In November 1936, Second Division Leicester City paid First Division Derby County a club-record fee of £7,500 for England international centre-forward Jack Bowers.
The Directors’ Minutes of 24 November, 1936 recorded that the fee was to be paid in three instalments. £3,500 was to be paid at once, with two further payments, each of £2,000, to be paid at three-monthly intervals.
Bowers was signed by the recently-appointed manager Frank Womack at a time when Leicester City were struggling towards the bottom of the ‘old’ Second Division. His goalscoring record at Derby County between 1928 and 1936 was exceptional. He was the First Division’s top scorer on three occasions, and won three England caps. He then suffered a serious knee injury and spent most of the 1935/36 season in the reserves. However, he was still scoring goals in Derby County’s first team during the season he signed for Leicester City.
Paying such a high fee for a player with a suspect knee was a risk, but Bowers’ impact at Leicester City was phenomenal, more than justifying money spent on him. In the remaining 27 league games of the season after his signing, Bowers scored 33 goals helping propel Leicester City from the lower reaches of the table to the Second Division title and a place in the top flight.
One of the keys to Bowers’ goal scoring success was left-winger Eric Stubbs, who was signed by Womack from Nottingham Forest a few days before Jack’s arrival at Filbert Street.
Talking to the Club in 2013, on the occasion of his 100th birthday, Eric explained: “I played on the left wing. I put in a lot of crosses and Jack scored a lot of goals. We played to instructions. Outside right Danny Liddle would put the ball to the corner flag, and I swung crosses into the box. Jack, a big fellow, was at the far post, and bang... the ball and the goalkeeper would be in the back of the net! Three quick movements before their defence had time to recover.”
There is a letter in the Club’s archives which was written many years ago by a fan named Bill Warner. It eloquently describes the impact Jack had on Leicester City.
Bill wrote: “Jack was the best header of the ball I had ever seen other than the legendary Dixie Dean. Signing Jack was Frank Womack’s greatest achievement. Initially, the fans hadn’t expected much from Jack because of his suspect leg. The feeling was that he had been signed as a stop gap. This wasn’t to be. With many crosses provided by Eric Stubbs Jack’s seasonal haul for Leicester (in 1936/37) included six braces, two hat-tricks and a four-goal spree against Burnley. The following season the Directors did not come up with the money to replace the veteran Bowers, who soldiered on. However, he still managed to score 19 league goals in 52 games before Leicester were relegated again four months before the outbreak of the Second World War.”
The record fee paid for Jack was money well spent.
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