THE LEAN 20’S
As Keighley approached the completion of its first 50 years, and fell to 26th place in
the league, the 1925-26 season was at least memorable for one thing – a first round
cup-tie with Bradford Northern which had to be replayed twice.
With an eye on the financial side of the question the clubs agreed to meet on the
Bradford City ground at Valley Parade. There were 20,973 spectators and the
receipts were £306 for the first encounter on February 13th, which ended in a 2-2
draw. It was a last minute goal by Dick Kendall, which gave Keighley the chance to
fight another day.
Four days later the sides again met at Valley Parade and on that occasion there
were 13,845 spectators who paid £929. Again the match ended in a draw – this time
it was 5-5 – and a second replay had to be arranged at Leeds. On February 22nd
there were 12,000 spectators at the match (£748) and this time they saw a result
with Keighley being beaten 9-4. The aggregate attendance for those three games
was nearly 47,000 and the total gate receipts of £3,043 constituted a record for a
Northern Union first round tie.
Even to this day it is still the most extraordinary financial experience ever met with
by the Keighley club in cup-ties, apart, of course, from their one visit to Wembley in
That first round cup-tie was the one big talking point of the 1925-26 season, and as
the Golden Jubilee approached the executive made every effort to ensure a
successful season the following year.
They laid out plenty of cash. Four Welsh players of ability were signed, and several
other more or less ready-made players were, secured. But the moves did not pay
big dividends and Keighley finished in 22nd position in the league Hardly had these
important signings been made when things started to go wrong. Jack Davies was
injured at Craven Park and was out for 18 weeks, and in subsequent matches
Phillips and Fowler were badly hurt. Then Evan Davies returned home for domestic
reasons, and for the big financial outlay in securing these players the club had in
many matches absolutely nothing to show.
That jubilee year was a season of injuries, and practically every recognised first
team player was out of action at one time or another. Only Tommy Pearson
maintained his fitness, and he missed only one of the 36 possible games.
Dick Kendall was the side's leading scorer in what should have been a memorable
year – but he totalled only 39 points. W. B. Craven was easily the leading try scorer
with eleven to his credit, and altogether 35 players wore the first team jersey.
The period between the mid-twenties and the mid-thirties were not outstanding in
the history of the club but there were a host of players associated with the club
whose performances are still talked about.
Among them were two local lads – David McGoun and Norman Foster. They were
two of the most faithful servants the club had ever had.
McGoun still holds the record for the most appearances with Keighley. He had 385
games with the first team, and Foster is not far behind him with a total of 371.
McGoun made his debut with Keighley along with Billy Watson, who continued his
service with the club as groundsman, against Bramley on September 12, 1925. In
the same month, 12 years later, McGoun received a benefit cheque for £l06
4shilings – not the greatest reward for such devoted service.
Foster made his debut nearly four years later – on April 2, 1929, at Featherstone. A
Press report of his first game said, "Norman Foster definitely showed that he is a
centre with a future before him". And such was the case. His profitable partnership
with Joe Sherburn in the thirties still stands as one of the greatest features in
Keighley rugby football history.
Foster had to wait until 1946 for his benefit – a joint affair with ldris Towill. Reason
was that from 1936 until 1938 he played with other clubs. He was originally transfer
listed in February 1935 at £600 the highest fee ever asked for a player at that time.
That is some indication of the value put on him by the Keighley Club who were loath
to let him go. In fact, after only a brief period, he was taken off the list.
But in May 1936, he left for Halifax and was away from the fold when Keighley went
to Wembley in 1937. He returned to Lawkholme in September 1938.
Idris Towill's association with Keighley did not commence until November 28, 1936.
But in the next ten years he made 270 appearances and was in the cup final side.
Unhappily Towill was injured on the eve of the benefit match – a game between
Towill's XIll and Foster's XIII played on May 14, 1946.
Joe Sherburn joined Keighley from Halifax on September 14, 1932, and made his
debut against York three days later. He was a great wingman and in season 1 934-
35 he scored 30 tries – a club record which has only rarely looked like being
In the 1930's Keighley took a great liking to Welshmen, and when Towill made his
debut there were no less than eight in the side Herbert, Bevan, Lloyd, Phelps, Dai
Davies, Jones and Talbot being the four others.