Widely considered one of the finest left wingers of his era, Tommy Eglington was a name that sent shivers down the spines of right backs across the country during the 1940s and 1950s. Renowned for his blistering pace, he earned 24 Ireland caps and 6 Northern Ireland caps at a time when Irish players could appear on both sides of their nation’s divide.
Already an accomplished and successful player in Ireland, who had played in three FAI Cup Finals during the war years, Eglington signed for Everton with Peter Farrell from Shamrock Rovers for a combined fee of £10,000 in 1946. Although he came into an Everton team struggling at the wrong end of the First Division, his devastating pace, close control and fierce shot helped illuminate an often dour Goodison Park.
Speaking in 2004, Dave Hickson said:
Tommy was one of the best wingers I ever played with. When Tommy went down that wing, I always knew that he was going to find me. As well as supplying goals, he used to score a few himself. But I won’t remember him for scoring goals, I’ll remember him for making them!
BEFORE IRELAND’S modern obsession with Manchester United and Liverpool, Everton were perhaps the most widely admired English club there, and many supporters made the journey across the Irish Sea to Goodison. Later in his life, Eglington recalled the popularity of his club at the time: ‘Back in the fifties, Everton was the team in Ireland. We had a number of Irish players then and the boats would be full of fans coming over every Friday night to watch us.’
Everton were relegated in 1951 but Eglington played an important part in their revival, scoring eleven times when they regained top-flight status in 1954. This was after he had single-handedly demolished Doncaster Rovers in September 1952 with five goals in a 7-1 win. He scored twice in the first half and in the second added a further three goals to his tally. The Daily Post’s Leslie Edwards reported: ‘Eglington’s three in the second half, two with his trusty left foot and one glorious header from yet another Harris centre completed the business for the day and no Evertonian can be cross with anyone this week.’
PROMOTION IN 1954 was the highlight of Eglington’s career and he later recalled: ‘It was a wonderful feeling to be back in the First Division, particularly as we had done it with virtually the same team that had taken the team down.’
Speaking to the Everton match-day programme in 1991, he said: ‘I suppose the greatest satisfaction was getting promotion from the Second Division in 1954. We went to Oldham on a Wednesday night needing to win 6-0 to pip Leicester for the title.
‘When we went four up at half-time we felt we might do it, but we didn’t score any more. Yet it was a great feeling that after having been in the team that went down three years earlier we had got the club back into the First Division.
‘Apart from the result, my outstanding memory is of the support we had that night. We travelled along the East Lancashire Road and it was packed with Everton supporters waving blue and white favours and cheering us on. It was an amazing sight.’
THE IRISHMAN was also something of an entrepreneur, running a grocery store on Stanley Road. Writing in the Liverpool Echo in January 2008, Evertonian Mike Kelly, recalled:
Tommy appeared to live over the shop and on the counter was a glass cabinet full of Tommy Eglington’s Irish international caps. Many a time you would have to shout to get service, because whoever was on duty would be in the back of the shop. Tommy’s international caps would still be on the counter so there was fear of them being taken by a sneak thief.
Eglington remained at Everton until 1957 when he was sold to Tranmere Rovers, now managed by Peter Farrell, where he enjoyed four productive years. In 1961 he returned to Ireland, where he spent two seasons with Cork Hibernians, making, between the ages of 38 and 40, four appearances for the League of Ireland Representative side and a fourth FAI Final appearance in 1963, before calling time on his career.
EGLINGTON then returned to his native County Dublin, where he ran a butcher’s shop. A keen and skilled amateur golfer, he was a popular and regular visitor to Goodison right up until his death in 2004.