Roy Warhurst: Dynamic midfielder known as 'The Destroyer' who helped Birmingham City blaze a trail in 1950s Europe

 

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The Independent Online

Roy Warhurst was a dynamic midfield dreadnought who drove Birmingham City forward as the second-city Blues touched the loftiest peaks in their long and often frustrating history. The forceful Yorkshireman, "The Destroyer" to St Andrew's regulars, was a purveyor of raw power on the left of a formidable half-back line which included captain Len Boyd on the right and central stopper Trevor Smith as City became champions of the second tier in 1955.

He remained a colossal influence in the following season as they finished a sixth in the top flight and reached the FA Cup final, going to Wembley with soaring hopes of their first triumph in the competition. Alas, Warhurst missed out on the gala occasion, having damaged a thigh muscle in the sixth-round victory over Arsenal, and to this day there are Birmingham supporters who declare that they would have beaten Manchester City, instead of losing 3-1, had their tank-like talisman been fit.

Unusually for a player who made his name as a ball-winner, Warhurst had begun his career as a winger, putting in a brief amateur stint with Huddersfield Town, then signing for Sheffield United in September 1944. He featured in only a handful of games on the Blades' left flank before an £8,000 fee took him to Birmingham in March 1950, a few weeks before the Blues were relegated to the Second Division.

At first his progress was slow, but a switch to left-half in the autumn of 1951 transformed his fortunes, and he laid regular claim to the No 6 shirt at the end of that campaign, in which Bob Brocklebank's men missed promotion only on goal average. Thereafter he was a fixture in the side for the next six years, encompassing the 1955 promotion, the search for FA Cup glory, another Cup run in 1957, when Birmingham lost to Manchester United in the last four, and a spell as captain after the departure of Boyd.

There was also a part in an exciting European adventure, when City entered the inaugural Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in May 1956, becoming the first English club to join in official continental competition. After beating Internazionale with Warhurst in the team, they lost to Barcelona in the semi-final, but by then, with the tournament spread over two years, the 30-year-old had been sold to Manchester City, the £10,000 deal completed in June 1957.

After excelling as the Maine Road men finished fifth in the 1957-58 title race, he suffered injury, his influence declined and he left for Crewe Alexandra in March 1959. There followed a switch to Oldham Athletic in June 1960, but soon he joined non-League Banbury Spencer. Later he became a scrap-metal dealer in Birmingham.

Roy Warhurst, footballer: born Sheffield 18 September 1926; died 7 January 2014.

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