Obituary: Roy Vernon

Thomas Royston Vernon, footballer: born Ffynnongroyw, north Wales 14 April 1937; played for Blackburn Rovers 1955-60, Everton 1960-65, Stoke City 1965-70, Halifax Town 1970; capped 32 times for Wales 1957- 67; died Blackburn 5 December 1993.

ROY VERNON was a colourful, at times tempestuous Welshman blessed with a vivid talent for football and an ebullient, buccaneering character in which there was no trace of false modesty. Thus, when asked at height of his career, in the mid-Sixties, to name the outstanding goal-scorers in the land, he replied, in a tone of cool certainty: 'There's Denis Law, there's Jimmy Greaves and then there's me.'

Those privileged to witness the quicksilver Scot and the predatory Englishman in their spectacular prime may be disinclined to include Vernon in such illustrious company. Yet the very comparison speaks volumes for Vernon's credentials as one of the most lethal marksmen of the post-war era.

To those who knew him as a teenager, there was little doubt that he was headed for the heights. Vernon's sportsmaster at Rhyl Grammar School, who helped nurture the gifts of many a prospective professional footballer, reckoned he could teach him nothing. As he excelled in local football, Vernon proved a magnet to the big clubs. But, ever one to go his own way, he rejected the overtures of Everton - whom he would one day lead to glory - and Manchester United, signing instead for Blackburn Rovers, reasoning that he would encounter less keen competition at Ewood Park. Thereafter Vernon's progress was rapid. He made his top-flight debut in 1955 and some 18 months later, not yet 20, he won the first of 32 full caps for Wales. In 1957-58 he was an integral part of the Rovers side that won promotion to the First Division, and then crowned his season by appearing in the World Cup finals in Sweden.

But Vernon was a headstrong young man prone to question authority, and after a succession of rows with the Rovers manager, Dally Duncan, he was sold to Everton for pounds 27,000 plus the Everton striker Eddie Thomas. At Goodison Park his game matured and Vernon blossomed into a magnificent taker and maker of goals with a delightful range of skills, one minute silky and subtle, the next venomously incisive. Striking up a potent partnership with the Scot Alex Young, Vernon topped Everton's scoring chart in each of his four complete seasons with the Blues, eventually netting 110 times in 200 senior games. His finest hour came in 1962-63 when he captained Everton to the League championship and it was fitting that he scored a hat-trick against Fulham on the day the title was clinched.

However, controversy continued to dog his footsteps. On Merseyside he came under the iron disciplinary rule of the Everton manager, Harry Catterick, who could not accept Vernon's free-wheeling, rather sardonic outlook, and Vernon was once sent home from a United States tour for breaking a curfew. But Catterick was determined to make the most of him. He gave Vernon the captaincy in the hope that responsibility would have a mellowing effect - an imaginative move which met with some success.

Clearly, though, the two men were not compatible in the long- term and in 1965 Vernon joined Stoke City for pounds 40,000, still only 28 and with plenty left to give. During five years in the Potteries he contributed impressively if fitfully, a niggling knee injury reducing his effectiveness all too often. Eventually, after a brief sojourn with Halifax Town, Vernon wound down his career in South Africa before returning to Lancashire to play football for fun in the amateur ranks.

If his pace had departed, his skill was as sharp as ever, and so was his sense of humour. Once told by an earnest non-League boss that his midfield couldn't find him because he was standing still, Vernon responded: 'If they can't find me when I'm standing still, how the hell do you expect them to find me if I'm running around.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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 People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Recruitment Genius: HR Consultant

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An HR Consultant is required to join thi...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable