Memories of motorcycle football

It seems hard to believe these days, but football was once played by men on motorbikes. Catherine Dalton talks to the daughter of the man who pioneered the daring sport.

Motorcycle football
It might seem strange now, but motorcycle football was once all the rage in the Black Country.

It seems almost unbelievable now but motorcycle football was once all the rage in the Black Country writes Catherine Dalton.

So when June Hussey, of Wombourne, saw a recent television article about the sport, she decided to open her photo album on her father who helped pioneer it in Wolverhampton more than 80 years ago.

Tommy Deadman founded Wolverhampton Motor Cycle Football Club in the late 1920s and the sport soon attracted a large following.

Not for the faint hearted, it saw two teams of six play the beautiful game - only this time on the back of a motorcycle.

These stunning black and white photographs capture moments from the unusual full throttle sport.

"I was watching TV and there was an article on there saying superbikes were now getting involved in playing motorcycle football," said mother-of-two Mrs Hussey, aged 79.

"They were suggesting that it was the first time it had been done but obviously that's not quite the case. It actually started many years ago and my father was heavily involved in it."

Racing

Born and bred in Wolverhampton, Tommy Deadman had already made quite a name for himself in the world of motorcycling, having taken part in the first ever dirt track racing at Wolverhampton's Monmore Green Stadium in August 1928.

From grass track rides and hill climbs to speedway and side car racing, there was not much the father-of-one did not achieve on two wheels.

But eager to try something new and push the boundaries further, the motorcycle tester for Wolverhampton-based motorcycle makers AJS and later Sunbeam, found a new thrill.

He founded Wolverhampton Motor Cycle Football Club, which played home games in Pinfold Lane, Penn.

It captured the public's imagination - albeit for a fleeting time - and led to teams being set up across the country and the creation of a league.

With Mr Deadman as captain, the Wolves team enjoyed a successful year in 1928, winning the Midland League Championship by beating Birmingham and competing in a nationwide competition equivalent to the FA Cup.

Wolves beat local rivals West Bromwich 10-1 in the first round and in the second round beat a team known as Douglas MC.

Coventry ACE fell in the next round, while Middlesbrough were beaten 4-2 in the semi-final.

Wolves even made it through to the final but lost out to Coventry with just minutes on the clock. But newspaper clippings from the 1920s show it was not just motorcycle football that had caught the imagination.

Mr Deadman even had the odd foray into motorcycle polo.

One newspaper cutting in Mrs Hussey's vast collection tells how Wolves enjoyed a double victory over West Midlands rivals Birmingham Motorcycle Club -  in both motorcycle football and polo.

Mr Deadman netted three goals in the football clash, while an unknown newspaper report from the time says: "In the polo match, the visitors (Birmingham) gained the odd goal in five and play was generally more even.

"Deadman, always the 'leader of the pack', secured all three goals for Wolves, and Weston scored twice for Birmingham."

Unfortunately, the love affair with the sport was short lasting and the onset of war meant petrol could not be used quite so liberally.

Unusual

Despite this, grandmother-of-three Mrs Hussey, who was married to Stanley, says she often enjoys looking through old photographs and clippings of her father playing the unusual sport.

Although she does not remember motorcycle football, the countless newspaper cutting and photographs help keep alive her father's memory, following his death in 1989 at the age of 85. "I am so grateful to my mother Liliian, who is a centenarian, for keeping all these wonderful records because if she hadn't then none of this would exist.

" I was born in the 1930s and from a baby I was taken to the motor races.

"I used to travel with the bikes and trailers in the back of a Stevens Brothers three-wheeled van, which is who my father worked for at one time.

"There would be a motorbike in there and then me sitting on a small chair with my mom and dad in the front."

She adds: "I used to love going to all these events because I used to love getting out and playing with all the other children of the riders.

"We had a great old time together."

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