Obituary: George Marks

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The Independent Online
William George Marks, footballer: born Figheldean, Wiltshire 9 April 1915; played for Arsenal 1936-46, Blackburn Rovers 1946-48, Bristol City 1948, Reading 1948-53; married; died Salisbury, Wiltshire 22 January 1998.

Five thousand pounds would barely buy a day's labour from a top footballer today, yet in 1946 it was enough to make George Marks the world's most expensive goalkeeper.

Curiously in such record-breaking circumstances, his transfer from Arsenal to Blackburn Rovers came about because he was no longer wanted by the Gunners, his best years having been lost to the Second World War.

Though he played only two League games for the north Londoners - whom he had joined from the amateur side Salisbury Corinthians in 1936 - he finished the season of 1938/39 as their first-choice keeper, then went on to help them win the Football League South Cup in 1942/43. Most notably, though, he highlighted his potential by representing England in eight wartime internationals between 1941 and 1943.

Official caps were not awarded for these matches, availability of players being something of a lottery at the time, yet Marks's selection for his country alongside the likes of Stanley Matthews and Tommy Lawton reflected the immense regard in which he was held and proved he was one of the most accomplished net-minders of his era.

However Marks, who had served with the RAF during the war, lost his Highbury place to George Swindin in January 1946 after failing to gain leave to play in an FA Cup tie. Seven months later came the move to Blackburn, for whom he played magnificently for half a season before suffering a severe jaw injury. Thereafter a combination of fluctuating form and the fact that he lived and trained in his native West Country combined to bring about a transfer to Bristol City in August 1948.

Two months later Marks, now 33, signed for Readingwhom he served nobly in the old Third Division South until 1953. There followed two years as a trainer-coach at Elm Park before he left the professional game, no doubt wondering what might have been had the war not coincided with his footballing pomp.

Marks, a delightfully modest fellow, spent the remainder of his working life as a local government officer in his native Wiltshire.

- Ivan Ponting

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