We conclude our series of Welsh footballers to have played in the US with the tenth addition to our ‘Top Boyo’ series. Steve Perry of local football site Keighley Kicks originally wrote this excellent tribute last year to mark the 25th anniversary of Trevor Hockey‘s death and his contribution to football in the town of Keighley.
Trevor Hockey’s contribution to football in the town of Keighley is embedded for generations to come, thanks to the fantastic coaching work he did with hundreds of youngsters.
While their dads were in awe of the local lad made good, who went to play on the highest stage, the youngsters got the chance to train alongside the Welsh international, who graced the top levels of the game here and in America.
Trevor was born in Keighley in May 1943 and was spotted as a youngster by Bradford City, where he made his debut at the age of just 16. His career took him up and down the country across the Football League and he is believed to be the youngest player to have played at all 92 clubs.
But he could have graced an even higher stage. While playing for City youth in 1959 against Manchester United at Old Trafford, he got such rave reviews that Matt Busby was rumoured to be preparing a bid. Instead he went for Nobby Stiles. Could a twist of fate have prevented Keighley’s finest from dancing round Wembley with the World Cup seven years later?
He did, however, appear in the colours of Nottingham Forest, Newcastle United, Birmingham City, Sheffield United, Norwich City, Aston Villa and the Bantams for a second spell. His professional career ran from 1960 to 1976 and took in almost 600 games, scoring 30-or-so goals along the way. Later he moved to America, first to play, later as a coach. His colleagues and rivals there read like an A-Z of the world’s greatest players and included Pele, Eusebio and Franz Beckenbauer.
But he never forgot his roots and when his pro days were over, it was to his home town he returned and he was soon fully engrossed in trying to get a team from Keighley playing at the highest possible non-League level as well as passing on his footballing knowledge to local youngsters with the Trevor Hockey Soccer Camps, based on the successful American Coaching Camps.
Trevor also reformed Keighley Town and had ambitions to take them into the Northern Premier League, alongside the likes of Wigan Athletic and Scarborough, until he died of a heart attack at the ridiculously young age of 43, after playing a five-a-side match.
Trevor was born the son of Welsh rugby player Albert Hockey. Albert was a Welsh international scrum-half and played for Abertillery at union, before switching to the paid form of the game and moving north to join Keighley RL in 1937, six years before Trevor was born. Albert passed on that sporting aptitude and, although he played both codes of rugby at school, it was with the round ball that Trevor excelled.
He was spotted playing for Keighley Central Youth Club by Bradford City scouts and soon joined the ground staff, playing for the reserve team while still at Eastwood School in Keighley. He also represented Yorkshire Schools and West Riding u19s.
Speaking to Keighley Kicks, members of the Hockey family said: “At school he was never in any lessons as the PE teacher loved him and got him out of all his lessons so he could help in all PE lessons. He started cleaning the stands then cleaning the players’ boots before signing for City as an amateur – the youngest player to sign for them,” they added.
It was not long before he made his debut against Shrewsbury Town on April 2, 1960, in the Third Division, playing on the wing. The club were relegated and, as the young Trevor began to beef up, he was showing his bravery, taking plenty of knocks but bouncing back to give as good as he got. His natural sharpness and ability to deliver a telling cross soon drew attention and in 1961 he was shooting up the League to Division One side Nottingham Forest for a club record £15,000.
At the tender age of 18 he was thrust straight into the first team and became a regular in their successful battle against relegation. The following season he played in all but one game and helped Forest to a ninth-place finish and into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. After two years at the City Ground, Trevor completed his set of all four divisions when he joined Division Two side Newcastle United.
Things did not go to plan and Trevor was part of the Magpies team humiliated in the FA Cup at home by non-League Bedford Town. Things picked up the following season when he was a member of the Toon squad crowned champions and was a regular in their First Division side for three months before heading back to the Midlands for a five-year stint at St Andrews, a £25,000 signing for Second Division Birmingham City.
It was the mid-60s and football was about to undergo a massive change. Trevor’s traditional winger position was on its way out thanks to Alf Ramsey’s wingless wonders. Inevitably Trevor’s combative-style of play meant he was picked out as an ideal midfielder and it was in the new position he thrived. Rather than hugging the touchline, players were expected to find the energy to cover every blade of grass, supporting the attack one minute, back helping out the defence the next. A capacity for hard work and the ability to get stuck in became more important than the ability to beat a man. It was a role tailor-made for the Keighley lad and he soon established a reputation as a tenacious spoiler, whose job it was to fetch and carry for the flair players and to tackle anything that moved in the opposition. He relished it.
This metamorphosis into a midfield terrier helped Trevor to establish himself on and off the field and his larger-than-life personality was unleashed in all its glory. On the pitch he would spend time being feted by his own fans and ritually abused by opposition supporters. He appeared to enjoy the cheers and catcalls equally and there would be running battles with the opposition and, frequently, the referee. He picked up suspensions and fines but always with a smile on his face.
Off the pitch, he had been a clean-cut, good-looking lad with a prominent ‘Kirk Douglas’ dimple. It brought him his own fan club with more than a thousand members, matching the popularity of George Best, and he regularly appeared in ‘best-looking footballer’ polls in magazines. In 1971 he also won a competition in Shoot magazine to see which footballer would make the best Father Christmas. He polled 29 per cent of the vote. Nicknamed ‘The Beatle of Brum’ he appeared in the pop charts, drove a remarkable car and bought a lurid pink piano. He also loved to play the guitar and appeared on stage at Birmingham Town Hall ‘Happy Cos I’m Blue’ was sung by Trevor and was in the Birmingham charts.
His Triumph Herald was covered in blue suede, the fashion material of the day in the Swinging Sixties. It might have been trendy but it meant he couldn’t drive it in the rain and washing it was an ordeal. Various football magazines at that time regularly printed letters from fans detailing how Trevor had gone out of his way to meet their requests. He enjoyed and sought public attention but never shirked from the responsibility and demands this attitude created.
But he continued to do his ‘proper’ job in eye-catching fashion, helping the Blues to the League Cup and FA Cup semi-finals, and in 1968 he completed the set of 92 grounds, a remarkable feat considering he was only 25.
Two years later he was on his way back to Yorkshire, a £40,000 fee enough to see Sheffield United snap him up.
By now his look at been transformed with his distinctive mane of hair, head band and bushy beard, Trevor was a striking sight. Providing the solid back-up to the mercurial talents of Tony Currie, Trevor helped the Blades to promotion. He was back in the First Division and also picked up international honours with a change in FIFA rules meaning he was eligible for the country of his parents’ birth. He made his debut in a 3-0 win over Finland but his season ended prematurely with a broken leg.
The following season saw Wales pitted against England and Poland and he helped stifle the qualifying group favourites in a 1-1 draw at Wembley. It got better against Poland at Ninian Park when he did something that England failed to do and which cost them their Finals place. Leading 1-0 through Leighton James’ goal, Trevor broke free and calmly tucked the ball past Jan Tomaszewski for a second goal. England could only manage one goal against a keeper dubbed a ‘clown’ by Brian Clough and out they went, along with manager Alf Ramsey.
By then Trevor had moved again, this time to Norwich City, where his battling quality added the rod of iron to their midfield they needed to escape relegation from the top division.
It was then back to the Midlands where an injury-plagued spell with Aston Villa ended in some ignomy when he became the first player ever to be sent off for Wales in a bad-tempered affair in Poland. It proved to be the last of his nine appearances for the nation. He gained caps against Finland, Romania, England (x 3), Poland (x 2), Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Trevor’s career went full circle that summer when he returned to Division Four and his first club, Bradford City, completing a series of transfers which had cost his clubs almost £200,000. That is quite remarkable bearing in mind when he started his career the British transfer record was a ‘mere’ £65,000 as paid by Juventus for Leeds United’s John Charles, and when it ended was only £350,000, paid by Everton for Birmingham City striker Bob Latchford.
How much would Trevor have changed hands for in today’s hyper-inflated world? His two seasons at Valley Parade continued to be injury hit and his last game in the Football League came as a substitute against Southport.
Despite his injuries, Trevor still had plenty to give and joined the exodus to America, after a brief spell as player-manager of Athlone Town in Ireland, helping with the introduction of ‘soccer’ to the continent. He played for San Diego Jaws in the North American Soccer League and was named their Player of the Year, before nipping back across the Atlantic for a spell as manager of non-League Stalybridge Celtic. It was then back to the States as player-coach with San Jose Earthquakes and Las Vegas Quicksilvers.
But home ties pulled strong and Trevor ended his career back in Keighley. Local football historian Rob Grillo said: “Trevor’s impact on the local football scene in the early 1980s cannot be underestimated. Following a successful stint at Silsden in the 70s, he declared that his home town was big enough to support a Northern Premier League team and immediately set about forming a team with the intention of realising that dream – Keighley Town. That dream proved ultimately unfulfilled, but he brought ambition to a town that had seemingly lost its way in footballing terms.
“His soccer camps brought enjoyment to hundreds of children (and their parents) and he continued to support local clubs such as Magnet throughout his later years. “He will long be remembered as one of the town’s all-time sporting heroes.”
Steve Perry (@KeighleyKicks)
You can also read more tributes to Trevor Hockey by viewing the original article here.