In recent seasons where Mane, Firmino and Salah have recaptured the imaginations of the Spion Kop, it’s all too easy to forget about the legends from the distant past. In the case of Reds legend Albert Stubbins though, that should never be the case.
A legend at both former clubs – Newcastle United and Liverpool – the centre-forward was born in Wallsend, a true Geordie, who oddly signed as an amateur with Newcastle rivals Sunderland but it was only a matter of time before he joined his boyhood club where he would begin a career that would be cruelly interrupted by World War II.
Stubbins was not your typical centre-forward at the time. He had the height and physical presence that many might associate with your run-of-the-mill English goal-scorer through the years but his blistering pace, technical ability and powerful shooting on the move marked him out as something of an oddity – he most certainly wouldn’t be out of place in today’s game.
Sadly for the striker his career has not had the recognition it deserves outside of Newcastle and Liverpool, and he is said to have ‘officially’ only played 27 games for Newcastle, scoring 5 goals. In actual fact, Stubbins knocked in 188 goals in 231 games for Newcastle alone. A record that, these days, would have him competing for Golden Boots and Player of the Year awards on an annual basis.
Of course, the move that really put Stubbins’ name on the map was joining Liverpool for a then record fee of between £12,500-£14,000 (a fee which is often disputed). Stubbins had also been approached by Liverpool’s closest rivals, Everton, and he settled the decision with a toss of the coin.
Regardless, it was a LFC club record making the Geordie a very notable figure at the time, even in a Liverpool side that included such illustrious names as Jack Balmer and Reds icon, Billy Liddell, as well as the clubs’ future manager, Bob Paisley.
Scoring 83 goals in 178 games, Albert formed a great partnership with inside-forwards Balmer and Liddell, winning the old First Division title in 1947 and he enjoyed sx great years at Anfield before injury and home-sickness took their toll.
Despite his goal-scoring prowess and club record fee, Stubbins was never honoured with an England cap, missing out repeatedly, apart from a meaningless, post-war friendly defeat to Wales in 1946.
However, it would be fair to say that the centre-forward was given an even greater honour when, in 1967, he made the cut and took his place in history – on the cover of The Beatles’ album cover for Sgt Peppers. Becoming the only footballer to make the cover, many pondered the meaning of his entry. In fact, many more probably wondered who this smiling, red-shirted man was but to those from Paul McCartney‘s home town, Stubbin’s appearance was of much less a surprise.
Following on from his football career, the man from the North-east made a brief move into management before taking up a career in sports journalism back up North, something which is not the usual career path of the typical footballer, becoming a popular football writer and personality.
Stubbin’s went on to become a respected member of the journalistic community; and was the beneficiary of a gala dinner in 1990 to celebrate his achievements spanning many decades.
To the great loss of English football, Albert died on 28th December 2002, at the age of 83, he is roundly loved and remembered by fans of both Newcastle United and Liverpool who’s fond memories will live on, long into the next generation of football fan.
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