In Memory of 'Wing Wizard' Derek Hawksworth
Author Lee Morris pays tribute to former Town player Derek Hawksworth, who sadly passed away on Wednesday March 24th at the age of 93 in his hometown of Bradford.
Derek Hawksworth has the distinction of playing for Huddersfield Town on two separate occasions.
He had signed for Bradford Park Avenue in 1943 and played for them in the Wartime League, breaking into the team when he was just 16 years old. He also guested for Colchester United between 1945 and 1946. Unusually for the time, Hawksworth was a naturally right-footed player who played on the left wing.
Although the Football League finally resumed in time for the 1946-47 season, Hawksworth was on his way to Leeds Road, signing for Town in July 1946. Alas, his first spell at the club produced no appearances for the first team and after over two years in Huddersfield, he transferred to Bradford City in October 1948.
It was at his hometown club where he finally made his Football League debut during the 1948-49 season and was a popular player during his time at the club. He played over 100 games in his first spell and scored 22 goals. To give you an idea of his status amongst the Bradford faithful, Hawksworth is featured in their Hall of Fame exhibition, located at Valley Parade.
After two years at the club, Hawksworth transferred to Sheffield United in December 1950. For an outlay of £15,000, he signed on the same day as Alf Ringstead, with the pair going on to become the most dangerous wingers in the club history. During his time in Sheffield, Hawksworth managed 103 goals in 286 appearances. He was preferably a left winger but was utilised in all the forward positions at Bramall Lane and excelled in all of them, too. He won the hearts of many of the Sheffield United faithful, especially when he scored 2 goals in a 7-3 win over arch-rivals Sheffield Wednesday in September 1951.
Hawksworth also gained representative honours during his time at Bramall Lane. In November 1951, he was part of an FA XI that took on The Army in a match played at Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium. Eventually, The FA side ran out 4-2 winners thanks to a hat-trick from Cliff Holton. Later that same month, with England due to play a friendly against Austria, Hawksworth received his first callup for the national side. However, he didn’t make it into the team and his place at outside-left was taken by Tottenham Hotspur’s Leslie Medley. He did however play in a warm-up game for England Reserves the following day but his time with England ended up being rather brief.
However, the following year, in May 1952, he was selected to play for the England ‘B’ team in an away game against France Espoirs (their under 21 side). It turned out to be an afternoon to forget for the England team as they were on the end of a 7-1 battering. Hawksworth lined up in his favoured position of outside-left.
In the 1952-53 season, Sheffield United won the Second Division title with Hawksworth helping them on their way. Ironically, the Blades finished two points above Town in the final league table, with both teams returning to the division they’d previously won.
Hawksworth continued to play for Sheffield United during their time in the First Division though their time there was particularly fraught. They managed to avoid relegation in their first season back by finishing 3 points above Middlesbrough and the 1954-55 season saw a marked improvement, with the Blades finishing 13th. However, in the 1955-56 season they dropped out of the division, finishing bottom of the table with Town also joining them in relegation back to the second tier.
Sheffield United did well in the following seasons but didn’t manage to get back up before Hawksworth returned to Town in 1958 after a successful seven years at Bramall Lane. Town paid £6,000 to secure his services, in a part exchange deal that saw Ron Simpson go in the opposite direction. More than 10 years since he first joined the club, Hawksworth finally made his Town debut in the first game of the 1958-59 season, a 1-1 draw with Derby County.
He became a regular in Bill Shankly’s side in his first season but then missed the last couple of months through injury. Although he’d played primarily as an outside-left at Sheffield United, Shankly had him playing centre-forward with Denis Law and Les Massie as his inside partners. This seemed to work well as he ended the season with 11 goals in 33 appearances, just four behind top scorer Massie.
However, the 1959-60 season saw Hawksworth playing in his favoured outside-left position, after playing a few games on the right and in the middle of the park earlier in the season. He was still effective on the left and chipped in with 3 goals in his 22 appearances, in a season that saw the departure of Bill Shankly to Liverpool. He was replaced by reserve coach Eddie Boot in late December 1959, though Hawksworth didn’t have much time to impress him.
In February 1960, Lincoln City came in with a £3,000 bid and he was soon on his way to Sincil Bank. Hawksworth turned out for Lincoln for a year, playing 36 league games and scoring 14 goals along the way. He left the club to sign for Bradford City, his hometown club and the club closest to his heart. They were in real danger of relegation to the Fourth Division when he returned, and despite a valiant effort, which included 6 goals in 22 appearances, they were relegated at the end of the 1960-61 season. He stayed on at Valley Parade until July 1962.
Hawksworth saw out his career with a spell at Nelson before announcing his retirement in 1963. He later ran a newsagent in Bradford before retirement and at the time of his passing, was Town’s second oldest surviving player at 93 years old. Our thoughts and condolences go out to Derek’s family at this sad time.