Blackburn, Lancashire born right back Bob Crompton is one of the classic footballers of the pre First World War era. He was a true one club stalwart who signed professional in September 1896 and played for his hometown club Blackburn Rovers between April 1897 when he made his Football League debut at Stoke City, and his retirement in May 1920, playing two League games aged 40 after the First World War in 1919-20, his last in February 1920 at Bradford Park Avenue. He never got to an FA Cup Final, being twice a losing semi finalist in 1911 and 1912.
Despite the interruption of the War, by which time he was already nearly 35, he went on to play 530 League games for Rovers alone, 577 in total, scoring 14 goals. In the 1915-16 season he played for Blackpool in the wartime regional leagues where he was made club captain. Almost always sporting an impeccable moustache, he was captain of the Blackburn Rovers teams that won the League Championships of both 1912 and 1914. Charlie Buchan described him as “…the outstanding full-back of his time. A commanding personality, he was the best kicker of a ball I ever ran across.”
He also won an incredible 41 caps for England between March 1902 when he was awarded his first cap against Wales in a 0-0 draw at Wrexham and April 1914 when he captained the team in a defeat against Scotland at Hampden Park, this in an era when there were relatively very few internationals and no substitutes. His record number of caps was only overhauled by Billy Wright in 1952, by when many more internationals were being played each season. Probably winning the equivalent of 140 caps in today’s game, he only failed to play for England in 1904-05! He was captain of England on 22 occasions, and also represented The Football League on 17 further occasions.
A director of Blackburn Rovers between June 1931 and March 1931, he became manager of Blackburn in December 1926 staying until February 1931, winning the FA Cup with Rovers in 1928, and he also had a two year spell as manager of Bournemouth from June 1935 to February 1936, before returning to Blackburn once again as manager in April 1938, and guided them to the Second Division Championship in 1938-39. He was still incumbent as Rovers’ manager when suffering a fatal heart attack during a wartime game against Burnley in March 1941.
In 2016 Bob Crompton was inducted to the Hall of Fame by the National Football Museum as an ‘Historic Player’.
NB in the photograph, taken at Goodison Park on 13th April 1912, Crompton (left) tosses the coin with the Everton captain Jock Maconnachie before Blackburn’s 3-1 win.