Club legend recognised at Football League Awards
Major Frank Buckley has been awarded the prestigious Contribution to League Football award at The Football League Awards 2015.
Born in Lancashire in 1882, Frank Buckley enjoyed a career as a brave, reliable centre-half with six different Football League clubs, winning a Division Two Championship medal with Derby County in 1912 and earning a solitary England cap.
Following the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, Buckley was one of the first professional footballers to join the so-called ‘Footballers’ Battalion’ and he would go on to become its second in command. During the Somme offensive in July 1916, Major Frank Buckley led his men in the heroic action at Delville Wood – where The Football League’s memorial to the Footballers’ Battalion now stands.
He was badly wounded in the shoulder and lung – ending his playing career and very nearly his life. But he survived and returned to civilian life and the sport he loved. In the process, beginning one of the game’s longest managerial careers that has seen him come to be regarded as one of its great innovators with a fine reputation for discovering talent like Stan Cullis, Billy Wright, John Charles and Jack Charlton.
Known as ‘the Major’ throughout his managerial career, Buckley earned the devotion of his players despite being a stickler for discipline and physical fitness. Having managed Norwich City and Blackpool, he joined Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1927. During his 17 year stay at Molineux he lifted the club from the brink of relegation to Division 3 to the heights of Division 1, laying the foundations for the great Wolves side of the 1950’s that would go on to dominate English football.
War intervened again and having attempted to enlist at the age of 56, he served his country in the Home Guard. Post-war he went on to manage Notts County, Hull City, Leeds United and Walsall before finally retiring at the age of 72.
Last December marked the 50th anniversary of his death in 1964, aged 82.
“It is a fitting and deserved tribute to Major Frank Buckley that he has been honoured with such a prestigious award from the Football League,” said Wolves’ CEO Jez Moxey.
“Not only did he have great success but he also did so much for the game.
“The most incredible thing was that he predicted what would happen in the future.
“For example, he said there would be all-seater stadia, restaurants in stadiums, something that people couldn’t even imagine back then.
“He definitely believed in the development of young players and predicted there would be Academies – in effect he started the Academies.”
Wolves archivist Pat Quirke, who has written a book about Major Frank Buckley, added: “He was a larger than life character but it was fascinating because he could clearly see where he was going.
“He was a bit of a showman and he managed to bring those attributes to his time at Wolves - it is good that he should be recognised for all the work that he did.”
Buckley’s great grandson, Chris Jones, collected the award on his behalf at the gala ceremony at The Brewery, London, on Sunday evening in front of over 600 guests from clubs, sponsors and the football industry.
"It's a huge honour for me personally and for my whole family. Not only did they remember my great Grandad from such a long time ago, but they actually gave him this award as well. It was such a long time ago and I'm just so glad they took the time to remember him. I looked at the list of who has won this in the past and there are some really impressive football legends. For my great Grandad to be included in that is an honour."
The Football League Awards 2015 mark the 10th year of the awards, which celebrate on and off pitch excellence across The League’s 72 clubs. This year all 72 clubs were nominated for at least one award.
The Football League's Chairman, Greg Clarke, said:"The personal sacrifice made by Major Frank Buckley during the First World War and his achievements as a player and as an outstanding manager mark him out as a supremely worthy winner of this award.
"Last December marked 50 years since his passing and through this award we hope we can help keep his memory alive."
The Contribution to League Football Award is The Football League’s most prestigious award and is presented annually by the Board of The Football League to an individual who has given a lifetime’s service to the professional game. The recipient of the award receives a special gold trophy honouring their contribution to the game.
The Football League Awards 2015 were streamed live on The Football League's official YouTube channel and website, while highlights will be shown on Sky Sports 1 on Monday evening at 6:15pm and 9.15pm.
To find out more about The Football League Awards, and for a full list of Award categories, please visit www.FLAwards.com or search #FLAwards on Twitter.
*Here is the video shown when the Major was inducted into the Wolves Hall of Fame in 2013.