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The Golden Boy…

(Following the passing of Albert Quixhall, we have republished an article written by Bricat earlier this year...)

I was first taken by my father to Hillsborough when I was 3 years old, writes Owlsonline member, Bricat.

At that age and a couple of years after, whilst I was there, few memories remain but from 5 or 6 somethings are remembered. The shorts, black with the wide white stripe down each side, the atmosphere at the ground and some of the early heroes. After World War Two until the 1960s many homes did not have telephones, car ownership was rare, and televisions only very slowly appearing in living rooms. Attendances at football games in the 40s and 50s were, however.very high. Crowds in the 30,000 and 40,000 range being common at Hillsborough. Anyway, where was I? Heroes! First one would have to be Albert Quixall.

Quixall was born on 9th August 1933 and was a promising player as a schoolboy, gaining two England caps at that level. On leaving school aged 14 he joined Wednesday’s ground staff as an amateur (1948) realising his main childhood ambition. His next aim was to play for England. Like many young players then he was found a job working for a club director’s company (as an apprentice joiner for George Longdon’s construction firm), before signing professional forms shortly after his seventeenth birthday in 1950 (Aug 24th).

Motivation and ambition were essential for him. To play to the highest standard was his target. “You see, I think it is important to every youngster starting his career to fix himself a “goal.” Keenness means practice and practice brings a higher standard.” Throughout his career he would practice a few tricks with the ball on the pitch before the teams came out for the kick off. “This helps me get my “eye” in and establish my “touch” with the ball. Mastery of the ball is the answer to playing football well.”
That philosophy, along with the positional play of Wilf Mannion and the footwork of Stanley Matthews were what he sought to achieve.

After progressing through the “B”,“A” and reserve sides, he made his debut in the 1950-51 season, at Hillsborough on 24th January 1951 against Chelsea scoring in a 2-2 draw. Also making his debut alongside Quixall was winger Alan Finney. Both just seventeen years old yet these two friends would form a formidable pairing over the next seven seasons. Two days later they were selected to play against Manchester United at home but finished on the wrong side of a 0-4 score line. Finney retained his place for most of the season but Quixall’s first team days were over until the 1951-52 season.
It would be extremely rare nowadays to blood two 17 year olds in the same game and a bold move back then when there were no substitutes allowed. This pairing went on to give good service to Wednesday. They had appeared on the same team sheet throughout their youthful days at the club which they first represented as 15 year olds. Finney could cross the ball with either foot and with Quixall they presented a danger down either flank. With the arrival of right winger Derek Wilkinson in 1953 this was a massive boost to our attacking prowess.

Quixall and Finney became almost inseparable, to the point where they even served their National Service together. Langwith born Finney, when interviewed, revealed, “Since I joined Sheffield Wednesday at 15, my partner almost all the time has been Albert Quixall. We are the closest friends as a result of a playing link rarely experienced by young players. We made our league debut together with Wednesday as a right wing. Then, on joining the army, I was delighted to find myself posted to the same unit as Albert, who had been called up a few weeks earlier. I don’t suppose any two players have been partners so often as we were in a six-month period before Albert was demobbed in 1955. Our combined total of games was around the 150 mark. About a third were (Football) League matches, the others were Company, Command and representative Army matches.”

Quixall, despite his stature (5’7 ¾”, and 11st), cut a distinguished figure on the pitch. He was a gifted and precise passer of the ball, well balanced and possessed magical two footed control. With his blond hair and boyish looks, “short” shorts - then unfashionably rolled up (which he insisted gave him more freedom of movement in the legs), and lightweight boots, he earned the nickname of “Golden boy of British football.”

Alan Finney said of Quixall, “Early in my link with Albert, I realised what a grand character he was, on and off the field. He has a shrewd brain which sums up a situation in a flash. I rate him as one of the most amazing ball jugglers I have ever seen. Some of the things he does in practice have to be seen to be believed.”

His mastery of the ball led to cries of “Big Head” from opposition fans to which his response to the press was, “If having confidence in my ability is big-headedness, I plead guilty to the charge. If I am perceived to be “cocky” on the field it is my everlasting habit of wanting to improve my game.”
Aged only 20, he earned his first of his five England caps on October10th 1953 against Wales. “My biggest thrill so far came when I was first selected to play for England. I cannot express my feelings in words but I felt like crying.” Quixall also represented England ‘B’ (3 times), England Under 23 (once) and Football League (3 times.)

Season 1951-52 was remembered by Wednesday fans for the exploits of one man- Derek Dooley, scoring 47 goals in 31 games. He had been ably assisted by the supply from the wings and midfield, notably Finney and Quixall. The Second Division title was clinched that season and the club celebrated by playing friendlies in the Lake District and Switzerland. Quxall, many years later was to admit to hating foreign holidays, much preferring Scarborough.
Albert believed in seeking advice from his peers. “I owe a lot to the advice of senior players especially Jackie Sewell and Eddie Gannon. My own advice is to listen, study and even copy them.”

The Hungarian national side of the time impressed him tremendously and he was one of the few players in this country who believed that style was the way forward. The training methods employed by British clubs at this time never involved a ball. It was all stamina work, based on running, exercise, more running, and then some more running. The running was often on roads, cinder tracks and stadium steps, very rarely on grass, where the game is played.
Small wonder that Albert always carried a tennis ball with him as “practice with a small ball is the best method of cultivating the control a footballer must possess” Often, on the morning of a home game, he and his brother George had a kick about in the garden with the tennis ball.
To encourage rapid movement and quickness of thought he played table tennis every day, then, always willing to try any means to improve his game, he took ballet lessons to improve his balance. His teacher, Jeanette Dunstan gave the lessons from a house overlooking Hillsborough Park and eventually romance developed leading to the couple getting married in March 1956,and still together today.

During the 1950s, Wednesday were dubbed the “Yo-Yo” side, seemingly too good for the Second Division and not good enough for the First, evidenced by three promotions as champions and three relegations. This caused the attention of certain teams to be drawn to our better players, and despite the then maximum wage, Quixall became unsettled and eventually put in a transfer request, coinciding with Manchester United beginning to rebuild their team following the Munich air disaster. Wednesday fans were bitterly disappointed when, in September 1958, Quixall left for Manchester United for a British record transfer fee of £45,000. He was to be Busby’s first post Munich signing. Quixall’s last game fittingly was at Hillsborough on the 17th September, scoring once in the 6-0 victory over Sunderland.

He played 241 league games for the club, scoring 63 goals, and 19 FA Cup games, scoring twice. Two Second division championship medals came his way in 1952 and 1956.

Harry Catterick officially took over as club manager on September 1st 1958, although he had been at the club during August and the transfer of Quixall was, at first, a shock to the fans. The ever present Wednesday rumour mill speculated it was a deal brokered mainly by Club Secretary/General Manager Eric Taylor. Who Knows? John Fantham was introduced into the team, a totally different type of player to Quixall, he being a more prolific scorer, a very accurate passer of the long ball but not as skilful on the ball nor blessed with the speed of thought and vision of Quixall. However the end result was probably best for all concerned. 818'; target='_blank' style='color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration: none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-blo >ck;'Embed from Getty Images

It is often reported that Quixall did not prosper at Old Trafford but their fans at that time remember differently. In six years he scored 56 goals in 184 games in total and provided a base for Busby to rebuild the team, which seems to have prospered since.
On quitting football, Quixall went into the scrap metal trade before retiring. He is now 86 but has suffered from dementia for several years.
He is best remembered as a forward thinking footballer in a time when that was a rarity. Motivated, perhaps by what he said in the mid 1950s in his Wednesday days.

“There are not enough years ahead to learn all there is to know about football. Always at the back of my mind is the knowledge that if I fail there is always somebody to step into my place. I don’t want that to happen.”  

Unread article 13/11/2020 at 09:07


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