Alfred Henry ‘Alf’ Strange

SWFC Alf Strange sq
Born: 2 April 1900 Marehay, nr Ripley (5ft 8ins, 11st 6lbs – 1927)
Died: 3 October 1978 Ripley
Debut: 19 February 1927 v Sunderland  Division One  Home
Last Appearance: 22 April 1935 v West Bromwich Albion  Division One
Total League & Cup Appearances:   273 Goals: 22
Career Details:
Marehay Colliery / Ripley Town / Wednesday 1918 Trial / Portsmouth December 1922 /
Port Vale 26 November 1925 £500 / Sheffield Wednesday 17 February 1927 £1230 + Harry Anstiss / Bradford Park Avenue 10 May 1935 £200 / Ripley Town 1936 / Raleigh November 1936 / Corsham United 1945

CAPS (@SWFC) – England Full (20) v Scotland 05/04/30, v Germany 10/05/30, v Austria 14/05/30, v Ireland
20/10/30, v Wales 22/11/30, v Scotland 28/03/31, v France 14/05/31, v
Belgium 16/05/31, v Ireland 17/10/31, v Wales 18/11/31, v Spain 09/12/31,
v Scotland 09/04/32, v Ireland 17/10/32, v Austria 07/12/32, v Scotland
01/04/33, v Italy 13/05/33, v Switzerland 20/05/33, v Ireland 14/10/33,
v Wales 15/11/33, v France 06/12/33
Football League (2)v Irish League 1930, v Scottish League 1932

Alf Strange was another truly outstanding player from the club’s golden period between 1928 and 1935. Although he initially joined as a highly rated inside forward a change to right halfback, at the latter end of the 1927-8 season, altered his fortunes in dramatic style as over the next five seasons he was imperious in the position, missing only six games as Wednesday won back-to-back Championships and became established as England’s top side. In that position he also won multiple England caps – only Ernie Blenkinsop and Ron Springett have won more caps while at Wednesday – and was an integral part of the famous Leach-Marsden-Strange middle line. He possessed many qualities – including superb passing skills, a tremendous long range shot and sharpness in the tackle – and while at Wednesday showed his all round sporting prowess by playing cricket for Derbyshire’s second team and being a regular for his local side Ripley Wednesday.

As a youngster Strange had worked at the Butterley Company pits, near Ripley, but his chances of league football looked unlikely as most clubs thought he was too small. However, in 1918 he was rushed in a taxi to Hillsborough to turn out for Wednesday’s reserve side when they were short of a player but the expected invitation for a proper trial never materialised and it would several years before Wednesday were made to pay a transfer fee to bring a player to Hillsborough who they could have signed for nothing! A successful two-week trial period at Portsmouth ended with a contract after he netted twice in a reserve game against Southampton and Alf’s career began in earnest in a centre forward role for the South coast club.

He would net 16 times in only 24 league games for Pompey, including a five-goal haul at home to Gillingham in January 1923, and was soon moving up a division to sign for second tier club Port Vale. He continued to impress at Vale Park and Bob Brown completed his rise through the divisions when taking Strange to Hillsborough – Harry Anstiss moving to the Potteries as part of deal. The new boy went straight into the Owls side but failed to nail down a regular place during the following season until being converted to his new defensive role and helping Wednesday pull off the ‘great escape’.

He remained an automatic choice at Wednesday until suffering an injury ravaged 1933-4 season, which saw Alf first break a bone in his foot before suffering a leg fracture at Liverpool in December 1933 – incidentally Lord Derby was in the crowd on that day and was so concerned that he presented Alf with a Gold banded walking stick which he kept and treasured!. He was on the sidelines for twelve weeks but then had the misfortune to break his other leg, effectively bringing the curtain down on a frustrating campaign.

The form of Horace Burrows and Wilf Sharp then kept Strange in the reserve team during the Owls F.A.Cup winning season – he made only one appearance – and was then part of Billy Walker’s mass clear out at the end of the season. Unfortunately Strange was not really fit enough to sign for Park Avenue and he played only a handful of games before quitting professional football in the summer of 1936.

He then played briefly for his local side Ripley Town before gaining employment at Nottingham Company Raleigh Cycle where he became player-coach of the works football team whilst also appearing for the cricket team in the close season. After the war Strange was still playing at the age of 46 for Wiltshire side Corsham United – were he was captain and ‘adviser-in- chief’ – and later returned to the mines before retiring in 1964. In his retirement he tended a plot of land in Ripley where he kept chickens – he did the same whilst a player at Wednesday and was popular amongst his team mates when he kept them supplied with eggs and fresh chickens at Christmas time!

Do you have more information about this that we could add? Are any of the facts wrong? Please get in touch if so.

Source: Jason Dickinson
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