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Football and the First World War
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One of the safest pair of hands in the history of English football, Liverpool goalkeeper Sam Hardy was capped 21 times for England in a fourteen year international career.
Sam Hardy was born at Back Lane, Newbold, in Derbyshire, on 26 August 1882, the youngest son of Thomas Hardy, a coalminer, and his wife, Hannah Fidler. He went to the Newbold church school and became an enthusiastic footballer, so much so that he left his first job in a Chesterfield drapery store because it did not allow him Saturday afternoons off. He played centre forward at first and only went into goal when the first-choice goalkeeper failed to turn up. While playing for Newbold White Star he caught the attention of Chesterfield of the second division, who signed him in April 1903 at a wage of 5s. a week. When Liverpool won the second division title in 1904–5 they scored six goals against Chesterfield but were so impressed by Hardy that they paid £500 for his transfer. He made thirty appearances in the side as Liverpool won the First Division title the following year.
Hardy's international career began in 1907 and, although it was interrupted by the war, included twenty-one appearances for England between 1907 and 1920; he also played in the three ‘victory’ internationals in 1919–20. With Bob Crompton and J. Pennington he formed a celebrated defence, and in 1908–9 England defeated Ireland, Scotland, and Wales without conceding a goal, with Hardy saving a penalty against the Scots. This feat had not been accomplished before and was not repeated until 1982.
In May 1912 Hardy moved to Aston Villa together with centre half J. Harrop for a combined fee of £1250. In his first season Aston Villa won the FA cup and finished second in the league. He was also in the team which won the first cup final after the First World War. In August 1921, at the age of thirty-eight, Hardy moved to Nottingham Forest, helping them to become champions of the second division in that season. He retired in 1925 after a career of 552 league appearances.
He was known in the game as Silent Sam, a name which epitomized his unobtrusive style. Goalkeepers in his time did not come out and seek to dominate the penalty area in the modern fashion. Mostly they stayed on their line and relied on accurate handling, instinctive positioning, and anticipation. In 1908 he wrote an article for the Liverpool Echo entitled ‘Aspects of a difficult art’, in which he placed anticipation as the highest of the goalkeeper's gifts. He also said that he watched the striker's foot as a clue to the likely power and direction of the shot.
Hardy supported the players' union, and took part in a benefit match to raise funds in 1919. He also insisted throughout his playing career on living and training in his Derbyshire home.
After retirement from football Hardy worked on the administrative side for Nottingham Forest and later acted as a scout for Aston Villa. But for many years he was the licensee of the Gardeners' Arms in Chesterfield; the magistrate who granted the licence remarked that if he kept the public house as well as he kept goal there would be nothing to complain of. He was also proprietor of several billiard halls. He died at his home, 4 West View Road, Chesterfield, on 24 October 1966.