Inside forward Charlie Crossley was one of a generation whose career was ravaged by the First World War, but who nevertheless managed to overcome this and enjoy a solid career in both amateur and professional ranks either side of the conflict.
BORN IN a suburb of Birmingham, Crossley initially escaped the notice of Football League clubs, instead forging an amateur career with Hednesford Town in the Birmingham Combination League. In 1913 he joined Walsall, then of the Southern League, and in February 1914, Sunderland. He was a success, despite the war-interrupted years at Roker Park (he was called up for the Royal Navy and worked as a stoker onboard a submarine destroyer), and in February 1920 was called up for an England trial, in which he represented the North versus England. Full honours were nevertheless elusive.
In March 1920, Sunderland offered Crossley to Everton for £2500. A delegation visited the Northeast to watch him, with permission to spend £2000 on his transfer. They came back empty-handed but returned a month later and a £2750 fee was accepted for the forward.
A short, stocky, powerful player, he was described in the local press as a ‘deadly shooter’ and ‘opportunist’. But contemporaneous reports, which tended to favour more natural showmen, were always reticent in their praise.
CROSSLEY was a regular through the 1920/21 season, finishing Everton’s top scorer. His finest moments came in an FA Cup third round tie at home to Newcastle United in which he scored a brace. Crossley, reported the Daily Post and Mercury, ‘was in great form, and his deadly shooting, forceful attack, and wise passes to Harrison made him the outstanding forward’.
Everton showed some promise that season, but lacked the consistency to sustain a title challenge. The following season Everton's weaknesses were more apparent and Crossley found himslef overlooked in favour of David Reid and Alec Wall. The signing of Billy Williams from Darwen effectively spelled the end, and in June in 1922 he joined West Ham for £1000. He helped the Hammers to promotion in 1922/23, but failed to make the team that appeared against Bolton in Wembley's first FA Cup Final in April 1923. Crossley then joined Swindon Town and in 1925 signed for Ebbw Vale as player-manager. A year later they won the Welsh Cup for the only time in their history.