Hayfield, Derbyshire born centre half Frank Thorpe began his football career with Lancashire League Stalybridge Rovers in 1899 and spent 1900-01 on the books of Newton Heath (Manchester United) without making a first team appearance. In June 1901, he joined Bury, where he was re-united with his former Stalybridge team-mate, wing-half John Johnston, and his Football League debut came in a 1-1 draw against Nottingham Forest that September.
Thorpe soon became a fixture at centre half, between Johnston on the right and the veteran George Ross on the left. In the League, Bury finished seventh in the First Division in 1901-02 and eighth in the following season. Ross played in all of Bury’s matches in the FA Cup in 1902-03, reaching the Final at The Crystal Palace where Bury defeated Derby County in one of the most one sided finals ever played. Bury’s 6-0 victory still stands as the record Final win. Bury also equalled another record, winning the Cup without conceding a goal in any round. In the Final itself, Thorpe’s through ball in the 48th minute was slid past Derby County’s injured goalkeeper Jack Fryer by Charlie Sagar for the second goal, following which Fryer was replaced in goal by Charlie Morris who conceded a further four goals in the final half hour.
Thorpe continued at the centre of Bury’s defence for the next two seasons, missing only one game in 1903-04 and three in the following season, but in October 1905 he lost his place to Jack Dewhurst, who had recently arrived from Blackburn Rovers. After 7 goals in 143 appearances for Bury he joined Southern League Plymouth Argyle in the summer of 1906. He was described by the club handbook as having “fine judgement, an excellent shot and knows where to place the ball”. His performances lived up to his billing but, owing to the club’s financial difficulties, he was released in March 1907 and joined Southampton after 6 goals in 41 appearances. While at Southampton he was described as “a very capable half back, speedy and clever, and an accurate shot”. He then spent two years at The Dell quickly becoming club captain, scoring 5 goals in 71 appearances before returning to Bury in May 1909 as a player-coach, working with the second eleven, although he never made a further first team appearance for The Shakers.
NB this photograph was taken before a match at Nottingham Forest on 16th September 1905. Forest won the game 3-2.