Leicester born centre forward Jackie Palethorpe began his football career as an amateur with Spartan League Maidenhead United in 1928, compiling the outstanding record of 65 goals in 39 appearances in his only full season at York Road in 1929-30. After a spell on the books at Crystal Palace as an amateur, he signed for Reading initially as an amateur making his Football League debut at Millwall in September 1930 and scoring twice in 4 appearances in 1930-31, before turning professional for The Royals in 1931. thereafter having two good full seasons at Elm Park scoring 54 goals in 66 appearances. In March 1932 Jack scored a hat-trick in just seven minutes as Reading beat Mansfield Town 7-1. This was a record until Trevor Senior scored three goals in four minutes 50 years later. Palethorpe’s 23 goals helped Reading finish runners up in Division Three (South) in the 1931-32 campaign, his 29 goals helped them finish 4th the following season, both seasons he was the club’s top scorer.
Palethorpe transferred to Second Division Stoke City in March 1932 and his eight goals in 10 matches helped them win the Second Division Championship and promotion to the First Division. Palethorpe’s first taste of top flight football the following season lasted for only 11 games, scoring 3 goals, as he joined Second Division leaders Preston North End in January 1934 who hoped he would guarantee promotion as he had done at Stoke. Palethorpe formed a fine goalscoring partnership with George Stephenson ensuring that Preston gained promotion as runners-up. However the following season he lost his place to Bud Maxwell and in December 1934 he joined Sheffield Wednesday for a fee of £3,100 after 18 goals in 26 appearances.
Palethorpe gained an immediate place in the Wednesday first team, somewhat controversially replacing the popular Neil Dewar as Wednesday’s centre forward. He made his debut on 15th December 1934 against Everton and scored his first goals on Boxing Day, a hat-trick against Birmingham City. In the second half of that season Palethorpe played an integral part in Sheffield Wednesday’s excellent run and eventual triumph in the 1935 FA Cup Final scoring goals in the third and fourth rounds as well as one in the semi-final win over Burnley at Villa Park. However his most important goal came in the 4-2 Final triumph against West Bromwich Albion at Wembley when he put Wednesday a goal up inside two minutes after receiving a pass from Ronnie Starling, shooting just inside the post. Despite a good record of 17 goals in 34 matches in all competitions, Palethorpe was once again on his way to another club in September 1935 as he joined Aston Villa for £2,500.
Palethorpe was still only 25 when he joined Villa but his career seemed to be on a slippery slope, he played only six games in thirteen months at Villa, scoring twice as they were relegated from Division One in 1935-36. In October 1936 he moved, this time to Third Division Crystal Palace for whom he scored 11 goals in 45 matches. In 1938 he moved back into non-league football, playing for Chelmsford City, Shorts Sports and Colchester United. He effectively retired from playing in 1939 with the onset of the Second World War although he did make some appearances for Colchester in the Wartime Leagues. He later did some coaching at North Town and back at his first club Maidenhead.
Throughout his career, Jack Palethorpe had a reputation for never staying at a football club for any length of time, his longest stint at any one club was two seasons at Reading. He had the unusual record of playing for four different First Division clubs (Stoke, Preston, Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa) but never actually completing a full season with any one of them.
This image was almost certainly taken at Highbury on 2nd February 1934 in a match Sheffield lost 4-1.