4000 Holes

Eddie Quigley – The Master Craftsman

Saturday, 30 December 2023

When I was a boy I used to take the Soccer Star, which was a football magazine filled with photographs and articles on the players and teams of the day. In one issue there was a photograph of Eddie Quigley, the Rovers inside left, and it was captioned "Quicksilver Eddie Quigley" which made me and my pals laugh because Eddie had many attributes but perhaps "quicksilver" wasn't one of them.

To say Eddie was built for comfort was probably nearer the truth when describing his physique, maybe broad and burly, but no matter, because Quigley was without doubt the most precise passer of a football I think I have ever seen. Whether a short pass or his trademark 40/50-yard ball which he could land on a tanner, he was simply the master technician.

Although he made his name as a centre forward and inside forward, Quigley started his career at hometown club Bury as a full back and it was only the pressing needs of the club that saw him converted to centre forward, a move that paid immediate dividends when, on his debut against Millwall, he scored five times. Quigley's commanding presence, however, as a burgeoning playmaker from a deep-lying position enabled him to control events on the field of play and allowed him to arrow those soon to be trade mark passes which were never less than inch perfect. It truly was an art form.

Quigley's masterful skills soon brought him the recognition he craved when Sheffield Wednesday broke the British Record Transfer Fee in 1947 when they paid Bury £12,000 for his services. During his time at Wednesday he scored 50 goals in 78 League appearances. All was not well, however, since Quigley, a qualified electrician, was refused permission to work part time at his trade which prompted Eddie to submit a transfer request (which wasn't to be his last). Seizing the opportunity, Preston North End, who also had a part time tradesman on their books, swooped and Quigley's transfer to Deepdale broke, for the second time, the British Record Transfer Fee, this time £28,500 in December 1949. Ironically the record Eddie Quigley broke was that of his nephew, Johnny Morris who was transferred from Manchester United to Derby County in March 1949. 

Quigley could not have been more content since the move gave him the chance to partner the great Tom Finney whose influence would surely enable Eddie to win International honours. Sadly Quigley enjoyed a less than productive time at North End – the partnership with Finney stalled and with it any hopes of an England cap.

Having submitted more than one transfer request to leave Deepdale, Quigley's saviour was just 10 miles down the road – and so it was that in November 1951,  Rovers Manager, Jackie Bestall paid £20,000 for Eddie's services, with the club's chairman, Fred Wood, finalising the deal at Deepdale, and in so doing broke the club’s record transfer fee. The Quigley signing rounded off a Rovers transfer outlay of some £50,000 for five players – in addition to Quigley, Rovers signed Alec Glover, Willie Kelly, Albert Nightingale and Reg Elvy. Quigley's debut could not have been sweeter as he was soon off the mark on 17th November 1951 when he scored the only goal of the game against Birmingham City at Ewood.

It was surely one of the most inspired signings in the club's history as Quigley, in his five-year spell at Ewood, scored 92 League goals in 159 appearances. In partnership with that fabulous goal-getter Tommy Briggs they wreaked havoc amongst defences to such an extent that they form the club's most productive goalscoring partnership. In season 1954/55, Rovers scored 112 League goals, 61 of which were scored by Briggs (33) and Quigley (28). It is interesting to note, however, that the partnership might never have materialised since at the time Briggs was signing for the Rovers in November 1952, Quigley, not for the first time was in dispute with his club. This time it concerned a question of suitable housing in Blackburn. With the club desperately looking for such accommodation, Quigley had yet again submitted a transfer application, an all too familiar pattern. Happily, things improved, the Rovers found Eddie a house on Colenso Road in the town (later inhabited by Matt Woods), and the transfer request was withdrawn.

Eddie Quigley served the Rovers well – he was that rare craftsman, who generally held the key to most games either dictating the pattern of play or unlocking defences with his inexhaustible repertoire of slide-rule passes or the dynamism of his shooting – he had a thunderous shot (often referred to in the local press as a "guided missile"). He possessed double worth to the club both as a schemer in chief and opportunist. The nearest to Quigley I have seen in this respect in a blue and white shirt, and who possessed so many of those characteristics, was Roy Vernon. Vernon learned much from Quigley and was generous enough to acknowledge that.

Quigley, as we have already seen, was a key component of that 'fabulous five' forward line of the 1950s. Along with Frank Mooney, Eddie Crossan, Tommy Briggs and the great Bobby Langton they epitomised the positive thinking and sheer entertainment maxim of their manager, Johnny Carey. Goals rained down on Ewood and elsewhere and none more so than season 1954/55 where they scored over a century and it was perhaps fitting that in the 9th minute of the 34th match of the season, the honour of hitting the ton fell to Eddie Quigley. Eddie started the move and having sent Langton away down his wing, he collected the winger's cutback and “he aimed an accurate ground shot from the edge of the penalty area well to the goalkeeper's left. The goal was met with a round of applause which lasted several minutes."

Eddie Quigley played his final game for the Rovers in a 3–3 draw against Rotherham United at Ewood on 30 April 1956. In August 1956, Eddie rejoined his first club Bury where he made just 10 further appearances scoring 3 goals.

Always a visionary, tactically aware (and sometimes tactically stubborn) but a deep thinker of the game it was no surprise that Quigley would enter into the coaching and management fraternity. His first managerial role was at non-League Mossley where he stayed for six years before, in 1962, becoming Bury's Youth Coach and Scout. It was whilst at Bury that, amongst others, he unearthed the talents of Colin Bell and Alec Lindsay. He took over the reins at Stockport County in 1966 but the urge to return to Ewood in 1967 was too good an opportunity to pass up. As with seemingly all of Eddie's dealings with clubs it wasn't a smooth undertaking. Having insisted he become assistant manager responsible for all coaching matters, Eddie Quigley returned to the Rovers, assisting Jack Marshall. When Marshall tendered his resignation as manager in February 1967, and after a period as caretaker, Eddie Quigley was appointed manager.

As a player for the Rovers, Quigley was outstanding, as a manager on the other hand his tenure was to prove somewhat underwhelming – much was promised but little achieved. Whatever the reason he was unable to mastermind any concerted Rovers revival and the club was no nearer regaining its First Division status than it was following relegation. Quigley was moved sideways into an administrative and youth development role previously occupied by Johnny Carey who once again became Rovers manager. 

Sadly for Mr Carey, Eddie Quigley, the players and the supporters the move was doomed to failure as was Rovers standing. At the end of the 1970/71 season the Rovers were relegated, for the first time in their history, to the Third Division – both Johnny Carey and Eddie Quigley were sacked. This period in the club's history probably summed up the financial constraints that were beginning to be applied within the club and a stark reminder that even with two Rovers greats at the helm there were no guarantees or short cuts to success on the field.

Eddie Quigley briefly managed Stockport County again, but there was still time for him to return to Ewood when Howard Kendall, a great admirer of Quigley, appointed Eddie as Chief Scout. A brief spell as scout at Blackpool followed until he retired from football in the early 1980s and he sadly passed away on 18th April 1997, aged 75.

There is no doubt that in any history or commentary on Blackburn Rovers, Eddie Quigley would and should rightly be considered as one of the club's all-time greats.


*This article was originally published in Issue 101 of 4,000 Holes in July 2021. Thanks for reading - it is really appreciated by those who have taken the time to contribute to both the fanzine and website.

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