Me Owd Duck remembers Chic Thomson
I was meaning to comment on the marvellous results of recent weeks, especially the game against Manchester City, but then something sad happened. We lost a good man. ‘Chic’ Thomson died. He was our goalkeeper in the 1959 FA Cup Final; the only time last century that Forest won the cup.
Half a century ago, Billy Walker was Forest manager and in 1957 he bought the keeper that had been the backbone of Chelsea’s 1955 League winning team. Walker had been manager at Forest since 1939 and had weaned the team on the ‘Walker Way’ – passing to feet – tactics Forest fans still expect today. Thomson was a five foot eleven Scotsman. The story goes that he had been playing football in the park as a teenager when a friend had told him Clyde needed him to go in goal against Rangers that afternoon. Chic took the bus to the ground. Chic was born in Perth in March 1930. Chelsea paid £5,000 for him in 1952.
This was a time when football was a game played for working class fans by working class players. There was mostly standing only at the grounds; in 1957 Forest opened the new East Stand, containing 2,500 numbered seats. The Forest team were reported to play in red shirts and white knickers. The ball was real leather and if it hit you in the face, it would really hurt and could knock you out. There was a wage cap on players. The top earners in the league were allowed to take home twenty pounds a week. In reality, most players earned far less than that.
Before Clyde called him up, Chic made a living out of repairing dry cleaning machines. When interviewed after the Cup final, he expected to return to that after his playing career. He was our goalkeeper on the day Forest played the Manchester United team in their first league game after the Munich Air Crash in which the Busby Babes died and performed admirably to hold a new Man Utd side to a 1-1 draw, watched by 66 thousand passionate fans. This was the largest crowd that has ever watched Forest in a league game.
Our path to the 1959 final began with a third round draw against Non-league Tooting and Mitcham that required a replay to get us through. 43 thousand fans turned up for the replay at the City Ground. Grimsby were beaten in the next round and then we met Birmingham City. It took three matches for us to finally beat them 5-0 at neutral Filbert Street, Leicester. Bolton were dispatched in the quarter finals and then our semi-final opponents were Aston Villa, winners of the 1957 and 1958 finals. The game took place at Hillsborough, in front of 65,000 fans. A sixty fifth minute goal from John Quigley ensured a Wembley visit for the Forest fans, who believed at this point that the hardest work had already been done.
And so on the second of May 1959, Manager Billy Walker and Captain Jack Burkitt led Forest out onto the Wembley turf in front of a hundred thousand fans for the final against Luton Town. Our team was the same team that had played in all nine FA Cup games that season: Chic Thomson, Billy Ware, Joe McDonald, Jeff Whitefoot, Bobby McKinlay, Jack Burkitt, Roy Dwight, Johnny Quigley, Tommy Wilson, Billy Gray and Stewart Imlach. Forest went 2-0 up with goals from Dwight and Wilson before Dwight was carried off with a broken leg and Forest were reduced to ten men. Substitutes were not allowed in competitive games until 1965. The ten men held out, Chic Thomson conceding just the one goal and Jack Burkitt lifted the cup for us.
Two hundred thousand fans lined the route from the Midland Railway station to the Old Market Square to catch a glimpse of the team with the cup. Forest travelled to away matches on the train in second class compartments back then. Frank Forman, a member of our 1898 FA Cup winning team had watched the game on the television. Thomson and the team passed into black and white legend. The following season Walker sold seven of the cup winning team; his reign at Forest ended in 1961 after twenty one years, although something of his legacy has always remained at the City ground. Thomson left Forest the following season for non-league side Valley Sports.
Chic stayed in Nottingham until his death on January 6th. He was a visitor to the City Ground on many occasions being paraded on the pitch on anniversaries of the last time we won the cup. Only two players from the team are still surviving.
Chic leaves his widow, Pat, and will be buried at Bramcote Crematorium on January 23rd.
Charles Thomson 1930 – 2009. 136 Forest Appearances. R.I.P.
I’ll see thee.