goalkeeper Bill Shortt died recently in Plymouth aged
83. Our condolences go out to his family and friends.
Although Bill never played in a Division
Three North fixture for Chester he was the first choice
keeper during the war years making more than 100 appearances.
He went on to have a long and distinguished career with
Bill was born in Wrexham and
signed for Chester as an amateur in 1938. He had
been spotted by Frank Brown
playing for Hoole Alex. in the Chester and District
League while also working as a butcher’s errand
boy. With Cliff Owen and Alf Hobson in front of him
in the pecking order Bill spent some time on loan with
Wellington in order to gain experience. He was recalled
during the 1939 close season and his form in the trial
games indicated a promising future. Although Bill started
the season as second choice he was given his debut
in the club’s first wartime fixture, against
Tranmere Rovers, and went on to play in every league
fixture that season.
During the war Bill was a member
of the army and also guested for Plymouth Argyle.
He made his final appearance
for Chester in a Division Three North cup game against
Rochdale in January 1946 and signed for Argyle, for £1,000,
the following month. Coincidentally, he returned to
Chester with his new club, twelve months later, for
an FA Cup third round tie. It wasn’t a happy
homecoming for Bill as Chester won the tie 2-0 with
goals from Tommy Astbury and Tommy Burden.
In April 1947 Bill won his
first international cap for Wales in a 2-1 defeat
against Northern Ireland
in Belfast. For the next six years he competed with
Liverpool’s Cyril Sidlow for the Welsh goalkeeping
jersey winning a total of 12 caps including one against
England at Wembley. In 1950/51 he was a member of the
Welsh team that won the Home International tournament.
Bill was a cool and confident
keeper who, despite his rotundity, was excellent
in the air. Weight proved
to be a problem for Bill and in 1951 the Argyle physio
put him on a course of “foam baths, dieting and
hard training” to help him slim down. The regime
paid off and he was soon back to his best form with
one writer describing him as “the man who picks
the ball out of the air like cherries off a tree.”
Bill was a loyal servant to Plymouth and made 342
appearances for the Devon side before moving to Tavistock
Town in the 1956 close season. In 1951/52 Bill won
a Third Division South Championship medal with Argyle.
After retiring from football he was the landlord of
a pub in Plymouth.