Kelsey, the Welsh international goalkeeper who seemed to have been at Highbury longer than The Clock End, was defending the Kop goal. It was a close game and we were leading 1-0 from an Albert Quixall penalty. Midway through the second half, Froggatt spotted Kelsey a few feet off his line and let fly from 30 yards. The ball nearly took the net off. Kelsey had made an acrobatic attempt to stop and as he landed, he sat up and applauded Froggatt. I had never seen that happen before.

With the ongoing drama of who is going to be in the Dream Team no one has mentioned Red Froggatt. He was the most influential player at Sheffield Wednesday for a decade. I don’t know why I didn’t put his name forward. Would Red have wished to be included? I don’t think so. It was Sheffield Wednesday he loved and cared for and he was only too happy to do his best for the cause.

To have a chat with Bricat, who wrote this, and give him your thoughts or speak of your memories of Red... Get on the forum which you can find... HERE....

Unread article 01/08/2017 at 20:38


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