Hexthorpe, Doncaster born right back Harry Thickitt (sometimes Thickett) started his football career as a youngster with Doncaster amateur side Hexthorpe Wanderers before being offered an extended trial as a guest player with Sheffield United in 1891 at the age of 17. United opted not to sign him after he appeared in five games that season. Following an injury to their captain Ramsey Grey on 21 March 1891, Thickitt was brought in by Doncaster Rovers for the remainder of the 1890-91 season in the Midland Alliance League, for whom he played twice. After this, he was offered professional terms at nearby Second Division club Rotherham Town where he made his Football League debut at Lincoln City in September 1893 and made 10 League appearances before being signed by First Division Sheffield United for £30 two months later.
He became a first team regular from the start of the 1894-95 season and, having formed a formidable partnership with Bob Cain (and from the following season Peter Boyle), he then missed most of 1896 suffering with typhoid. After his recovery, he won the League Championship with The Blades in 1897-98, missing one match, Sheffield United having finished runners-up the previous season after Thickitt’s return to the first team in December 1896.
He was selected to represent The Football League, playing in a 2-1 defeat to The Scottish League at Villa Park in April 1898, the first of two inter league selections. He was first called up for England in March 1899 when he played in a 4-0 win over Wales at Ashton Gate, and won his second cap a month later in a 2-1 victory over Scotland at Villa Park, a week before his appearance in the 1899 FA Cup Final, which Sheffield United won at The Crystal Palace beating Derby County 4-1.
Sheffield United were again League runners up in 1899-1900, and in 1901 they were back in the FA Cup Final, where they were beaten by Southern League Tottenham Hotspur in a replay at Burnden Park, Bolton, after the Final at The Crystal Palace had been drawn 2-2. However they made amends the following season as Thickett won his second FA Cup winners’ medal as Sheffield United prevailed over Southern League Southampton, winning 2-1 in a replay at The Crystal Palace after a 1-1 draw in the first match. Thickett continued to be a virtual ever present for The Blades until March 1904, and after 2 goals in 301 appearances for Sheffield United he joined Bristol City in May 1904.
He played on for another season, making 18 appearances for City before being appointed their manager in March 1905 after Sam Hollis departed and he promptly steered the club to English football’s top flight at the first attempt. In March 1906, Thickitt had left to manage Bradford City, but a change of heart saw him re-sign for Bristol City on 4th April. The most crucial decision he made was probably the re-signing of Billy Wedlock, who had left the club in 1901. In securing promotion from the Second Division as Champions in 1906, Bristol City won 14 League matches in a row (equalling a record set by Manchester United the previous year and only matched since by Preston North End and Arsenal).
Bristol City continued to progress under Thickett’s direction; the club ended the 1906-07 season as runners-up in the First Division, the highest ever League finish in their history, and Thickitt led them to their one and to date only FA Cup Final appearance against Manchester United in 1909, a game which was lost 1-0 at The Crystal Palace.
City then started to slide and Thickitt’s tenure as manager came to an end following a 1-0 defeat away to Notts County in October 1910 after four games of the new season. Without Thickitt, Bristol City were relegated at the end of the 1910-11 season, and he left professional football after his dismissal.
Thickitt’s son, Harry, was also a professional footballer, earning a trial with Barnsley and playing for Bath City.
NB the photograph is from Sheffield United’s match against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux on 24th December 1898, a match they lost 4-1. Thickitt walks away from goalkeeper William “Fatty” Foulke.