Farewell to a goal-den hero

PUBLISHED: 11:35 12 May 2006 | UPDATED: 21:52 28 May 2010

John and Peggy Crosland celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary

John and Peggy Crosland celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary

FORMER Wisbech Town defender John Crosland, a decorated war hero and a professional footballer who played with Stanley Matthews, died on Saturday, aged 83. Mr Crosland was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross as a fighter pilot in the Second World War

John Crosland shakes hands with King George VI before the 1948 FA Cup Final

FORMER Wisbech Town defender John Crosland, a decorated war hero and a professional footballer who played with Stanley Matthews, died on Saturday, aged 83.

Mr Crosland was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross as a fighter pilot in the Second World War with the Fleet Air Arm. He saw service in the Pacific flying from HMS Formidable.

After the war, he became a professional footballer, playing as a left-back for Blackpool in the FA Cup final in 1948 against Manchester United.

Playing in the same team as Stanley Matthews, centre-half Crosland was forced to play at full-back due to injuries within the squad and he showed his class as a defender.

United won 4-2 but it would certainly have been a heavier defeat had Crosland not made a superb goal-line clearance.

Stanley Matthews became a close friend and years later, when John and his wife Peggy opened a pub in Wisbech, it was Matthews who provided a reference for their application to the licensing authorities.

Blackpool, with a talented squad full of international players, appeared in three FA Cup finals between 1948 and 1953 and were among the top teams of the old First Division.

Crosland also tasted international footballing success, having been selected for England B during their summer tour of 1953/54.

In 2003, Crosland attended the celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of Blackpool's famous 4-3 FA Cup victory against Bolton Wanderers, a match known as 'The Matthews Final' thanks to Matthews' display of brilliance.

His widow Peggy Crosland said: "Only three of the team are still alive now - John was the fourth."

On leaving Blackpool, Crosland played for Bournemouth for three years, as captain from 1954-57.

For four seasons between 1957 and 1960, he played for Wisbech Town and formed an integral part of Oscar Hold's brilliant 1957/58 team, which also included the likes of Jesse Pye and Bobby Langton.

In Crosland's first season Wisbech were second in the Midland League and beat Colchester in the FA Cup first round. He went on to make 159 appearances for Wisbech.

On their move to Wisbech, John and Peggy took over the George pub, now a shoe shop, in the town's Market Place, running it until 1961.

Later, they moved back to Blackpool and ran a hotel and a taxi business, before settling in Huntingdonshire.

Mrs Crosland said: "We lived a varied life but always together. He had a colourful career and was a lovely man, he was well liked and respected."

John Crosland leaves three daughters, six grandchildren and five great grandchildren. His funeral will be at the Church of Michael the Archangel in Huntingdon.

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