Ivor Allchurch

Football's Pioneers: Ivor Allchurch

Dr. Mark Orton continues a series, in partnership with De Montfort University’s International Centre for Sports History and Culture, by recalling the achievements of Ivor Allchurch, who is considered to be one of Wales’ greatest-ever players.
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Known as the ‘Golden Boy’ as much for his blonde hair as for his footballing prowess, Swansea-born Allchurch is best-known for being part of the Wales team that played at the 1958 World Cup.

Born on 16 October, 1929, Allchurch joined his hometown club Swansea Town as a 15 year-old in 1945. After completing his National Service, he made his debut in the Second Division at the age of 20 in a 3-0 defeat by West Ham United on Boxing Day 1949. 

Over the next decade, the tall, lean inside forward would establish himself as one of the most skilful players in the British game, making 327 appearances for the Swans, and scoring 128 goals in the process. He often appeared alongside his brother Len in the latter years of this spell.

Allchurch’s eye for a defence-splitting pass and fierce shot soon earned him international honours. On 15 November, 1950, he made his international debut for Wales in a 4-2 defeat against England at Sunderland’s Roker Park. 

His international career reached its pinnacle at the 1958 World Cup, Wales’ debut in the finals, where he featured alongside John Charles in the best Welsh side for a generation. Allchurch scored valuable goals against Mexico and Hungary as they advanced to the quarter-finals, where they were narrowly defeated by Pelé’s Brazil. Real Madrid’s president, Santiago Bernabéu, a shrewd judge of a player, described him as ‘the greatest inside-forward in the world.’

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Ivor Allchurch
Ivor Allchurch

The statue of Ivor Allchurch, which now stands outside Swansea.com Stadium.

Allchurch finally reached the top-flight in October 1958, joining Newcastle United for a fee of £28,000. He scored twice on his debut at St. James’ Park in a 3-1 victory over Leicester City, making him the darling of the Gallowgate.

Over the next four years, his deadly left foot helped him to score 46 times in 143 games for the Magpies. That first season, in 1958/59, was his best with the club, forming a deadly forward triumvirate with George Eastham and Len White, and scoring 48 goals between them.

However, Newcastle United went into decline from that point, getting relegated at the end of the 1960/61 season.

Allchurch was made captain as the Magpies attempted to reclaim their First Division status in 1961/62. But, in 1962, Allchurch joined Cardiff City so that he and his wife could be closer to their south Wales-based families after the death of their prematurely-born daughter.

Again, he would be a prolific scorer at Ninian Park, netting 42 goals in 118 appearances over three seasons. In 1965, Allchurch returned to Vetch Field for the swansong to his professional career, and a year later earned the last of his 68 Welsh caps against Chile, a national record until overtaken by Joey Jones.

In recognition of his services to football, Allchurch was awarded an MBE in the 1966 New Year’s Honours. But it is in his home city of Swansea that he is most fondly remembered, and in 2005 he was immortalised with the unveiling of a statue at the Liberty Stadium. 

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