An outside left, Fred Hopkin was born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, and began his career with North Eastern League club Darlington in 1912, but his career was soon interrupted by the onset of the First World War, which forced the suspension of peacetime football in May 1915. After a spell as a wartime guest with Tottenham Hotspur, when he scored once in 3 matches in their 1915-16 campaign, after the conflict Hopkin joined First Division Manchester United in the summer of 1919, making his Football League debut at Derby County on 30th August, playing on the left wing in a 1-1 draw. He missed just three matches in his first season with the club and scored 5 goals in 41 appearances, his first coming in a 3-3 away draw in the Manchester derby against Manchester City in October 1919. In his second season he managed 3 goals in 33 appearances.
Hopkin’s contract with Manchester United resulted in the club being fined £350, having illegally offered him more than the League maximum wage plus a percentage of his transfer fee. Hopkin was signed by Liverpool manager David Ashworth for £2,800 in May 1921, becoming only one of a handful of players to move between the rival clubs. He made his Reds’ debut on 27th August 1921 at Roker Park, but finished on the losing side as Sunderland beat Liverpool 3-0. Hopkin had to wait until 3rd March 1923 for his debut goal, when he scored in the 49th minute of Liverpool’s 3-0 home win against Bolton Wanderers. The goal will always be remembered in Anfield folklore as it was followed by a fire in the Kemlyn Road stand, the joke being that the fire erupted as the supporters were so shocked he’d actually scored.
Less than a year after joining Liverpool, Hopkin was celebrating a League Championship as the team finished with 57 points, six more than second-placed Tottenham Hotspur. He was celebrating again at the end of the following campaign (1922-23) as they clinched the title once more to claim back-to-back titles, this time they acquired 60 points beating Sunderland into second by the same six-point margin. He was an ever present during the first title-winning season and missed just two of the 42 League matches in the second.
Hopkin was an excellent sportsman who used his speed to go past defenders and to win several hurdling competitions. He was so described in the Derby Daily Telegraph in 1926: “Hopkin has turned out to be one of the best investments Liverpool have ever made. His head is now losing its hair, and he may not be as fast as he was, but he can still pull out a rare turn of speed, while as a dribbler he can be elusive. Clings to the touch-line, drops perfect centres, and rarely scores a goal.”
Hopkin remained a regular starter for the club and over ten seasons at Anfield made 360 appearances for Liverpool, scoring 11 goals, he stayed relatively injury-free during his time at Anfield and despite younger challengers to his mantle he always played more than 20 matches a season. Hopkin was allowed to leave Liverpool in the summer of 1931 already aged nearly 36, and he re-joined Darlington for a second spell, by now in the Third Division (North), with his single season at Feethams producing 2 goals in 29 appearances before his retirement in 1932.