Terry Bly: Strong and brave striker who holds the post-war record for most league goals in a season

When football fans with elephantine memories gather together and the talk turns to prolific goalscorers, the likes of Dixie Dean and Arthur Rowley, Jimmy Greaves and Alan Shearer crop up as a matter of course. But if mention is not made of Terry Bly, there is something seriously lacking in the company's collective awareness of the most prolific sharp-shooters to grace the English professional game.

Peterborough United entered the Football League for the first time in 1960-61 and hit that somewhat staid institution like a blue-and-white tornado. Sweeping the opposition before them, they charged to the Fourth Division championship at the first attempt, and the tall, rangy East Anglian at the potent apex of their attack rattled in an astonishing 52 goals, a figure which still stands as the most in one league season by any post-war marksman. Indeed, only four men in the competition's history have surpassed his mark, with Dean's 60 for Everton in 1927-28 being the highest total.

Bly was not blessed with delicate skills, but he was strong, brave and overwhelmingly enthusiastic, and he had a god-given instinct for being in the ideal position at the optimum time to execute that most basic but most infinitely demanding of sporting tasks: depositing a bouncing, spinning, elusive leather sphere between the opponents' posts.

During that gilded campaign at London Road he scored goals with his head, with both feet and with various other parts of his anatomy, his energy and determination proving far too taxing for most defenders in the basement tier to handle. Some critics called him cumbersome and inelegant, but the rampaging centre forward, his team-mates and his manager, Jimmy Hagan, were not bothered. They were laughing all the way to the Third Division.

Bly's achievement was all the more remarkable given that after joining Norwich City straight from school he was quickly rejected by them as not good enough. However, he impressed at a lower level with Bury Town and was welcomed back into the Canaries' fold in 1956.

His impetus was interrupted again by a knee operation, but he sprang to national notice in January 1959 by scoring twice as Third Division Norwich dumped Manchester United out of the FA Cup, beating Matt Busby's team 3-0 on a hard, snow-dusted surface at Carrow Road.

True, United had been devastated by the Munich air disaster which had claimed the lives of eight players only 11 months earlier, but they had just completed a sequence of eight successive top-flight victories and, with Bobby Charlton enjoying what was to prove the most bountiful scoring term of his career, still presented formidable opposition.

The result was greeted by one newspaper with the headline "Bly, Bly Babes", which was tolerably witty if possibly a trifle tasteless in view of United's recent bereavements.

Meanwhile, for the Canaries and their callow spearhead, the FA Cup adventure had barely begun. In the next round Bly struck twice more as Cardiff City were dispatched, then he contributed the only goal of a fifth-round replay with mighty Tottenham Hotspur, and added two more as Sheffield United were overcome in the last eight.

All seven of his goals had been plundered at Carrow Road, and when asked to continue his spree against Luton Town in the semi-final at Villa Park he was unable to oblige, and Archie Macaulay's plucky side bowed out 0-1. Thereafter Bly's progress as a Canary was steady rather than meteoric and he managed only seven strikes in 25 games as Norwich earned promotion in 1959-60. That summer, the 24-year-old was sold to League newcomers Peterborough for £5,000.

Soon he embarked on the season of his life, commencing with a goal in his first game for the Posh, at home to Wrexham, and finishing with his seventh hat-trick of the campaign as Barrow were beaten on the final day, when the title was clinched.

An immensely modest fellow, he attempted to deflect much of the credit for his individual feats in the direction of his team-mates, particularly the wingers Billy Hails and Peter McNamee, who had kept him so well supplied with the crosses from which he fed so voraciously.

Inevitably, Bly was never so prolific again, though in 1961-62 he did excel at the higher level, his 29 league strikes helping Peterborough to a creditable fifth-place finish in the Third Division table, which attracted the attention of a bold young manager by the name of Jimmy Hill, who took him to Coventry in a £12,000 deal in June 1962.

Hill was in the process of transforming City into an upwardly mobile and family-friendly club, launching what was dubbed the "Sky Blue Revolution" in an atmosphere of showbiz razz-matazz. He believed that Bly could provide the goals to lift them out of the third tier, but after the striker had weighed in with a commendable 25 in 32 appearances, his new boss lost faith in him and replaced him in April 1963 with his former Peterborough colleague George Hudson.

Though Hudson was an instant success, scoring a hat-trick on his debut, many Coventry fans were livid at what they saw as the unfair demise of their hero, who was sold to Notts County for £13,000 the following summer. In fact, Hudson was a more cultured all-round operator than Bly and the shrewd Hill had gauged that the new man was a better long-term bet for a club on the rise.

As Bly never truly sparked at Meadow Lane, where he was deployed alongside the future England centre forward Jeff Astle, and was allowed to move on to Grantham Town as player-manager in 1964, Hill could be said to be vindicated, though some Highfield Road regulars never forgave him for the transaction.

It says much for Bly that dropping down from the Football League at the age of 29 did nothing to lessen his overwhelming passion for the game, and over the next decade and a half he became a folk idol at the Lincolnshire club. Before laying aside his boots in 1970, he scored 125 goals in 199 outings for Grantham, and went on to manage the Gingerbreads in 719 games, then stepped aside in 1978 to concentrate on running a sports shop in the town. During his reign he led his men to four Midlands League crowns, two Midlands League Cup triumphs, a victory in the Lincolnshire County Cup and to FA Cup wins over Rochdale and Stockport County of the Football League.

Terry Bly will be remembered most widely for his never-likely-to-be-emulated tally in his Peterborough prime, but this amiable, unassuming but fiercely dedicated football man will never be forgotten at humble Grantham, either.

Ivan Ponting

Terence Geoffrey Bly, footballer: born Fincham, Norfolk 22 October 1935; played for Norwich City 1956-60, Peterborough United 1960-62, Coventry City 1962-63, Notts County 1963-64, player-manager, Grantham Town 1964-70, manager 1970-78; married (two daughters); died Normanton, Lincolnshire 24 September 2009.

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
Arts and Entertainment
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
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

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Field Sales - OTE £30,000

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a rapidly expanding offi...

Recruitment Genius: HVAC Project Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful candidate will b...

Recruitment Genius: Key Accounts Administrator - Fixed Term

£13500 - £14500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting new opportunity has...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - Business Services-£70,000 OTE

£35000 - £45000 per annum + OTE £70,000 + car + pension: h2 Recruit Ltd: A wel...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game