Top 5 goalkeepers in England: Terry Ainsworth’s 4th choice

Henry Edward "Harry" Hibbs, born on May 27th 1906, was an English football goalkeeper who played for Birmingham and England in the 1920s and 1930s.

Hibbs was born in Wilnecote, Staffordshire and, whilst training as a plumber, played for his local club sides Wilnecote Holy Trinity and Tamworth Castle, who had some torrid seasons in the Birmingham and District Football League (the club conceding a total 164 goals over the 1922 and 1923 seasons).  Despite this, Hibbs came to the attention of Birmingham City when he was 17 years of age, and impressed so much in trials that he was offered professional forms in May 1924.  Among such club legends as Frank Womack and Joe Bradford, Hibbs became a regular feature of Billy Beer’s side, but it was a barren period in the club’s history.

Leslie Knighton’s arrival from Bournemouth in 1928 signaled an improvement in fortunes for both Hibbs and Birmingham.  Hibbs was part of a FA tour to South Africa and made three appearances for the Football League XI. His form on the FA tour earned him a call up for England and he was selected for the England national team to play Wales at Stamford Bridge on November 20th 1929. England won the match 6-0, with a hat-trick from George Camsell.  He played for the "Professionals" in the 1929 FA Charity Shield.   Prior to Hibbs's debut, the England selectors had tried 21 different goalkeepers in the nine years since Sam Hardy's retirement in 1920. Hibbs was almost a "carbon copy" of Hardy, unspectacular but highly reliable, preferring to do everything in as simple a manner as possible, a style that was to see him become England's most capped goalkeeper up to that time, as he was selected 25 times for England (ten clean sheets), becoming a main-stay well into the mid-1930s.

Harry Hibbs punches clear at Upton Park in 1931

Birmingham reached the FA Cup final in 1931 where they came up against a strong West Bromwich Albion side, losing 2-1.

After over 389 games, his career with Birmingham came to an end a little while into the start of the Second World War. His testimonial came against cross-city rivals Aston Villa on April 13th 1940, in the first Wartime benefit game.

In August 1944 Hibbs became manager of Walsall for 7 years. The highlight of this period was the club's appearance in the 1946 Third Division (South) final, in front of 20,000, at Stamford Bridge against Bournemouth and by the team of Ron Crutchley, Dougie Lishman, Reg Foulkes, ’Nutty' Newman and, goalkeeper, Jackie Lewis.

Hibbs went back to play in goal for Havilland’s F.C. between February 1953 and the following summer. He then left football altogether before coming back to carry out two managerial stints at Ware for the 1960-61 season and Welwyn Garden City for the 1962-63 season.  He settled in Welwyn Garden City, where he died in April 1984, one month before what would have been his 78th birthday.

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