Baden Powell: A tribute
The club was saddened last month to hear of the death of former player Baden Powell. Here, Bob Wray pays tribute to the fine sportsman…
The recent sad passing of one of South Shields Football Club’s most outstanding and well remembered players of the 1950s and early 60s is an occasion to salute the memory of an outstanding sportsman who it was my privilege and great pleasure to know as a good friend and in latter years as a colleague in local education.
Many of that ‘certain age’ will indeed recall with much pleasure his skill, ability and speed that delighted us with his great wing play in halcyon times at Simonside Hall, with many superb displays in numerous great games recalled.
To all who knew him he was also one of nature’s real gentlemen, a most interesting and sociable conversationalist, and a knowledgeable and very likeable person.
He was born in Hebburn on June 17, 1931, and his formative years in local football were spent as a member of the most noteworthy South Shields Ex School Boys X1, in the celebrated Jarrow and District JOC and North East Industrial League during the years 1945-50.
This junior league was widely considered to be one of the best in the country for developing talent, and from which came such outstanding players as Stan Mortensen, Blackpool and England, Ronnie Sales, Newcastle United and South Shields, Ernie Brown, Newcastle United and South Shields, and John Burn, Chelsea, Carlisle United and South Shields, being a few examples along with dozens of others who made the grade.
Indicative of this fact, during this period the entire South Shields Ex School Boys team all signed professional forms for league clubs.
When he was 18 years of age, he had trials for Sheffield United (two games) and also for Tottenham Hotspur (four games), and played for the club’s under-21s against the England under-21s at White Hart Lane.
He then signed professional forms (part-time) with Darlington in the Football League Third Division 1949-50, where he stayed for four seasons.
While with Darlington, he completed two years National Service with the Royal Air Force, and when stationed at RAF North Weald in Essex he played for Chelmsford City in the Southern League.
He was also a Powderhall sprinter of tremendous ability, and achieved the most noteworthy distinction of the achievement of 100 yards in 10.2 seconds; this special talent and ability marked him as a winger possessed of great speed, which was one of his outstanding football qualities.
At the age of 23, he was released by Darlington and in August 1954 became one of South Shields AFC’s best 1950s signings.
In his usual position of outside right, he was a regular first team player for the eight seasons he spent with the Mariners, and several exciting cup runs were made during those years, with games against numerous Football League clubs.
Luton Town in 1957, then of the First Division, offered him full-time terms, but the offer was not sufficiently attractive with the then maximum wage being in force.
Others clubs such as Millwall, Workington Town and Hartlepool United also showed an interest in acquiring his registration.
He followed club manager Charlie Thomas to Horden CW for a final 1962 -63 season, and then decided to retire from the game and thereafter followed his second sporting love with the South Shields Golf Club.
Baden also very much enjoyed the sport as a caddy, and had the pleasure of association in that capacity with Ryder Cup team member Peter Butler for many years.
Baden was a great sportsman, and proved himself not only to be an outstanding footballer, but with also a talent for golf where his application, dedication and passion was readily apparent.
In professional life he was a draughtsman and was employed at Reyrolles in Hebburn, following which he entered education and became a mathematics teacher, at several schools including Harton Comprehensive, where I was pleased to know him well and where he was a valued and popular member of staff highly regarded by his colleagues.
He will be remembered with much affection by elder South Shields FC supporters who recall his long and meritorious service at Simonside Hall, where his exciting and explosive speed on the wing was a feature and the undoing of many opposing defences.
He was a good shot with both feet, plus an accurate crosser of balls into danger areas and also with pin point corners, and equally good with his head.
He was the complete team player of great value to colleagues, management and an outstanding club man.
Baden is epitomised with a few most appropriate verses borrowed and slightly amended from a poem written for the occasion of his school retirement by a colleague:
We saw him once, you do all know,
Football playing so long ago
North Eastern League at Sima Hall
A clever dilettante with ball.
Thud and blunder centre backs
Chill air thick with oaths and hacks
“Keep it on the floor!”, or “Quick Get rid!”
Out on the flank the winger hid.
Fleet of foot with sparkling glimmer
Past lesser legs and minds much dimmer
Drifting through the heaving thighs
Floating a cross which hangs and sighs.
No sign upon the far right wing
Of where he’d made the football sing
Mercurial and light as lace
His twinkling play had left no trace.
Skipping inside masterly
He’d moved the ball so skilfully
And through a throng of brawn and muscle
The net was heard to gently rustle.
And so …
With stylish healthy all year tan
For ever the witty gentleman
A sporting jest for one and all
His mind as ever “on the ball”………