Reliable Liverpool full-back invalided out of football at the peak of his powers
The footballing full-back Eddie Spicer was one of the doughtiest and most reliable of Liverpool defenders during the middle years of the 20th century, but he was never one of the luckiest.
Edwin Spicer, footballer: born Liverpool 20 September 1922; played for Liverpool 1939-53; married (two children); died Rhyl, Denbighshire 25 December 2004.
Despite excelling on the title run-in of 1946/47, the squarely built Merseysider narrowly missed out on a medal as the Reds lifted the first post-war League championship, then he finished on the losing side against Arsenal in the 1950 FA Cup Final.
Finally, and most demoralisingly of all, he was invalided out of the game by a broken leg when he was still at the peak of his powers in 1953, a particularly cruel blow to a dedicated performer who had recovered nobly from a similar career-threatening accident some 30 months earlier.
Spicer emerged as an outstanding player in his early teens, being capped by England at schoolboy level, joining his home-town club as an amateur in 1937, then turning professional at Anfield in 1939. But his career had no chance to gather momentum before war broke out and he joined the Royal Marines.
When peace resumed, Spicer, still in his early twenties, lost little time in making his senior breakthrough with Liverpool, being called up for an FA Cup encounter with Bolton Wanderers in 1946. He was a left-half at that point, the position he filled when League competition restarted the following August.
However, for most of that ultimately triumphant campaign, his manager George Kay preferred Bob Paisley in the number six shirt, and Spicer's contribution was intermittent until the closing sequence of games, in which he performed persuasively. Unfortunately, his appearances totalled only 10, four short of the number needed to secure a medal.
Surprisingly, the next two seasons proved anti-climactic and he proved unable to secure a regular first-team place until 1949/50, when he moved to his preferred slot of left-back, with the Welsh international Ray Lambert switching to the right to accommodate him.
Now Spicer consolidated, as Liverpool enjoyed a storming autumn and early winter, going unbeaten for their first 19 games and raising hopes of another title challenge. Such optimism was scuppered by a dismal springtime slump, but there was consolation in a rousing run to Wembley, which included a passionately acclaimed semi-final victory over local rivals Everton, only for the FA Cup to be presented to Arsenal.
Despite the disappointment of 2-0 defeat in the showpiece, Spicer had enhanced his reputation considerably, and he burnished it further as an ever- present in 1950/51 as Liverpool finished ninth in the League table. By now he was thoroughly at home in the English top flight, a tenacious marker and a stern tackler, ready to use his formidable strength at need but never inclined to gratuitous violence.
Crucially, too, if he was beaten by a winger, invariably he was quick to recover with a secondary challenge. When his team was under pressure, there was no more valiant occupant of the last ditch and, although he was happiest on the left flank of defence, he was accomplished with both feet and was not embarrassed when shifted to the right.
Sadly, having established an impetus which might have led to international recognition, Spicer suffered a broken leg on a short tour of Sweden in the summer of 1951 and was sidelined for the whole of the subsequent season. With characteristic fortitude, he fought back to gain the right-back berth for 1952/53, and proved a much-needed bulwark in a Liverpool side which was slowly disintegrating.
Demotion was narrowly avoided that term and though the Reds, now bossed by Don Welsh, were nose-diving towards inevitable relegation in 1953/54, Spicer continued to play with poise and spirit until he shattered his leg in a sickening three-man collision at Old Trafford shortly before Christmas. The Manchester United centre-forward Tommy Taylor and Liverpool's débutant goalkeeper Dave Underwood were relatively unscathed by the impact, but Spicer was injured so seriously that he never played again.
The pain of his enforced retirement at the age of 31, after 168 appearances for his only club, was mitigated somewhat by a testimonial match which attracted more than 41,000 supporters to Anfield and raised £4,500 for the popular defender.
Later Eddie Spicer became a football correspondent with the Liverpool Daily Post and ran a pub near Ruthin, in North Wales.
Copyright - Ivan Ponting