Gordon Gunson: Surviving sportsmen of the old brigade

March 20, 1964
Joseph Gordon Gunson, now aged 59, and living at The Homestead, Broughton, is another Cestrian who can boast of a distinguished career in English League football, and can be said to be one of the “big fish” that the City club allowed to slip through their net.

Gordon is a son of the late Mr. and Mrs. J.J. Gunson, formerly of 42 Meadow Lane, Handbridge, and after leaving Handbridge St. Mary’s and Love Street schools, where he played his part in the school teams, Gordon became one of a gang of bright young lads who were determined to form a football club in the Handbridge area.

That club became the famous Brickfields – the talk of the City in local football circles.

Gordon told me many interesting stories of those days. In 1920 he took it upon himself to make a collection in Hartington Street, Devonshire Place and Bradford Street to get funds for the football club that the lads wanted and he remembered that the people turned up trumps, and one side of Bradford Street stumped up £3 10s one night.

The lads got going and before they had an sort of headquarters used to pick the team standing over the beer cellar of the old Carlton Hotel. Brickfields’ first match was on the Roodee when they beat City Mission 5-4.

They moved to a field in Wrexham Road, but eventually secured a pitch at Handbridge. They graduated from the outside of the pub to Mr. George Williams’s garden shed in Bradford Street, and the committee in the early days were Messrs. E. Powell (chairman), Fred Weston and later Harry Lewis as secretary, W. Hanmer, Bill Lloyd and R.E. Gunson.

Finally a ground on Eaton Road was secured, and a 4d. charge was made for the matches. In 1921 Gordon was outside-left in the team that won the Westminster Challenge Cup as champions of the Chester and District Boys’ Federation League.

On entering the Chester and District League Brickfields mopped up the Divisions, and remained undefeated for some seasons, and in one season scored 180 odd goals.

They were the crowing cocks of Chester all right, and Gordon Gunson remembers the well-known “Bee” (Ernie Edwards) of the Liverpool Echo offering to bring a team to Oldham to damp the Brickies’ ego.

No special preparation was needed for Brickfield. It was Easter, and in the morning they polished off Stoak and Stanney 6-0 in the Junior Cup, and after lunch at the Bear and Billet beat the Oldham lot 3-0 in the afternoon. Frankie Jones getting a “hat-trick.”

“Often,”said Gordon, “we had as many as three and four thousand spectators watching us.”

Eventually a match was arranged with the Chester F.C.’s County League side about 1924-25, and in the first minute, recalls Gordon, the Brickfields centre half, Phil Jones, who, though only 19, was a burly 6ft. 3in. in height, collided with the Chester goalkeeper, who was carried off.

Chester were allowed a substitute and the pro’s beat the junior side 3-1.

In his recollections of the early days with the Brickfields, Gordon mentioned that he had a lot for which to thank Billy Hanmer, who played inside-left to Gunson in the side which included Frank Jones and Alan Dain.

“He (Hanmer) was much older than us, as we were kids, but he was the brains behind the line and taught me a lot.”

Gordon also mentioned his father-in-law, the late Mr. William Crossley, one of the busiest Brickfield’s committeemen.

Chester’s loss.
Gordon Gunson was now aged 21 and the scouts were beginning to surf-around. “I was approached by Mr. Ben Dickinson (secretary of Chester F.C. then), and the late Mr. Harry  Mansley to sign pro for Chester. They offered £1 per week, and I told them that “if that’s all I’m worth I’ll remain an amateur all my life.”

A sister of Gordon’s mother was the licensee at Nelson and for season 1925-26 Gordon signed professional forms for them after two trials. He had served his apprenticeship at Brookhirst, as an electrical fitter, and Nelson found him a job at £4 per week, and paid him £4 for playing – the fine wage for those days of £8.

When eventually Nelson, who were in the Northern Section of Division III, wanted to reduce his money to 50s., Gunson refused terms, and thanks to the wisdom of Mr. Gunson senior there was a clause in his contract that forced the club to give him a free transfer.

So, in 1926-27 Gordon went to Wrexham, and at the end of 1928-29 only four were retained, and Gordon went on the transfer-list.

He joined Sunderland at a £1,500 fee, and in season 1929-30 was leading scorer with 14 goals, but in 1930 he went to Liverpool with whom he played for four seasons in the first team, and in 1931-32 he scored 24 goals from the wing.

“I scored only one ‘hat-trick’ in first class football”, Gordon told me. “In 1932 at St. Andrew’s I had got two goals against Birmingham and when we were awarded a penalty I asked Gordon Hodgson if I could take it for my ‘hat-trick’. He agreed. I scored and we won 4-1.”

Set back.
Gordon’s great career received a check in 1933 when he smashed a knee at Maine Road against Manchester City, and in 1935 he left Liverpool to go back to Wrexham, where in 1936 he injured the same knee on the Racecourse.

He was placed on the transfer list, but won a lump sum in a legal action against Wrexham, and then the famous surgeon, Mr. Watson Jones, of Rodney Street, operated on the knee with success.

For a time Gordon Gunson lost interest in football, but the game was in his blood, and he became player-manager of Bangor City for the 1938-39 season, and took the Welsh Club from the bottom to the top of the Lancashire Combination – the expenses of the visitors were paid by the home club when the came to Bangor.

On September 13, 1939, Gordon joined the A.P.T.C., and was attached to the 6th North Staffordshires. The famous Matt Busby was with the 7th Staffordshires and in the divisional finals Gordon’s side beat Matt’s, although the great Busby was centre-half. Gunson was outside-left for his lot.

For a brief period Gordon went back to his trade as a fitter, and in 1945 he obtained a post as game master at Botelar Grammar School, near Warrington, and was there until the qualified teachers began to drift back from the forces. At the school Gordon had charge of football, cricket, rugby and P.T. for 600 boys, but football came into the story again in 1952-53 when he became player-manager of Holywell.

Gordon continued his travels, and tried his hand as trainer with Crewe Alexandra under Bill Cook and then in 1958 he was appointed chief scout for the Club, but in 1959 he left Crewe and was appointed manager of Flint, and then on to a similar post with Welshpool.

That about ends Gunson’s tour of the football scene, but not quite. He is still scouting for Crewe.

Football is not the only game at which Gordon has been handy. A cricketer of no mean ability, he has a fine record of achievement with Handbridge Institute, of which he was captain in 1926-29 and 1930-39. The odd year being filled by Jim Powell. Gordon was in the team that won the Broughton Hall Knock-out in 1939.

Last season he played with de Haviiand, where he is employed as an inspector, and he intends to play again this year. “I always said I’d play until I’m 60”, he said.

Gordon treasures a letter from the members of the Institute, dated July 26, 1929, wishing him success with Sunderland. The letter asks him to accept a gift “as a mark of esteem and appreciation for your interesy in, and your services as captain of H.I.C.C.” The letter is signed by: Messrs. F. Weaver, W. Hanmer, W. Thornton, J. Upton, J. Hague, P. Howes, W. Crossley, G. Evans, W. Jones, F. Davies, H. Firth, R. Adie, W. Knott, E. Garner and W. Moorhouse.

On the opposite page of the scrap-book is a photograph of the Sunderland forward line of 1929-30 – Urwin, Wood, Gurney, Gallacher and Gunson.

Lost Welsh cap.
How many people know that Gordon Gunson might have been another of those Englishmen to get a cap for Wales?

In 1928 while with Wrexham he was chosen for the Principality against Ireland.

Being an honest young man Gordon went to the Wrexham secretary and told him about it. That gentleman obviously thought Gordon was a young fool, but he indicated that having been officially notified of Gunson’s nationality he would have to pass it on to the Welsh F.A.

Older headed players told Gordon that he should have “kept mum”, and he still wonders what would have been the outcome had he done just that.

Among Gordon’s pictures is one of the Brickfields of 1924-25, showing Frank Jones (centre forward), who scored 30 goals in one season, and went to Wrexham; Reg Jenkins (outside right), who went to Lincoln City; and Gordon Gunson (outside left), who went to Nelson.

At one time Mr. Gunson took an interest in greyhound racing, and he owned dogs which he raced at Leeds, Wigan and Oldham.

A good billiards and snooker player, Gordon won the Shawcross Cup, billiards trophy, three years running, and in doing so beat one of the best players in the district “my old rival, Eric Bithell.”

Now he is busy with his job at de Havilland and his own small-holding.
(Source: Cheshire Observer: March 20, 1964)

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