Gordon Dale - Wizard on the wing
Posted on 21st Apr 2023 by David Taylor
Gordon Dale was born in Worksop on 28th May 1928 and on leaving school joined his local club Worksop Town. It was there that he was spotted by Chesterfield just fifteen miles away and signed for £500 in February 1948.
After time in the Spireites` reserves Gordon made his league debut at Fulham on 12th March 1949- for the record Fulham won 2-1. He soon became a fixture in their side and in three seasons played 92 games with just three goals. During this time clubs were all lining up to watch Dale who had earned a reputation as a confident and attractive winger and Chesterfield had to fight off a number of offers.
However at the end of the 1950/51 season Chesterfield were relegated from Division Two to Division Three North and sales of their best players was inevitable. It was on 27th June 1951 – when I was only two days old – that Pompey splashed a club record fee on Dale. Chesterfield received £20,000 (a record for them too) for the popular player (the English record at the time was only £35,000) and he moved south to join the Pompey side packed with many internationals. In fact the fee paid for Dale was to stand for nearly sixteen years before another popular left winger – Nicky Jennings – would up the figure to a huge £25,000.
Considered one of the most skilful but inconsistent players ever to have played for Pompey which meant he was either loved or hated by the Fratton faithful as he either gave pleasure or frustration with his appearances. His ‘trick` (some called it his ‘secret weapon`) was to adopt a deliberate lazy attitude then when the full back had ‘switched off` he would spring into action and with the ball controlled neatly at his feet body serve this way and that then deliver an accurate cross into the box.
He only played 8 games in his first season due to a spate of little injuries and it wasn`t until 1954/55 season that he played in more than half of Pompey`s league fixtures. Some reckoned that ‘On his day` he was as good as Sir Stanley Matthews but as he couldn`t always produce it he spent a lot of time in the reserves – And it`s suggested that his presence would swell the gate by a few hundred every time he played for them.
After 120 games and 18 goals Gordon moved on to Exeter on 25th October 1957 with the club beginning the slide from the pinnacle of English soccer.
He played another 124 league games for Exeter City before leaving the professional game and joined Chelmsford City. He returned to live in Portsmouth later and ran a newsagent`s shop. He sadly passed away on 14th March 1996 in Pompey at his home in Anchorage Park.
There is an interesting snippet in Gordon`s Pompey career and that is that he scored Pompey`s goal in the last match to be abandoned at Fratton Park. It came on 15th January 1955 against Aston Villa, Gordon put Pompey one up in the first half but Villa pulled back in the second half and then took the lead but with thick fog coming down the game was abandoned with just 11 minutes to go. Tough on Villa when the game was played again at the end of the season it finished 2-2.
The original game was also watched by Pompey`s smallest gate at Fratton since the war just 14,587.
There is also a Plum cartoon of Dale drawn in November 1956 and entitled ‘The Mysterious Unfathomable Gordon Dale`. It shows him dressed as a magician and shows him pulling a rabbit, with the word ‘points` written on it, out of a hat. The cartoon also states that he was the only player who could beat Stanley Matthews at his own game! Here it is
This obituary was written for Gordon's widow as she knew little of his career.