Edward ‘Ted’ Vizard (7 June 1889 -25 December 1973)

Vizard in Bolton Jersey, Photo Credit Jeff Williamson

As part of our work in Wales our Wales Co-ordinator, Russell Todd, has nominated Ted Vizard for a blue plaque in Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Penarth Civic Society is inviting nominations of individuals with a connection to Penarth to receive a blue plaque and Ted Vizard was the town’s first international footballer, winning 22 caps for Wales between 1911 and 1926, and went onto become a legend at Bolton Wanderers for whom he starred during the club’s most successful decade in the 1920s.

Early years

Thomas and Sarah Vizard moved from Wiltshire to, first, Cardiff where their first children were born before moving onto Cogan where they settled at 1 Charlotte Street. This is the address where their son Edward was born in 1889 and where the censuses of 1891 and 1901 record him resident.

Like many families in the late 1800s, Thomas was drawn to south Wales by the coal trade. Sarah was a shopkeeper.

In his youth, ‘Ted’ Vizard played rugby for Penarth RFC and football for, first, Cogan Old Boys and then Barry District, one of the many early names of the club known today as Barry Town United.

His dexterous running and pace meant Vizard was a handy three-quarter in rugby and a skillful outside left in football, and he was courted by Cardiff RFC and the Leeds rugby league club in the former and Bristol Rovers and Aston Villa in the latter. Vizard offered his services to Cardiff City too. He suggested a wage of 30 shillings a week, an offer the club’s directors baulked at, suggesting Vizard should be ashamed at asking for such a sum: they ‘could get first-class players for that amount’.

Turning pro and becoming an international

In November 1910, aged 21, Ted was invited for a trial with Bolton Wanderers, to whom Vizard had been recommended by R.A. Lewis, his mentor and principal at Barry Secondary and Commercial School. It was soon apparent that Bolton had signed a player of the calibre Cardiff were interested in, and he soon signed professional terms and made his debut against Gainsborough Trinity. Within two months Vizard was an international when he made his Wales debut against Ireland at Windsor Park, Belfast. One of two 21 year old debutants, along with Wrexham’s Tom Hewitt, Vizard lined up on the left wing with the great Billy Meredith on the opposite flank, aged 36, and winning a then-world record 34th cap. In fact Meredith had first played for Wales four years before Vizard was even born! Gren Morris scored a late winner to see Wales to a 2-1 victory.

Wales, 1911 British Home Championship. Vizard (bottom right) Photo Credit Jeff Williamson

Vizard had done enough to impress the selectors to retain his place for the home clash in March at Ninian Park against Scotland, the reigning Home Nations Champions. Ninian Park was hosting its first international match, having opened earlier in the season. A record crowd in excess of 17,000 – which might have been even greater had Cardiff Council agreed to a request by the Football Association of Wales for school children to be excused early at noon in order to attend -flocked to the new ground.

That other Welsh footballing superstar of the early 1900s, Leigh Richmond Roose, returned to the side to play in goal and win his 24th and final cap. Gren Morris was again on the scoresheet, scoring twice, but this time it was Wales who were thwarted by a late goal when Robert Thomson scored an 89th minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw.

After the match, the Welsh team attended a ‘smoking concert’ at the Royal Hotel in Cardiff. All of the team, except Vizard. With his first cap having come in Belfast and his club commitments in Lancashire, his presence in Cardiff for the Ninian Park clash was his hometown’s first opportunity to proudly honour its first footballing international.

With his teammates at the Royal Hotel, Vizard was back in Penarth where he was presented with a gold chain and pendant; no doubt to which he could attach the watch he had been presented some years earlier for good attendance at school in Cogan.

A week later Wales travelled to The Den in south London to face England knowing victory would likely give them only their second Championship title and first since 1907. Again Wales selected the front five of Vizard, Gren Morris, William Davies, Evan Jonesand Meredith and for an hour Wales were very much in the game but late goals saw England triumph 3-0. As is customary at the final whistle, Vizard swapped his shirt with one of the England players. Half a century later, Vizard had a clear-out and gave the England shirt to his cleaner as a gift for her two sons. In 2020 it sold at auction for £4,000.

Notwithstanding Bolton occasionally refusing to release him for international duty -a common occurrence for non-English players on the books of English clubs -Vizard became a staple in the Wales starting XI over the next three seasons. In March 1914 after only 7 caps, and despite the selection of more senior and higher profile players in the Wales XI such as Meredith -for a then-world record 45th time -and Lloyd Davies, Vizard was invited to captain his country at Ninian Park against England who ran out winners, 2-0. It was to be Vizard’s final cap for almost six years.

Vizard’s war years

Less than three months on from that Ninian Park clash, Europe was plunged into war and slaughter and like many footballers Vizard enlisted to fight and joined the Royal Flying Corps. Nevertheless, clubs continued to play friendly matches and organised local leagues and competitions, and Vizard continued to turn out occasionally for Bolton, as well as a guest for Chelsea when he was stationed in London.

A fellow member of the Flying Corp was a former teammate from Vizard’s time at Barry: Billy Jennings. So impressed were Bolton with their Welsh recruit that they instructed their scouts to return to south Wales to see if there was any further talent they could acquire. Jennings, also a left-sided player, caught the eye and the two spent much time together for club, country and conscription.

Unlike Welsh internationals such as Fred Griffiths, Bob Atherton and former teammates of Vizard’s, Leigh Roose and Ginger Williams, Vizard survived the war and was able to resume his footballing career.

Becoming a Bolton legend

Vizard was joining a newly-relegated Bolton team that had got off to a solid start in the 1910-11 season. With the side playing with confidence, his subtle dribbling and flair provided the ammunition for leading scorer Billy Hughes to fire Bolton back to the top flight. Having spent several seasons yo-yoing between the top two divisions in the Football League, on this occasion Bolton cemented themselves in the top half of the table for the next three seasons. Vizard, had made the number 11 shirt his own and the press sang his praises: “one of the most consummate artists in football” and “one of the daintiest and craftiest outside lefts in the country.” He even prompted the The Athletic News in 1913 to resort to rhyming verse:

“Clever and fast is Vizard 
With energy all a-glow 
As dexterous as a wizard 
When the leather’s at his toe”

When football resumed after the war, Bolton cemented themselves as one of England’s very best teams: supplying several internationals to the Three Lions; twice finishing third, the club’s highest ever league finish; only twice failing to finish in the top half of the first division in the next ten seasons; and reaching three FA Cup finals, winning each one.

Ted Vizard, Bolton. Sport Pictures album, 1920’s. Photo Credit Jeff Williamson

Vizard played in the first two of these finals: the famous 1923 ‘White Horse final’ when mounted police, chiefly a white horse called Billie, patrolled the Wembley pitch to clear it of the in excess of 200,000 who had come to Wembley to see it host its first ever FA Cup final. Vizard was joined in the Bolton starting XI by Billy Jennings from Barry and his compatriot Dick Richards was in the opposing West Ham team. It was Vizard who set up Bolton’s second goal – reputedly receiving a pass from a Bolton fan near the touchline – with a centred ball for Jack Smith to score.

Vizard and Jennings also played in the 1926 FA Cup final against Manchester City and Vizard – who had been sent off for the first time in his career in the third round against Accrington – again was instrumental in a goal. On 76 minutes, Vizard retrieved a wayward cross on the left, cut inside and his shot-cum-cross found its way to David Jack who netted from six yards.

Now approaching 40, Vizard did not play in the 1929 final and his appearances were becoming less frequent. He played a then-record 512th and final time for Bolton against Derby County in 1931, three months short of his 42nd birthday – also a record. It was over 60 years before an older player appeared for the club, and to this day only six players have played for the club more times than Vizard. His total would have been in excess of 600 had he not lost four full seasons due to the war, a figure which would still leave him comfortably ahead of anyone else.

Such is the esteem in which Vizard is held at Bolton, his longevity and service saw him awarded three benefits during his 23 years at Burnden Park and he was an inaugural inductee into the club’s Hall of Fame when it was launched as part of the club’s 125th anniversary in 2003.

Vizard and the first Welsh golden era

The resumption of domestic football in the 1919-20 season meant that the annual Home Championship could also resume but there were first a series of uncapped ‘Victory’ internationals to be played between the home nations. Vizard turned out against the English at Stoke, the first time he had pulled on the red jersey in five and half years.

When full internationals resumed in February 1920 Vizard again was prevented from joining up with Wales and he missed Wales’ first two Home Championship matches against Ireland and Scotland. However, one day shy of six years exactly since his 8th cap, Vizard, was selected for his 9th cap to face England at Highbury. Remarkably, once again on the opposite wing to Vizard was Billy Meredith, now 45, and extending his caps world record to 48. By now a young player from Roath, Fred Keenor, had broken into the Wales XI.

Despite playing the entire second half with ten men following an injury to full back Harry Millership, Wales enjoyed a famous 2-1 win – the first on English soil since 1881 and only their second ever. The victory put Wales on the threshold of the Home Championship but needed England to beat Scotland three weeks later at Hillsborough.

Approaching the hour mark it did not look good for Wales as the English were trailing 2-4 but a remarkable fightback saw them nick victory by the odd goal in nine. Wales, and Vizard, were champions!

The following season Vizard wore the captain’s armband at Aberdeen’s Pittodrie for Wales’s defence of their crown versus Scotland. Wales lost 2-1, a scoreline which in truth flattered Wales. Scotland went onto win the Championship, with Wales runners up, and the two nations shared the titles for the remainder of the decade. Vizard was at the heart of this unprecedented era of Welsh footballing success.

Vizard eventually won 22 Wales caps and considering in those days it was only against each other that the home nations played, that Bolton regularly refused his release, and he lost almost six years worth of international football, it is a decent haul. Indeed, only the greats Billy Meredith, Charlie Morris and Leigh Roose had represented Wales more times than Vizard on the occasion of his 22nd and final cap aged 37 in 1926. In 1924 at Blackburn, he scored his only international goal – and the only international goal scored by a Penarthian – to secure another victory against England.

Post-playing career

Upon hanging up his boots Vizard joined the coaching staff at Bolton but after two seasons he departed Lancashire for his parents’ native Wiltshire to become only the second manager in Swindon Town’s history. Having been admitted to the Football League in 1920 the promise shown in its early seasons had slowly ebbed away to the extent that in 1933 the club had finished bottom of Division Three (South), having to seek re-election to the league from its peers, and with barely a complement of players to form a five aside team. The only way was up and under Vizard’s astute management a club demoralised on the pitch and in debt off it, slowly stabilised in mid-table and in the black, although after one poor season he offered to resign but the board refused to accept it.

Swindon Town 1936-37. Manager, Ted Vizard (Centre). Photo Credit Colorsport

At the end of the 1938-39 season, Vizard departed Wiltshire to take over at fellow third tier side Queen’s Park Rangers where unfortunately history repeated itself. Where WWI had interrupted his playing career, not long after arriving in London, WWII now put his managerial career on hold for the six seasons. Although he coached QPR in wartime friendly, unofficial and representative matches, he never managed them in any official matches because in 1944 he was appointed from over 100 applicants to the Wolves job to replace the well-respected Major Frank Buckley who had led the club to two runners up finishes in the final seasons before the outbreak of war.

Once the Football League resumed in 1946-47, Wolves looked set to resume their place among the leading English clubs under Vizard’s stewardship. Despite a third place finish and to this day the best win percentage of any Wolves manager, after four years Vizard was replaced by his assistant Stan Cullis. Cullis oversaw a golden era at Molineux but Vizard is credited with laying the foundations for it.

Approaching his 60s, Vizard drifted out of the game and became, as so many former professionals did, a hotelier, eventually settling in the Tettenhall area of Wolverhampton where on Christmas Day 1973 he passed away aged 84.


Sources

Davies, G. and Garland, I. (1991) Who’s Who of Welsh International Soccer Players, Wrexham:  Bridge Books.

Garland, I. and Davies, G. (2021) Sons of Cambria – The Who’s Who of Welsh International Football Players: Volume 1 – 1876-1946, Cardiff: St David’s Press.

Stead, P. (2012) Red Dragons: The Story of Welsh Football, Talybont: Y Lolfa.

Thanks also to Jeff Williamson, Bolton Wanderers Researcher and WW1 football historian; and Alex Jackson at the National Football Museum in Manchester for their advice

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