The Story of Derek Dooley

The Story of Derek Dooley


Derek Dooley’s life was changed forever
on Valentine’s Day, 1953. During a game against Preston at Deepdale,
the Sheffield Wednesday centre-forward collided with goalkeeper George Thompson, breaking
his leg in two places. It was a serious injury, but it needn’t
have finished his career. Dooley was taken to Preston Royal Infirmary
and his leg was operated on and then set in plaster. Three days later, however, when Dooley was
due to be discharged, nurses noticed that his toes were ice cold. He also reported having no feeling in his
right foot and the doctors were rightly concerned. Dooley had suffered a cut on the calf earlier
in the Preston game and, the theory remains, the open wound had been exposed to chemicals
used to treat the frozen Deepdale pitch. The effect was devastating. Untreated, the leg had turned gangrenous and
with the infection rising up his body, the surgeons were left with no option but to amputate
Dooley’s right leg to save his life. His career had really just begun. But, at just 23, it was already over. Dooley had been born in Sheffield in 1929,
into a world of terraced housing, outdoor toilets and where formative football experiences
occurred either on the streets, or on the local recreation grounds, with its pitches
of ash and cinder. This was not an era of social mobility and
Dooley’s choices in life were limited. He was the son of a steelworker, both of his
parents had been factory workers in fact and, most likely, he would either follow in their
path or make it as a footballer. At first, it was the former. Having left school at 14, he was already working
in a hearing-aid factory, nursing his sporting ambition on his own time, in junior football
and, later, with Sheffield YMCA. At 15, he would catch his first break, with
amateur side Lincoln City, who were playing in the Third Division (North). He would play mainly for the club’s reserves,
but it was still a formative experience. By 16, Dooley was over 6ft tall, at a time
when the male national average was below 5ft7in. Fully grown, he would reach over 6ft3in, and
that frame – with his speed and size 12 feet – would be toughened by early exposure
to a hugely physical form of the game. “There was a fair bit of shoe dished out”
he would tell Arthur Hopcraft in The Football Man. “It taught me how to take care of myself. I had to take a fair bit of boot. I was much younger, you see. They were trying to intimidate me.” ‘They’ would help to create a battering
ram of a centre-ram. Dooley would spend two years with Lincoln
before becoming a professional, joining Sheffield Wednesday at 17 in 1947. It would take until October 1951 for him to
become a first-team regular, but when he did, it was an opportunity he grasped with a run
of form which was barely believable. He scored 46 goals from just 30 games to power
Wednesday to the Division Two title in 1952. The next season, in the First Division in
1952-53, a tally of 16 goals from 24 games had added to a burgeoning reputation and calls
for Dooley to be included in the England. But then: Deepdale and – ultimately – tragedy. Dooley’s post-injury prospects were bleak. As he himself would remember, “I was 23,
I’d been married the June before. I’d no house, no trade. I was living with my parents. I’d banked a bit of money, but it wasn’t
much.” Not much at all, in fact. The maximum wage at the time of Dooley’s
injury had been £14 per week. The season before, he had earned a bonus of
just £42 for winning Division Two; this was not an age of decadent wealthy by any means. In fact, it was an era in which even professional
players who had enjoyed full and successful careers would often return to their original
trades after retirement. The football community stood by Dooley, though. A benefit game was held at Hillsborough, with
55,000 fans cramming in to watch the first match to be played under the newly installed
floodlights. Local newspapers also organised fundraising
campaigns, with the PFA also donating £200 and – in a tale which describes the esteem
in which the player was held – a pools winner wrote to Dooley, enclosing some of his winnings. Cumulatively, it was enough for he and his
wife Sylvia to buy the semi-detached house in which they’d live for the rest of their
lives. For eight years after his accident, Dooley
would scout for Sheffield Wednesday at weekends. But from Monday to Friday, he manned the switchboard
at a bakery belonging to a club director, eventually earning promotion all the way up
to assistant manager. In 1962, however, he returned to Hillsborough
in a full-time capacity, taking charge of the club’s development lottery, as well
as coaching the youth players. In 1971, despite no prior experience, Dooley
was appointed manager of the first team, in a populist move intended to re-inflate a sagging
side. It worked. At first. Wednesday were by then back in the Second
Division and although Dooley kept them free of relegation in his first year and safe in
mid-table for the following two, a downturn in results at the beginning of 1973-74 would
compel the Wednesday board to act: they sacked Dooley on Christmas Eve, provoking shock and
outrage across the city. Not least from Dooley himself, who was deeply
wounded by what he perceived as a betrayal and who wouldn’t step foot inside Hillsborough
again for nearly twenty years. It would prove another juncture in this highly
unusual football career. Dooley briefly left the game behind, taking
a job with a PR job with a bootmaker in Leeds, before being offered a return to the sport
by an unlikely source. In November 1974, Dooley accepted the role
of commercial director at Sheffield United. He was highly successful and would rise through
the executive structure at Bramall Lane, serving as a director, a managing director, and eventually
chief executive. In 1992, as part of United’s travelling
party for the Sheffield derby, he would finally return to Hillsborough after 19 years, receiving
a standing ovation from all four sides of the ground. In 1999, after retiring from his full-time
role, he returned as chairman, and he would be a key voice in the appointment of Bury
manager Neil Warnock, who would lead the club to League and FA Cup semi-finals in 2003,
a First Divisions Play-Off final in the same year and, eventually, promotion back to the
Premier League in 2006. Dooley’s administrative career would earn
him an MBE in 2003, having already been awarded the Freedom of Sheffield ten years earlier. He would pass away in March 2008, at the age
of 78, leaving his wife, Sylvia, and two children. Today, his statue stands outside Bramall Lane,
in the red half of town, but he remains a transcendent figure across the city, his life
and its many parables ensuring both a lasting affection and an enduring relevance.

77 thoughts on “The Story of Derek Dooley

  • March 4, 2020 at 6:30 am
    Permalink

    First

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 6:31 am
    Permalink

    Love the videos keep it up guys 👍👍

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 6:32 am
    Permalink

    Covering stories that aren't traditionally known around the entire football globe is Tifo's specialty – and they do it pretty well!

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 6:32 am
    Permalink

    Excellent writing and tragic storytelling.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 6:36 am
    Permalink

    Tifo, can you do a short story about Niccolo Galli? He was a promising footballer who potential cut short due to his early death….

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 6:37 am
    Permalink

    Dooley is genuinely an inspiration to all footballers and fans alike. We can learn so much from a man who recieved so little!

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 6:38 am
    Permalink

    DO A VIDEO ON FAILED WONDERKIDS!

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 6:39 am
    Permalink

    It's amazing that football always manages to inspire people

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 6:40 am
    Permalink

    Beautiful. Genuinely beautiful. Tifo takes top-spot again! 👍

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 6:40 am
    Permalink

    Sheffield Legend, football legend. Transcends all rivalry.
    WAWAW

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 6:49 am
    Permalink

    beautiful story….really great THANK YOU TIFO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 6:49 am
    Permalink

    The footballing legend Owls and Blades both love.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 6:52 am
    Permalink

    Sounded like like a top class guy, interesting to see if there is anyone else or a list of people who are respected by both sets of teams in the same city

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 6:59 am
    Permalink

    Beautifully done. Bravo!

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 6:59 am
    Permalink

    Died. Not 'passed away'. These womanesque sentences are pure shite.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 7:07 am
    Permalink

    Inspirational story …….🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌

    Never Give Up ….

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 7:19 am
    Permalink

    Wow what a story! I had no idea he played for team (Lincoln City). Great stuff again lads! Small note: pretty sure we weren’t an amateur side, he was just on an amateur contracts

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 7:21 am
    Permalink

    Tifo's Brilliance 👌👌

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 7:41 am
    Permalink

    I only just found this channel and I'm so happy I did. Great video.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 7:54 am
    Permalink

    Beautiful story 😭😭

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 7:57 am
    Permalink

    The stories not by The Athletic are always the best, the sooner they do away with that partnership the better.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 7:59 am
    Permalink

    I'd love to see one on colin bell.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 8:07 am
    Permalink

    Pls do a video on Manchester city European ban. Thanks

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 8:22 am
    Permalink

    Thanks for this Joe. Really touching and amazing. The narration was spellbinding as always.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 8:35 am
    Permalink

    Do a video on Mikel Arteta

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 9:03 am
    Permalink

    Sheffield legend

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 9:37 am
    Permalink

    that's a very heart-warming story – good job

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 9:39 am
    Permalink

    Sonny Pike… Massive hype job, who turned into a busted flush.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 9:46 am
    Permalink

    This really is a great story, clearly an icon in Sheffield

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 10:01 am
    Permalink

    ⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 10:08 am
    Permalink

    5:44 Nice touch with the jerseys there

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 10:18 am
    Permalink

    Inspiring 😊 ….

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 10:29 am
    Permalink

    Excellent content. Derby fan in Sheffield. I’ve walked down Derek Dooley way in Sheffield numerous times but never knew who he was.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 10:52 am
    Permalink

    Damn that was beautiful

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 11:07 am
    Permalink

    Absolutely love it!! Brings a tear….so much history in the beautiful game

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 11:34 am
    Permalink

    Make one video on Arteta's and Lampards' tactics at their respective clubs

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 11:51 am
    Permalink

    "A fair amount of boot!" You cant say that about today's players.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 11:55 am
    Permalink

    Not to mention 1 of the main roads in Sheffield was named Derek Dooley way.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 12:14 pm
    Permalink

    This channel is superb. Beautifully presented facts.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 12:59 pm
    Permalink

    This cant be a tifo video its not got a 5 minute ad for the athletic

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 1:03 pm
    Permalink

    Very well put together! This would have been an unknown story only for this video. Thanks Tifo.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 1:19 pm
    Permalink

    How might COVID19 affect football? Next vid?

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 1:52 pm
    Permalink

    He is a absolute legend in Sheffield

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 2:32 pm
    Permalink

    Derek Dooley Way. One of the best streets in the city

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 3:54 pm
    Permalink

    whats the song name

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 4:01 pm
    Permalink

    Please do a video on dynamo kiev vs nazis “deathmatch”,

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 4:19 pm
    Permalink

    Wow nice video. Never heard of him. I have now.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 4:24 pm
    Permalink

    He was an absolute gent, and is practically the only person respected by both sides of the Sheffield footballing divide. A section of the ring road is also named in his honour 👍🏻

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 4:28 pm
    Permalink

    Wow, pretty amazing. Anyone who can unite the red and blue halves of a footballing city – they tend to be rather stuck in their ways in that sense – must be something very special indeed. I doubt that there can be many of them. In fact, are there any? I don't think Dennis Law quite had the same effect after he back heeled his famous goal into the United net. But other than him I am struggling to come up with a name. Suggestions? Well done, great video.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 4:37 pm
    Permalink

    Wow. Incredible story

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 4:57 pm
    Permalink

    Please do a video on Atalanta tactics under Gian Piero Gasperini

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 5:05 pm
    Permalink

    To get to the telephone exchange Derick had to climb 4 floors of that Bakery, I worked there in 1961-3

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 5:57 pm
    Permalink

    Would love to see a video on Johan cruyff either as a coach or as a player p.s I really love these stories of less known players or clubs

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 6:24 pm
    Permalink

    Very interesting. Great work tifo 👍🔥

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 6:49 pm
    Permalink

    "This was not an era of social mobility." Why does that feel so familiar?

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 7:10 pm
    Permalink

    These videos are what sets Tifo apart.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 7:40 pm
    Permalink

    Like a miracle of Dooley

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 9:25 pm
    Permalink

    Do a video on Ivor Allchurch

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 9:53 pm
    Permalink

    I know Freddy Adu is done to death on YouTube. But the tifo slant on him would be next level…

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 10:04 pm
    Permalink

    He also divides the city of Sheffield with a main road named after him in his memory called Derek Dooley Way. RIP top bloke x

    Reply
  • March 4, 2020 at 10:35 pm
    Permalink

    Great story that, sounds like he was a great man.

    Reply
  • March 5, 2020 at 2:00 am
    Permalink

    It would make a good series, to feature players whose careers were cut short. Adrian Doherty is the main one who comes to mind. 

    Described as being better than Giggs, but suffering the misfortune of a snapped cruciate before his United debut and again on his return match. Sadly, it wasn't only his career that ended prematurely, as he died following a fall in Amsterdam in the year 2000, a day before he would have turned 27.

    Reply
  • March 5, 2020 at 6:38 am
    Permalink

    I have his fishing tackle in my garage gave to me by a Mr Gillet his fishing buddy included red and blue hats.

    Reply
  • March 5, 2020 at 6:56 am
    Permalink

    You should do one of these biographies on Robin Friday. Fascinating story of a great talent gone to waste.

    Reply
  • March 5, 2020 at 8:00 am
    Permalink

    And he got one of the main roads in sheffield named after him

    Reply
  • March 5, 2020 at 8:43 am
    Permalink

    ❤️🥺

    Reply
  • March 5, 2020 at 9:13 am
    Permalink

    Sheffield legend

    Reply
  • March 5, 2020 at 11:58 am
    Permalink

    Didn’t step back inside hillsborough that was almost a bad bad pun

    Reply
  • March 5, 2020 at 2:13 pm
    Permalink

    You should do a video on how SHITE Steven Gerrard is as a manager

    Reply
  • March 5, 2020 at 2:42 pm
    Permalink

    Can Tifo do a video about wolverhampton wanderers fc

    Reply
  • March 5, 2020 at 4:34 pm
    Permalink

    Hey guys, listening to this story, another player comes to mind: Duncan Edwards. I‘m sure he‘s already on your list. It would be amazing to have a brief history of his!

    Reply
  • March 5, 2020 at 5:20 pm
    Permalink

    I would love to know how the 11 people who "dislike" this video would improve on it. Great man, great story and very well told.

    Reply
  • March 5, 2020 at 6:17 pm
    Permalink

    I know it might be irrelevant but is there any chance you could do a vid on what goes on when f.a say they're "investigating an incident" always wondered what the process is and whether there is like a mini court or something

    Reply
  • March 5, 2020 at 6:18 pm
    Permalink

    War start dwl

    Reply
  • March 5, 2020 at 8:53 pm
    Permalink

    Great man who I had the honor to know

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *