Remembering Tommy Lawton

Tomorrow, Sunday 6 October, marks 100 years since the birth of Everton great Tommy Lawton.

We look back at the career of the forward who played for both the Blues and today's opponents Burnley.

On his way from Lime Street Station to Goodison Park for the first time, in January 1937, Tommy Lawton was recognised by the tram conductor who quipped, 'You'll never be as good as our Dixie'. The conductor may have been right but no one at Everton has come closer than Tommy to emulating Dean and, but for the outbreak of war, he could have rivalled the Birkenhead man’s goal tally.

Lawton was born at 43 MacDonald Street in Farnworth, Bolton - 6 October 1919. A quarter of a century later, Alan Ball - another Everton great was born - just half a mile away. Lawton's first game at Goodison Park, in front of 22,000 spectators, was in March 1933 - for Bolton Schoolboys against their Liverpool counterparts. He scored twice in a 3-2 defeat.

Turning down hometown club, Bolton Wanderers, and having a move to Sheffield Wednesday vetoed by his family, the goal-scoring prodigy joined Burnley FC as an amateur. Pending being old enough to sign professional forms, he earned a living as the club’s office-boy. In this latter role he fielded calls from Arsenal, Everton and others enquiring about a young striker called Lawton – the callers were oblivious to the fact that they were speaking to the player they coveted.

He debuted for the Clarets against Doncaster in 1935 - at 16 years and 174 days old he was, at the time,  the youngest ever centre-forward to appear in the Football League. In his next call-up to the first team, he scored twice against Swansea Town and never looked back. On turning 17 he signed professional forms for Burnley - on £7 per week with a £2 win bonus. 

After 25 League appearances and 16 goals for the East Lancastrians, a £6,500 deal was agreed for Tommy’s transfer to Everton on New Year’s Eve 1936. He travelled to Liverpool the next day to become the anointed heir to William Ralph Dean. His Toffees debut came in February 1937, a 7-2 mauling by Wolves - he scored his first goal for his new club, from the spot. The apprentice would line up alongside the master for the first time in a cup defeat at White Hart Lane (both scored). Their last pairing was in October 1937 – after which Tommy took up permanent residence at centre-forward and Dean slipped away to Notts County.

In the 1938/39 season  - only his second as a regular starter - Lawton's 34-goal haul in 38 appearances powered the Toffees to the League title. By the outbreak of war he had scored a remarkable 70 goals in 95 appearances in all competitions (including one hat-trick and two four-goal salvos). He would not appear Everton in peace-time football again. In spite of his brief career on Merseyside, he lies 28th in the all-time Toffees scoring charts, tied with two other excellent number 9s in Bobby Parker and Fred Pickering.

During the Second World War he juggled work as an Army Physical Training Instructor with representing the Blues, as well as guesting for Leicester City and Aldershot Town. A total of 113 wartime appearances for his parent club yielded 152 goals.

Lawton left Everton in November 1945  - moving to Chelsea for a record £11,500 fee.  Stints at Notts County and Brentford followed before he had a swansong with former Everton teammate Joe Mercer at Arsenal.

On the international stage Lawton appeared in 23 peacetime internationals - scoring 21 times – this included four goals in a match on two occasions.

Lawton's association with football ended with managerial spells at Notts County and Kettering.

One of our finest forwards, Lawton was never forgotten by the Blues. In 1972 he was awarded a testimonial match at Goodison Park - organised by Joe Mercer - in which the likes of Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton appeared in order to pay tribute to an England and Everton great.

Settled in Nottingham in later life, he passed away in October 1996 at the age of 77.