Widnes, Cheshire born Tommy Magee was a diminutive right half who started playing Rugby League with Appleton Hornets and St Helens Recreation, before switching codes to play for Penksett Albion in 1914, later playing for Widnes Athletic as an amateur during 1914-1915 when the onset of the First World War interrupted his initial career. While serving with The Royal Engineers Labour Battalion during the War, he was picked up and signed by West Bromwich Albion, purportedly signing in the trenches, first as an amateur in January 1919, turning professional in May 1919.
He scored in his first match, helping Albion to a 3-1 victory against Derby County in the Midland Victory League in April 1919. Following the end of the War, League football resumed for the 1919-20 season, and Magee made his Football League debut on the opening day of the campaign, against Oldham Athletic at The Hawthorns at the end of August. In the following match, away at Newcastle United, he scored his first goal for the club in a 2-0 win. Albion went on to win the League Championship that season, the only time in the club’s history that they have been League Champions. Magee made a significant contribution, appearing in 24 matches, scoring seven goals.
Although the next few seasons were generally less successful for Albion, Magee nonetheless won five caps for England during the 1920’s. He made his international debut against Wales at Ninian Park, Cardiff in March 1923, winning his second cap two months later on England’s tour of Sweden. In 1924-25 he played two further internationals against Belgium and in a Home Championship defeat to Scotland at Hampden Park, while his last cap was won in May 1925 against France. He is reputed, along with Fanny Walden and Jackie Crawford, to be the smallest man ever to play for England, but it is likely that he was slightly taller than the other two! He was also selected for the FA Tour of Canada in both 1926 and 1931, and played for The Professionals in their 1926 FA Charity Shield defeat to The Amateurs.
Albion did manage another League Championship challenge in 1924-25, when they finished as runners-up to Huddersfield Town. Magee played in all but two of the club’s League matches during the season. In 1926-27 he was the only West Bromwich Albion player to appear in all 42 League matches, but the club were relegated to the Second Division – nonetheless he was described as “The midget of the team yet one of the most powerful… One of the best half backs of today. Crafty, perfect in placing and useful in defence”. He remained at the club and won an FA Cup Winners’ medal with Albion when they beat Birmingham 2-1 in the 1931 FA Cup Final at Wembley, and a few days later he was part of the team that secured promotion back to the First Division, finishing as Second Division runners-up with a win at Charlton Athletic on the last day of the season.
Back in the top flight, Magee lost his place in December 1932, whereafter he was a fringe player for two seasons. He made his last appearance of 429 for West Bromwich Albion in March 1934, scoring 15 goals across 15 seasons with the club. Having left West Bromwich, he joined Crystal Palace as player-coach in May 1934 without appearing for their first eleven during 1934-35, before moving to non league Runcorn in 1935 as player-manager, he later became a coach at the club before retiring from football around 1947.
NB in the photograph he is seen tackling Tottenham Hotspur’s Charlie Handley in a match at White Hart Lane on 1st December 1923, the match finishing a 0-0 draw.