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Goal.com are counting down England's greatest players of all time and at number 45 is the staggeringly prolific striker, George Camsell...

No.50 - John Terry
No.49 - Tony Currie
No.48 - Terry Butcher
No.47 - Gerry Hitchens
No.46 - Paul Ince

George CAMSELL

Born

27/11/1902 (Died 7/3/1966)

England

9 caps, 18 goals

Clubs

Durham City, Middlesbrough

George Camsell may not be a name familiar to many beyond Teesside these days, but in the era in which he played, Camsell was a striker who bestrode the English football landscape like a colossus.

It is always difficult to compare players from different eras: changes in the speed and subtlety of the game, in tactics, training, playing surfaces and equipment can be profound. But football has always been about sticking the ball in the back of the net, and that has always been the hardest task on the pitch. Anyone who achieved that feat as prolifically as Camsell did deserves enduring respect down the years.

The man was a phenomenon - and yet his achievements were at the time and remain to some extent overshadowed by those of one of his contemporaries. For Camsell set a Football League record for most goals scored in a single season in 1926-27, only for Dixie Dean to break it by a single goal in the very next campaign. Yet Camsell was no less a goal machine than the legendary Dean.

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George Henry Camsell was born in Framwellgate Moor near Durham towards the end of 1902, and  played local football for Esh Winning and Tow Law Town while working as a miner before joining Durham City of the old Third Division in 1924.

In his one full season at Durham he supplied 20 of their overall total of 50 goals, despite appearing in only half (21) of their 42 games. It was form that prompted Middlesbrough to sign him in October 1925 for the princely sum of £500, and there was just a hint that Boro had snared a history-making hot-shot when, in 1925-26, he made a mere four appearances but hit three goals.

It was during the next season, however, that the centre-forward's talent really blossomed - though even this annus mirabilis began inauspiciously as Second Division Middlesbrough kicked off with three defeats, one draw and a solitary goal. The offside law had been changed the previous season, so that the number of opponents necessary to keep a player onside was reduced from three to two. It was a decision that favoured attackers, and Camsell was about to respond in style.

Once he got got his eye in, he set about blitzing all previous goalscoring records. He bagged 59 league goals in 1926-27, including nine hat-tricks, in just 37 appearances; and 63 in 40 in all competitions. During that campaign, Camsell embarked on a breathtaking scoring run over 12 consecutive league games, starting on October 16 and finishing on New Year's Day 1927, when his match-by-match return was 1, 1, 1, 4, 1, 4, 1, 2, 4, 5, 2, 3 - a total of 29 goals. 

His haul for the season, which included five on Christmas Day against Manchester City, would no doubt have been considerably more if Camsell could have been persuaded to take penalties for the team, but he was a bit too modest for that. As it was he contributed 48 per cent of Boro's 122 league goals that season as they stormed to the Second Division title by an eight-point margin.

If Boro fans were wondering whether Camsell could produce similarly prolific goalscoring in the top flight they were soon reassured when, in the second game of the season, Middlesbrough met Everton, pitting Camsell in direct opposition to Dixie Dean. Camsell hit all four goals in Boro's 4-2 win. However, Dean and Everton were to have the last laugh, as the Toffees' striker went on that season to beat Camsell's record by scoring 60 league goals, while  Everton were crowned champions and Middlesbrough were relegated. Indeed, Boro were a bit of a yo-yo club during the 1920s, but Camsell was a model of consistency.

CAREER HIGHLIGHT

Camsell rewrote history in 1927
There was no quenching his fire, and he was their leading scorer for no fewer than ten consecutive seasons. In eight of those campaigns he topped 20 league goals. In the 1938-39 season, which proved to be his last because of the outbreak of World War Two, Camsell, now 36, struck up an excellent partnership with Middlesbrough's highly talented young inside-right, Wilf Mannion.

That season Boro scored 93 goals and finished fourth in the First Division. Camsell's last league game was for Middlesbrough against Leicester City at Ayresome Park on 10 April 1939, a 3-2 victory in which he scored the opening goal.

His productivity had taken him to a career total of 345 goals from 453 games for the Teessiders, including 24 hat-tricks and 325 goals in 419 league appearances. Needless to say, all three scoring figures remain Middlesbrough club records. With his earlier 20 goals for Durham, Camsell also amassed 345 career league goals, and lies fifth on the Football League's all-time list of leading goalscorers. 

It was hardly surprising that his feats brought him to the attention of the England selectors. Yet his international career certainly was surprising - partly because of its relative brevity and lack of continuity, but mainly because of its remarkable scoring rate. If it seems strange that he only won nine England caps, the total becomes even more perplexing when he scored no fewer than 18 goals in those nine games. He played in an era when competition among strikers was intense.

Indeed, Camsell's great form in the 1928-29 season, when Middlesbrough were again Second Division champions, saw him succeed in replacing Dixie Dean in the England team. His won his first cap against France on 9 May 1929, scoring two goals on his international debut. And two days later he scored four more against Belgium. Later the same year Camsell scored two against Ireland and three against Wales.

Yet remarkably, Camsell lost his place and did not play for his country again until 1933. He scored two goals in England's 4-1 victory over France but was dropped again. When he was recalled in 1935 against Germany he scored two of the goals in a 3-0 victory. And he also scored in each of his three international games in 1936. Nevertheless, despite scoring in every game he played for England, his appearance against Belgium on 9 May 1936 - seven years to the day since his debut - marked the end of his international career.

His nine games for the national team had produced six wins, one draw and two defeats; England had scored 29 goals along the way, and Camsell had contributed 18 of them. His phenomenal strike rate of exactly two goals per game for the Three Lions is unlikely ever to be bettered. He still tops the goals-per-game ratio by what is almost certainly an unbridgeable margin. The next best ratio after Camsell's 2.00 is 1.26, shared by Viv Woodward (1903-11) with 29 goals in 23 games, and Steve Bloomer (1895-07) with 28 in 23.

After the war, Camsell resumed working for Middlesbrough, as a coach, chief scout and assistant secretary, before retiring in December 1963. He died in 1966, sadly just months before England lifted the World Cup, but his place in football folklore is assured as the most prolific goalscorer in England's history.

HONOURS
Second Division Title (1926-27, 1928-29)
Football League top scorer - 59 goals (1926-27)

DID YOU KNOW ...
That George Camsell was related to coach and former player Steve Agnew?

Graham Lister, Goal.com

Goal.com
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