Huyton, Lancashire born wing half Tommy Gardner, nicknamed “Gandhi”, joined First Division Liverpool from Orrell, where he’d played junior football for two years, as an amateur in July 1928, signing professional forms in April 1929 and making his Football League debut against Manchester United in January 1930. He played in five consecutive First Division fixtures in the second half of the 1929-30 season when the regular right half Tom Morrison was unavailable. Morrison had been an ever-present the season before and would only miss three League matches the following season so Gardner’s opportunities were limited as a result. There was only one victory for the club in the five games in which Gardner figured and Liverpool finished the season mid-table.
He joined First Division Grimsby Town in June 1931, playing 13 games during their relegation season of 1931-32 before moving to neighbours Hull City in May 1932. In his first season he played 39 League games as they became Third Division (North) Champions, and by February 1934 his form was such that he was signed by First Division Aston Villa for £4,500 after 2 goals in 73 appearances for The Tigers. Gardner was a long-throw expert and once won a Daily Mail competition by throwing 32 yards, 2 inches.
In May 1934 he was selected for England’s post season tour, being reserve in Hungary and then winning his first England cap in a 2-1 defeat in Prague a week later against Czechoslovakia. He remained in the England squad in 1934-35, being a reserve for a further 4 matches including each of the Home Internationals, before winning his second and final cap in May 1935 in a 1-0 win over Holland in Amsterdam.
However he lost his Aston Villa place in 1935-36 and played only 5 times as Villa were relegated from the First Division, and although he had a decent run in the team in 1936-37, he had again been overlooked by the time Burnley signed him in April 1938, by when he had scored once in 76 appearances for the Villa Park outfit. His career at Burnley was cut short by the Second World War, by when he had scored 3 goals in 42 appearances but while at Turf Moor he was also selected to represent The Football League in 1939, and during the War he won the Football League War Cup when playing for Blackpool they beat Arsenal 4-2 in the 1943 Final at Stamford Bridge.
After the War he returned to League action with Wrexham in December 1945, scoring 5 goals in 39 appearances before joining non league Wellington Town in August 1947. He later played for Oswestry Town in 1950, where he was player-manager and later player-coach, and Saltney in 1952.
Having retired he became Chester City’s assistant trainer in the summer of 1954 and stayed in the post until May 1967, and was also a steward with the club,
NB This extremely rare photograph was taken before England’s tour match against Czechoslovakia in Prague on 16th May 1934, Gardiner’s England debut, England losing the match 2-1. The full line up is as follows (l to r):
Tommy Gardner – Aston Villa
Cliff Bastin – Arsenal
Ernie Hart – Leeds United
Horace Burrows – Sheffield Wednesday
Fred Tilson – Manchester City (England’s goalscorer)
Frank Moss – Arsenal
Sammy Crooks – Derby County
Tom Cooper – Derby County (captain)
Joe Beresford – Aston Villa
Eric Brook – Manchester City
Eddie Hapgood – Arsenal