Simonside, Jarrow, County Durham born goalkeeper Sam Bartram began his football career with Boldon Villa in 1929 and played the same year for North Shields. He played for Jarrow in 1930 and Boldon Villa again in 1931 before joining Easington Colliery Welfare in 1932, returning to Boldon Villa in 1933. A scout from Charlton Athletic, Angus Seed, was watching a final in which Bertram was playing, and he played so well that Angus recommended him to Third Division (South) Charlton Athletic, for whom he signed in September 1934, making his Football League debut at Watford that December. He helped Charlton to win the Third Division (South) Championship in his first season and then missed only three games as they won back to back promotions, finishing as runners up in the Second Division in 1935-36. He missed only one match in the next three seasons in the top flight as The Addicks finished runners up, fourth and third in the League Championship before the Second World War significantly interrupted his career.
During the Second World War, Bartram guested for York City, Liverpool and West Ham United. He also played in three England wartime internationals but never played a full international for England such was the dominance of Frank Swift, Ted Ditchburn and Vic Woodley either side of the War. Bartram toured Australia with an England XI in 1951 and played for the England B team, but he was burdened with the unwanted praise of ‘the finest goalkeeper never to play for England’.
Bartram is remembered at The Valley for one of the weirdest stories in football. ‘Soon after the kick-off,’ he wrote in his autobiography, ‘[fog] began to thicken rapidly at the far end, travelling past Vic Woodley in the Chelsea goal and rolling steadily towards me. The referee stopped the game, and then, as visibility became clearer, restarted it. We were on top at this time, and I saw fewer and fewer figures as we attacked steadily.’
The game went unusually silent but Sam remained at his post, peering into the thickening fog from the edge of the penalty area. And he wondered why the play was not coming his way. ‘After a long time,’ he wrote, ‘a figure loomed out of the curtain of fog in front of me. It was a policeman, and he gaped at me incredulously. “What on earth are you doing here?” he gasped. “The game was stopped a quarter of an hour ago”.’
After the War he resumed with Charlton Athletic and reached the 1946 FA Cup Final with them, where they were beaten 4-1 in extra time by Derby County at Wembley. He missed one game in the first peacetime League season and went one better in the FA Cup as Charlton beat Burnley 1-0 in the 1947 FA Cup Final. He missed one more game in the next three seasons and was also an ever present in 1954-55, his penultimate season, The Addicks maintaining their top flight status (once achieved) throughout his career with them.
He played in goal for 22 years, and was never dropped from the team until he retired in 1956 aged 42 after 626 appearances for Charlton Athletic. He is considered one of Charlton’s greatest players, and their finest goalkeeper. Bartram left Charlton to become the manager of York City in March 1956, helping them to achieve a promotion in 1958-59, he then became manager of Luton Town in July 1960 until June 1962.
In 1976/77 an estate was built at the Jimmy Seed end of the ground consisting of a block of flats and seven houses. It was named Sam Bartram Close. In 2005, a nine-foot statue of Sam Bartram was erected outside The Valley, home of Charlton Athletic, in order to celebrate the club’s centenary.Fifty years after his retirement, Charlton Athletic named Bartram’s bar and restaurant in his honour at The Valley.
His older brother Jimmy Bartram played as a centre forward for Northampton Town, Falkirk and Queen of the South among other clubs.