Sheffield Wednesday's top 30 players - Number 18

Sheffield Wednesday

HITC Sport's run-down of Sheffield Wednesday's greatest ever players continues with Derek Dooley.

There is no question that Derek Dooley would feature far higher on this list if it weren’t for the tragic incident which brought his blossoming career to a premature end.

It was Valentine’s Day 1953. The location: Deepdale, Preston - where Dooley had made his senior debut for the Owls three years earlier.

Dooley, who’d scored 16 goals in 29 appearances throughout his first full season in English football’s top division, suffered a double fracture to his right leg during a collision with Preston goalkeeper George Thompson.

The Pitsmoor-born centre-forward spent the next nine weeks in a cast and was about to be discharged when a nurse noticed with alarm that he’d failed to react to her playfully tickling his foot. It transpired that a scratch on the back of Dooley's leg had become infected by gangrene.

When Dooley awoke from his subsequent operation, he was informed that his leg had been amputated, as he was quoted as saying by the Guardian, "six inches from the top because the gangrene had already reached my knee joint and beyond".

His career was over at 23.

During the previous campaign, Dooley had scored an unrivalled 46 league goals in a Sheffield Wednesday season, helping the Owls secure an immediate return to the top tier as Division Two champions.

Without him, the Yorkshire side spent the rest of the decade flitting between the top two tiers and were defeated in the FA Cup semi-finals the season after Dooley’s retirement. With him, who knows what they could have achieved.

Dooley returned to Hillsborough for an ill-fated spell as manager in 1971 but was sacked two years later - on Christmas Eve. He later became commercial manager of Wednesday’s city rivals Sheffield United, then chief executive, before returning as Blades chairman after a three-year hiatus.

Shortly after his death on 5 March, 2008, the city named its ring road after him. It was the latest in a long line of commemorations, after Dooley’s Restaurant, located in Hillsborough’s South Stand, and the statue of him situated on the same side of Bramall Lane.

 

Sheffield Wednesday playing career: 1947-1953

 

Appearances: 63

 

Goals: 63

 

Honours: Winner, Division Two (1951-52)

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