Former Manager HonouredFormer Blackpool manager Major Frank Buckley was awarded the prestigious Contribution to League Football Award at The Football League Awards last night.
Born in Lancashire in 1882, Frank Buckley enjoyed a career as a brave, reliable centre-half with six different Football League clubs, winning a Division Two Championship medal with Derby County in 1912 and earning a solitary England cap.
Following the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, Buckley was one of the first professional footballers to join the so-called ‘Footballers’ Battalion’ and he would go on to become its second in command. During the Somme offensive in July 1916, Major Frank Buckley led his men in the heroic action at Delville Wood – where The Football League’s memorial to the Footballers’ Battalion now stands.
He was badly wounded in the shoulder and lung – ending his playing career and very nearly his life. But he survived and returned to civilian life and the sport he loved. In the process, beginning one of the game’s longest managerial careers that has seen him come to be regarded as one of its great innovators with a fine reputation for discovering talent like Stan Cullis, Billy Wright, John Charles and Jack Charlton.
Known as ‘the Major’ throughout his managerial career, Buckley earned the devotion of his players despite being a stickler for discipline and physical fitness.
He was appointed Blackpool manager in 1923 and was renowned for greatly advancing the club, although his managerial style was deemed controversial at the time. He had a special talent for developing young players and the youth policy he implemented was the first of its kind at Bloomfield Road.
He left the club in 1927 for Wolves, where he stayed for 17 years and lifted the club from the brink of relegation to Division 3 to the heights of Division 1, laying the foundations for the great Wolves side of the 1950s that would go on to dominate English football.
Major Buckley went on to manage Notts County, Hull City, Leeds United and Walsall, prior to passing away in 1964 at the age of 82.
Buckley’s great grandson, Chris Jones, collected the award on his behalf at the gala ceremony at The Brewery, London, on Sunday evening in front of over 600 guests from clubs, sponsors and the football industry.