TWIH: Black's Final Appearance

In the latest of his ‘The Week in History’ blogs, Club Historian John Hutchinson recalls the 78th anniversary of record-breaker Adam Black’s last game for Leicester City. It was the end of an era.

Seventy-eight years ago this week, on 9 February 1935, Adam Black played his last game for Leicester City. It was his 528th league game. This established a City record that has never been beaten. Although Graham Cross made 599 total appearances, his total of league games fell short of Adam’s.

Adam’s grandsons Allister, Andrew and Neil are all Leicester City supporters to this day, as are members of their families. Between them they have provided a range of memorabilia relating to Adam’s life and career. 

One outstanding item is a pair of Adam’s old football boots, each boot weighing the equivalent of a bag of sugar. They are made of leather, the studs are nailed to the soles, the toe caps are as hard as steel and the ankles are protected by a double thickness of leather.

Other items of memorabilia, all contained in the Club’s digital archive, tell us much more about Adam’s life. 

His birth certificate indicates that he was born on 18 February, 1898 in Denny in Perthshire. 

We have a picture of a young Adam as a schoolboy in his local Denny football team. 

A formal photo, taken during the First World War, of a kilted Corporal Adam Black is evidence that he enlisted, as a 16 year old, in the 7th Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. 

We also have another fading photo of an Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders football team, (B Coy, 7th Battalion, 51st Division) taken on 20 March, 1918, on the Western Front. Adam is on the back row. The Club’s archive also contains a digital image of a football medal (winners, 51st Divisional Cup) won by this football team on the day that this photograph was taken.

Within 24 hours of winning this football medal, Adam won the DCM for gallantry fighting in the trenches. A British Expeditionary Force citation (dated 21st March 1918) praises Adam for “Gallantry on Active Service”. He cleared a trench of the enemy, “in spite of strenuous opposition”.

The Club has digital images of  Adam’s First World War medals, including the DCM, the 1914-15 Star, the 1914 -18 War medal and the Victory Medal. We also have an image of an engraved gold pocket watch presented to Adam by the people of Denny and Dunipace in August 1919 “in appreciation of the honour brought by him to the district”.

The earliest reference we have to Adam’s senior football career is a medal which he won for the Scottish Club Bathgate in 1919, not long before he was signed for Leicester City by their Scottish manager Peter Hodge. 

Adam’s marriage banns from St James’ Parish Clydebank, from June 1920, indicate that he married six months after signing for Leicester City. A Leicester Mercury article in our archive from January 1920, entitled “A New Full Back” was Adam’s first mention in the local Leicester press.

This was the first season for the newly re-formed Leicester City FC, which had replaced the now defunct Leicester Fosse. The Club possesses one of Adam’s earliest contracts entitled “Agreement for Hire of a Player”, showing that he earned £8 a week during the season and £6 in the close season. This contract also details bonus payments and conditions of service.

Peter Hodge’s Leicester City became Second Division Champions in 1925. Adam’s medal from this campaign is on display at King Power Stadium. The Club also has many photographs and documents relating to this very successful season, including a one taken in 1925 of a group of Leicester City footballers, including Adam, linking arms at Filbert Street. 

The next five seasons were the most successful in the Club’s history. The Club finished third in the league in 1928 and second the following year, coming within a point of winning the league title.

At the Club we possess a series of action shots from the First Division matches in the late 1920s, featuring Adam playing on pitches that look like swamps.

We also have several newspaper and magazine cartoons from the 1920s and 1930s, one featuring Adam, as Leicester’s captain, shaking hands with the legendary Dixie Dean, from Everton. 

Further evidence of Adam’s career comes from the Club’s collection of cigarette cards from the 1920s and 1930s.

By the time Adam played his last game, a 2-0 defeat at Sunderland, he had been honoured by being appointed the Club’s captain. However, along with Adam, the successful team of the 1920s was ageing and slipping down the table. In fact, Leicester City were relegated at the end of the season in which Adam hung up his boots.

Evidence of Adam’s life after football exists in the Club’s digital archive. A legal document details Adam’s purchase of a newsagents and tobacconists business in Wilberforce Road for £800 in 1935. There is also a photograph of Adam behind the counter of his shop in the 1940s, holding a copy of the Leicester Mercury. Adam ran the shop until the 1970s.

The final reference to Adam in the Club’s archive is an obituary in a Leicester City programme from 1981, detailing Adam’s tragic death. He was run over by a train in Leicestershire.

Adam was a true Leicester City legend. His final game, 78 years ago this week was the end of an era for the Football Club. It is fitting that a room is named after him at King Power Stadium and that he is included in the Players’ Hall of Fame in the Directors’ Room.

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