Dennis Stevens: Footballer who won the League and the FA Cup

Illogically, some people compared him to the incomparable – his cousin Duncan Edwards

Dennis Stevens was one of the most widely underrated footballers of his generation, but not by the people who mattered most, his fellow professionals. They knew that the prodigiously industrious, deceptively skilful inside-forward, who helped Bolton Wanders to FA Cup glory in 1958 and Everton to the League title five years later, was a veritable gem.

Many who knew him best categorise his lack of international recognition as, in sporting terms, an absolute outrage, but that never seemed to bother one of the most modest men in the business. He just got on with his job, unobtrusively but effectively, first as a feisty front-runner for the Trotters, then as a midfield workhorse at Goodison Park, forever ready to rescue a hard-pressed team-mate from trouble.

Maybe one reason for Stevens' lack of universal acclaim was that some people, illogically, compared him to the incomparable, his cousin Duncan Edwards, the young Manchester United leviathan who looked set to conquer the football world until his life was snuffed out by the Munich air disaster of 1958.

Stevens was recruited by Bolton when he was 15 and playing for Worcestershire Boys in 1948. He turned professional in 1950, made his senior entrance three years later and pinned down a regular place in the Trotters' top-flight line-up during 1955-56, when the England international Harold Hassall retired through injury.

As a tough and dashing secondary striker to that ultimate example of a bustling centre-forward, Nat Lofthouse, Stevens contributed 13 League goals in each of four successive seasons as Bolton rose as high as fourth in the table, and he was called into the England squad in April 1957 but was not awarded a cap.

However, his FA Cup exploits in 1958 earned him some headlines. First there were goals against Preston North End and Stoke City, then Wolverhampton Wanderers in the quarter-final, before he added another key contribution in the Wembley final against a Manchester United crippled by the depredations of the recent calamity.

With Bolton already a goal to the good, Stevens hit a typically rasping drive which the United keeper Harry Gregg could only palm skywards. As the ball dropped into the Irishman's waiting arms, he and it were barged unceremoniously into the net by the charging Lofthouse. Today any referee would blow for a foul, but in 1958 it was allowed and Bolton had won the trophy, deservedly enough on the run of play despite the controversial circumstances.

Stevens continued to prosper, and when Lofthouse was sidelined in 1959-60 he switched to centre-forward and was leading scorer with 15 goals. By the spring of 1962, just as he was achieving much-merited appreciation from the stands and terraces of Burnden Park, he was sold to Everton for £35,000, a club record for Bolton but still judged as inadequate by Trotters fans who reckoned a 28-year-old in the form of his life was worth plenty more.

Not that the Goodison faithful greeted him with open arms, as he was drafted in to replace local hero Bobby Collins, who had been transferred to Leeds United. Soon, though, Stevens won them round with his combination of expertise, honesty and sweat, playing the first 112 games after his arrival without a break, and proving the perfect foil for more exotic attacking talents such as Alex Young and Roy Vernon.

Stevens did most of his work in a much deeper position than the two illustrious marksmen, proving a study in perpetual motion, tearing around the pitch chasing, tackling and occasionally shooting, as if his very existence depended on it. Standing only 5ft 7in but exceedingly strong, he didn't believe in lost causes and for all his assurance on the ball, it was often his sheer vigour which left the deepest impression on opponents. Stevens didn't major in moments of magic, but the cumulative effect of his relentless but perceptive labour in the engine room of Harry Catterick's well organised team was a colossal factor in Everton's League championship triumph in 1962-63, his first full season as a Toffee.

In 1964-65 Stevens moved back from inside-forward to wing-half as Catterick reshuffled following the arrival of centre-forward Fred Pickering from Blackburn Rovers, and soon the ageing Midlander was having difficulty in resisting the high-quality challenge of the thrusting young Merseysider, Colin Harvey.

Accordingly, in December 1965, the 32-year-old Stevens joined Third Division Oldham Athletic in a £30,000 deal, and applied himself with typical practicality in aiding the Latics' escape from relegation to the bottom division that season.

In March 1967 he switched to Tranmere Rovers, whom he helped to secure promotion to the Third Division that spring, only for a back injury to end his career during the following campaign.

Thus Stevens left the game without a full cap, his representative honours being limited to a pair of England under-23 appearances and an outing for the Football League, all during his Bolton days. But when this delightfully unassuming fellow left football to set up a gents' outfitters in the Harwood area of Bolton, he could do so with the admiring words of an old Burnden Park colleague, the forthright Tommy Banks, ringing in his ears. Said the indefatigable England full-back: "They used to queue up to clobber Stevie – but they had to catch him first!"

Dennis Stevens, footballer: born Dudley, Worcestershire 30 November 1933; played for Bolton Wanderers 1950-62, Everton 1962-65, Oldham Athletic 1965-67, Tranmere Rovers 1967-68; married (two sons); died Bolton 20 December 2012.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam