For Part 1 of the series see –

 BURNLEY FC – The Clarets – Founded 1882

Founded on 18 May 1882, Burnley Football Club is based in Burnley, Lancashire, and in 1888 was one of twelve founding members of the Football League. Nicknamed the ‘Clarets’, due to the dominant colour of their home shirts, the team originally played only friendly matches until they entered the FA Cup  in 1885–86.

Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers and Bury had all expressed interest in signing the up-and-coming Lawton, and had invited him along for a trial, but although Tommy had initially showed a preference to sign with Sheffield Wednesday FC, he was dissuaded, and it was Burnley FC who initially signed him in May 1935.

At first he was employed as the club’s secretary’s assistant on the generous wage of £2.10 shillings a week [£2.50 pence]. The deal also included a job for his grandfather Jim Riley as the assistant grounds-man at Turf Moor at £3.10 shillings a week [£3.50 pence], plus a rent free house for the family close to the ground in Brunshaw Road, Burnley.

Tommy first appeared for the Burnley A team, and scored so many goals that in September 1935, just before his 16th birthday, he was selected to turn out for the reserves against Manchester City at Maine Road. In spite of struggling to find his form in his first match, he soon became a regular reserve team player.

Later that season, on the 28 March 1936, at the tender age of 16 years and 174 days, young Tommy was selected for the Second Division home fixture against Doncaster Rovers at Turf Moor. He was chosen ahead of Burnley’s regular Welsh centre-forward, Cecil Smith, who turned out 106 times for the club, contributing an overall total goal tally of 49. As a consequence Tommy became the youngest centre-forward ever to play in the Football League, and although Burnley played poorly for a 1-1 draw, Tommy was praised for his ‘keen and fearless’ performance.

After the match, it is said, Lawton attempted to buy a copy of the Evening Post at the railway station in order to read the post-match report. But Alick Robinson, the Burnley captain stopped him, and gave him a good ticking off, stressing,

‘Don’t think too much of yourself. You’ve a long way to go and a lot to learn’.

Later when Billy Dougall, the Burnley trainer, dropped Tommy off at home, he described to his grandfather what Robinson had said. Upon which Riley angrily responded by shouting,

‘He’s not to see the papers. Take out the sports page and throw it on the fire’.

            Tommy retained his place in the side for the following match, and scored two goals in a 3–1 win over Swansea Town at the Vetch Field stadium. In his third appearance, against Manchester United, he was marked by the experienced George Vose. The Daily Dispatch revealing report on the game said,

‘Lawton, 16-years-old but strong and plucky, had few decent passes and was practically blotted out by Vose, who was at his best for this important game’.


During the match Tommy picked up a groin strain, which caused him to miss the next two fixtures, but he returned to the first team for the final four games of the 1935–1936 campaign, hitting the net three more times to bring his goal count to five from seven matches.

Such was Lawton’s impressive form his grandfather considered it reasonable to attempt to negotiate a £500 signing-on fee with Burnley on behalf of the talented youngster. However, the secretary of the Football League, Charles Sutcliffe, threatened to ban Lawton for life unless his grandfather withdrew his demands, which were deemed an illegal attempt to side-step the Football League’s maximum wage policy.

Throughout the summer of 1936, the resolute teenager continued to work on improving his amazing heading skills, before signing professional forms for Burnley on his 17th birthday on a wage of £7 a week, with match bonuses of £2.00 for a win and £1.00 for a draw. When at a time the average wage for a working man was in the order of £4 a week. The following day made he made his professional debut for the club at Turf Moor, netting a hat-trick in a 3-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur, scoring one with a bullet-like trade-mark header, and one with each foot. A crowd of 19,260 witnessed Tommy score his first just 30 seconds after kick-off, adding the other two before the half-time whistle had blown, to guarantee a victory for the home side.

Lawton’s outstanding qualities as a footballer were widely recognised as he continued to score goals on a regular basis. And within weeks of signing as a professional, several clubs, including Everton, Arsenal, Wolves, Newcastle United and Manchester City all made generous offers for in an attempt to entice him away from Burnley. Tommy was first made aware of future developments when acting as the assistant secretary he took a telephone call for his boss, the Burnley secretary, Alf Boland. The call was from George Allison, the manager of Arsenal, and as Boland was out of the office at the time, you may imagine young Tom’s surprise when Allison announced he wanted to make an offer for Tommy Lawton. At the time Arsenal was one of the most glamorous football clubs, and the very thought it was interested in young Tommy Lawton made him extremely proud. However, the Arsenal bid was destined to fail, and it would be many years later before Tommy put his signature on a contract with the famous ‘Gunners’.

Nonetheless, within the space of a year, Tommy was called into the boardroom at Burnley by Alf Boland, and asked if he would be prepared to sign for the First Division club Everton. Ultimately, the ‘Clarets’ doled out a record fee of £6,500 to secure teenage Tommy’s services. And as a further incentive to induce him to sign, the club agreed to appoint his grandfather as deputy grounds-man at Goodison Park.


 EVERTON FC – The Toffees – Founded 1878

Formed in 1878, Everton Football Club is based in Liverpool and were also one of the founding members of the Football League.

One of the attractions of the move to Everton was that Tommy would have the opportunity to team up and play alongside his boyhood idol Dixie Dean, who it was anticipated he would eventually replace as first choice centre-forward. Born in Birkenhead, Dixie began his playing career at Tranmere Rovers, before signing for Everton, where he played for the best part of his career, making 399 appearances and scoring 349 goals.

On his very first day as an Everton player, when on his way to Goodison Park, it is said a tram conductor greeted Tom with the words,

‘You’re that young Lawton, aren’t you ? You’ll never be as good as Dixie’.

When they met for the first-time, Dean put an arm round Lawton and said:

‘I know you’ve come here to take my place. Anything I can do to help you I will. I promise, anything at all’.

At thirty years old Dean was suffering from a number of several serious injuries, and knew he had not much time left at the top of the game. And true to his word, Dixie kept his promise and spent a lot of time on the training field with the eager young Lawton. Gordon Watson, who played at inside-left for Everton at the time, later recalled,

‘Lawton and Dean used to work together under the main stand, Dean throwing up a large cased ball, stuffed with wet paper to make it as heavy as a medicine ball’.

Six weeks after joining the club Dixie Dean was rested in order to prepare for an impending fifth round FA Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur. As a consequence Lawton was called up to make his debut in the first team in an away match against Wolverhampton Wanderers, at Molineaux. Everton lost 6-2, and Lawton found it difficult to cope with the England centre-half Stan Cullis, although he did manage to find the net from the penalty spot 15 minutes from the end of the game.

Everton drew the FA Cup tie with Tottenham Hotspur 1-1, and in the replay it was decided to play Lawton alongside Dixie Dean. Tommy scored in the second minute, with a tremendous shot from outside the penalty area. At which Dean turned to Joe Mercer and said, ‘Well, that’s it then. That’s the swan song. That’s the end of it’. Realising it was only a matter of time before the talented young man would take his place in the side. After twenty minutes Dixie scored to put the ‘Toffees’  two up,  and later added a third, but Tottenham replied, scoring four times to go through to the next round 4-3.

In the next match Everton thrashed Leeds United 7-0, with both Dixie and Tommy scoring. As a result Tommy spent the rest of the season playing at inside-left, alongside Dean at centre-forward. By the end of the 1936-1937 campaign, Dixie had netted a tally of 24 goals from 36 league games, with Lawton adding a further 4 goal total from 11 games.

By and large Dixie Dean was considered the ‘main man’ at Everton, usually assisted by a couple of England half-backs, he would pretty soon put young players back in their place if they stepped out of line. Although Lawton steadfastly claimed,

‘All they ever said was make sure you pass it to a man in the same shirt’.

 Tommy started the 1937-1938 season played at inside-right, with Dixie at centre-forward, but the partnership was not effective, and Everton didn’t win a game when the pair played together. Consequently, Tommy had a spell in the reserves, but was made first choice centre-forward in September against Manchester City, after Dean was dropped after punching the club manager in a temper tantrum. Tommy scored in the 4-1 victory, and Dean only played two more games for Everton before leaving the club.

The following month Lawton became the youngest player, at 17 years, 362 days, to score in a Merseyside derby, when he smashed in the winner from the penalty spot in Everton’s 2–1 victory over its Merseyside rival Liverpool at Anfield. Lawton also scored in the game against Leeds United, increasing his goal tally to 5 in 8 matches, and Everton began its climb up the league table. Although typically, the teenage Lawton still managed to upset the club’s senior players, when on the Monday after the Leeds game he sauntered into the dressing room and jovially greeted them with a cheeky ‘morning boys’. In retribution he was hurled into the bath fully-clothed !

Everton finished in mid-table in the 1937-1938 season, with Lawton ended the campaign as the club’s top marksman accumulating 28 goals from 39 appearances, to become the First Division’s leading goal scorer. An amazing achievement for one so young.

At the beginning of the 1938-1939 campaign, Everton’s young and resourceful side won its first four games. In its fifth match against the current league champions Arsenal at Highbury, after 15 minutes Lawton supplied a perfect pass to Alex Stevenson, who scored from close range. Lawton got the second in the 38th minute, which the Sunday Pictorial described as ‘another wonder goal’. Although Bryn Jones scored from 30 yards for Arsenal in the second-half, Everton managed to cling on to its lead, with Lawton’s high leaps repeatedly beating the Arsenal defenders in the air. As a consequence Tommy was forewarned by Wilf Copping he was ‘jumping too high’ and would have to be ‘brought down to level’. Lawton later recalled,

‘Sure enough the next time we both went for a cross, I end up on the ground with blood streaming from my nose. Wilf Copping was looking down at me and he said ‘Ah told thee, Tom. Tha’s jumping too high !’ My nose was broken. When Arsenal came to Everton, Copping broke my nose again ! He was hard, Wilf. You always had something to remember him by when you played against him’. The Daily Chronicle argued Lawton was the main reason for Everton’s 2-1 victory: ‘Lawton had a lot to do with the success. He beat Joy for the ball in the air, kept the wings moving and was ever dangerous in front of goal’.

Tommy was also acclaimed for the way he led the Everton attack, described in the Evening Standard as a ‘clever footballer, bringing his wing men into the game with shrewd flicks and widely flung and accurate passes’. The victory against Arsenal heralded a run of six wins in the first six games of the season, during which Lawton found the net eight times.


Everton progressed to secure the club’s fifth league title, finishing four points ahead of Wolverhampton Wanderers. In what eventually proved to be the finest season of his career, Lawton scored 35 goals in 38 league games to finish as the First Division’s top-scorer for the second successive season, and make a huge contribution to Everton’s success in becoming Football League Champions. Described in the book

Who’s Who of Everton’ as being ‘Ideally built for a centre-forward, Lawton was a master in the air, brilliant on the ground, a constant threat to defenders and was universally regarded by players, managers and coaches alike, as one of the greatest of his era’.

It is reported the following summer Lawton wrote a letter to Leicester City, requesting the club buy him from Everton, probably since Leicester were at the time managed by Tom Bromilow, his former manager at Burnley, and for whom he had great respect. Bromilow was appointed manager at Burnley in October 1932, and was the first former professional player to manage the club, where he remained until the summer of 1935.

In the 1939-1940 season, Lawton scored in the first two Football League games against Brentford and Aston Villa, and on the 2 September, 1939, scored in Everton’s 2-2 draw against Blackburn Rovers. The day following the historic invasion of Poland by Germany, and on Sunday 3 September the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, declared war on Germany.

Everton were lying fifth in the league, and Lawton was again the division’s leading goal scorer, when the 1939-1940 league football season was suspended due to the outbreak of war in Europe. Lawton was later alleged to have claimed, ‘I’m convinced that if it hadn’t been for the War, we’d have won the Championship again’.

The British government immediately imposed a ban on the assembly of crowds, and as a result the Football League competition was brought to an end for a period of seven full seasons.

Article © Roy Case 

For Part 3 see –

For part 4 see –