Washington, County Durham born centre half Charlie Spencer began his football career with junior clubs Glebe Rovers in 1915 and Washington Chemical Works in 1919 before joining First Division Newcastle United in October 1921, his Football League debut coming against Bolton Wanderers in March 1922. He established himself as a fixture in the Newcastle United first team from February 1923, and played in their 1924 Cup run that saw them beat Aston Villa 2-0 in the Final at Wembley.
His first England cap was won two weeks before the Final when he played in a 1-1 draw with Scotland at Wembley, with a second cap coming in a 2-1 victory over Wales at The Vetch Field, Swansea in February 1925. Although he wouldn’t win any more England caps he went on the FA’s 1925 Tour of Australia where he played in several of the key fixtures. Having played 34 times in Newcastle’s successful League Championship campaign of 1926-27, he was recalled to the England squad in October 1927 but was a reserve for the fixture with Ireland in Belfast. He also represented The Professionals against The Amateurs in the 1925 Charity Shield.
In July 1928 he joined Manchester United for £3,250 after one goal, the only goal of the game in a home victory over Stoke in April 1923, in 175 appearances for Newcastle, and became United’s club captain, but stayed only two seasons leaving the club to become player-manager of Kent League Tunbridge Wells Rangers in May 1930, after 48 appearances for The Red Devils. He then moved to Wigan Athletic in August 1932, where he became club’s first ever manager. During his first four seasons at the club, he won the Cheshire County League Championship three times.
He left Wigan in March 1937 to become manager of First Division Grimsby Town and narrowly avoided relegation at the end of the 1937-38 season. The following season, Spencer had assembled a fine squad, including former Liverpool centre forward Fred Howe, Jimmy Boyd (who had won the FA Cup with Newcastle United in 1932) and Tommy Jones from Blackpool. Grimsby performed far better in the League, finishing in tenth place in the table, whilst in the FA Cup, having defeated fellow First Division team Chelsea in the previous round, they reached the semi-final against Wolverhampton Wanderers, . The semi-final was played at Old Trafford on 25th March 1939 in front of a crowd of 76,962 spectators; this remains the record attendance at Old Trafford. However Grimsby were no match for Wolves and were “simply swept aside”, going down 5-0.
He managed Grimsby Town both sides of the Second World War until he left in May 1951, where he was succeeded by no lesser a manager than a young Bill Shankly. He was then appointed as manager of York City in November 1952. However, he died at his home in Blackpool less than three months and only 15 matches into his reign at Bootham Crescent on 9th February 1953, aged only 53.
NB in the photograph Charlie Spencer is photographed on the pitch at Villa Park on 2nd November 1929 before a match with Aston Villa, in what proved to be his final appearance for Manchester United and last appearance in the Football League. Villa won the match 1-0.