Frank Dudley: Free-scoring footballer of the 1940s and '50s

He created a record when his first three goals of the 1953-54 season were all for different clubs

Painful experience acquainted two prominent names of the post-war era in English football, Jimmy Hill and Ron Greenwood, with the qualities which brought Frank Dudley a highly respectable 120 goals in 295 Football League appearances in an 11-year career that led him from his home-town team, Southend United, via Leeds United, Southampton and Cardiff City, to Brentford.

The setting was a Second Division fixture at Brentford's Griffin Park ground on Christmas Day, 1951. Dudley was playing for Southampton with the score 1-1 when he took possession on the wing. Cutting inside he was faced by Greenwood – later to manage England – who stood off and tried to stall him rather than moving into the tackle and potentially allowing Dudley to pick out a colleague who had joined the counter-attack.

The angle was not conducive to shooting, but Dudley, who Hill – the future players' union leader, manager and TV pundit –described in his autobiography as "pacy, strong and gangly with a penchant for the unexpected", somehow squeezed the ball past the goalkeeper for Southampton's winner. Brentford's manager, Jack Gibbons, denounced Greenwood so vehemently in the dressing-room that he requested a transfer. Hill joined him on the list "out of loyalty and a sense of justice".

Dudley, who scored numerous headed goals and possessed a fierce shot, could play inside-forward, centre-forward or on either flank. He twice won the Professional Footballers' Sprint and secured a place in football's annals for a unique feat in the 1953-54 season. His first three goals were not scored for three different clubs in different divisions, Southampton (Third Division South), Cardiff (First) and Brentford (Second).

At the age of 15 Dudley had stood only 5ft 4in. By the time his RAF service ended and he joined Southend towards the end of their war-time league programme, in 1945, he had shot up to 5ft 11in and developed a turn of pace befitting his club's domicile at the greyhound stadium where they played before moving to Roots Hall. Early in 1949-50, after 33 goals in 88 appearances, he was transferred to Leeds in an exchange deal which saw Albert Wakefield join Southend and Dudley's weekly wage soar from £7 to £12 plus bonuses. Another newcomer settling into Major Frank Buckley's team, 17-year-old John Charles, later commanded a world-record fee of £65,000 and became a prolific marksman for Leeds and Juventus. However, the Welshman was then a centre-half, and Dudley headed the club's Second Division scoring chart with 12 goals in his first season.

He also played a stirring part in Leeds' progress to the last eight of the FA Cup that season, the furthest they had ever ventured, by scoring four times in a run that ended at Highbury against the eventual winners, Arsenal. Midway through the following season, after barely 18 months at Elland Road, he had contributed a further 11 goals when Buckley swapped him for Southampton's Ernie Stevenson. Dudley signed for the Saints on a Leeds-London train.

His consistent scoring record continued at The Dell, where he struck 32 times in 67 matches, although 1952-53 brought fluctuating fortunes. Despite being stricken with appendicitis at one point, he compiled 14 goals from 23 games, 12 coming in a mid-season spree including hat-tricks against Doncaster Rovers and Fulham. Yet Southampton were relegated for the first time and Dudley endured a rare off-night in a fifth-round home defeat by Blackpool in an FA Cup replay. Years later, Stanley Matthews told him, only half-jokingly, that the "Matthews final" would never have happened if he had been his customary ruthless self.

A third exchange deal, sending him to Cardiff with Bobby McLaughlin going the opposite way, saw Dudley enter the First Division for the only time in September 1953. Although he marked his arrival with a goal, he was plagued by knee problems. After only four months and as many matches the Brentford manager Bill Dodgin Snr signed him and saw to it his cartilages were removed. Again he maintained an impressive ratio of goals (32) to games (72), later saying that Brentford – who let him travel from Southend and train with his first club – was where he was happiest.

Leaving the professional game in 1956, Dudley played part-time for Folkestone Town. Between 1961 and '65 he coached the youth team at Southend, one of whose players, John Russell, married his daughter, Sue. In a 25-year career in local government he rose to chief officer but kept up his interest in football, becoming a shareholder and season-ticket holder at Roots Hall. A quiet, modest man who kept a programme and report from every match he played, he spent his final years in a nursing home suffering from the brittle-bone disease osteoporosis.

Frank Ernest Dudley, footballer: born Southend 9 May 1925; played for Southend United 1945-49, Leeds United 1949-51, Southampton 1951-53, Cardiff City 1953, Brentford 1953-56; married Audrey (deceased; two daughters); died Southend 14 September 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions