From Great War trenches to England internationalHE'S a less known figure than he should be these days, but Tommy Magee has very strong claims to be named the greatest Albion player of all time.
After all, he is the only man ever to win have won both the League Championship and the FA Cup as a Throstle, in 1919/20 and 1930/31 respectively. The distance between those two achievements hints at his longevity, a career that took in well over 400 games for the club. And not only did he play for England as an Albion man, he did it in one of only two full internationals ever to be played at The Hawthorns.
Magee really did play on home soil in his third international, against the Belgians in December 1924, the only other time England played on The Hawthorns coming in October 1922 when Ireland were the visitors, vanquished 2-0, both goals scored by Chambers – Harry, no relation of Adam and James – Albion’s Joe Smith featuring in that fixture.
Tiny Tommy, at just five feet two and a half inches tall, is the smallest player ever to have played for the Throstles, and probably for England too, though there’s no official record of that.
At a time when England very rarely ventured beyond the home nations to play football games, Magee enjoyed an extraordinarily cosmopolitan international career, if a brief one, playing in Paris and Stockholm as well as opposing the Belgians in that Hawthorns game.
That was fitting enough for a footballer whose professional career actually began on foreign soil. Magee signed his first Albion contract in the trenches of France as hostilities came to a close in the Great War, his contract being flown back to England. Magee came home on a troop ship.
The “Pocket Hercules”, a tireless right-half, found that he had signed for a very special team indeed, Albion simply taking the opposition apart once league football resumed in August 1919, playing 24 games and scoring seven goals as the Throstles won the First Division by nine points in the days of two points for a win – the margin would have been 16 points under today’s scoring system. Albion managed a record number of points, 60, of goals, 104, and wins, 28 from 42 games.
By the time Magee was part of the legendary “Double Diamonds” that won the unique FA Cup and promotion double in 1931, he was in the twilight of his career, but in between those two seasons, the Widnes born half-back was in his prime, unlucky perhaps to win as few England caps as he did – he’s hardly unique among Albion men in that regard.
His debut came at Ninian Park in 1923, Wales snatching a late equaliser to draw the game 2-2, the ubiquitous Harry Chambers having got one of the England goals. He did enough to get himself on the England tour party for that summer, a trip that took in a game against France and two against Sweden, Magee figuring in the last one, a 3-1 win.
It was 18 months before he featured again, his recall perhaps owing something to the game taking place in West Bromwich, the FA having due regard to the way an Albion man might put a few thousand on the gate. England won well, 4-0, and though Magee missed the next game, against Wales, he was in the side for the big one, the trip to Hampden Park and Scotland, the “auld enemy”.
An impressive Scottish side that included greats such as Hughie Gallacher and Alec Jackson (no, not that one), put the Sassenachs to the sword, winning 2-0, but again, Magee retained his place and went to Paris to play in England’s next game.
France, where Magee’s Albion career had begun, was the nation where his England career ended. He played in the 3-2 win, but was never called upon again, though he did tour Canada with an FA team in both 1926 and 1931. Five caps for the “Mighty Atom”. Small reward.