Byker, Newcastle-on-Tyne born centre forward Tommy Cheetham began his football career playing for Byker in 1929 before joining the Army and played for his regiment while serving in the Royal Artillery. In August 1935, aged nearly 25, he signed for London club Queen’s Park Rangers, then playing in the Third Division (South). He made his Football League debut on 4th September 1935 in a 1-1 draw away to Brighton & Hove Albion. Although he didn’t score in that first game, his next two games brought six goals including four at home to Aldershot, and a six game spell running up to Christmas produced 11 including a hat-trick against Crystal Palace. From the 37 games he played in his first League season as a professional footballer, Cheetham scored 37 times, including a further hat-trick against Gillingham. He set a new club record by scoring in 9 consecutive games at QPR’s home ground, Loftus Road between October 1935 and January 1936.
His performances earned him an invitation to play for The Possibles against The Probables in March 1936 in a trial match for selection for the England team. The quality of the Probables’ defence, with Alf Young outstanding, meant Cheetham had little chance to shine. The Times’ correspondent reported that “Cheetham did not receive a pass for nearly half an hour”, but “considering the brilliance of Young, the play of Cheetham could hardly be considered unsatisfactory”. Though his next two seasons were less productive, in 1938-39 he scored 27 goals from the 31 games, including 4 more against Aldershot in November 1938 and a hat-trick against Northampton Town, before he left the club in February 1939 to join First Division Brentford for a fee of £5,000 after 92 goals in 129 appearances for Rangers.
Signing on the same day as forward Leslie Boulter (who had signed from Charlton Athletic), the pair made their debuts in a 4-2 defeat to Aston Villa on 7th February. He went on to score twice as Brentford beat fellow relegation strugglers Chelsea 3-1 and created both goals in a 2-0 defeat of Leicester City in early April, by which time The Bees had achieved a mid-table position. He finished the 1938-39 season with eight goals from 17 matches.
Cheetham had played two further matches at the start of the 1939-40 season when the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 put a stop to the Football League for the duration and caused a major interruption to Cheetham’s career. Cheetham was a member of the Territorial Army during the Second World War and was injured at Dunkirk. During the War, he joined Lincoln City and played for them in wartime competitions, and also turned out as a guest for West Ham United, scoring twice in a match against Luton Town in May 1945.
Then in first full season after the War, 1946-47, Cheetham resumed his prolific goalscoring; 30 goals from 41 games in League and FA Cup made him Lincoln City’s leading scorer, a total that included a hat-trick at Accrington Stanley in May 1947. He played only infrequently in 1947-48 with his last game coming on 6th April 1948 against Rochdale, and he retired from professional football at the age of 37 having score 35 goals in 57 appearances for The Imps.