Millennium Giant 1930-39
The duration of Ted Sagar's Everton career eventually became the main reason for his fame.
He spent 24 years and one month as Everton's number first choice 'keeper- and held the club's appearance record until another member of the Goodison goalkeeping union surpassed his 463 League game target.
But it wasn't just endurance which saw him overhaul thirties legends like Tommy Lawton and Joe Mercer in our Millennium Giants search.
Sagar was an enduring footballer. But he was also an outstanding one.
"There is no finer goalkeeper in the League today," opined one newspaper, on the occasion he was selected to represent the Football League in 1934. That came five years after he joined Everton from the humble origins of Thorne Colliery FC in Yorkshire.
That was March, 1929 - and on January 18, 1930 he made the first of what was to become a record-breaking 463 League appearances against Derby County.
Little realising the career which was about to unfold, The Liverpool Echo recorded: "This will be Sagar's first turn for the senior side, and as he has acomplished some good work in the Central League, it is expected that the test will not be too much for him."
It wasn't. Everton won 4-0, and Sagar enjoyed eight more run-outs that season.
Slim and underweight for a goalkeeper, in the days when it was legitimate for tough, tall centre-forwards to bounce both goalkeeper and ball into the net, Sagar survived by sheer skill. He had an uncanny ability to judge the high flight of a ball from the flanks, and he was completely unafraid.
|Stats and Honours|
|Everton Appearances: 499. |
|Everton Goals: 0 |
|Football League Championship 1931/32 and 1938/39 |
|FA Cup winner 1933 |
|FA Charity Shield winner: 1932 |
|England caps: 4 |
|Football League appearances: 5 |
Ahead of his time, he tried to perfect the art of collecting crosses. "I tried to make collecting crosses my life's work," he explained in a contemporary interview.
"I would practice for hours on end, week in week out, with a couple of lads pushing high balls into the box and another one coming in to tackle me as I grabbed.
"Eventually I could do it by instinct and once I got hold of the ball, I very seldom got it knocked out of my hands."
Sagar's debut season saw Everton endure the ignominy of relegation from the top flight for the first time.
Left out of the promotion campaign the very next year, he was recalled for the following momentous season - a League title charge.
After his first full season ended with a League Championship medal in his pocket, in 1933 he added an FA Cup winner's medal to his collection - when he kept a clean sheet at Wembley against Manchester City.
In 1938/39 he became a League Champion again - and only the outbreak of War prevented him adding to that haul. War-time, however, did allow him to add one unique entry to his playing log.
Capped four times by England, he also gained the distinction of playing for another country when he turned out for Northern Ireland during the War. Stationed in Portadown with the Signal Corps, Northern Ireland were short of a goalkeeper for a war-time international against Southern Ireland when they turned to Sagar.
He was delighted to accept the invitation - and was proud of his achievement at representing two countries at international level.
He often described his most pleasurable match as a footballer, however, as a derby game at Goodison in September 1934.
"A late Dixie Dean goal won us the game," he later recalled.
"I think it was one of the greastest games I ever played." Liverpool seemed to hit me that day with everything but the stand - and I managed to keep them out. "It is a wonderful feeling to beat the local rivals. I wouldn't say it is the most important match of the season on your own ground - but it is one of them."
Sagar's last appearance came at Goodison Park against Tranmere Rovers in May 1953, in the final of the Liverpool Senior Cup.
After his retirement he served as landlord of the Blue Anchor pub in Aintree, where nothing pleased him more than regaling the regulars with stories of his playing days.
He died in 1986, aged 76, and at his funeral another Everton legend, the great Joe Mercer, declared: "He was a spectacular player who was truly out on his own. I can't compare him with any of today's players - I can only describe him as an original, a one-off."