Eddie Spicer’s silver lining


February 12, 1974
When disaster struck down Eddie Spicer just before Christmas in 1953, Liverpool lost one of the most polished and popular defenders ever to play at Anfield. He was 31 then but still at the height of his magnificent form at left back. He had played only for one club, Liverpool, since his school days.

That December day at Old Trafford ended his career. He went for a ball near the six-yard line with a Manchester United player and his own goalkeeper, the newcomer Dave Underwood. The three men finished in a heap, but Spicer didn’t get up. His left leg was shattered in three places. It was the same leg which had been broken in a game in Sweden two years earlier.

This time, there was no hope. The specialist told him he would be lucky if he walked again, let alone play football. So, as Anfield mourned, Eddie Spicer and his wife, Norma, faced a bleak future.
“They say every cloud has a silver lining,” Eddie told me. “Mine certainly had, and it started to shine through, thanks to my old friend, Tom Williams.

“Tom had been manager of Wrexham and had become chief scout for Liverpool. When I had started walking again after my accident and was looking for a job of some kind, Tom stepped in.

“He had many influential friends in Wrexham and he introduced me to the late Mr. Sidney Aston, head of a family business of furnishers in Wrexham.
“Probably swayed by Tom Williams’ eloquence, Mr. Aston put me on his staff in July, 1954, as a trainee branch manager.

“I’ve been with the firm ever since and today I am an executive director supervising our branches in North Wales and elsewhere.
“Maybe I don’t get the astronomical money that some of the current crop of soccer stars seem able to claim, but, at the age of 50, I am tremendously happy in a job that I enjoy and I get friendly smiles from my bank manager when I meet him.”

Eddie and Norma lives in a beautiful home in Wrexham, which he, a self-confessed do-it-yourself fanatic, has practically rebuilt inside since they bought it 18 years ago. Their daughter, Janet, who is 22, came home recently from two years’ voluntary service in Northern Nigeria as a teacher. Their son, Stephen, came up for a family reunion from London University, where he is studying economics and food science. It was quite a party.

Said Eddie: “At times like this, I find myself thinking: ‘In a way, it was football that brought you the chance of getting this joy out of your life.’ And I go back in my memory to those grand days at Anfield.”

When he does wander down his memory lane, Eddie Spicer has many marvellous things to recall. He was a local Liverpool lad who really made good. Born in Kirkdale, he blossomed at the age of 10 as a footballer of promise and he was lucky. His teacher at school was Albert Virr, one time Everton left half, who took him under his wing. With Albert’s guidance, young Eddie won his place in the Liverpool Schools team at thirteen and gained every honour going in schoolboys’ football before, in 1937, signing on as an amateur for Liverpool.

Then came the war, and 18-years-old Spicer joined the Royal Marines and became a Commando. With his ability and natural drive, he gained a commission. He tells one odd story about his six years in the Marines.

“I saw a German medical corps sergeant-major trapped in one of our minefields in Normandy. He had set off a mine and was injured in the leg. As I went towards him, he shouted, in English, “Don’t shoot! I am a football international.”

“As we patched him up, he told me, in perfect English, that he had played against several British touring clubs, and he knew quite a lot of the English players.
“He was obviously telling the truth, and when I mentioned that I was a Liverpool player, we chatted there together as if were old pals about football and footballers. I often wonder what become of him after the war.

I asked Eddie: “Who was the best player you had to face in your career?” Without hesitation he replied: “Stan Matthews. He was a genius.

“You went to bed the night before, planning how to deal with him, and next day on the park all your over-night ideas got tangled up by his twinkling feet. No wonder they have him a knighthood.”

Does he follow the game closely these days?
“No, I watch snooker and I love gardening. The only snag is that my leg becomes tired and swollen after any exercise and I tend to get a bit frustrated about it.

“Still,” he added with a grin, “if it hadn’t been for that busted leg I might have been so happy to-day.”
(Source: Liverpool Echo: July 18, 1970, by George Harrison; via http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) © 2018 Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited

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