Ephraim 'Jock' Dodds

EPHRAIM 'JOCK' DODDS Scottish professional footballer

Born: 7 September, 1915, in Grangemouth.

Died: 23 February, 2007, in Blackpool, aged 91.

WHILE he never played in an official international match for Scotland or for a Scottish club side, Ephraim Dodds was one of the most prolific and enduring centre forwards his country has ever produced.

Born in Grangemouth, Dodds moved to Durham at the age of 12 when his mother remarried. He stayed in England for the rest of his life but remained a fiercely patriotic Scot, predictably landing him the nickname of 'Jock' from friends and team-mates by which he would be best known.

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His football talents first earned him recognition with selection for the Durham schoolboys side and it was while on duty for them that he was spotted by Huddersfield Town, then a major force in the English professional game. Dodds signed for the Yorkshire club at the age of 16, playing for their reserve side from 1932 to 1934 but failing to make the breakthrough to the first team.

His potential had caught the attention of others, however, and in the summer of 1934 he moved across the county on a free transfer to sign for Sheffield United who had just been relegated to the Second Division. In five seasons at Bramall Lane, he became a huge favourite with the Sheffield United supporters who warmed to his fully committed style of play and natural eye for goal. Dodds scored 130 times in 203 appearances for the club, although the highlight of his career with them was a match in which they drew a blank. Despite still being in the Second Division, they reached the FA Cup final at Wembley in 1936 where they faced Arsenal. Ted Drake, the Highbury club's famous English international striker, scored the only goal of the game but Dodds was desperately unlucky not to equalise for the underdogs when he struck the crossbar with a header.

He recalled later: "I was just about to direct the ball down into the net when a wee fellow called Wilf Copping went up behind me and, in striving to get to the ball, punched me in the back. This had the unfortunate effect of knocking my head backwards so the ball thudded against the crossbar instead of nestling itself in the back of the net. But for that, who knows, things might have turned out different."

In what proved to be his final season with Sheffield United, Dodds made a major contribution to their successful promotion back to the First Division with a tally of 17 league goals in 29 appearances. He was sold just before the end of the campaign, however, when Blackpool paid a sizeable fee of 10,000 to take him to Bloomfield Road.

Blackpool were under threat of relegation from the First Division at the time of his arrival in March 1939, but their investment in Dodds proved a wise one as he netted 10 goals in the remaining 12 matches of the season to maintain their top flight status.

The 1939-40 campaign was only three matches old when official football was suspended for the duration of the Second World War. Dodds joined the Royal Air Force where he was assigned the role of a physical training instructor and stationed in Blackpool.

The war years coincided with the peak of his powers as a striker and while the football was unofficial, his goalscoring prowess during the period was nonetheless astonishing. Dodds scored 230 goals in 157 games for Blackpool, including a hat-trick in the space of two and a half minutes against Tranmere Rovers in February 1942 which remained the fastest on record until James Hayter of Bournemouth achieved the feat 10 seconds quicker in 2004.

Never capped for Scotland in an official fixture, Dodds did attract the attention of the SFA selectors during the war and scored nine goals in eight matches for his country. The game against England at Hampden in April 1942 was one of the proudest days of his career as he scored a hat-trick in a 5-4 victory in front of 91,000 supporters. Billy Liddell and future Liverpool manager Bill Shankly netted the other Scotland goals.

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Dodds also made guest appearances for Manchester United, West Ham United and Fulham during the war but returned to Blackpool, where he had married and gone into business, once hostilities were over. He found himself in dispute with Blackpool, however, and after a brief spell in Dublin with Shamrock Rovers, he returned to be sold to Everton for a fee of 8,250 in November 1946.

He remained a potent goalscoring force in the First Division, scoring 37 times in 58 matches for the Goodison Park club from 1946 to 1948 before dropping down to the Second Division to finish his playing career with Lincoln City who paid 6,000 for his services. A further 39 goals in 60 games saw him pay his way yet again for his final club before hanging up his boots in the summer of 1950.

Dodds declined offers to go into management, at both Stoke City and Port Vale, but became involved in the recruitment of players to join a controversial league in Colombia which was outlawed by world governing body FIFA. Several well known players, including Scottish forward Bobby Flavell and England defender Neil Franklin, took up the lucrative offers which saw them banned by the Football Association.

It was Dodds' last formal involvement in football, although he remained a regular at Bloomfield Road to watch Blackpool. Following his retirement from his business interests in the seaside town, he lived in nearby Lytham St Annes with his wife Frances until her death two years ago. Dodds passed away peacefully at Blackpool's Victoria Hospital last Friday at the age of 91.