O’Donnell Frank Image 9 Nottingham Forest 1947

O’Donnell Frank Image 9 Nottingham Forest 1947


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Buckhaven, Fife born centre forward Frank O’Donnell played junior football for Denbeath Violet Juveniles in 1929 and Wellesley Juniors in 1930 before joining Glasgow Celtic in December 1930. He made his Scottish League debut in a 1-0 defeat to Hamilton Academical on 23rd January 1932 and stayed at Parkhead for three seasons where he hit 58 goals in 83 appearances. But when Celtic won The Scottish Cup in 1933 with a 1-0 win over Motherwell, a match in which his brother Hugh played, Frank wasn’t selected with Jimmy McGrory preferred.

In May 1935 both O’Donnell brothers signed for First Division Preston North End for £5,000 and both made their Football League debuts at Huddersfield Town the same August. Frank soon established himself as a regular in the Preston team, albeit outscoring by his brother with 15 goals against Frank’s 14 in their first season. He then top scored for Preston in 1936-37 with 27 goals, 11 of which came in Preston’s FA Cup run, including hat-tricks in the 4th round against Stoke City and against Exeter City in the 5th round, and scoring twice as they beat West Bromwich Albion 4-1 in the semi final at Highbury. Both brothers played in the 1937 FA Cup Final and Frank scored in their 3-1 defeat to Sunderland but Frank then left to join Blackpool for £10,000 on 30th November 1937 after Preston signed George Mutch and Robert Beattie, the first time he had joined a club without his brother.

On 17th April 1937 O’Donnell won his first international cap for Scotland against England, O’Donnell scoring the opening goal in a 3-1 victory at Hampden Park. He also played in the Home Championships against Wales in October, 1937 and England in a 1-0 win at Wembley in April, 1938, and he also won 3 caps in friendlies against Austria (when he scored in a 1-1 draw) and Czechoslovakia in May 1937, and then against The Netherlands in May 1938, which proved to be his last of six caps for Scotland.

He then joined Aston Villa for £11,000 in November 1938 after 17 goals in 30 appearances for The Seasiders, which included a hat-trick in a 5-1 win over Chelseas the previous month, and he scored 14 goals in 31 appearances for Villa over the remainder of the season, however the outbreak of The Second World War restricted his Aston Villa career and he only made a further 3 appearances for them in the 1939-40 games before the season was abandoned.

After the War he joined Second Division Nottingham Forest in January 1946 scoring 5 goals in 11 appearances in 1946-47 and had a brief spell with Raith Rovers in 1947 before retiring from playing professionally. He then managed Cheshire County League Buxton between 1947 and until his death at only 41 years old in September 1952, leading them to the third round of the FA Cup in 1952, knocking out League club Aldershot in the second round before losing 2-0 to Doncaster Rovers.

He was the elder brother of Hugh O’Donnell, who played for Celtic, Preston (in the same teams) and Blackpool, and also Rochdale and Halifax Town after the Second World War.

NB in this caricature he appears to be shown in a Scotland shirt although it was published while he was playing for Nottingham Forest well after the end of his international career.

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