A WW1 Death

On this day (17 November) in 1915 former Manchester City, Oldham Athletic and Hyde forward Frank Hesham was killed in action in Belgium (often reported as northern France at the time of his death). The Gorton born player was on City’s books for 5 years during the late 1890s. Here’s a profile of his life and career:

Frank Hesham began his football career at St Francis (the well-known Catholic monastery and related school in Gorton) before joining City in November 1896. He made his debut at Newcastle United in February 1897. Sadly, the game ended in a 3-0 defeat and Hesham was unable to establish himself in the team. 

In total he only made three first team appearances for the Blues and one reserve game over a period of about five years.

Brief spells at Crewe and Accrington followed before he signed for Stoke in May 1904. 17 Stoke appearances followed before he moved to Leyton Orient, returning north to join Oldham in August 1907.

He made his Oldham debut in a 3-0 victory over Hull City on 28 September 1907 and it finally looked as if he’d found the right club. He stayed at Boundary Park for a couple of years, playing 29 first team games before joining Preston North End in 1909.

The move to Preston was not a success and two months later he joined Croydon Common in the Southern League where he scored 27 in 55 appearances. Another return north came – he clearly had reasons for wanting to alternate between southern and northern clubs so frequently which have yet to be identified – and he joined Hyde.

Hesham also played for Newton Heath Albion but was working as a clerk in Manchester when war broke out. 

The following details of his military service and death are from the website: https://www.footballandthefirstworldwar.org

First World War Service

Gunner 53546 Hesham, who had pre-war service with the 4th Volunteer Battalion of the Manchester Regiment (time-served), enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) on 18 November 1914 and was subsequently sent for basic training. After leaving Number 2 Depot, Gosport, Gnr Hesham was posted to 21 Siege Battery RGA and landed in the French port of Boulogne on 25 May 1915. On 29 September 1915, Hesham was granted short leave before returning to his unit on 3 October 1915 – just two weeks before the Second Battle of Ypres. On 17 November 1915, Gnr Hesham was killed in action and subsequently buried at La Clytte Military Cemetery, located 8km south-west of Ypres. He left a widow and a 14 year-old son who lived in Longsight, Manchester.

The Death Of Jimmy Ross

One of the earliest stars of League Football died on this day (12th June) in 1902. Jimmy Ross, who was a major figure for almost three seasons with Manchester City and had competed in every season of League football since the League was established in 1888, died with an illness described as “an acute skin disease and a raging fever.”

Ross was one of the Preston ‘Invincibles’ in 1888-89 and also scored 7 (sometimes reported as 8) against Hyde in the famous FA Cup record breaking game (read more on that game here: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/22/hyde-v-preston-a-record-breaking-day/ ).

At the time of his death Ross was a Manchester City player. His last first team appearance was appropriately against Preston North End in the First Round of the F.A. Cup in January 1902.  

City helped his mother, whom he was looking after at the time of his death, financially.  They also arranged the funeral and he was buried at Southern Cemetery (according to newspaper reports of the time he was buried in a grave that contained another City player – Bride – who had died a couple of years earlier). Several City players/personalities carried the coffin, including Billy Meredith.

More can be read on Ross’ life here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/?p=1799

The Great Jimmy Ross

On this day (24th February) in 1899 the great Jimmy Ross signed for Manchester City.  Ross was one of football’s leading names and earliest heroes when he played for the famous Preston side that won the League and Cup double of 1889. He had scored an incredible eight goals when Preston beat Hyde 26-0 in the record breaking F.A. Cup tie of 15th October 1887 – a game in which the referee is reputed to have lost his watch and allowed play to last two hours!  (you can read about that game here: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/22/hyde-v-preston-a-record-breaking-day/ ).

In addition, he was the Football League’s top scorer in 1890 (24 goals), and was quite a character.

He signed for Manchester City from Burnley for a reported £50 after previously captaining Liverpool to promotion. He had also played for the Football League.  

At City he was influential from the start. He netted an incredible seven goals in the final nine games of the 1898-99 season (his first nine games at City too!) brought the Division Two title for the first time – this was the first national success of either of Manchester’s professional clubs.  

Years later the legendary Billy Meredith, looking back on his City days, remembered Ross with great affection: “I must confess that Ross will always be my favourite hero.  He was good at everything he put his hand to and what he didn’t know about football wasn’t worth knowing.  At billiards and card games he was an expert.  Though he must have been thirty-four at least when he joined us, he was able to win seventy yards handicaps with ease and did so.  He could talk like a lawyer and on and off the pitch his comic sayings had us in stitches.”  

Today many of the heroes of football’s earliest years as a professional sport are forgotten and in Manchester’s case people often talk about Meredith as if he was the first and only hero in the city. But Jimmy Ross was a major figure and he was absolutely essential in City’s early development. Without him they may not have achieved that first Second Division title success. He helped develop Meredith into a star and should never be forgotten.

The leading sports newspaper of the day, the Athletic News, often praised Ross. When the club was making its first steps in the top flight the newspaper talked of City’s right sided players and stressed the importance of Ross and of course Meredith:  “For real brilliance the right wing took the biscuit….In fact, there are few, if any, better men at outside right  (Meredith).  His partner, the veteran Ross, of whom it is predicted every season that he has had his day, is in reality taking a second lease of footballing life, despite the paucity of head-covering, and as a wing the two will cause some trouble”.

At one point a newspaper article claimed that Meredith was absolutely brilliant when he was being well served by Ross but when the going got tough, Meredith disappeared.  It seems that at this stage in the Welshman’s career he needed the experienced Jimmy Ross more than Ross needed him.  One article claimed that Meredith: “doesn’t like donkey-work and if his partner is off, Meredith is off too.”

By the end of the 1901-02 season it looked as if Ross and Meredith, despite Ross’ age, would go on forever. Sadly, tragedy struck in 1902. Ross died on 12th June that year after an illness described as “an acute skin disease and a raging fever.”

Ross’ last appearance was appropriately against Preston North End in the First Round of the F.A. Cup in January 1902.  Ross died of an infectious skin condition.  City helped his mother, whom he was looking after at the time of his death, financially.  They also arranged the funeral.

Ross helped Meredith develop and over time the legend of Meredith grew, while Ross’ name has slowly faded. This is a major shame as Ross’ influence on Preston, Liverpool and City’s development is immense. Ross helped City establish their name at a time when Meredith was not quite the finished article. So many players have been described as legends in the decades that have followed. Many of them become forgotten over time, but it is important that once in a while we pause and remember those players. 

Today let’s think about Jimmy Ross and remember him as one of the men who made Manchester City.

Why not now read about the game when Ross played for Preston against Hyde? It already appears on my blog here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/22/hyde-v-preston-a-record-breaking-day/

A Rare Hyde Road Action Photo

Here’s an action image I found while researching about ten years ago of Manchester City v Preston North End played at Hyde Rd on 20 December 1913. That day a crowd of about 20,000 watched as the two sides drew 1-1 with Tommy Browell scoring for Manchester’s Blues.

Hyde v Preston – A Record Breaking Day

On 15th October 1887 one of the most remarkable FA Cup games of all time occurred at Preston and featured Hyde FC, who were formed in 1885 at a meeting attended by approximately forty men in the White Lion public house. For subscribers to this site here is the story of a remarkable day that saw Hyde, the town I spent the first 18 years of my life living in, enter the history books. 

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