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  Trevor Ford (1923–2003), by unknown photographer, 1947 Trevor Ford (1923–2003), by unknown photographer, 1947
Ford, Trevor (1923–2003), footballer, was born on 1 October 1923 at 65 Llangyfelach Street, Swansea, the second son and second of the four children of Trevor Ford, van driver and later under-manager of the Tower Cinema, Swansea, and his wife, Daisy, née Young. He grew up in Townhill, Swansea, the largest council estate in Wales, attending Powys Avenue and Townhill senior schools. His father encouraged his enthusiasm for football, giving him a new ball and boots on every birthday and forcing him to use his weaker left foot by making him practise with a plimsoll, no protection against heavy leather balls, on his right. At the age of ten and a half he was the youngest player to have been chosen for Swansea schools, and he retained his place for four years. He was deprived of a Wales schools football cap by a broken ankle, but he was capped as a cricketer.

After leaving school Ford worked at Mannesman steel works, Landore, before joining Swansea Town's ground staff in 1942. Conscripted in 1943, he served as a physical training instructor in the Royal Artillery. Propitiously, his army unit converted him from full-back to centre-forward, in which position he played as a guest for Clapton Orient. On 29 July 1944 he married Doris Irene Simmons, the 22-year-old daughter of William Edward Simmons, storekeeper. The marriage was short-lived and ended in divorce.

Ford rejoined Swansea Town after the war, and was spectacularly successful in the transitional 1945–6 season, his forty-one goals leading the scorers in league south, which was formed from teams who played in the top two peacetime divisions. He also played for Wales against Northern Ireland. Ford was the archetypal British centre-forward, proudly proclaiming football ‘a man's game’, and always ready to shoulder-charge a goalkeeper or enter physical conflict with a centre-half, although at 5 feet 10 inches and just over 12 stone he generally conceded height and weight. A player of ‘pent-up energy, a dynamo waiting to be activated’ (Stead, 63), he was fast, ferocious, and fearless, with a powerful shot. Idolized by his own club's fans, he was a villain to those of opponents. The England centre-half Billy Wright declared him ‘amongst the cleanest and most sporting men I have ever played against’ (ibid., 65) but the goalkeeper Gilbert Merrick accused him of deliberately mistreating keepers—a claim retracted after Ford took him to court. Ford initiated a remarkable generation of Swansea-born attacking talent. He, Ivor Allchurch, John Charles, and Cliff Jones, all born between 1923 and 1935, were among the 100 players elected ‘football league legends’ in 1999. He retains a prominent place in Swansea lore in spite of playing only sixteen peacetime second division games.

An assertive, confident man in an age when most of his professional colleagues were deferential, Ford was never afraid to challenge a manager's judgement or claim what he felt was his due. He left Swansea for first division Aston Villa in January 1947, following a disagreement over preparations for a cup tie. The leading scorer in all three seasons with Villa, in October 1950 he left for Sunderland, for a then record fee of £30,000. An offer of a motor trade job worth £1000 per year plus a house was decisive in his choice of Sunderland, then known as the ‘Bank of England club’ for its expensive transfer dealings, over Chelsea. On 29 June 1948 he had married (Anne) Louise Morgan, the 22-year-old daughter of David John Morgan, former publican of the Red Cow Hotel, Plas-marl, Swansea. They had two sons, David and Martyn.

Ford's home début against Sheffield Wednesday was rumbustious even by his standards. He scored a hat-trick, broke the opposing centre-half's jaw, charged the Wednesday goalkeeper into the net, and broke a goalpost. His stay at Sunderland produced sixty-seven goals in 108 league games, and a cup replay winner scored with a broken ankle. He is, however, remembered for falling out so badly with the England inside-forward Len Shackleton that it became impossible to play them in the same team—Ford accused Shackleton of deliberately placing passes just out of his reach, while the inside-forward dismissed him as ‘merely a goal-minded dasher’ (Stead, 65)—and also for his revelations about illegal payments. Ford, who regarded himself as a businessman, was consistently critical of the £15 per week maximum wage and £10 limit on signing-on fees. In 1950 he was fined £100 for allegedly seeking an illegal payment in negotiations with Chelsea, a loss rapidly made up by a newspaper fee. In newspaper articles in 1956 and in his memoirs, I Lead the Attack (1957), he wrote of widespread abuses: ‘I have met almost every known type of football fiddle. I have been involved in quite a few myself … driven to it by the miserly attitude of the authorities in their assessment of fair payment for services rendered’ (I Lead the Attack, 13). Refusing to name names, he was briefly banned from the game, and his Welsh international career, which had produced twenty-three goals (then a record, but later equalled by Ivor Allchurch and beaten by Ian Rush) in thirty-eight matches, was ended by the row. Nevertheless, his allegations prompted inquiries into illegal payments that, while they damaged Sunderland, who had several players banned and lost first division status after sixty-eight years in 1958, undoubtedly contributed momentum to the Professional Footballers' Association campaign against the maximum wage, which succeeded in 1961.

On winning reinstatement in March 1957, Ford left Cardiff City—which he had joined in November 1953 for another £30,000 fee—for the Dutch club PSV Eindhoven. He spent three years in the Netherlands before returning to Britain for brief spells with Newport County and Romford. His final peacetime football league tally was 175 goals in 349 games. After retirement he enjoyed, suitably for one of his name, a successful career in the motor trade, taking pride in his ability to educate both his sons privately and in his grandson's schooling at Eton. He returned to Swansea, where his final years were blighted, like those of many footballers of that era, by Alzheimer's disease. He died at the Singleton Hospital, Swansea, from pneumonia on 29 May 2003. He was survived by his wife, Louise, and their two sons.

Huw Richards


T. Ford, I lead the attack (1957) · P. Morris, Aston Villa (1960) · A. Appleton, Hotbed of soccer (1961) · S. Inglis, Soccer in the dock (1985) · P. Stead, For club and country (2000) · J. Charles, King John (2003) · The Guardian (31 May 2003) · The Independent (31 May 2003) · The Times (2 June 2003) · C. Jones, Swansea Town/City FC (2005) · b. cert. · m. certs. · d. cert.


photograph, 1947, Empics, Nottingham [see illus.] · photographs, 1947–60, Empics, Nottingham · two photographs, 1953–4, Getty Images, London · group portraits, two photographs, 1953–6, Popperfoto, Northampton · obituary photographs · photographs, repro. in Ford, I lead the attack · photographs, repro. in R. Shepherd, Swansea Town, 1912–64 (1988), esp. 59, 107

Wealth at death  

under £15,000: probate, 9 July 2003, CGPLA Eng. & Wales