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Obituary: Frank Bowyer

LIKE A fellow Stoke City stalwart, Jimmy Greenhoff, in later years, Frank Bowyer was one of the finest footballers of his generation never to win an England cap. Standing between the unassuming local boy and international recognition was the proliferation of exceptionally talented inside-forwards who were plying their trade after the Second World War, such men as Raich Carter, Wilf Mannion and Len Shackleton.

At club level, though, Bowyer was a star in his own right, a craftsman who could create and score goals with equal facility. He was renowned for devastatingly accurate long-distance distribution, a savagely powerful shot and a certain grace of movement which delighted the eye. A one-club man throughout his League playing career, he served the Potters for more than two decades, making 436 senior appearances and netting 149 goals, three short of Freddie Steele's Stoke record.

The teenage Bowyer enlisted at the Victoria Ground in 1937, turning professional two years later. He was part of a sparkling crop of gifted youngsters whose impetus was jolted by the war, though he turned out for the club regularly in emergency competitions.

When peacetime play resumed, Stoke were a leading side, featuring the top player of the day, Stanley Matthews, and were beaten to the 1946/47 championship by Liverpool only on the season's final Saturday. However, Bowyer missed out on that, taking time to become re-established after his demob from the forces, and there were rumours about a possible transfer.

They came to nothing, though, and after making his senior debut in a home defeat by Manchester United in February 1948, he claimed a regular place at inside-right in 1948/49. That campaign was to be his most successful, as he led the First Division scoring charts until the spring, finishing with 21 goals, only four behind the top flight's most prolific marksman, Willie Moir of Bolton Wanderers.

Blossoming alongside such accomplished performers as the centre-half Neil Franklin and the defender-cum-half-back Frank Mountford, Bowyer moved to the verge of the England side, though never went closer than a Football Association tour of Canada in 1950.

He continued to excel for City, but the side declined and was relegated in 1952/53. Thereafter Bowyer remained a key contributor until 1959/60, which he finished as Stoke's leading scorer and, although he was aged 38, there was widespread disappointment among Potter's fans when he was not retained for another term.

Instead he accepted the player-managership of Macclesfield Town, then a non-League club, before leaving the game to become the caretaker of a secondary school in Newquay, Cornwall, also involving himself in local football.

Back in Stoke, Frank Bowyer is remembered as one of the most eminent of all City players, a reminder of long-gone days when the Potters were a genuine power in the land.

Ivan Ponting

Francis Bowyer, footballer: born Chesterton, Staffordshire 10 April 1922; played for Stoke City 1937-60; married (two daughters); died Newquay, Cornwall 11 November 1999.