Charlie Wayman - Obituaries - News - The Independent

Charlie Wayman

Short but lethal centre-forward


Charles Wayman, footballer: born Chilton, Co Durham 16 May 1921; played for Newcastle United 1941-47, Southampton 1947-50, Preston North End 1950-54, Middlesbrough 1954-56, Darlington 1956-58; married (four sons, two daughters); died 26 February 2006.

Charlie Wayman was an ebullient, bouncily inventive, prodigiously prolific centre-forward, a pint-sized predator who topped the scoring charts for a succession of major football clubs in the decade immediately after the Second World War. Many knowledgeable observers deemed the affable north-easterner a world-class finisher, and it was an outrage to them that he didn't win a single England cap.

The most obvious explanation for the omission was that Wayman was in competition for his country's No 9 shirt with the stellar likes of Tommy Lawton, Nat Lofthouse and Roy Bentley. A more contentious theory was that he couldn't find favour with members of the selection committee with which the team coach Walter Winterbottom was required to work - a group often derided by professionals for its collective lack of knowledge about the game - because they believed that, at 5ft 6in, he was too short for the international arena.

Such a stance was risible, as anyone would testify who had witnessed the quicksilver left-footer making buffoons out of towering defenders and rattling in the goals, 255 of them in 382 League appearances, season after season for Newcastle United, Southampton, Preston North End, Middlesbrough and, at the tag-end of his career, humble Darlington. Intelligent team-mates did not play the ball to Wayman in the air. They would deliver it to his feet, or into space behind his markers, a territory of uncertainty in which he was lethal.

Endowed with exquisite mastery over a moving ball, he loved to demonstrate a trademark trick, which involved flicking the leather over the head of a bemused opponent, nipping round the other side and catching it on his instep before clouting an invariably ferocious shot towards goal. It wasn't that he was flamboyant - in fact, for all his pugnacious manner on the pitch he was an engagingly unassuming individual - but it was a crowd-pleasing manoeuvre that the brave, elusive little marksman simply couldn't resist.

Like most of his schoolfriends, Wayman started his working life in the local coalfield, but, after excelling in the Chilton Colliery football team, then moving up to non-League Spennymoor United, he asked Newcastle United for a trial, which earned him a contract in 1941.

During the war he served as an able seaman in the Royal Navy before returning to essential work in the mines, but still found time to further his football development, scoring 35 goals in 71 games for the Magpies in unofficial emergency competitions as well as guesting briefly for Portsmouth. When peace resumed, Wayman was Second Division Newcastle's first-choice inside-left, making his senior entrance in a home FA Cup encounter with Barnsley in January 1946, then becoming leader of the attack in the following autumn.

His first game at centre-forward, against Newport County at St James' Park, was to prove eventful. After missing a penalty in the first minute, he netted four times, then contributed significantly to a double hat-trick for a debutant Len Shackleton as the hapless visitors were thrashed 13-0, a Football League record. That season the 24-year-old scored 34 goals in 46 outings as the spearhead of an extravagantly entertaining forward line which also contained the star inside-forwards Shackleton and Roy Bentley, and high-quality wingers Jackie Milburn and Tommy Pearson.

But the term was soured, not only by United's narrow failure to gain promotion but also by what appeared to Wayman to be a mild disagreement with the trainer Norman Smith on the eve of an FA Cup semi-final against Charlton Athletic. However, the club took a dim view of perceived insubordination, the leading scorer was controversially dropped for the match and the Magpies were drubbed 4-0.

It was a time of turbulence at the club, when other players were threatening strike action over a housing dispute, so Wayman might have been a victim of circumstance. Whatever the truth, which never came out publicly, his relationship with his employers never recovered and in October 1947 he was sold to Southampton, also of Division Two, for a club record fee of £10,000. It was a transfer which upset many supporters, but which facilitated the subsequent relocation of Milburn from outside-right to centre-forward, a position in which he blossomed luxuriantly as the Magpies lifted the FA Cup three times in the early 1950s.

On the south coast, where he had been promised "a strawberries-and-cream life style", a vivid contrast to his gritty north-eastern upbringing, Wayman was seen as the catalyst for the future success of a rapidly improving side which included the full-back Alf Ramsey, destined to lead England to World Cup ecstasy in 1966, and the dynamic inside-forward Ted Bates. Almost instantly he became a folk hero at the Dell, his reputation massaged by a five-goal spree at home to Leicester City in October 1948, but there was serial frustration in three successive near-misses in the promotion race.

Having seen the Saints pipped by goal average (the absurdly complicated precursor to goal difference) in 1949/50, and with his family not settling contentedly despite the ample supplies of soft fruit, Wayman hankered for a move back to the north. Thus in September 1950 he was transferred to Preston North End in exchange for £10,000 and his fellow striker Eddy Brown, and quickly became established as a Deepdale favourite.

Meshing fluently with the brilliant Tom Finney, practically a one-man forward line in himself, Wayman delivered an avalanche of goals, 27 in 34 matches, as the Lilywhites romped to the Second Division title in his first season on Ribbleside. Thereafter he continued to provide a fearsome cutting edge as Preston consolidated their place among the élite by finishing seventh in 1951/52, then ending 1952/53 as championship runners-up to Arsenal, Wayman again suffering goal-average agony.

There was yet another close encounter with glory at the climax of the 1953/54 campaign when North End were beaten in the FA Cup Final by West Bromwich Albion. Wayman had found the net in every round on the way to Wembley, and did so again beneath the twin towers, albeit from a position which looked suspiciously offside when he latched on to a raking through-pass from Tommy Docherty to give his side a 2-1 advantage. However, the Baggies proved resilient, fighting back to triumph 3-2.

Not surprisingly, there was uproar in the town during the following autumn when Wayman, the top scorer in each of his four terms at Deepdale and with six goals in his six games to date in the latest campaign, was dispatched to Middlesbrough for £8,000. The manager Frank Hill's rationale was that, at 33, the centre-forward's best days were behind him, but he continued to hit the target regularly on Teesside, his goals hugely instrumental in the Second Division club's attaining two years of mid-table safety.

In December 1956, having slowed appreciably, Wayman accepted his final move, to Darlington of the Third Division North, whom he served conscientiously - he had always been dedicated to physical fitness - until a knee injury prompted his departure from the professional game in April 1958.

Later he coached briefly at non-League Evenwood Town, and worked as a representative for Scottish and Newcastle Breweries before retiring to live in his native North-East.

Wayman, whose younger brother Frank played fleetingly for Chester and Darlington, was a warm and lively character, beloved of supporters for his ear-to-ear grin as well as his goals.

Ivan Ponting

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