Ernest ‘nudger‘ Needham
.. step into my time tardis today and
travel with me to another era
when “association football”
was still a gentleman’s game
with caps, cheers and handshakes
that were offered not negotiated?!?
… not by agents or even governing bodies…
On stepping out of my tardis, let me take you
down past a handsome collection of oaks
to Bramall Lane by the cricket pitch
where play the United
Ernest Needham was born in Chesterfield at Whittington Moor in 1873 and began his career as a winger with Waverly FC and Stavely Wanderers before joining the Blades at 18 years of age. Injuries during his 1st season with United forced team changes and he was put to half-back where he blossomed and developed rapidly, eventually earning the title ‘prince of half backs.
This title was earned no doubt due to his ability to make a pass and ‘construct’ in a fairly early-days ‘midfield’ role while also possessing a keen eye and a sturdy ‘destructive’ tackle that made him defensively sound. His short, sturdy build allied to immense stamina meant he was fast, resolute and brave. These characteristics helped him become the star of a side that eventually won the Championship in 1897/98 season and twice finished Runners-Up in 97 and 99.
Needham, by now captain of the side, was pleased to lift the FA Cup in 2 of the 3 finals United featured in during a 4 year period between 1899 and 1902 and he had become a regular for England after his debut in 1894. Ernest became the 1st United player to captain England in 1901 and by the time he retired he had made 554 appearances for the Blades, scored 65 goals and captained the side through the golden era of Sheffield United’s history. An era lasting nearly 20 years while he collected 16 International caps, scoring 3 goals and represented the Football League 10 times.
Writer Alfred Gibson wrote ~ ‘“This is one of the secrets of his greatness for very seldom when he has the ball is he deprived of it, whilst the accuracy of his wing passes, and the telling force of his punches straight across the field to an unprotected wing, spell danger to any kind of defence.”
The dual purpose of Bramall Lane which was utilised by both United and Yorkshire Cricket Club was well suited to someone who possessed varied sporting talents as many did in those days. Ernest Needham was also a fine cricketer although he played for his home county of Derbyshire for whom he made 186 appearances scoring 6550 runs at an average of 20.15 and made a top score of 159.
Worthy as all these talents are
edenbray actually includes Ernest Needham
in his unique list of playerz for his skill with the pen
rather than his feet, head
or even his soft batting hands
仝 仝 仝
For it was in 1901 at the height of his playing career
that Ernest took it into his head to complete
a 90-page written pamphlet entitled
which booklet still remains a unique record
and appreciation of the game we love and live for.
A valuable historic archive
written with sincerity and honesty
almost at the birth of the modern game
while the premier league of its day
was still gaining in prestige and momentum.
In many ways its story can never
be told more beautifully
either in description, memory or verse
and consequently Ernest’s’ book will remain
a classic appreciation of The Beautiful Game