Pele, Maradona and Joe Butcher – the best players in the world?

Pelé, Maradona, Joe Butcher. Which is the odd one out? Err, who’s Joe Butcher? Yep, it’s Joe Butcher. The other two are the greatest players ever to have lived and Joe Butcher is nobody.

Half right.

Joe Butcher is indeed the odd one out. He was born in the midlands, the other two were born in South America. But, eh? Half right?

Yes, half right, because Joe Butcher is also one of the greatest players ever to have lived. So good in fact that he had a street named after him. He also had a footballer’s moustache and knee length shorts before Stanley Matthews had kicked a ball in anger. He is also my great grandfather, it’s a pity we don’t share the same talents…

In 1893 when his team Wolverhampton Wanderers were winning the FA Cup in front of 60,000 supporters The Times made the claim that he was the world’s best player. He was only 18. The final, which was unusually held in Manchester, attracted such a large and boisterous crowd that the fans spilt onto the pitch before kick-off. The police managed to keep them to just behind the perimeter of the pitch for the remainder of the game.

Everton, the opposition, are still seething today. Their normal wing play was interrupted by the sly tripping feet of the Wolves fans. Wolves took advantage and won the match 1-0 – Joe became the youngest ever player to win the FA Cup.

Sadly his career as a bustling, all action striker was cut short before he hit 20 years old due to a knee injury which today would be classed as a routine knock. In the days before celebrity girlfriends and diamond earrings this meant you just carried on your life as normal, but just didn’t play football anymore.

He was a trailblazer though, without him there would be no Kaka, Messi or Rooney. Joe means nothing to these stars, but they owe their existence to players like him who lived the dream when it was new and exciting.

There were no camera’s there that day to capture the action, but if there had been they would have caught something special — the forming of this great game and the magic of the star player. Joe Butcher may be a nobody in today’s terms, but in the grand scheme of things he is definitely one of the greats.

Oliver Fowler is the brains behind Next Soccer Star, set up to offer an opportunity for the next stars of football to showcase their skills and offer the very best a road into the professional game and possible megastardom.

Everton sign 7 year-old Harry Yates - is this too young?
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  1. Andrei 26 March, 2008
  2. KyleAusGooner 26 March, 2008
  3. Felipe 26 March, 2008
  4. Andrei 27 March, 2008
  5. Dan 20 July, 2009