Suddenly betting in football is a hot topic again this week. Firstly, Sutton United’s deputy goalkeeper Wayne Shaw has wrecked the integrity of the FA Cup by eating a pie. Secondly, Cowdenbeath player Dean Brett has been suspended after admitting betting on his own team to lose. And then there is the unresolved saga of Joey Barton and multiple bets he is alleged to have staked on a number of English and Scottish games.
The decision of Sutton United to ask for Wayne Shaw’s resignation has provoked a storm on social media, with many commentators calling for draconian action. However, others such as Piers Morgan, taking a break from haranguing Arsene on Twitter, have demanded that it be seen as a light hearted joke and nothing more and that football has lost its sense of humour.
However, a certain Tony Kay would have been watching these latest developments with interest. Let me explain.
The 1962/63 season was my first year of watching Everton and at the end of the season, we were league champions for the first time since 1939. Most Everton fans credited the signing the manager, Harry Catterick, had made in December as being the final piece in the jigsaw. He had swiftly become one of my dad’s favourite players, no mean feat, when the competition included Alex Young, Roy Vernon, Brian Labone and Gordon West. That man was Anthony (Tony) Kay.
During the close season, my Dad took me to Goodison Park to buy some programmes from one of the shops near the ground. As a treat, he bought me an autograph book. He challenged me to get an autograph. As we walked past the stadium, a car pulled up by the player’s entrance and a mad scrum of street urchins scrambled towards it. A player with striking red hair and sunglasses smiled as he signed the tens of autograph books thrust in front of him. One of them was mine. I had managed to get my first ever autograph. The illegible scrawl belonged to a certain Tony Kay.
Tony Kay only played for Everton for a period of seventeen months, from December 1962 until April 1964. Yet amongst Evertonians of a certain generation he is still regarded as one of the club’s best ever midfield players, which is some statement when the competition is the Holy Trinity of Ball, Kendall and Harvey. Next month, there is yet another event organised to celebrate his contribution to the proud history of Everton. Sadly, to most people however, he is remembered as one of the three players whose careers were ended due to the football bribery scandal, exposed by the Sunday People in April 1964.
Tony Kay was born in Sheffield and made his debut for Sheffield Wednesday in 1954 and went on to play 179 games for the Owls, scoring 10 goals. Kay was a part of the teams that won promotion to the top division on two occasions, in the 1955/56 and the 1958/59 seasons. They also finished runners up in Division One to Tottenham in 1960/61, their highest position since 1930. In fact if the manager Harry Catterick had not left for Everton in April, just before a crucial game with Tottenham, they may have just pipped them for the league.
At the age of 26, Tony Kay signed for Everton in December 1962 for a very substantial fee of £60,000, which at the time was a British record for a wing half. As he had already played for Harry Catterick when he was manager of Sheffield Wednesday, it was obvious that Harry saw him as the final piece in the jigsaw to mount a bid to win the league. It was no secret that Catterick wanted to sign his midfield general for Everton, it was also no secret that the Owls did not want to sell him. Eventually Catterick’s persistence and John Moore’s financial support enabled the deal to be completed. At the time, due to John Moore’s final backing, Everton had the moniker of the “Mersey Millionaires”
Due to the extreme winter conditions, fans at Goodison had to wait until February for their first glimpse of the new signing. Initially, Kay replaced crowd favourite Brian Harris as the left sided wing half, but with a combination of fierce tackling and an eye for a pass, he soon won the crowd over. Kay brought experience and leadership to the team and Catterick had bought a man he could trust to carry out his orders. The league championship after a gap of twenty four years was a fitting reward.
Life was looking good for Tony Kay in the summer of 1963. Many fans were expecting him to assume the captaincy of Everton. He had a European Cup campaign to look forward to. Everton were many pundits’ favourites to retain the title as Catterick added reinforcements to his squad. And Kay, received his first full international call up, being picked to play for England away in Switzerland. With the World Cup still three years away and with places up for grabs, Kay did himself no harm by scoring on his debut in an 8-1 victory. Kay is still one of the few players to have scored on their England debut and who were never to be selected again!
Early on during the 1963/64 season, Catterick replaced the experienced Roy Vernon as captain with Kay as Everton’s defence of the title started to stutter. Everton remained in with a chance of retaining the title until the events and revelations of April 1964 conspired against them and an action in which Everton had no direct involvement destroyed the season and Tony Kay’s career.
In April 1964, the Sunday People ran a sensational story which rocked the foundations of English League football. It alleged that it had evidence that certain top flight players had been bribed to lose matches. It was ready to reveal the names of those involved. Little did Everton or Tony Kay realise the impact that this was about to have and the effect it was to have on both of them.
Three Sheffield Wednesday players, Tony Kay, Bronco Layne and Peter Swan were found guilty of bribery and conspiring to fix a match. They had bet on their own team losing a game away to Ipswich. They each made £150 as part of the scam. However, in a bizarre twist of fate, the Sunday People which had exposed the scandal also had given Tony Kay their man of the match award for the game!
Tony and the others were not quite prepared for the severity of the punishment which the outraged FA was about to administer. Everton took the immediate step of suspending Kay from playing whilst the legal process ran its course. One year later in April 1965, the judgements were delivered.
Each player received a fine of £150 and four month prison sentence. However, worse was to follow as staggeringly they were banned from playing professional football sine die. In other words they could never play professional football again. At the age of 28, Tony Kay’s football career was over. All for the sake of a £150 bet. He never played professional football again. When the ban was eventually rescinded in 1974, Kay was too old to even consider a top level comeback after nine years out of the game.
Looking back, the harshness of the punishments meted out defies any sort of logic. Contrary to any form of natural justice, Tony Kay was punished three times for the same offence. Both Luke McCormick of Plymouth Argyle and Lee Hughes, ex-West Brom, were welcomed back into the games with open arms, despite their driving resulting in the deaths of innocent passengers and pedestrians. Tony Kay did not cause anybody to die.
A few years later, in the Bundesliga in West Germany, in 1971 a massive bribery scandal was exposed in which a number of players were players convicted of being paid substantial sums of money to lose matches. However, within three years they were back playing football again. If the FA had treated the case the same way, Kay could possibly have played for the Everton Championship winning side of 69/70
Of course Everton were the victims in this as well. They had paid £55,000 for someone who only played for the team for just under sixteen months and they were not entitled to any money back. Even worse, Everton were the completely innocent party in all of this. Kay was not even their player at the time of the offence. Kay had been vital to Catterick’s style of play. Catterick openly discussed the devastating effect this had on his plans for Everton’s development. Without him at the heart of the team, Everton would wait seven years for their next championship as another nearby recently promoted team started to gather momentum. Not for the first time in Everton’s history was a Championship winning side to be severely punished for the actions of other clubs.
Tony Kay is now seventy nine and one of the surviving members of that 1962/63 team. He has lived on Merseyside for the last decade and is supported by the excellent Everton Former Players Association. He also has a Twitter account @winghalf6 which post some fabulous photos from the football of the Sixties. It is well worth a look. He always responds to comments from supporters of both clubs. He often helps out at a local coffee shop in Southport which he has adorned with Everton memorabilia.
Amidst all the heated debate about the rights and wrongs of “piegate” and whatever punishment the FA decide to deliver to Wayne Shaw, I guarantee it will be nothing like as severe as the sanctions received by Tony Kay.