Wilnecote, Staffordshire born goalkeeper Harry Hibbs is one of the classic goalkeepers of the 1930’s who came from a family of professional goalkeepers. His uncle Hubert Pearson had been West Bromwich Albion’s keeper for 18 years and had played for them in the 1912 FA Cup Final, his cousin Harold Pearson also had a long career with WBA and won the FA Cup with Albion against Hibbs in the Birmingham City goal in the 1931 Cup Final. Another cousin, Horace Pearson, kept goal for several clubs in the 1930’s including Blackpool, Oldham Athletic, Coventry City, Newport County and Bristol City.
Hibbs began his football career with Tamworth Castle in 1923 and represented Birmingham Juniors against a Scottish Juniors side in 1924. In April 1924 he was signed by First Division Birmingham City, where he was initially understudy to Dan Tremelling, making his Football League debut at Arsenal in May 1926. His breakthrough to being the number one choice came in September 1928, and was first selected for England in November 1929, when he made his international debut in a 6-0 win over Wales at Stamford Bridge. Hibbs also broke Sam Hardy’s record of 21 goalkeeping caps for England, winning 25 caps between November 1929 when selected against Wales and 1936 and being the third (equal with Roy Goodall) most capped inter war footballer behind Eddie Hapgood and Sammy Crooks. He held the record until 1962, when it was passed by Ron Springett. He also played 3 times for The Football League and represented The Football Association on their tours to South Africa in 1929 and Canada in 1931. He also won the FA Charity Shield when he played for The Professionals in their win over The Amateurs in 1929.
He spent almost his entire career in the First Division, only being relegated in the 1939 season immediately before the outbreak of the Second World War. 1931’s FA Cup Final at Wembley was Hibbs’ only appearance in a major final and probably the only time that two relatives have played against each other in an FA Cup Final. By the time the Second World War forced the abandonment of the 1939-40 season he had made 391 appearances for Birmingham, announcing his retirement in March 1940, making his final appearance the following month in a testimonial match against Aston Villa. After the War he became the manager of Walsall from August 1944 to June 1951. He later played for Hatfield club De Havilland in 1953-54, whom he was coaching at the time.