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Football and the First World War
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Ivor Allchurh was born on 16 October 1929 in Swansea. His parents were natives of Dudley who had moved to Swansea. He was educated at Plasmarl School, Swansea, but left at fourteen to work first in an office, then as a fish market porter.
Allchurch's extraordinary football talents were spotted in September 1944 by a scout from Swansea Town. He became a member of the club's ground staff in 1945 and a full professional two years later. National service with the army from 1947 to 1949 delayed his entry into league football, although he played at a high non-league standard as a guest with Shrewsbury Town and Wellington Town.
He made his Football League second-division début on 26 December 1949, away to West Ham United, and made an immediate impact as an elegant, ball-playing inside-forward. Roy Paul, a Swansea team-mate, recalled that ‘Even as a youngster he had the hallmark of greatness’. Within weeks of his début Allchurch was the subject of transfer speculation, and in less than a year he was a Welsh international, capped against Ireland at Sunderland on 15 November 1950.
Tall, slim, and fair-haired—characteristics that led to his being described as Swansea's ‘Golden Boy’. He was described by the Scottish journalist Bob Ferrier as ‘the complete natural intuitive inside-forward—the Mozart of football’. Jimmy Murphy, who managed the Wales national team in the late 1950s, said: ‘Ivor had the lot. He was two-footed: a superb runner on the ball with a glorious body swerve. He could shoot hard and accurately with both feet, and he was very good in the air’.
Allchurch continued to play for Swansea until 1958. Some observers argued that his decision to stay with second-division Swansea led to his not fulfilling a remarkable talent. There were years of press speculation, much predicting that his transfer would set a new British record.
His international performances, particularly in the 1958 world cup, when Wales, after qualifying for the first time, were remarkable. Santiago Bernabeu, president of Real Madrid, then the dominant club in Europe, called him ‘the greatest inside-forward in the world’.
In October 1958 Allchurch finally left Swansea for Newcastle United. He stayed at Newcastle until 1962, then moved to Cardiff City before returning to Swansea Town in 1965. He played his 694th and last Football League match—at the time the third-highest career total—in May 1968. He scored 245 goals, including 160 (a club record) for Swansea. The first man to play more than fifty times for Wales, his sixty-eight caps and twenty-three goals remained national records for many years following his last cap in 1966. He was appointed MBE in the new year's honours list of 1966.
Allchurch went on playing non-league football until the age of fifty. He then worked as a storeman. He died at his home in Swansea, on 9 July 1997, of cancer. A life-size statue of Allchurch was unveiled outside the Swansea City ground in 2005.