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The Legend Who Opened Our Account

There’s always a buzz about the opening game of the season. Fans chat excitedly about the prospects for the season ahead and everyone is especially keen to view and rate “the new signings”. I’m sure it was the same for fans in our first ever season 81 years ago when our star signing, Dick Forshaw, took to the field – a man who was a hero for both clubs on Merseyside and scored Waterford’s first ever league goal.

When Waterford Celtic of the Munster Senior League were invited to join the League of Ireland in 1930, the directors realised that help was needed if the Blues were to survive in the company of Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Dundalk. The former Celtic and Ireland player Jack Doran was appointed manager and given a decent budget to recruit some established stars to play alongside locals like Tom Arrigan and Alfie Hale Senior. Doran brought several experienced players over from England, but undoubtedly the star attraction was Forshaw, a 35 year old inside forward with an illustrious past.

Born locally in Widnes, Forshaw signed for Liverpool when the Football League returned in 1919 after its suspension for World War I. In his eight seasons at Anfield, he was to score 124 goals (including 8 hat-tricks) and become one of the Kop’s all-time legends. He was an ever-present in the 84 league matches when Liverpool won their third and fourth championships scoring 17 times in 1921/22 and 19 in 1922/23. In fact, it was his goal which secured the league title in April 1922 when Burnley were beaten 2-1 at Anfield. Throughout his time at Liverpool, he was a goal machine, but it was his knack for scoring against the club’s rivals that made him a firm fans’ favourite. Hat-tricks against Arsenal and Lancashire rivals Preston and Blackburn were good, but his peak was one week in September 1925 when he scored three at home to Manchester United (5-0) followed by another three against Everton (5-1). That made him the first of only four players ever to score consecutive Anfield hat-tricks – the others being Fred Howe (1935), Jack Balmer (1946) and Fernando Torres (2008). A four goal haul versus Sheffield United kicked off an amazing run of 16 goals in 12 matches that confirmed him as one of Liverpool’s stars of the 20′s with South African Gordon Hodgson and Belfast goalkeeper Elisha Scott. He grabbed another three against Manchester United in a 4-2 win on the opening day of the 1926/27 season and his last Liverpool goal was against – you guessed it – United again, becoming the only Liverpool player ever to score in four successive games against the Red Devils. His 117 league goals in total places him at number 11 in the club’s all-time top scorers list (ahead of the likes of Keegan and St. John) having been knocked out of the top ten in recent years by Michael Owen.

After such great success with the Reds, March 1927 saw Forshaw switch to the blue half of Merseyside. Everton paid £3750 for him to link up with the legendary Dixie Dean. This was a lot for a 32 year old – more than the £3000 they had spent on Dean two years earlier while the British record transfer fee stood at £6500. Dick only scored 8 times in 42 matches for Everton, but he won his third league medal in 1928 thereby becoming the only person ever to win the league on both sides of Stanley Park. The only surprise was that a player of his quality never played for England. He moved on to Second Division Wolves for a season in 1929 and he had short spells with Hednesford Town and Rhyl Athletic before the Blues called him across the Irish Sea.

Waterford’s first campaign in the League of Ireland began in front of 10,000 people in Dundalk’s Athletic Grounds on August 24th, 1930. The visitors lined up: Wilson, Sampey, Noonan, McLean, Hodgkiss, Cummins, Bowie, Arrigan, Davey, Forshaw, Kennedy. It didn’t take long for the star signing to impress. Just two minutes into our first ever game, Forshaw gave the Blues the lead when he headed past Dundalk keeper Jimmy McMullan. A topsy-turvy game eventually finished 7-3 to the home side, but it was a promising start for the new club. A week later, Forshaw also scored our first home goal in front of 4,000 people at Baile na nDeise where we played five matches before moving to Kilcohan Park. Two goals from Forshaw and a Tom Arrigan volley gave Waterford a 3-2 win over St. James’ Gate. The Blues finished a respectable ninth out of twelve teams in the league and went on to win the Shield later that season. The signing of Forshaw had certainly paid off.

Dick retired after that season and he died in 1963 aged 68. While his biggest success was on Merseyside, he clearly played an important role in the beginning of Waterford FC. Let’s hope some of our new signings make such an immediate impact tonight. Dick Forshaw scored our first ever league goal, who will score our next?

Copyright - Shane Murphy

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