Club News

Bowler's Delivery: Light fingered

A goalkeeper's tale

ALBION have had plenty of fine goalkeepers down the years, the likes of current number one Ben Foster, John Osborne, the Pearson clan, all the way back to England men Bob Roberts and Joe Reader from the 19th century. All of them what we are forced to now call, in these years of Our Arry, “top, top players”.

Then, there are others.

Amongst all the goalkeepers that have represented the Throstles down the years, Billy Light endured possibly the unhappiest career of the lot, between March 1935 and April 1938, three years where the Albion nets went trawling for goals and caught enough – or didn’t catch in Light’s case – to feed the five thousand.

He was thrown in the deep end, replacing Harold Pearson in goal and making his debut at Molineux on March 14th 1936 as Albion got the Ides of March in early and slipped to a 2-0 defeat. 

We should have paid attention to the omens. He kept one clean sheet in the final 11 games of that season, conceding 27 goals on his way, including four at Highbury on a less than Good Friday and five at Goodison Park the day after.

And yet the former Southampton goalkeeper was first choice come the start of the new campaign. These were to be the halcyon days for Billy, for although he shipped six at Manchester City and four at Charlton, letting in a mere 22 goals in eight games was something of a high watermark in his Albion odyssey, ended by the recent of Harold Pearson. 

He briefly returned for a home game against Arsenal in November – lost 4-2 – but it wasn’t until the turn of the year and the arrival of 1937 before his next run of games. 

It started well, a 7-1 win over Spennymoor in the FA Cup at The Hawthorns and he then mustered a clean sheet in a 2-0 win at home to Chelsea. Normal service was resumed as he let two in against Darlington in a 3-2 cup tie win before the roof fell in at, inevitably, Stoke City.

In the spirit of full disclosure, we should point out that Billy suffered an ankle injury after 12 minutes but was required to soldier on given there were no substitutes then. By that stage, he had already conceded one.

Nine more followed. 

Albion lost 10-3, still our record defeat and Billy did not return to the side for another two months, contriving to ship five goals in two games against Sheffield Wednesday.

Still the agony would not end. 

Recalled to the colours at the end of October 1937, five went past him at Derby, four at home to Bolton. There were still two more to play, at Easter 1938, never a good time for Billy. We were beaten 2-1 at Birmingham and 7-1 at Manchester City before Billy’s Albion career was finally put humanely to sleep and he left for Colchester. 

In the end, Billy played 28 First Division games and conceded 86 goals. It rather gives the lie to the expression “many hands make Light work” doesn’t it?