Top 5 goalkeepers in England: Terry Ainsworth’s 3rd choice

In 1902, Chesterfield manager Jack Hoskin beat Derby County to sign Sam Hardy, doing so under a lamp post in Newbold.  Hardy, something of a shrewd character, wouldn't sign the forms until Hoskin promised to pay him 18 shillings (90p) when the original offer was 5 shillings (25p).  Hardy soon gained himself a reputation for being unfazeable and it wasn't long before he started attracting the attention of the top clubs in the country.  Liverpool manager Tom Watson had witnessed him play against his side in a 2nd Division fixture at Anfield and although Liverpool won the match 6-1, Watson remembered that if it hadn't been for the performance of Hardy that day, Liverpool could well have gone on to record their biggest-ever win.   After 77 appearances, in which he kept 30 clean-sheets, Watson approached both Chesterfield and Hardy and signed him for £500 in May 1905. After Ned Doig had begun the season as number 1, Sam came in to make his debut for the 9th game of the campaign on 21 October 1912 at Anfield in a league match against Nottingham Forest. Liverpool won the game 4-1 and Hardy established himself as the Reds number 1.  By the end of his first season he had bagged a Football League First Division championship medal as Liverpool won their second title in five years. Hardy made 30 league (and 5 cup) appearances during the 1905-06 season as Liverpool beat Preston North End by 4 points in the 2 points for a win system.

Liverpool 1905-1906

Back row (L-R)
John Carlin, Alf West, Charlie Wilson, Sam Hardy, Ned Doig,
Billy Dunlop, David Murray, Joe Hewitt.

2nd row (L-R)
W. Connell (Trainer), James Hughes, George Lathom, John Hughes, Maurice Parry,
Alex Raisbeck, George Fleming, Tom Chorlton, Tom Watson (Manager).

3rd row (L-R)
Robbie Robinson, Jack Parkinson, Sam Raybould

Front row on ground (L-R)
G. Robinson, James Gorman, Arthur Goddard, Jack Cox, James Garside

Liverpool finished the season by winning certainly the largest trophy in the history of football, The Sheriff of London Charity Shield, which was over six feet high. The competition originated from 1898 and was an annual game between the best professional and amateur side in England. The amateurs, Corinthians, were easily defeated 5-1 by Liverpool. A year later the competition was cancelled.

Liverpool 1906
with the League Cup, Sheriff of London Charity Shield and Liverpool Cup

Back row (L-R)
Sam Hardy, Harry Griffiths, Maurice Parry, Robert Blanthorne,
Charlie Wilson, Percy Saul, James Bradley

Middle row (L-R)
W. Connell (Trainer), Sam Raybould, Alex Raisbeck, Joe Hewitt, Jason Hughes,
James Gorman, Robbie Robinson, Billy Dunlop, A N Other, Ned Doig

Front row (L-R)
George Latham, Tom Chorlton, John Carlin, Jack Parkinson

In 1907, Hardy caught the eye of the Football Association committee who gave him his debut on 14 October at Goodison Park; Ireland were the opponents and Hardy gained his first clean-sheet as England won 1-0.  Hardy became one of the best goalkeepers of his generation over the next few seasons and by the time he was allowed to leave Anfield in 1912 he had earned himself the nickname 'Safe and Steady Sam'.  He had made 239 appearances between the sticks for the Reds when he left for Aston Villa for £1500 where he won two FA Cups in 1913 and 1920.

Like so many other professionals, his career was interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War. Hardy kept in practice during the conflict playing for his own club, Aston Villa, 4 times, Plymouth Argyle, Nottingham Forest and the Royal Naval barracks Plymouth.  Hardy became a member of the P.F.A in 1921 and also left Aston Villa after making 183 appearances.  He joined Nottingham Forest for £1000 and helped them to the 2nd Division title by the end of his first season at the club in 1922, he played 102 times for Forest before injury ended his career when just shy of his 40th birthday.

By the end of his international days, Hardy had played for 14 years as England's premier goalkeeper, earning himself 21 caps, if he were to be playing in today's modern game, which includes World Cup's, European Championship's and a whole host of friendlies, Sam would have gone on to earn well over 100 caps.

Upon retirement, Hardy became a publican, keeping pubs and billiard halls in the Chesterfield area, and remained so until his death aged 84 on 24 October 1966.  Many goalkeeping experts regard Sam Hardy as the greatest keeper of all, a statement that goes a long way to be backed up by Hardy appearing on the BBC's Football Legends List.  He also was voted in at No. 94 in the official Liverpool Football Club website poll.

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