20 February 1954, a local lad named John Archer who had been
playing for Whitstable Reserves made his first -team debut in
goal for Whitstable in a friendly match against Crystal Palace
Reserves at Belmont. He was then just 17 years and 10 months
old. On 7 March 1954 he made his Kent League debut in a match
versus Deal and, by April, he had made five appearances for
Whitstable’s first team.
Town, of the Third Division North, were taking an interest in
John Archer’s performances and, before the end of April 1954,
they signed him up.
manager at the time was Billy Walsh, an Irishman who had had a
long playing career with Manchester City both before and after
the Second World War and had then, from 1951 to 1954, had a
three-year spell as player-manager for Canterbury City. He
became manager of Grimsby Town in February 1954, succeeding Bill
Shankly. So, if we were wondering how it came to be that Grimsby
Town came to sign John Archer, I think we can assume that Billy
Walsh knew about him from his time with Canterbury.
Town had never been a big league club. They spent three short
spells in Division 1 during the first half of the 20th
century, the last one ending in 1948, but by 1954 they had been
relegated twice in six years and were in Division 3 North.
Archer must have impressed the manager in training during
the summer and in pre-season friendly matches, as he was lined
up for his first-team debut when the 1954-55 season was due to
from the Grimsby Evening Telegraph
interest was being shown in the teenager from Whitstable.
made that league debut on Saturday 21st August 1954
in Grimsby’s opening league game, away to Rochdale, and
straight away made an excellent impression in a match which
Grimsby won 3-0.
Archer passed his league “blooding” satisfactorily. He made
some excellent saves particularly a one-handed save from Anders,
and none of the 6,000 spectators could have thought that he was
playing in the Kent League but a few months ago".
following Tuesday, Grimsby were due to play their local rivals
Scunthorpe United in their first home game of the season.
Grimsby lost this match 4-1. Archer was said to have made
several brilliant saves and no blame at all was apportioned to
him for what was a very poor defensive display. He retained his
place for the next match.
SAVES BY ARCHER
have to thank Archer that the final score against them was not
much heavier. He brought off spanking saves from Gregory, Haigh
and Jones, coming to the rescue of a defence that was at times
mesmerised by some precision footwork by Scunthorpe’s eager
following Saturday, 28th August, Grimsby played at
home to Tranmere, and drew the match 2-2. Archer was not singled
out in this match report, but must have had a satisfactory game
as he was retained for the return match against Scunthorpe on
the following Thursday, 2nd September, when Grimsby
again lost to their local rivals, this time by the margin of
Archer distinguished himself in this game by making a good save
from a penalty taken by Scunthorpe’s ace penalty-taker, Jack
Brownsword. This is the only game John Archer played for Grimsby
where the local paper featured a photo of him during a game,
albeit of poor quality (the photo that is, not the save!).
was in his time one of the most deadly penalty-takers in the
English league. I remember reading a story that illustrates this
well. In the late 1950s or early 1960s Tony Macedo, a goalkeeper
who played for Fulham, began to experiment with new techniques
when facing penalties. One was for the keeper to stand not
halfway along the goal-line as was and still is normal, but to
stand two-thirds of the way along the line. This presented the
penalty-taker with a dilemma: should he aim for the two-thirds
of the goal, where the keeper would be sure to dive and just try
to place it out of the keeper’s reach, or aim for the narrow
one-third, being sure that if the aim was accurate enough a goal
would be certain. The problem would be that aiming for one-third
of the goal would require deadly accuracy, and few
penalty-takers would be THAT confident of their skills. Jack
Brownsword was said to be one of the very few who took a penalty
against Tony Macedo, aimed for the narrow gap, and succeeded in
scoring. He had a long and distinguished career as a full-back
with Scunthorpe United, and still holds the record number of
league appearances for the club, 595.
following game was away to Stockport two days later on Saturday
4th September, and ended 0-0. Again John Archer was
acclaimed for his performance in goal.
holds fort in tip-top style
fighting display, especially in defence, earned Grimsby Town a
point at Edgeley Park this afternoon. Stockport County always
had much more of the play and were always threatening, yet the
Town defence held on. The hero of the game, as far as Grimsby
were concerned, was John Archer, who made many first-class
only one win in the first five games things were not going well
for Grimsby. In the sixth game, at home to Chester, an
unconvincing display by Grimsby resulted nevertheless in a 3-1
win, in front of a home crowd of 9,982.
Archer had strained a tendon in that Chester game and the
regular goalkeeper, Clarrie Williams, took his place in goal and
kept that place for the next seven games, even though those
games consisted of two wins and five defeats, and even though
Archer was soon fit again.
return came a whole month later, on Saturday 9th
October, in a home game against Wrexham. Grimsby lost that game
3-1, and the main comments about Grimsby’s performance
concerned their lack of fire-power up front, rather than any
failings in defence. Wrexham were adjudged to have achieved a
following Saturday, 16th October, Archer kept his
place in goal for the game away to Accrington Stanley. Grimsby
lost this game 3-0 and, for the first time, Archer was adjudged
to have had a bad game, being held directly responsible for two
of the goals, although he also made some good saves.
this, and despite playing in a Lincolnshire Cup game in midweek
against Lincoln City on Tuesday 19th October, when he
scored an own goal, he retained his place for the next league
game at home to Mansfield Town on Saturday 23rd
proved to be a hard-fought game and ended in a 3-2 win for
Grimsby, which lifted them up to fifth from bottom of the table.
John Archer’s performance in goal was described as sound and
he distinguished himself with another penalty save, from
Mansfield’s Oscar Fox, when Grimsby were already 3-2 ahead.
Archer, the Mariners’ goalkeeper, gave a praiseworthy
performance culminating in the saving of the penalty taken by
Fox after the Town had built up a 3-2 lead."
goal at this stage might have meant the loss of one point – or
possibly both – and Archer must take a share of the honours
for Grimsby’s success."
was his second penalty save of the season. (N.B. Jeff Trice
writes on his website that John Archer made three penalty saves
in his time with Grimsby Town, but I have only been able to
establish two – which is still a pretty remarkable record! And
it’s a hundred per cent record: two penalties faced, two
next game was on Saturday 30th October away to
Workington, then managed by Bill Shankly, who had had a spell as
Grimsby manager and had left the club just nine months
previously. (This was several years before his famously
successful era at Liverpool began in 1959. Between Workington
and Liverpool Bill Shankly had a spell as manager at
Huddersfield Town, where he is still fondly remembered by those
with long memories here in my present home town, especially for
signing a shy bespectacled 15 year old boy from junior football
in Scotland and introducing him to league football with
Huddersfield at the age of 16. The boy’s name was Denis Law.)
game against Workington turned out to be a pretty even game
ending in a 2-2 draw. Both keepers were said to have made good
saves. This turned out to be John Archer’s last league game.
Clarrie Williams was recalled for the next league game, and
continued in goal for the rest of the season, which included a
good F.A. Cup run where, after defeating Halifax Town and
Southampton in the first two rounds, Grimsby Town were drawn at
home to the mighty Wolverhampton Wanderers in the third round.
They went 2-0 up in this match, only to fade later in the game
and end up losing 5-2.
is one more game in which John Archer took part which is worth
mentioning. On Wednesday 2nd November, four days
after what turned out to be Archer’s last league game, Grimsby
Town played at home to an International XI in a friendly under
the floodlights of Blundell Park and John Archer played in goal
for the home side. He found himself attempting to save shots
from the likes of Jackie Milburn and Wilf Mannion. Before a
crowd of 10,914, Grimsby played against a team comprising of
ex-internationals and other guests, several of them still
players, other ex-players, some of whom were now managers.
Grimsby managed to win the game 6-4, though.
It is worth taking
a closer look at some of the players who were on display that
night for the international XI:
... showed that he still had electrifying pace and scored twice past
the helpless Archer. Milburn was still playing for Newcastle and had
not played for England since 1951 but, a year later in 1955, he
played one more game for England.
... had just left Middlesbrough after a long career as an
inside-forward which included 26 caps for England. He was one of
Middlesbrough’s greatest footballing heroes.
Manchester City (previously of Carlisle and Newcastle) had six
months before, played at inside-forward for England against
Hungary away in the famous 7-1 humiliation of England. He
distinguished himself by scoring the one goal! He won a total
of14 England caps.
Sheffield United was the goalkeeper. He had no England caps but
had been an England reserve.
no caps but had been a prolific goalscorer with Newcastle and
later with Grimsby, and had by now retired from playing.
at this time Barnsley manager, but had won two England caps as a
wing-half while with Derby County.
won seven England caps as a winger while with Aston Villa, and
was now on the staff at Notts County.
manager at Shrewsbury and had won 26 England caps as a
right-winger during a playing career with Derby County.
played for Newcastle for many years, and later had a 13-year
spell as Newcastle manager between 1962 and 1975.
must have been a truly memorable game for John Archer and it turned out to be his last game for Grimsby’s first team.
Archer continued to play for the club reserve team in the
Midland League and sometimes for the “A” team in the
Lincolnshire League. He must have still been regarded as a fine
prospect for the future by the club but, as an 18 year old lad
living so far away from home in the middle of what turned out to
be a harsh winter with a lot of snow, it is no wonder that he
began to get homesick.
Playing for Grimsby reserves or “A”
team in front of at most a few hundred spectators cannot have
felt much different from playing for Whitstable at Belmont. He
must have also begun to feel that the prospects for his football
future would be better served back home in Kent and, on 18th
January, it was announced by the club that John Archer’s
contract with Grimsby Town had been cancelled by mutual
agreement because of his homesickness. The club were very
reluctant to agree to this.
following reports come from the Grimsby Evening Telegraph on 19th
and 22nd January:
continued to struggle through the rest of the season. In March
1955 Billy Walsh left the club, and he was replaced by Allenby
Chilton, a man who had a long career as a centre-half with
Manchester United and two England caps, but had recently been
replaced in the Manchester United team by Mark Jones, one of the
“Busby Babes” who later died in the Munich disaster. Chilton
came to Grimsby as player-manager.
Chilton was unable to save Grimsby Town from finishing 23rd
in the Division 3 North that season, and having to apply for
re-election. However, the following season he took them to the
Division 3 North championship, and they spent three years back
in Division 2 before being relegated again.
Archer’s football career back home in Kent has been
well-documented by Jeff Trice. To summarise briefly, Archer came
straight back to play for Whitstable. He then had two seasons with Canterbury
(while he did his
National Service). A second spell with Whitstable was
followed by spells with Ashford and Margate. He finished his
career with a third spell with Whitstable. Apart from football,
he finished his apprenticeship as a boat builder and later
went into the building business with one of his brothers. He is
also remembered as a solid wicketkeeper-batsman for Whitstable
'Bonny' Archer died in 1987 but is fondly remembered by a whole generation of
Whitstable football fans.
would be good to know how the nickname “Bonny” originated.
There is no indication of his being known as “Bonny” while
look forward to comments and additional information from the
Simply Whitstable readership.
thanks go to the Grimsby Telegraph for permission to reproduce extracts
from reports and to Jeff Trice of http://www.margatefchistory.co.uk/