|Tom Sudlow by Alex Service |
A ‘crossover’ player between the Rugby Union and the semi-professional Northern Union, Tom Sudlow was around at Saints when the team played their famous match against the visiting Maoris at Dentons Green on 14th March 1889 and must have barely been out of his teens! A fast, powerful runner, he was a superb winger and a natural try-scorer, [and a reliable goal-kicker when required] who took his place in the threequarters when the Saints played their first match at Knowsley Road, against Manchester Rangers, on 6th September 1890. Just for the record, the backline read: Sudlow, Foulkes and Unsworth.
Born in Warrington [the family lived in Winwick Street], it comes perhaps as no surprise that his father was a wire spooler! He also had an elder brother, John, who played for the Saints as a forward from 1897-98. Yet Tom was a real stalwart for the Saints, especially in the pre-Northern days when he was truly in his pomp and could boast an impressive try-scoring record. For example, in 1892-93, he scored 19 tries from 36 appearances; 28 from 38 starts in 1893-94 and 16 tries and 37 goals from 32 appearances during the 1894-95 campaign. In fact, he was a member of the team that won the club’s first-ever honour in rugby, when they won the Lancashire Rugby Challenge Cup 2nd Division trophy – and subsequent promotion, after a thrilling play-off with Broughton Rangers, the bottom team in the First Division, which was played at Tyldesley and described as a ‘Test Match’ - a sort of early version of the Million Pound Game!
Tom would have made his debut in the Saints’ first-ever match in the new Northern Union, against Rochdale Hornets on that pioneering day at Knowsley Road, on 7th September 1895, but there were other distractions, apparently. He had another match to prepare for, of the sprinting variety! He was due to face local flier Jacky Banks over 100 yards at the Starr Inn Race Grounds, Merton Bank, for the ‘Championship of St. Helens.’ Cumbrian forward Bill Whiteley took his place on the flanks. Alas, he should have stuck to football. Banks won by a couple of yards and gleefully collected the £50 prize money which was a small fortune in those days! Tom’s foray into professional sprinting was not unheard of. In future years, the likes of Matt Creevey and Stan McCormick [Powderhall] would also engage in competitive sprints on the cinder track.
Tom went on to play 26 times in the Northern Union, scoring 4 tries and he also kicked two goals, one from a drop-kick. He missed out on the 1897 Challenge Cup run, as his final game in the blue and white jersey of St. Helens was on 9th January of that year, when the team beat Morecambe 3-0 at Knowsley Road.
Tom married Elizabeth Maud in December 1895 and they had three children at the time of the 1911 census, when they lived in Bolton and he was described as a beerseller, aged 39. In fact,the public house concerned was the Wellington Hotel in Market Street, Farnworth. Sad to report that Tom died whilst still the licensee on 3rd February 1936. His wife also passed away on the 13th of May in the same year.