Amberley Publishing - Transport, Military, Local and General History

Trevor Ford: The Authorised Biography by Neil Palmer

It was a March evening in Cardiff City’s 1992/93 season, a season in which the Bluebirds won Promotion out of footballs bottom tier and also added a Welsh Cup under the excellent stewardship of manager Eddie May. I sat in the grandstand at Ninian Park with my father to watch an evening game against Scarborough, (yes following football is not all glamour). The game will always stay in my mind, not for the 1-0 win by the Bluebirds but around 10 minutes after kick off my dad nudged me and pointed out that a couple of rows away sat next to the aisle was Trevor Ford. When he told me the game suddenly lost some of its interest, as I would glance at the match whilst constantly keeping an eye on this grey haired gentleman in a light brown overcoat who was constantly asked for his autograph by a whole array of supporters.

My mind drifted off to my childhood as the name Trevor Ford will always be synonymous with how my father judged any center forward of worth during the 1960s through to today, Dad tended to do this with singers also claiming “They're not as good as Sinatra”. Well for him no center forward was “As good as Trevor Ford”. The comparison was a little lost on me as I was brought up with the football sticker and Esso coin era of players of the 1960s and 70s and to be honest my only knowledge apart from my fathers cast iron opinion of him being the best was a photo in an old Charles Buchan football book that showed him in a Aston Villa kit that fascinated me as the shirt had a laced up neck.

trevor-ford-1 Aston Villa squad of 1949. Trevor is in the middle row, second from left. (c. Trevor Ford, Amberley Publishing)

However I watched Ford throughout the game and when it ended my father and I made our way out of the stand, which just happened to mean passing Trevor Ford. As we did my father said ‘Hello Trevor” and offered his hand which Trevor then shook. Although I was in my thirties I felt like a child, rooted to the spot on meeting a famous person, as I just nodded in return for Trevor’s smile. All the way home we talked about his career. My dad explained how he was the big star at Cardiff City when my dad was on the ground staff and what a player he was, all of which I had heard many times from dad but to see the man in the flesh seemed too give these stories even more merit.

Trevor was a player that always stayed in my subconciese, when I started writing sports books I had the honour of interviewing various football players from the 1950s and I would always ask them, for my own curiosity more than anything else ‘What was Trevor Ford like?’. To the public they would always talk affectionately about him, yet anytime he was mentioned in the media he was always referred to as “Fiery Ford” or “Terrible Trevor” which I thought was a little unjust. Even when he passed away the main bulk of any obituary in the newspapers tended to be based on his book “I lead the Attack” rather than the prolific goal stats for his clubs and Wales. And with the upsurge in Welsh football I started to think he was forgotten about by sections of the media as they talked about “greats” like John Charles, Ian Rush, Ryan Giggs, Ivor Allchurch and Gareth Bale, all of whom are quite rightly great Welsh footballers but I always felt there was room for one more.

Unfortunately this was the same when pundits talked about great center forwards. It appeared that the modern generation of media with its seven days a week football, Internet forums and Radio talk shows only went as far back as Gary Lineker and Italia 90. I make no apologies for my continued frustration at this, even at the cost of being called a “Grumpy old git”. It is a title that when it comes to the recognition of “Old” footballers I wear with pride.

trevor-ford-2 FA Cup, 1951. Sunderland beat Norwich City 3-1. Trevor (airborne, right) is in the thick of the action, as always. (c. Trevor Ford, Amberley Publishing)

So with this in mind I started on path of finding out about Trevor Ford in detail with a view for a book .The writer LP Hartley memorably began his novel The Go Between with the words “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” And that has never been truer when you look at a football world in the 1950s, which has now become unrecognizable today.

Trevor was at the very center of the struggle for players to earn a better deal out of the game. It has been said many times that he was a player who knew his own worth. He knew early on, even in his Swansea Town days that he was the main attraction when it came to putting bums on seats, and football club directors knew it, other wise why would they pay for the very best players to enhance their football clubs. After all nobody said “I can’t wait for Saturday to see the left back play”. Trevor knew as a center forward he had a certain cache that clubs would pay for. Problem was in the eyes of the football authorities everybody got their £20 a week and that was their lot. In truth this was never going to work, nor did it. It insults our intelligence to think that a young 17 year old at Wolverhampton Wanderers would be paid the same £20 per week Wolves and England captain Billy Wright would get or would another 17 year old at Preston North End get the same as Legend Tom Finney. The answer is obviously no. The reality was that your Billy Wrights and Tom Finney’s were, like every other top player given various gifts that would make their stay at a club more confortable. The players knew what was going on and so did the Directors. But it took strong individuals like Trevor to stand up for change in the game whilst others kept silent.

trevor-ford-3 Greats reunited at the Vetch, Swansea. Trevor and Ivor Allchurch hold up their favourite shirts. (c. Trevor Ford, Amberley Publishing)

This resulted in a stronger PFA who were able to negotiate an end to the maximum wage and the ability for players to be in control of their own contracts. Trevor’s subsequence confrontations with authorities tarnished him with the tag of being “trouble” and not one to touch in terms of bringing to a club, yet his goal scoring record sits alongside any of the greats in the game past or present. The most damming of part of his career being his treatment by the Welsh FA with them not taking him to Sweden as part of the Welsh 1958 World cup squad. A decision that saw many Welsh selectors flex their muscles towards Trevor, making sure they taught him a lesson for what they deemed as embarrassing the organization rather than do what was the best thing for the country. It panned out the lack of preparation and amateurish attitude by the Welsh FA in the finals reconfirmed that many of the so-called “selectors” should never have been within 100 yards of running a football team in the first place.

During the research for the book I was honored too meet Trevor’s son David who gave his support to the project. David’s honesty and enthusiasm to tell his fathers story, warts and all has been a real driving force of the book and I know that he has allowed me too share with you, the reader everything about his father and the Ford family. David allowed me the chance to see Trevor the man whilst numerous ex colleagues allowed me the chance to see Trevor the player and I will always be thankful to them for that.

So for me the idea of taking just a name from my childhood memories and turning it into a book about what I believe to be one of the most influential footballers the game has produced has been a labour of love and one which I hope you will enjoy through the pages of this book.

9781445640563

Neil Palmer's new book Trevor Ford: The Authorised Biography is available for purchase now.