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Rotherham Town Football Club:

Was Harry Thickitt their first player to be capped for England ?

Henry Thickitt (Thickett) and Fanny Wake were married in Sheffield in 1857. Soon they moved home to live in Hexthorpe, Doncaster, where the Great Northern Railway Co. employed Henry in the locomotive works as a Blacksmith. Harry was born in 1872, one of eleven children. He was well educated. His headmaster tried to persuade him to take up the teaching profession, but to no avail. Harry was also a talented musician. He played the piano with passion; he also played the organ for church services in Christchurch, the central church in Doncaster.

Harry was obsessed by the game of football and played for a local village team, the “White Rose”. It was here that he was “spotted”, and invited to join and play for the Sheffield (United) team. He played for that club for two years before joining Rotherham Town. Harry’s strength and skill developed rapidly. A local newspaper stated; “He is a plucky, speedy, a rare kicker and an earnest and efficient tackler”. Henry played in the Rotherham team that won the Midland League championship two years in a row. This was 1891 and 1892. The inscribed medals for this achievement are testament to his dedication and love of the game. After two seasons with Rotherham Town the Sheffield club were obviously impressed with his progress and wanted him back. (Surprise - Surprise !). They negotiated with Rotherham for his release and signed terms for Harry to become a professional player at Sheffield, paying a sum of £30 to the Rotherham club.

Harry was transferred to Sheffield United where success followed success. He played 261 games for his club during which time he played in Sheffield’s FA Cup Final wins of 1899 and 1901, and the Charity Shield winners of 1898. Furthermore he was “Capped” for England several times, the last of which was a 2-1 win over Scotland at Villa Park in 1899. As Harry reached the “veteran” stage of his career he transferred to Bristol City, first as a player and then , within a year, their manager. He enjoyed even more success at Bristol as the team, under his leadership, went from strength to strength setting records that still stand to this day !

A recent TV programme was really poignant for me. The programme “The lost world of Mitchell and Kenyon” featured part of a football match between Bury and Sheffield United in 1901. This contained close-ups of the goalkeeper “Fatty” Foulkes and Harry Thickitt at right back.

So – back to my original question – Was Harry the first ex Rotherham player to play for England ?

It seems quite likely, or do you know differently ?

G A Darby.

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