Universally acknowledged as the finest centre-forward of his generation, Tommy Lawton was a classic Chelsea signing, bought from Everton for a near-record £11,500 days before the epic friendly with Moscow Dynamo in November 1945.
The Russians claimed he had been hired specifically for the occasion and he duly scored the Pensioners’ third in a 3-3 draw.
With rockets in both boots, a magnificent physique and absolute dominance in the air, the Lancastrian’s debut in a mundane wartime regionalised league game swelled the crowd to a remarkable 53,000. Never one to disappoint, on his actual Division One bow, a 4-3 win against Bolton in front of 63,000, the England no.9 struck twice.
He hit seven braces in 1946/47 as part of a devastating front line alongside Len Goulden, Tommy Walker, Dicky Spence and Johnny Paton. Scots winger Paton loaded the bullets for him to fire Arsenal out of the FA Cup in January 1947.
Over one full season and two part-seasons of official football Lawton notched 35 goals in 53 appearances; for England the tally was an astonishing 22 in 23. Money and personal issues appeared to be behind his surprise decision to join Division Three Notts County for a British record £20,000 fee in November 1947. Lawton died in Nottingham in 1996.