Sheffield Wednesday say goodbye to a star who's 'first love was always Wednesday'... - RIP Albert Quixall
He was once described as ‘a new blonde star of English football’ by Sir Bobby Charlton, and Albert Quixall certainly left his mark at Sheffield Wednesday.
The older generation of football fans in Sheffield will be in mourning at the passing of a player that graced the field of Hillsborough for over a decade, with the news of Quixall’s death having been sadly confirmed earlier this week.
Quixall was Sheffield born and bred, and had no intentions of starting his career anywhere else when he started to show some promise as a schoolboy footballer that seemed destined for big things.
Speaking in an interview with Keith Farnsworth many years ago, Quixall spoke of his desire to play for his boyhood club, saying, "My first love was always Wednesday… I went to school just up the hill from the ground, and was always at matches as a boy, cheering the team and my own particular favourite, Jackie Robinson.
"As a schoolboy international, I was told I was interesting a lot of clubs, but when Jerry Bronks, the Sheffield Schools F.A. Secretary, asked me where I'd like to go, I said there's only Wednesday for me, and he took me to see Eric Taylor."
Charlton, who played alongside the former Sheffield Wednesday man after his move to Manchester United for a British record fee of £45,000 in 1958, said in his autobiography that the inside forward ‘played a significant role in my rush of goals… When I broke through an offside trap, often it was to get on to the end of one of Albert's perfectly placed passes.’
And there was no doubt plenty of pressure that came with that pricetag back in the 50s, but he admitted in one interview that he didn’t really pay attention to the fee – until he was swarmed on the golf course!
“I signed without knowing the size of the fee,” he said. “And went off to play a round of golf… Soon all hell broke loose with hordes of reporters and photographers chasing me from hole to hole, that’s when the record transfer tag really hit me.”
The tricky attacker, who was known for his impressive technical ability, also spoke on separate occasions of his ‘big head’ tag, and why he was always striving to be better.
He explained at the time, “If having confidence in my ability is big-headedness, I plead guilty to the charge. If I am perceived to be ‘cocky’ on the field it is my everlasting habit of wanting to improve my game…
“There are not enough years ahead to learn all there is to know about football. Always at the back of my mind is the knowledge that if I fail there is always somebody to step into my place. I don’t want that to happen.”
And it was that drive that ultimately led to his departure from Wednesday after more than a decade at the club, with the youth graduate signing for United after yo-yoing with the Owls for several years – up to the top-flight and back down again on numerous occasions.
He became Matt Busby’s first signing after the Munich Air Disaster, and helped them win their first trophy of the 1960s, the 1963 FA Cup.
But despite his exit, the five-time England international remained well liked, and many of his colleagues over the years were consistently impressed by his abilities with a football.
One teammate, Alan Finney, came through the ranks at Wednesday alongside the Quixall, and has spoken previously of how their relationship blossomed – on and off the field of play.
He said in an interview at one stage, “Since I joined Sheffield Wednesday at 15, my partner almost all the time has been Albert Quixall. We are the closest friends as a result of a playing link rarely experienced by young players. We made our league debut together with Wednesday as a right wing.
“Then, on joining the army, I was delighted to find myself posted to the same unit as Albert, who had been called up a few weeks earlier. I don’t suppose any two players have been partners so often as we were in a six-month period before Albert was demobbed in 1955. Our combined total of games was around the 150 mark. About a third were league matches, the others were Company, Command and representative Army matches.”
And on his sheer talent, he also said, “Early in my link with Albert, I realised what a grand character he was, on and off the field. He has a shrewd brain which sums up a situation in a flash. I rate him as one of the most amazing ball jugglers I have ever seen. Some of the things he does in practice have to be seen to be believed.”
Following his exit from Old Trafford, the Sheffielder went on to play for Oldham Athletic and Stockport County at professional level before short spells with Altrincham and Radcliffe Borough. It was at Hillsborough, though, where he remained most revered.
After he hung up his boots, Quixall went on to establish a scrap metal business that he continued to run until his retirement. Many years later, Wednesday – where he scored 65 goals – named one of their hospitality suites after him as thanks for his services to the club over the years.
The Professional Footballers’ Association spoke of their sadness at his passing on Thursday, saying, “The PFA is saddened to learn that SWFC and MUFC inside-forward, Albert Quixall, has passed away - the 'Golden Boy' of the 1950s and England international.
“Our thoughts and condolences are with his wife Jeanette and family.”