Tom Bleakley joined the Tigers towards the end of World War One and made his first non-senior appearance for City in an October 1918 wartime game against Huddersfield Town. He was born in Little Hulton, a growing village south of Bolton on the road between Manchester and Chorley, and played local football for his village side Clegg Lane FC for several years. He joined Lancashire Combination side Walkden Central prior to the start of World War One and continued to play for them until 1916/17 season. He joined Bury in August 1917 to play wartime league games and also turned out for Bolton Wanderers before switching to the Tigers.
When the Football League resumed in September 1919 Bleakley was an established part of the first team scene. Indeed that would remain the case pretty much constantly for the next ten years because between September 1919 and November 1929 Bleakley missed only 73 of the 458 senior fixtures played by the Tigers. Such a model of consistency is rare in any footballing era and Bleakley was certainly and remarkably consistent performer.
He missed only 13 games in two seasons under David Menzies’ management between 1919 and 1921, a period whose highlight was a 3-0 FA Cup win over First Division table toppers Burnley, who saw their 26 games unbeaten run crash to an end with Bleakley prominent in holding the defensive line. Tom missed only five games in Percy Lewis’ two year tenure, and when Bill McCracken took over the manager’s job in February 1923 Bleakley was part of the Anlaby Road furniture. After an ankle injury prevented him from playing in 15 games at the start of 1923/24 season, Tom missed only one match over the next two years, a remarkable effort at a time when professional football could be a brutal pastime. As the 1920s drew to a close Bleakley was used less regularly by McCracken but he was still a key part of the first team squad and performed whenever called upon.
The 1929/30 season proved to be Bleakley’s last at Hull City after he dropped out of the first team in November 1929. As City embarked on an unlikely run to the FA Cup semi final in the early months of 1930, Bleakley was used as support player and was bought back into the first team to replace injured half back Jimmy Walsh for the Cup semi final replay against Arsenal, played at Villa Park. City were unfortunate to lose that game and it proved to be Bleakley’s swansong as City dropped to the bottom of the league and were relegated to Division Three North. His 389 appearances for the Tigers places him in top ten Tigers appearance makers since 1904, a record that few if any will ever approach or surpass.
Bleakley joined Goole Town in June 1930 and was immediately made club captain. He spent three years in the non-leagues with Goole, Wombwell (briefly in December 1932 and January 1933) and Bridlington Town before hanging up his boots in the 1933 close season at the age of 40. Tom was then a football coach at Hull University, a cricket coach at Hymer’s College and a professional cricketer during the 1930s, also part-owning a sports outfitters in Hull. He worked at Ideal Boilers in the late 1930s, for whom he played in the football and cricket works teams. In 1945 he was appointed trainer for Hull Amateurs (and was briefly assisted by City legend Jimmy Lodge), a newly formed club that played at City’s vacated Anlaby Road ground for just two seasons. He combined this role with undertaking scouting missions for Bolton Wanderers. He died in Hull in October 1951.
Date/Place of Birth: 16 May 1893, Little Hulton
Hull City First Game: 30 August 1919, Birmingham City A (Division Two), 26 years, 106 days old
Hull City Final Game: 23 April 1930, Bury A (Division Two), 36 years, 342 days old
Clegg Lane, Walkden Central (1915-1917), Bury (1917), Hull City (1918-1930), Goole Town (1930-1932), Wombwell (1932-1933), Bridlington Town (1933)
Hull City Record
Career: 389 apps, 7 goalsTommy Bleakley