Sutcliffe John Image 9 Plymouth Argyle 1908

Sutcliffe John Image 9 Plymouth Argyle 1908


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Shibden, Yorkshire born goalkeeper John Willie Sutcliffe was the last person to represent England at full international level in both association football and rugby union. He started his career as a rugby player with Kirkstall RFC and joined Bradford Rugby Club in 1886 playing at either full back or centre three quarter before moving to Heckmondwike where he gained his only cap for England against the New Zealand Natives in 1889, scoring one try, and one conversion for five points.

Heckmondwike were suspended from the RFU over allegations of professionalism and Sutcliffe switched codes to play football for Bolton Wanderers, joining them as a forward in September 1889 but soon moving to goalkeeper, making his Football League debut against West Bromwich Albion in December 1889. The following season he established himself as Bolton’s regular goalkeeper and he was a member of Bolton’s 1894 FA Cup Final team that lost 4-1 to Notts County at Goodison Park.

He gained his first of five England caps against Wales in a 6-0 win in March 1893, winning 2 more caps in 1895 in home wins over Ireland and Scotland. After Bolton were relegated to the Second Division in 1899 he stayed with the club and helped them to an immediate promotion in 1900 as Second Division runners up. He was recalled to the England team in March 1901 when he played in a 2-2 draw against Scotland at The Crystal Palace. He was also selected five times for the Football League between 1894 and 1903.

After 365 appearances for The Trotters, 1902 saw Sutcliffe join Southern League Millwall Athletic and in March 1903 he won his fifth and final England cap against Wales at Fratton Park before moving to Manchester United in the 1903 close season where he made 28 appearances before losing his place to Harry Moger. He joined Plymouth Argyle in January 1905 and by the end of the season had become the club’s first choice goalkeeper. Already aged 36, the Argyle handbook for the 1905-06 season describes Sutcliffe as “a marvel for his years.” In more than seven years with the club, he made 218 appearances for The Pilgrims. He left the club at the end of the 1911-12 campaign and became a player-coach at Southend United. His last known club was South Kirkby Colliery, whom he joined in 1913.

Sutcliffe was appointed manager of Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem in 1914 and he later returned to England after the First World War to work for Bradford City as a coach.


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