In the summer of 1950 a contingent of prominent First Division footballers fed up playing in front of crowds of 60,000 or more, but getting a maximum weekly wage of just £10, turned their backs on English football to try their luck in cash-rich Columbia. Lured by promises of vast signing on fees and £130 weekly pay packets the group, led by the Stoke and England centre back Neil Franklin and Manchester United winger Charlie Mitten, rocked English football. Amongst their number were the Everton centre forward Billy Higgins and his teammate, the full back Jack Hedley.
While some, notably Mitten, stayed in South America and made relative fortunes, Hedley’s stay was brief. He returned to Goodison in time for the 1950/51 season, but such was the stink caused in football’s conservative corridors of power that Everton wanted nothing more to do with the player. Almost immediately they accepted a £10,375 bid from Sunderland and the 26-year-old returned to his native north east.
Hedley was a £500 signing from North Shields in January 1945. When the war ended he was slow to make an impression in the first team, making intermittent appearances in place of the regular fullbacks but never making a first team shirt his own. His best run came in the second half of the 1949/50 season, when he replaced Gordon Dugdale as left back and played through Everton’s FA Cup run that led them to a semi final defeat to Liverpool.
Then came his involvement with ‘Bogota Bandits’ and the move to Sunderland, where he had the most successful period of his career, making nearly 300 appearances. A move to Gateshead in 1959 was less happy, as the club dropped out of the Football League a year after his arrival.