Albert Stubbins epitaph

Albert Stubbins, the former Newcastle and Liverpool footballer who died on December 28 aged 83, was the leading scorer in the unofficial club matches played during the Second World War; his photograph was also used on the cover of The Beatles' album Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

When war broke out, League football was suspended, and was not resumed until autumn 1946. Many players thus forfeited seven years of their career. Stubbins took full advantage of the weaker standards of the regional leagues that soon sprang up to make his name.

Playing for Newcastle, Stubbins scored 237 goals in 218 matches, including four hat-tricks in consecutive games in 1941. His prolific strike rate alerted other clubs to the talents of the red-headed, muscular centre-forward and one evening in the late summer of 1946, while sitting in the Newcastle News Theatre, Stubbins found himself summoned to the St James's Park ground by a message flashed up on the cinema screen.

When he arrived, he found representatives from both Liverpool and Everton. He tossed a coin, talked to Liverpool chairman Billy McConnell first, and agreed to sign for a club record £12,500. He scored on his debut, against Bolton, and that season - the first of League soccer after the war, and one prolonged until mid-June by dreadful winter weather - Stubbins was a key figure in bringing the championship to Anfield.

Feeding on the service of winger Billy Liddell, both Stubbins and Jack Balmer scored 24 goals in the league, with the former claiming the vital second goal in the 2-1 win at Molineux that allowed them to overhaul Wolves right at the end of the season.

Stubbins enjoyed another year and a half of free-scoring for Liverpool, but once he entered his thirties his marksmanship seemed to decline. He played for Liverpool in the 1950 FA Cup final against Arsenal, who beat them 2-0, but he was starting to lose the confidence of the club, and in 1952 he left, having scored 83 times in 180 appearances.

One Liverpool fan who still treasured him, however, was the young Paul McCartney, and in 1967 he paid tribute to Stubbins by incorporating him in the montage of creative talents assembled on the sleeve of the Sergeant Pepper LP. Stubbins is sandwiched between G B Shaw and Albert Einstein, looking over the shoulder of Marlene Dietrich.

Albert Stubbins was born in the North-East, at Wallsend, on July 17 1919. On leaving school, he trained as a draughtsman and played amateur football first for local sides and then with Sunderland. In 1937 he was signed for Newcastle, then struggling in the Second Division, by Tom Mather, who had brought through Stanley Matthews at Stoke.

Stubbins was an exemplary leader of the line. His technique was said by some observers to be as good as that of the great Alex James, and he was tall, fast, alert and brave. He is still fondly remembered at Anfield for one full-length diving header against Birmingham in an FA Cup tie in 1947 on a frozen pitch. The effort - a late run to connect with a low free-kick of Liddell's - left him with two lacerated knees, but brought him his hat-trick.

Before he moved to Liverpool, Stubbins played a handful of games with the young Jackie Milburn, who with Len Shackleton would replace him as the side's spearhead. When Stubbins left Anfield in 1952, it was Milburn who persuaded him to turn out for a non-league North-East side, Ashington, which Stubbins also later briefly managed. He then had a spell in New York, coaching a soccer team there in the early 1960s. Afterwards he returned once more to Newcastle, establishing himself as a sports journalist.

Stubbins played for England once, in a "victory" international against Wales in 1945.

His wife Anne predeceased him. He is survived by a son.

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