Crook, County Durham born goalkeeper Jack Alderson began his football career as a junior with his local side Crook Juniors in 1909, beginning his senior career with Crook Town a year later. He moved to North Eastern League Shildon Athletic in 1911 before joining the books of Middlesbrough in July 1912 as an amateur, without making a first team appearance. He returned to Shildon later the same year before signing, still an amateur, for First Division Newcastle United for £30 in January 1913, making his Football League debut the same month against Woolwich Arsenal in a 3-1 victory, his only appearance for The Magpies where he was understudy to Jimmy Lawrence.
With the outbreak of the First World War and with League football abandoned Alderson served in the Army whilst remaining on the books at Newcastle. Based at Woolwich he played a number of wartime games for Crystal Palace as a guest player and at the end of the War he signed for Palace from Newcastle for a fee of £50 in May 1919. He was an ever present in the first post-war season, 1919-20, as Palace finished third in the Southern League. At the end of the season, Palace, along with all the other Southern League clubs formed the new Football League Division Three, Alderson playing in their inaugural Football League fixture, a 2-1 win away to Merthyr Town on 28th August 1920. He remained an ever present in the Palace side as they were promoted to the Second Division as Third Division Champions at the end of the season.
Although Palace struggled in Division Two, Alderson was a success and won his only England cap playing in a 4-1 win against France in Paris on 10th May 1923. In 2005, Palace’s centenary year, Alderson was voted their third best goalkeeper of all time, being beaten only by the more recent players Nigel Martyn (winner) and John Jackson (runner-up). However following a dispute with Palace over a benefit match Alderson moved to Pontypridd in the close season of 1924, having played 205 first team games for Crystal Palace.
With FA Cup holders Sheffield United looking for a replacement keeper for Charles Sutcliffe they turned to Alderson who had a reputation as a spectacular shot stopper and penalty saver. The football committee (who ran the club at the time) were not completely convinced however and sanctioned the £500 move only if the player was under thirty. Club secretary John Nicholson was tasked with verifying the matter and the fee was duly paid to Crystal Palace who still retained his registration. Alderson arrived at Bramall Lane with the local press citing him as 29 years old, this being far from the truth as he was in fact already 34.
Despite his confused transfer Alderson was a success at United, playing 133 games in four years, although he was often considered eccentric and unreliable by his team mates, particularly his liking for entertaining the fans during a game by touching the ground without bending his knees. He was part of their 1928 FA Cup semi final team eventually beaten in two replays by Huddersfield Town at Maine Road.
Moving to the South coast Alderson joined Exeter City in May 1929 where he played 37 games before moving to local rivals Torquay United in November 1930, but with Joe Wright as first choice keeper and Laurie Millsom as an able understudy, Alderson left Torquay without making a first team appearance.
He subsequently played for Worcester City in 1931 before re-joining Crook Town in 1932 where he ended his playing career. During his career he managed the rare feat of saving 11 penalties of the 12 taken against him!
NB The photograph shows Manchester United’s centre forward Joe Spence (right) shooting at Alderson’s goal, either at Old Trafford on 26th August 1922, or at The Nest, Croydon a week later, Manchester United winning both games by the odd goal in 3 and 5 respectively, with Spence scoring once at Old Trafford and twice in the return match.