Bootle. Lancashire born centre half Walter Wadsworth started his football career prior to the First World War playing with Lingdale in 1910 and joining Ormskirk in 1911. He signed for Liverpool in April 1912, making his Football League debut at Middlesbrough in March 1915. It was his only appearance prior to the First World War, during which he scored 9 goals in 114 wartime matches, being very much one of Liverpool’s mainstays during the wartime period.
Wadsworth became a regular for The Reds immediately after the War and was an ever present in their 1920-21 campaign when they finished fourth in the League Championship. He was the quintessential tough man who referees had on quite a few occasions give a talking to because of the severity of his challenges. Wadsworth wasn’t though just going around kicking people and was quite an accomplished footballer. Wadsworth was at the heart of one of the best defences in the history of the club with Elisha Scott, full backs Ephraim Longworth and Donald Mackinlay and his fellow half backs Jock McNab and Tom Bromilow. Equipped with this excellent back five Liverpool won and retained the League Championship in 1922 and 1923. Wadsworth only missed a handful of matches over the two League Championship winning seasons.
Wadsworth’s temper tended to boil over on the field to his opposition players’ suffering, but the fans of his adversaries also had to watch out. Spectators gave the players an ear-bashing as well back then and in one particular match against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on 1st December 1923 Wadsworth snapped when goaded by a United fan. Wadsworth was unrepentant about this incident as evident by his article in the Topical Times, which was published the following week: “Let me state here and now that I hit a spectator, I admit it. I think I was justified because a spectator called me something that I will allow no man to call me. It must not be imagined that because a spectator has paid his bob that he can, willy-nilly, help himself in the epithets department. He has no justification for something worse than swearing at the players. He has not the right to shout vile words at them. I hope the action I took will lead to the offenders realising that they cannot lean over the railings and offer vile insults at footballers. After the match I begged the people of Sheffield to bring the man to the dressing room to see me. No-one came, I am sorry to say, and I am more than sorry that the man has not gone to court, for then the facts would be published and it would be seen by all in the game of football how some spectators carry on.”
For all his temperament issues he was only ever sent off once and he was evidently a fine player. Sunderland legend and England player Charlie Buchan described Wadsworth as the most difficult half back he had faced. “You never know what he’s going to do next. He’s so unorthodox and seems to ‘get there’ without disclosing his intentions.” Praise indeed. He represented The Football League in a 5-1 win over The Irish League at Burnden Park in October 1922 but never played for England.
Wadsworth’s career low came at Anfield on 14th February 1925. Newcastle’s Tommy Urwin threw mud at Wadsworth who in return punched him in the face. Wadsworth was banned by the League for the remainder of the season. Once he’d lost his place in September 1925, however, he only played 3 more times for The Reds in early 1926 as Bill Cockburn was installed as the first choice centre half, before signing for ex Liverpool stalwart Alex Raisbeck’s Bristol City in May 1926 at the ripe old age of 36 after 8 goals in 241 appearances for Liverpool.
He became Bristol City’s club captain and won the Third Division (South) Championship in 1927 with Wadsworth making 40 League appearances and he also featured in 28 games, scoring once, the following Second Division season. He went into non league with Flint Town in 1929 but returned to League action with New Brighton in January 1929, scoring 3 times in 57 appearances on The Wirrall. He played into his 40’s with Oswestry Town joining them in 1930 before his eventual retirement.
The older brother of Harold Wadsworth who also played for Liverpool as well as for Leicester City, Nottingham Forest and Millwall.
NB This photograph was taken on 4th November 1922 in the match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield. Liverpool won 4-2. The other player in the photo is Spurs’ Bob MacDonald.