Born in Hoyland, near Barnsley, Yorkshire, outside right Dick Spence began his football career with Thorpe Colliery in 1929 and played for Platts Common in 1930 before joining Third Division (North) Barnsley in February 1933, making his Football League debut the same month against Darlington, scoring in a 6-2 victory in which Peter Cunningham scored all the other Barnsley goals. His 19 goals for Barnsley in the 1933-34 campaign helped them win the Third Division (North) Championship. With his impressive displays it wasn’t long before Chelsea manager Leslie Knighton signed him in October 1934 for £5,000 after 25 goals in 66 appearances for The Tykes.
A tricky and nimble winger who could play on either flank, and also chipped in with important goals. He scored 19 goals in his debut season for the club – no Chelsea winger has scored more in a season – and was the club’s top scorer that season. He developed into one of the club’s reliable players at a time when many of its more high-profile stars were generally unreliable.
After serving in the Metropolitan Police during World War Two, he resumed his playing career with Chelsea in 1946 (making him one of only two players to play for Chelsea both before and after the War). He had the distinction of being Chelsea’s oldest ever player, playing his final first-class match for the club against Bolton Wanderers in September 1947 at the age of 39 years, 57 days, before retiring having scored 66 goals in 249 appearances for The Pensioners. He then joined the Chelsea coaching staff, on which he remained for the next two decades, and was an important part in the new youth set-up at the club, helping to unearth such talents as Jimmy Greaves, Terry Venables and Bobby Tambling.
He was twice capped for England in England’s summer tour, making his debut against Austria in Vienna in a 2-1 defeat in May 1936 and playing three days later in a 3-2 defeat to Belgium in Brussels. Without doubt the presence of Stanley Matthews in the side, along with other talented wingers, was a key factor in Spence not winning more England caps.