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Swans and Dragons: Ivor Allchurch

In the second installment, we revisit Ivor Allchurch's spectacular career, which saw him score 186 goals in 502 appearances in two spells with the club between 1949 and 1968. He also struck 23 goals in 68 caps between 1950 and 1966 for Wales, and featured in the nation's only World Cup appearance in 1958.

 

Ivor John Allchurch was born in Swansea on October 16, 1929 and raised on Landeg Street in Plasmarl - a short distance away from the site of the Liberty Stadium.

Aged 14, he was spotted playing youth football for Cwm Level’s under-18 side by Joe Sykes and a year later he joined Swansea Town as an amateur player.

Allchurch made his first-team debut for Swansea on Boxing Day 1949 in a 3-0 defeat to West Ham United and subsequently got his first goal in a 3-0 win over Birmingham City in the third round of FA Cup on January 7, 1950.

In the next round, the 20-year-old starred against Arsenal despite the Swans’ 2-1 defeat.

Gunners left-half Joe Mercer famously commented that Allchurch had “nearly frightened us to death”.

Having avoided an upset that afternoon, the North London club went on to claim the cup that season.

Swansea Town were cup winners that season too as Allchurch again produced a great performance in the 4-1 Welsh Cup final victory over Wrexham in April 1950.

That summer saw the Swans lose star players such as Jim Feeney and Roy Paul, but that presented the opportunity for youngsters such as Ivor and Terry Medwin to become first-team regulars.

Indeed, during the 1950-51 season, Allchurch became the youngest player in the club’s history to feature in every match of an entire campaign.

Ivor grew up as one of seven children, with two sisters and four brothers.

One of his youngster siblings, Len, joined him at Vetch Field in October 1950, making his debut aged just 17.

A month later, Ivor made his debut for the Welsh national team in a 4-2 defeat to England at Sunderland’s old Roker Park ground.

Allchurch became a regular in the Welsh national team, winning 68 caps through to his final international against Chile in 1966.

This included a run of 27 consecutive appearances in the starting line-up at the beginning of his Dragons career.

The first of his 23 goals for Wales came in a 1-0 victory in Scotland in November 1951.

Only Ian Rush and Gareth Bale have scored more goals for the Dragons.

The highlight of his international career was featuring in all five of Wales’ matches at the 1958 Fifa World Cup in Sweden, where he netted twice.

Following the death of Swansea manager Billy McCandless in 1955, Allchurch, along with Ron Burgess and Sykes, served as part of a three-man selection committee who were responsible for first-team affairs.

The committee was replaced by new boss Trevor Morris in 1958 and that same year the so-called ‘Golden Boy’ of Welsh football left the Vetch having scored 134 goals in 358 appearances in his first spell as a Swan.

His destination was Newcastle United, for whom Allchurch scored twice on his debut in a 3-1 victory over Leicester City on October 11, 1958 – a day after he had signed for the Magpies.

He netted 51 times in 154 appearances for the Tyneside club. He was on the move again in 1962, signing for Cardiff, before returning to Swansea in 1965, aged 35.

Allchurch made 144 appearances and scored 52 goals as he spent three more seasons as a professional footballer at the Vetch.

He scored the winning goal in the Welsh Cup final against Chester in 1966, the same year that he was awarded an MBE for his services to sport.

Allchurch played for 10 seasons in the old Division Two in first spell with the Swans, but always dreamt of representing the Swans in the top flight.

Sadly, in his penultimate campaign with the team, 1966-67, the Swans were relegated to the bottom division of the Football League.

A 2-0 defeat at Hartlepool United on May 11, 1968 marked Allchurch’s final appearance as a Swans player and his last match as a professional footballer.

He scored 17 goals in 40 league appearances in the swansong season of 1967-68.

He remains the leading goalscorer in the Swans’ history with 186 goals in 502 appearances overall.

Allchurch’s love for football saw him carry on playing as a semi-professional until the age of 50, turning out for the likes of Worcester City and Pontardawe Athletic, while he had a spell as player-manager of Haverfordwest County.

On July 10, 1997, he passed away at the age of just 67.

His legacy lives on at the Liberty Stadium though, with a statue of arguably the club’s greatest ever player unveiled behind the South Stand in 2005.

Article tags:

Swans and Dragons

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