Celtic’s first black player was trailblazer

ALFRED Charles, the first black player to appear for Stalybridge Celtic, was something of a trailblazer back in the 1930s.

Indeed, it must have been quite an adventure when the inside-left headed from Trinidad & Tobago in pursuit of fame and fortune in England.

Charles will be featuring in a history of football in the Caribbean nation from its inception in 1908 to its appearance at the 2006 World Cup. It became the fourth, and smallest, country from the region to reach the finals.

It will be the work of Trinidad-born Richard Blackett, a retired professor of history at Vanderbilt University in America who has written previous books including ‘Divided Hearts, Britain and the American Civil War’.

Richard, who is also writing an essay about Charles’ life, contacted The Correspondent to try and uncover further details of Charles’ career at Bower Fold, believing he was the first Trinidadian, and possibly the first West Indian, to play in England.

And Dave Pover, Celtic’s unofficial club historian, has provided a wealth of information, much of which was unknown to Richard who revealed Charles was the first player from Trindad and Tobago to get a shot at the pro game, supported by the efforts of legendary cricketer Learie Constantine who played league cricket in Lancashire in that era.

Charles, himself a decent cricketer at clubs in Lancashire, initially came over with Constantine in 1932 to act as his valet.

He returned in 1933 and signed for Burnley on the recommendation of Constantine who was then professional at Nelson.

Richard explained Charles, who was born in 1909, failed to establish a first-team place at Burnley or Southampton later in the decade, but had a successful stay at Celtic.

Following his retirement, Charles settled in Lancashire where he ran a pub for many years.

Celtic’s historian revealed Charles was signed from Darwen and made his debut in a 4-3 Cheshire League win against Hurst in August 1936.

He scored his first goals, a brace, a fortnight later in an 8-0 victory against Nantwich Town at Bower Fold where former Oldham Athletic player Bob Grice bagged the other six goals and also missed a penalty.

Charles scored 14 goals in 28 league and cup games before signing for Second Division Southampton in early 1937.

Having made only one first-team appearance for Saints, Charles returned to Bower Fold re-signed by player-manager George Shaw for a fee of £350 for the 1938-39 season.

Shaw was a member of the Huddersfield Town team which won three successive First Division titles, West Bromwich Albion’s 1931 FA Cup winning team and was an ex-England international.
Charles went on to make a further 41 appearances for Celtic, scoring 14 goals.

Having finished 18th in the Cheshire League, only two players were retained for the following season and Charles was released.

Charles, who died in 1977, was never forgotten in his homeland and was posthumously inducted into Trinidad and Tobago’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1984.

• If anybody has any further information about Charles’ career with Celtic or his cricketing exploits in local leagues, email tony@localcommunications.co.uk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *