On 7 December 1932 Jimmy Hampson scored two goals as England overcame the highly rated Austria team 4-3 at Stamford Bridge.
Jimmy Hampson was born on 23 March 1906 and spent eleven seasons at Blackpool where he is still regarded as one of the team’s best ever players. He started his professional career in 1925 with Nelson then of the Third Division, and in his first season for them he scored 13 goals in 20 league games including hat-tricks in three successive games. The next season he scored 23 goals in 35 games, and began to attract the attention of other clubs.
In October 1927 he was at the cinema when a message flashed on the screen for him to see the manager. Outside was a group from Blackpool who had come to sign him. He joined the Second Division club for a fee of £1000 and scored on his debut in a 3-1 defeat at Notts County on 15 October. He went on to score two more in his next game, a 2-2 draw against promotion-chasing Manchester City, and over rest of the season he scored a highly creditable 31 goals in a team that struggled and just missed relegation by one point.
The next season he scored 40 goals making him the highest scorer in the division, while Blackpool finished comfortably in the middle of the table. He started the season off with a bang scoring five in his first four games and there were rumours floating around Blackpool that he was attracting interest from bigger clubs. In response the Blackpool fans made it clear they wanted him to stay when after a disappointing 2-0 loss at home to Stoke in October they flooded onto the pitch at the final whistle and chaired him off imploring him to stay. Two home games later he thanked the crowd by getting five goals in a 7-0 win over Reading.
In the next season Blackpool won the Second Division championship and gained promotion to the top flight for the first time in their history, with Hampson’s 46 goals in 44 league and cup games seeing him finish the top scorer in the whole of England. During the season Hampson achieved his own personal milestone of reaching a century of goals in just 97 games, the fastest anyone had achieved this.
Blackpool found life in the top division difficult and only managed to avoid relegation with a draw against Manchester City on the final day of the season. They conceded a massive 125 goals but at the other end of the pitch Hampson had no difficulty adjusting to his new surroundings as he helped himself to 31 goals in 41 games. The next season Blackpool again finished one place above relegation but Hampson still managed a creditable 23 goals in a season that he was ever-present. This season also saw him win the first of his 3 England caps scoring on his debut on 20 October 1930 in a 5-1 win over Ireland. This was followed by a double in a 4-0 win over Wales on 22 November.
The next season saw Blackpool finish bottom and were relegated. Hampson had spent part of the season injured and at times had played out of position on the right wing as the manager played a defender, Phil Watson, at centre-forward in a desperate attempt to turn things around, but he still managed 18 goals. He also made what was to be his final international appearance in what perhaps was to be the pinnacle of his career.
He was selected to play against Austria at Stamford Bridge on 7 December 1932. The Austrian team had been nicknamed the Wunderteam as they were on an unbeaten streak of 14 games since April 1931, a run that had seen them beat Switzerland 8-1, Hungary 8-2, and Germany 6-0 in Berlin and 5-0 in Vienna. More pertinently for this game they had beaten the Scottish team 5-0. This was the Scottish team that had a few years before beaten England 5-1 in a performance that saw them enter football folklore as the Wembley Wizards and were considered to be the game’s finest exponents of passing football.
On the day of the game 40,000 attended Stamford Bridge expecting England to be given a stern test, but after just 5 minutes Hampson scored, turning the ball in from a corner. The Austrians dominated the possession of the ball with their slick passing and movement but after a further 20 minutes found themselves 2-0 down as Hampson scored again with a shot from distance. Throughout the rest of the game the Austrians continued to dominate possession and were even earning the cheers of the English crowd, but somehow England held on and despite the Austrians pulling one back England restored a two goal advantage when a free kick by Eric Houghton was hugely deflected past the stranded keeper into the net. Austria pulled a second goal back but the fourth for England from Sammy Crooks settled the matter and they held on despite a late Austrian goal to win 4-3. Despite the win the crowd and the press knew that England had been lucky with the Daily Herald declaring it to be “a most disturbing victory – the kind that leaves one wondering how it happened and a sort of creepy feeling that we were successful by the kindness of some spirit of chance which will never be so good again.”
Despite all this the game was a personal success for Hampson who now had five goals in three England appearances. Unfortunately for him though playing in a struggling team and in an era that included the likes of Dixie Deans and George Camsell his international appearances were to be limited, and he would not be picked again.
The next season back in the Second Division he scored 13 goals in the first 21 games but injury restricted him to just one more appearance that season, and despite a hat-trick against Bury on the opening day of the next season a barren spell saw him dropped until February with the club saying that they were open to offers on him. He still scored 21 goals in 25 games that season, but the next season saw him play irregularly as Blackpool had signed Scottish international Bobby Finan to play up front and Hampson, often played out of position, scored just six goals. The 1936/37 season however saw the Hampson-Finan partnership bear fruit. The 44 goals they scored between them, 16 coming from Hampson, saw Blackpool finish runners-up to gain promotion again.
Back in the First Division Hampson scored 4 goals in 19 games before playing in what would turn out to be his last ever game for Blackpool on 8 January 1938 in an FA Cup tie at Birmingham, and no-one could have predicted that when they saw his quickly taken throw-in from which Blackpool scored that this would be his last meaningful contribution on a football pitch.
Two days after the game he visited his wife, who was convalescing in a nursing home after an illness, and then went out for a day’s fishing with some friends. Tragically, on the way back to land their 40-foot yacht Defender collided with a trawler and Hampson and his five friends were knocked overboard while the boat sank. Those manning the coastguard station heard their cries for help and the lifeboat was launched. Four of the anglers were rescued but Hampson and his friend Harry Newsome were lost. Newsome’s body was washed upon the shore later but despite extensive searching Hampson’s body was never recovered. Blackpool opened a fund for the relatives of the deceased and started it off with a donation of £650. A memorial service was held on 16 January and a congregation of over 1000 well-wishers packed the church and another 1,000 stood outside in the wind and rain listening to the broadcast over loudspeakers. In a touching eulogy the Reverend W. T. Evans said “If ever a watchman goes his rounds on the Blackpool football ground by night and happens to see a dim shadow leading his forwards from triumph to triumph he will not need to ask who it is. He will know it is the wraith of Jimmy Hampson, who for 10 years held us spellbound on that ground”
Hampson was just 31 years old at the time of his death but was a Blackpool legend and even had his own waxwork model in the town’s Louis Tussaud’s, and his record of 248 league goals in 361 games for Blackpool has yet to be beaten. His 45 league goals in the 1929/30 season is also still a record as is the five he scored in one match. He’s not forgotten today either, and Hampson was inducted into the Blackpool Hall of Fame in 2006 after a vote by supporters.