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Author Topic: Dave Hickson - failed  (Read 931 times)

Offline dave.woodhall

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Dave Hickson - failed
« on: August 31, 2020, 10:22:32 PM »
Late on Friday evening 3rd September 1955, Eric Houghton pulled off what many at the time regarded as the transfer of the decade when he persuaded Dave Hickson to transfer allegiance from Everton to Villa for £17,500. The team was already ensconced in a hotel in Manchester ready for the match next day at Huddersfield so Hickson had to be content with a seat in the stands as his new colleagues struggled to an uninspiring 1-1 against the bottom of the table Terriers.

If Everton fans were shocked at losing their talisman, Villa supporters saw Hickson, a bustling centre-forward of the old school, as Harry Hampton reincarnated or Trevor Ford reborn. These expectations he brought with him probably added several thousands to the next gate even though it was guaranteed a big turnout -a local derby at home against the Blues.  A crowd of over 58,000 for a Monday evening match was a quite astonishing attendance for a 6 o’clock kick-off. But perhaps unfamiliar with the Villa style of play Hickson did not impress and we were pleased to escape with a soulless, goalless encounter.

Five days later we had the opportunity of comparing centre-forwards when Stan Mortenson came to town, aided as he was by Stanley Matthews. Hence the 53,000 Saturday afternoon crowd was as much to do with them as to ‘our Dave’.  Inside forwards Dixon and Crowe were unable to provide him with the sort of service on which he thrived and again we had to be content with a draw. 1-1, our goal coming from a header by Kelly, the visitors left half

Surely Hickson would stand comparison with Roy Bentley as we journeyed to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea, the unlikely champions from the previous season? But another goalless non-epic was almost seen as a victory of sorts. 

Midweek saw the return battle with the Blues. Rain and a 5.30 start kept the attendance down to only 33,000. Blues had Trevor Smith at number five – a case of brawn meats brawn, and so it turned out. They also had the fleet footed Eddie Brown at number nine and the contrast with Hickson could not have been more marked. He gave them the lead before dashing off to shake hands with the corner flag (his gimmick), then Tommy Southern was party to a remarkable and so memorable equaliser.

Tommy's fierce shot beat Gil Merrick all ends up only to strike the foot of the post. Whereupon the ball bounced back and struck the prostrate goalkeeper only to rebound into the net. In the 66th Jeff Astall shot Blues ahead only for Bill Baxter to emulate Southern with another fierce shot which went home without intervention from elsewhere. 2-2 and no complaints.

Bolton Wanderers were next in Trinity Road and they came along with the England centre-forward, Nat Lofthouse.  He showed how it should be done when he scored both goals, leaving Villa fans to wonder if we had wasted £17,500 on a damp squib. Meanwhile, Derek Pace was scoring goals for fun in the reserves. 5 in 2 games and ten so far this season.

A one goal defeat at Highbury did nothing to silence the growing murmurings, which became a crescendo when aided by Nicholls, a  Ronnie Allen-led the Baggies to a one-nil result at the Hawthorns. Seven games and not the sniff of a goal from the former sage of Goodison.

Next up Tommy Taylor brought his pals from Manchester to Villa Park and to date we were to witness one of the most famous post-war games at Villa Park, certainly since his predecessors had visited for the cup tie in 1948. With Hickson not living up to expectations United were not the appeal they became and only 29,000 thought the game worth of attendance. We were 3-2 down at the break then lo and behold, finally a goal from Hickson and we went home happy having escaped with a rare 4-4.

At last the omens were good for a visit to Goodison Park where, leading out the team as was traditional, Hickson received a rapturous reception from his former fans. It so happened that this was my very first away match aside from local derbies so events, if not the match, remain embodied in the memory. We were two-nil down before I had time to take in the surroundings and I received a celebratory thump from an Everton fan. Wearing a Villa scarf in the days before segregation was probably not a good idea even if we were all gathered together. Johnny Dixon made the score respectable but we were now staring at the abyss.

In his tenth game Hickson was finally on the winning side, though without scoring again, when cup holders Newcastle United came south. Dixon opened the scoring after only thirty seconds when he tapped in after Simpson had only parried a shot from Hickson. Ditto Southren after 78, Vic Crowe having converted a pass from Hickson after 48. dave may not be scoring but at least he was beginning to look the part.

A trip to Burnley led, as trips to Burnley always did, to a 0-2 reverse before it was the turn of Luton Town to show up in B6. It took 70 minutes before Johnny Dixon put them to the sword but a win is a win, however gained.

Then two days later Hickson scored his second goal for Villa, except in the scheme of things it did not count for much even though the opponents were no less than England. The national side came to Villa Park for a closed door practice game ahead of their game against Spain at the end of the month and Peter McParland scored our other goal in a 2-2 draw over thirty minutes each way.

But the goal did not save Hickson's bacon. Like everyone else Eric Houghton had seen enough and the following Saturday Hickson found himself leading the line at Villa Park against Preston North End. 3-1 but none of them Hickson. Then almost as sensationally as he arrived he was gone. Bottom of the table Huddersfield Town saw him as their saviour but for them it was a false hope as they eventually finished 21st. They were behind us only on goal average as we achieved a great escape.

But not before Dave Hickson had been witness to one of the greatest goals ever scored at Villa Park, on New Year’s eve 1956. We went 2–0 up against Huddersfield after only six minutes, but it was events in the sixty-fourth which are etched in history. I repeat, because it is worth repeating. Receiving the ball in his own penalty area Stan Lynn ran the length of the field beating everybody including goalkeeper Wheeler to literally bring the house down.

Hickson he was to stay at Huddersfield for two seasons before, in one of the most sentimental moves ever, he returned to Goodison Park, almost as though he had never been away. There he stayed for two more seasons before making a move even more sensational than his first time departure when he crossed the road to second division Liverpool, who were managerless at the time. It so happened that their game next day was against league leaders Aston Villa, who had gone fourteen games unbeaten. I will swear that there were more blue and white scarves in attendance that afternoon than red and white. 

The atmosphere was electric and the swaying crowd of 49,000 went apoplectic every time the ball came his way. Not without good cause, as the game ended Hickson 2 Villa 1. He had never played like that for us. Bill Shankly must have liked what he saw as he became the Liverpool manager on the following Monday. We overcame the shock and disappointment by next putting eleven past Charlton Athletic.

At the end of March Hickson turned up at Villa Park again. He scored twice as we went 4-0 down to Liverpool after 60 minutes.  The resulting 4-4 is the stuff of legends. Not surprisingly, Dave ended his playing career at Tranmere Rovers before trying his hand at management in Ireland.

John Russell
« Last Edit: August 31, 2020, 10:25:25 PM by dave.woodhall »

Online Billy Walker

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Re: Dave Hickson - failed
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2020, 11:46:23 AM »
A great read, thanks for that.

Offline Tokyo Sexwhale

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Re: Dave Hickson - failed
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2020, 02:56:32 PM »
Proto-Grealish hairdo there!

That must have seemed outlandish for the 1950's (assuming it wasn't just a windy day)!


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