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A-Z of West Midlands Football

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: January 27, 2014

By Tony Matthews

  • Dicky Rhodes

  • 'Baldy' Reynolds

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JACK 'BALDY' REYNOLDS scored six goals in 46 games for West Bromwich Albion and 17 in 110 starts for Aston Villa.

A resolute, all-action wing-half, he was born in Blackburn in February 1869 and died in Sheffield in March 1917.

A pupil at Portglenone & Ballymena Schools, County Antrim (Northern Ireland), he came over to England as a teenager and played for Park Road FC (Blackburn), Witton FC (Blackburn), Blackburn Rovers reserves (1884–86) and Park Road FC, again (August 1886) before joining the East Lancashire Regiment, serving in the Army from December 1886, when he was posted to Ireland until his demob in December 1889).

He played as a guest for Distillery (May 1888–December 1899) and served with Ulster (June 1890), before joining Albion as a professional in March 1891.

After a loan spell with Droitwich Town, he was transferred to Aston Villa for £50 in April 1892, moving to Celtic on a free transfer in May 1897. Eight months later he signed for Southampton (free, January 1898), played next for Bristol St George (from July 1898), and Grafton FC in New Zealand where he also did some active coaching (1902–03).

He returned to the UK to play for Stockport County in September 1903, switched to Willesden Town in October 1903, and retired, through injury, in April 1905.

Two years later he became coach of Cardiff City (1907–08) and subsequently worked as a miner at a colliery near Sheffield.

Known by all as Jack Reynolds and nicknamed 'Baldy', he was only 5ft 4in tall, a real stumpy wee man, yet a marvellous wing-half, who sometimes bewildered his own team-mates as well as the opposition. He mastered every trick in the book and, aided by some quite remarkable ball skills, his footwork was at times exceptionally brilliant.

When based in Ireland with Distillery, 'Baldy' was capped five times for that country (1890–91), but after returning to England he went on to gain another eight caps, this time for the country of his birth, thus making him one of only a handful of footballers who have represented two countries at senior international level.

'Baldy' also played for the Football League on four occasions, for the Professionals XI three times and appeared in one England trial (1894). As Albion's right-half, he gained an FA Cup winner's medal in 1892, scoring a fine goal in a 3–0 win over Aston Villa, and in 1895 he was in Villa's FA Cup-winning side against Albion!

The following year he won his second First Division Championship medal to add to the one he had gained in 1894, and in 1897 was a key member of Villa's 'double-winning' team.

Playing with Celtic, he helped bring the Scottish First Division crown to Parkhead in 1898. Earlier, with Ulster, he had collected an Irish Cup-winners' medal (1891), and also had the pleasure of scoring Albion's first penalty kick against Nottingham Forest in April 1893.

He unfortunately left the Baggies under a 'dark' cloud after falling out with the board of directors. Ironically, his League debut for Villa was against Albion on 2 September 1893, and he scored to celebrate the occasion!

Almost two years earlier he had made his Albion League debut against his home town club, Blackburn (home) in Division One in October 1891. 'Baldy' died of heart failure at the age of 48.

TOM REYNOLDS played 40 games for Walsall over a period of four years: 1888-92. A strong tackling, well built left-back, he made his debut in a Midland League fixture against Notts Rangers, conceding an own-goal as early as the 6th minute in a 4-0 defeat. Born in Bloxwich in 1867, Tom died in Walsall in the 1930s.

DICKY RHODES was one of the most skilful half-backs in the Football League during the 1930s, and was a huge influence when Wolves gained promotion as Second Division champions in season 1931-32.

Born in Wolverhampton in June 1908, Dicky, who was initially a centre-forward and played for the local Town schoolboy team, winning England junior international honours against Scotland in 1925, served with Redditch United before moving to Molineux in 1926.

Converted into a wing-half by manager Frank Buckley, Dicky went on to appear in 159 matches for Wolves, scoring seven goals. Transferred to Sheffield United in October 1935, he later assisted Swansea Town and Rochdale, eventually retiring in 1939.

After the War, Dicky returned to Wolverhampton and became landlord of the Old Still pub in the town and later was mine host of the Posada in Lichfield Street. He was also a champion canary breeder and won a national title in 1973 when he beat off the challenges of 1,500 other competitors.

He had his aviary in Wednesbury and besides loving his cage birds, he was also a keen pigeon fancier, being a long-standing and dedicated member of the Lower Gornal Homing Society. Dicky died in Wolverhampton in January 1993.

RHYL FC, once regarded as one of the top football clubs in Wales, supplied Graham Williams to the Albion in 1954. Graham, of course, captained Albion to League Cup and FA Cup glory in the 1960s and won 26 full caps for the Principality.

BILLY RICHARDS played for Albion in the 1895 FA Cup final. A rough and ready, strong-shooting centre-forward, he was a huge favourite with the supporters and during his time with the Baggies, produced excellent displays.

He was born in West Bromwich in October 1874 and played for Wordsley FC, Singers FC (Coventry) and West Bromwich Standard before joining Albion as a full-time professional in July 1894.

Over the next seven years he scored 42 goals in 148 senior appearances for the Baggies, while netting another 30 goals in 80 'other' first team matches.

He left Albion for Newton Heath (now Manchester United) in April 1901 and later played for Stourbridge and Halesowen Town before retiring at the end of the 1906-07 season. He was taken ill during World War One and never recovered full health. He died in West Bromwich in February 1926, aged 51.

BILLY RICHARDS, a fast-raiding outside-right, scored twice in 31 first team appearances for Wolves, whom he served for almost two years, from July 1927 to March 1929.

A Welshman, born in Abercanaid in August 1905, Billy worked down the mine and played local football for Troedyrhiw Carlton and Mid-Rhondda before moving to Molineux.

On leaving Wolves he joined Coventry City and two years after moving to Fulham in 1931, he gained a full international cap against Northern Ireland, having helped the Cottagers win the Third Division (S) Championship in 1932.

Later with Brighton & Hove Albion, Bristol Rovers and Folkestone Town, Billy was also a useful cricketer and good golfer. He died in Wolverhampton in September 1956.

* Billy's brother was Dai Richards (see next week).

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