Today’s record transfer concerns Trevor Ford’s transfer to Sunderland in 1950. Here Karl Graham looks back at Ford’s career.
Ever since the introduction of professionalism in football by the English FA in 1885, there have been 43 world transfer records. Over the next few months Karl Graham will be bringing us up to date with the history behind every single record. A new one shall be revealed on the site every Friday, from the very first one in 1893 to the most recent in 2013, and who knows there may even be a new record set before we reach the end.
A year on from Eddie Quigley setting the transfer record, it was broken by Trevor Ford’s move from Aston Villa to Sunderland.
Trevor Ford was born on the 1th of October 1923 in Swansea, Wales. He was a strong centre-forward, who scored goals for fun. When you hear commentators talk about typical British strikers, Trevor Ford was a prime example of who they are referring to.
He started his career in 1945 as a full-back with his hometown club Swansea. However, by the time the season had ended, Ford had been switched up front and finished the season with an incredible 41 goals. Ford’s Wales debut came soon after, during a victory over Ireland in 1946.
Ford’s career with Swansea wouldn’t be a long one however, and after just nine goals in 16 Second Division appearances and a disagreement with the club over training methods, he was sold in 1947. While the £9,500 Aston Villa paid to acquire Ford wasn’t close to the sum they would receive for him, it was still a hefty fee at the time.
Ford played three full seasons for Aston Villa, finishing as their top scorer each time. By the time he left Villa Park, he was building himself a reputation for being a tough man who held little sympathy for opposition goalkeepers.
1950 saw his record move to Sunderland for £30,000, approximately £925,000 of today’s money. The tag of ‘world’s costliest player’ didn’t sit well with Ford however, and when asked about the fee he said,
“These fees are crazy. I think I shall settle down and not let this £30,000 tag worry me, but at the moment I hope someone else soon takes over as the costliest player in the game.”
Ford didn’t let the fee go to his head and when he had finished training in the morning, he used to sell cars for Sunderland’s chairman in the afternoons. His debut for Sunderland was something to behold. I doubt any other player could claim to have, during their first 90 minutes for a club, scored a hat-trick, broke a goalpost, broke an opponent’s jaw and shoulder-charged the opposition’s keeper into the back of the net.
While Ford still provided a healthy number of goals during his time in the North East, he didn’t have as much an impact as expected. One suspected reason for this was his tumultuous relationship with forward partner and Sunderland legend, Len Shackleton. Claims were made that Shackleton used to put a spin on the ball when he passed it to Ford, making it almost impossible to control. Their distaste for each reached such a height that they were rarely played in the same side. Ford’s commitment didn’t suffer however, evident when he scored the winning goal in a cup replay, despite playing with a broken ankle.
After scoring 67 goals in 108 appearances for ‘The Black Cats’ Ford left in December 1953 to join Cardiff City for £29,500. His return to Wales was seen as a shrewd piece of business by Sunderland, practically recouping the fee they splashed out for him.
Despite now being in his 30s, Ford continued to find the net for Cardiff. In 96 appearances he managed to score 39 goals, while still holding the club’s record of fastest goal scored with his strike against Charlton Athletic after just 15 seconds. He retired from the game at the age of 33 in 1956.
Despite having retired, Ford still managed to court controversy. The release of his autobiography ‘I Lead the Attack’ brought the spotlight on his time at Sunderland. In the book, he claimed to have received illicit payments from the club, in lieu of the maximum wage.
He was suspended by the FA but responded by suing them and coming out of retirement to play abroad in the Netherlands. His three years at the club saw him score 21 goals, a good return for a man in his mid-30s. He eventually won his case against the FA and returned to The Football League for a brief spell at Newport County.
Ford retired for good in 1961 having represented Wales 38 times, scoring 23 goals. While Ford maintained he had no regrets during his career, missing his country’s only appearance at a World Cup in 1958 due to his suspension, must surely have played on his mind.
Trevor Ford died in his native Swansea in 2003, aged 79.
Karl Graham, Pundit Arena.