Rochford Bill Image 1 Portsmouth 1936

Rochford Bill Image 1 Portsmouth 1936


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New House, County Durham born full back Bill “Rockie” Rochford began his football career with Esh Winning Juniors. His family subsequently moved to Cuckfield, West Sussex and he played for Cuckfield in 1930, from where he joined Portsmouth in August 1931.

Rochford made his debut for Portsmouth against Southampton in the Rowland Hospital Cup at The Dell in April 1932, with his Football League debut coming at Sunderland the same month. At first, playing at right back, he made only occasional first team starts for Pompey, who finished regularly in mid-table in the First Division, but by March 1935 he had become a regular choice and in September 1936 he represented The Football League in a 3-2 defeat to The Irish League in Belfast. In 1937 he switched to left-back and stayed there, being an ever-present in 1937-38.

His greatest moment for Portsmouth came in the FA Cup, when Pompey, who were struggling in the relegation zone, swept aside high-flying Wolves in the 1939 FA Cup Final, running out as 4-1 victors at Wembley. The suspension of peacetime football during World War Two interrupted his career but Rochford continued to play for Portsmouth during the War, making over 200 appearances in war-time matches, in addition to his 149 peacetime appearances for Pompey, during which he scored once. During the War he worked at the aircraft factory in Hamble-le-Rice and also played football for their works team Folland Aircraft.

After the cessation of hostilities, he joined Second Division Southampton in July 1946 for a fee of £550 in readiness for the first post-war League season. Rochford soon became automatic choice as team captain, and, according to Holley & Chalk’s “In That Number” he “was a father figure to many of the younger and less experienced players”, including Alf Ramsey and Bill Ellerington, who were vying for the right-back position.

Over the next few seasons he rarely missed a game as The Saints narrowly missed out on promotion from Division Two, twice finishing third. In August 1949, he applied for the position as manager following the departure of Bill Dodgin to Fulham. Although Rochford was strongly tipped for the job, being the players’ choice, his application was turned down in favour of Sid Cann. Although appointed player-coach under Cann, Rochford was disappointed and after missing out on promotion yet again at the end of the 1949-50 season, he left the club in July 1950 to join Colchester United after 134 appearances for The Saints. Colchester were about to embark on their first season in the Football League, but Rochford was only able to make two League appearances in February 1951 before retiring.

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