Writer: Peverell Green
Date:Monday January 21 2013
The next chapter in Peverell Green's Where Are They Now series takes a look at the career of Argyle striker George Kirby.
GEORGE KIRBY - Born 20th December 1933 Liverpool, England.
George was what can only be described as an old fashioned centre forward.
He started his career with his home town club Everton in July 1955, he was never a first team regular and in four seasons he only made 26 appearances which is a bit of a surprise as he scored nine goals for the club, I guess they must have had a decent forward line keeping him out of the first team. I know future Argyle star Jimmy Gauld was at the club with George.
A move to Sheffield Wednesday in July 1959 turned out to be a short one; he was only at the club for five months making three appearances without managing to score any goals.
Argyle manager Jack Rowley was looking for a powerful centre forward to unsettle defenders to allow Wilf Carter time and space around the penalty area and signed George in January 1960, with Jimmy McAnearney joining at the same time.
He made his debut on 16th January 1960 in a 2-2 draw at home to Middlesborough in front of 20,981 spectators, Jimmy McAnearney and Johnny Williams getting the goals. George never missed a game for the rest of the season and scored his first goal in a 3-1 home win over Swansea and his only other goal that season came on the final day in a 3-0 home win over Aston Villa. The following season saw George continue as a regular in the first team, justifying his manager's faith in him by scoring 19 goals, 18 in the league and one in the League Cup.
By the end of September he had scored nine goals, including the first Argyle goal of the season in the opening game against Stoke in a 3-1 home win, a hat trick against Portsmouth in mid-September at Home Park in a 5-1 win and two on the following Saturday in another 5-1 win this time at Huddersfield.
He also got two on Boxing Day at the Valley against Charlton in a 6-4 defeat with Argyle gaining their revenge the following day by winning 6-4 with Wilf Carter scoring five of the goals. 1961-62 started exactly as the previous one had with George scoring the first goal on the opening day of the season, this time in a 2-1 win at the Dell, Southampton with Jimmy McAnearney scoring the other. Argyle finished the season fifth but had the pleasure of doing the double over runners up Leyton Orient winning 2-1 home and away.
The following season was a short one in a green shirt for George after playing in the first eight games and scoring two goals a bid of £17,000 from Southampton manager Ted Bates was enough to persuade Argyle manager Ellis Stuttard to let George move up the South Coast. He scored his last goal for the club in a 3-1 defeat at Newcastle in front of 34,375 fans and made a final appearance for the club on September 15th in a 2-1 home win over Derby. In two and a half seasons he spent at Home Park; George made 104 appearances and scored 39 goals.
Also at Southampton at the time were former Argyle winger Harry Penk and future Argyle crowd pleaser Dave Burnside.
Some Saints fans were a bit upset when they signed George as he came with a bit of a reputation for being able to look after himself.
With players like Terry Paine, John Sydenham, future England player, Martin Chivers as well as Penk and Burnside, Southampton were seen as a 'footballing team'.
His, how can I put it, robust style of play soon won the fans over and the following anecdotes have come from Saints supporters who remember watching him play.
He would position himself on the edge of the area and wait for one of Terry Paine's pinpoint crosses or corners and charge forward to meet it, anything or anyone in his way was trampled underfoot.
In an era when the shoulder charge on a goalie was still allowed it was not unusual for a goalie to catch the ball and find he had been bundled into the net with the ball still in his hands after clashing with George.
On another occasion he laid out three Swansea players at the same time with trainers from both teams being called on to treat the injured players.
My favourite is, after kicking a Southampton player, Leeds 'hard man' Billy Bremner was forced to run away with George in hot pursuit, he obviously couldn't run fast enough as George caught him and left his mark on him.
Refs were obviously a lot more lenient than they are now. Strangely enough all the Southampton fans said he was a real gent off the pitch. While at Southampton he made 63 appearances and scored 28 goals.
In the next five years George never stayed long at any one club moving to Coventry in April 1964, Swansea in October 1964, Walsall in July 1965 and as one of the early English players in America, went to New York Generals in June 1967 finally to his last league club Brentford in January 1969.
The one consistent thing about his game was his ability to score goals on average of one every three games.
He scored 10 times from 18 appearances at Coventry, 8 times from 26 appearances at Swansea, 25 times from 75 appearances at Walsall, in New York 9 goals in 47 appearances and one goal from 5 appearances at Brentford. He finished off his playing career with a season at Worcester City before joining Alan Ball senior as coach at Halifax in 1969.
Taking over as manager in July 1970 and almost leading the club to promotion in his first season.
In 1971-72 he led his club to a 2-1 Watney Cup victory over a full strength Manchester Utd side that included George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton.
His success soon alerted other clubs and within a few weeks of the Man Utd victory he joined Watford. Unfortunately the two seasons he spent at the club came at the same time as boardroom unrest, a terrible run of injuries and a shortage of money which meant he was unable to buy replacement players, this led to one relegation with the team just surviving a second successive one.
In 1974 he move to Iceland to manage one of their top teams IA Akranes where he won two championships and reached two cup finals in two years, but half way through a four year contract left to take up a coaching post in Kuwait.
A chance call from a friend brought him back to Halifax for the second time on 3rd November 1978.
The highlight of his second spell at Halifax was a FA Cup third round tie at home to Manchester City at the Shay with Halifax winning the game 1-0, their league form wasn't as good unfortunately and after having to apply for re-election for the second time in three years George was sacked.
After leaving Halifax he worked as a scout for Everton, West Brom and QPR.
He moved back to IA Akranes for one more season, leaving them in December 1990 and as far as I know leaving football for good.
Sadly George Kirby died on 24th March 2000 aged 66.
He certainly sounded a character and if anyone has recollections of him during his time at Argyle, or indeed any of his clubs please let me know by sending an email to Plymouth@vitalfootball.co.uk
Date:Monday January 21 2013
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