Sunday, 13 January 2013

Jackie Blackburn

Continuing our new series of looking at Rovers’ fullbacks, we turn our attention this week to the 1940s which was, just as the previous decade had been, a time of real struggle for the club. The country was in the grip of a World War and to ease the problems of player availability due to military call ups the RFL introduced a "guest" system whereby a professionally registered player could turn out for another club at short notice with his own club’s permission. Our great centre Walt Tennant for instance once played a game for St. Helens. Rovers occasionally used Castleford’s full-back Norman Guest as a guest. I suppose the modern equivalent of that would be Rovers signing a player called Jamie Dual-Registration, but that seems unlikely.

1939 Jackie Blackburn

Just before the war, a promising youngster by the name of Jack Blackburn had been tried out, and his eye-catching skills marked him out as a future star. However, like so many others, his progress was blocked by an army call up. Therefore, Featherstone’s first choice full-back up to 1943 was Walt Parkin, who played a total of 140 games for the club between 1938 and 1946 and kicked 41 goals. This was a very useful return for a solid footballer like Parkin, playing in a losing team that didn’t score a lot of points. Former favourite from the 1930s Billy Stott came back from Oldham and filled in for a few games at full back as a guest player. Next to try his luck after Parkin was Larry Hossack who played a total of 55 games, although some of those games were as a three-quarter.

After Hossack, Cyril Pawson made his mark, playing 81 games in which he kicked 56 goals. As the war came to an end, another promising local lad Irving Barraclough came through. He was the latest in a long line of Barracloughs who had made their way into the Rovers first team. He played 57 games and kicked 80 goals. As an example of the struggle Rovers had at this time, Barraclough actually finished as the club’s leading goal kicker in 1944/45 with a grand total of 13 goals! Once the war was over, Jack Blackburn came back into the reckoning. He had made a slow recovery from an injury sustained playing union for the RAF, but enjoyed a run at full-back in 1947/8. Jack made a total of 139 games for the club stretched over 14 years before finally retiring around the time of Rovers’ first ever Wembley. Towards the end of the decade Tommy Townsend took over at full-back. He proved to be a more than useful goal-kicker landing 76 in the 45 games he played, and was the club’s leading points scorer two years running in 1949 and 1950.

Townsend’s successor proved to be the daddy of them all in the goal-kicking department. After this long series of locally produced full-backs ended, the club went to Hull and signed a legend in January 1950.

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