Wilf Carter: Striker who led Plymouth’s late-1950s rise

 

Wilf Carter was Plymouth Argyle’s sharpshooter-in-chief for six seasons early in the second half of the 20th century, his goals a key factor in the Pilgrims lifting the first championship of the newly constituted Third Division in 1958-59.

That season, the lithe, darting Black Countryman was the leading scorer in manager Jack Rowley’s entertaining side, with 22 League strikes, taking the eye alongside his almost equally prolific fellow inside-forward Jimmy Gauld, whose name would be tarnished forever for his central role in the match-fixing bribes scandal of the early 1960s, several years after he had left the club.

There was nothing tricky about the impeccably sportsmanlike and honest Carter. He didn’t indulge in mesmeric manoeuvres to bamboozle his markers; he was pacy and direct, a predatory opportunist eager to shoot with either foot from any angle, one blessed with an instinctive appreciation of space in a crowded penalty box and a knack for exploiting it.

Carter took his first steps in the senior game with one of his local clubs, West Bromwich Albion, with whom he turned professional as a 17-year-old in January 1951, then made his top-flight entrance in a 1-0 defeat at Fulham in the following September. In that era, however, the Baggies were plentifully endowed with high-class attackers – current and future England internationals Ronnie Allen, Johnny Nicholls, Bobby Robson and Derek Kevan were all on the rise at the Hawthorns during the first half of the decade – and Carter proved unable to command a regular place in manager Vic Buckingham’s enterprising XI.

In urgent need of first-team football to restore his impetus, in March 1957 he headed south-west to join Plymouth of the Third Division South in a package deal with reserve goalkeeper Geoff Barnsley for the modest combined fee of £2,500. At Home Park, Carter was quickly into his stride, scoring 32 times in his first campaign in a green shirt, then leading the title charge a season later and continuing to thrive as a Pilgrim for another five years.

Profiting particularly from the sophisticated service of the cultured play-making wing-half Johnny Williams, he totalled 148 goals in his 274 league and cup appearances, an impressive tally outstripped for Argyle only by between-the-wars marksman Sammy Black, who scored 185 times. Carter’s aggregate included seven hat-tricks, plus, best of all as the club consolidated in the second tier, a haul of five in a 6-4 home win over Charlton Athletic in December 1960.

Yet for all his impressive marksmanship, the amiable Carter was an unselfish footballer, every inch a team man, one of the most popular characters in the Devonians’ dressing room. In May 1964, having reached his thirties, he joined Exeter City of the Third Division, with whom he suffered relegation in 1966, then left to become an influential captain and midfield schemer with Southern League Bath City.

Wilfred Carter, footballer: born Wednesbury, Staffordshire 4 October 1933; played for West Bromwich Albion 1951-57, Plymouth Argyle 1957-64, Exeter City 1964-66; married (one son, two daughters); died Bath 4 August 2013.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk