By Keith Brookman
After ‘Josser’ Watling, William Howard Radford is our second oldest BRFPA member and though the Devon based former shot stopper is now an infrequent visitor to The Mem it’s always good to see him.
Always known by his middle name, Howard was born in Wales, Abercynon to be precise, on 8th September 1930.
His route to Rovers was via Welsh side Penrhiwcieber and Rovers paid them a small fee to sign him in the summer of 1951.
Prior to making his first team debut against Southend United at Roots Hall, on 27th October 1951, he had appeared in a friendly match against Dutch side Racing Club Haarlem, a game that the home side won 2-1 and went on to appear in eleven consecutive seasons for the club.
He took over in goal in 1952/53 when regular custodian Bert Hoyle was injured in a car crash and appeared in ten games during that successful Third Division title winning campaign.
In their book ‘Bristol Rovers Players Who’s Who, Stephen Byrne and Mike Jay say this about Radford; ‘Brave and skillful, he gave Rovers sterling service, facing many of the top forwards English football could offer during that era as Rovers enjoyed a prolonged spell towards the top end of the Second Division….
‘Working in his summer breaks as a groundsman at Clifton College, Radford was forced to retire with a knee injury, although he re-emerged in 1966 as a wing half for Coalpit Heath and once scored a hat trick with his weaker left foot in a local cup semi final.’
His post football career saw him as a publican, in Bristol and in Devon, a position with the Home Farm Trust helping people with learning difficulties, a security guard and delivery driver. He also skippered Chudleigh cricket club, for whom he was wicket keeper, for a number of years.
On the occasions he has been back to The Mem he has always taken time out for a chat about his playing days and on his last visit presented the club with the contract he was given back then.
Over the years he faced a great deal of competition for the number one spot, most notably from Bob Anderson, Raymond Chandler, Ron Nicholls, and Malcolm Norman and he was succeeded between the posts by Esmond Million and then Bernard Hall.
Having appeared in Rovers first six games in the League Cup, a competition launched in 1960/61, his last league appearance ended in a 2-0 defeat against Luton Town, at Kenilworth Road, on 28th April 1962.
Rovers fielded the following side that day; Radford, Micky Slocombe, John Frowen, Ray Mabbutt, Joe Davis, Dave Bumpstead, Norman Sykes, Harold Jarman, Bobby Jones, Geoff Bradford, Peter Hooper.