Bill Rowley

Leicester Fosse’s signing of former England goalkeeper, Billy Rowley bought the club into conflict with the football authorities in the late 1890s.

Rowley was described as a “brave and cool goalkeeper”, and as “a fine and fearless goalkeeper with an enormous kick. He handled the ball well and was never afraid to go in where it hurts (when the legs and boots were flying).” His fearless play in defending his goal from sometimes violent attackers resulted in numerus injuries, and his resilience made him a popular figure with football supporters across the country. Despite this, he was often criticised for his poor distribution skills. He could withstand kicks and brutal charges only to then throw or kick the ball to the opposition. He played in the first ever season of the English Football League, before helping the “Potters” to the Football Alliance title in 1890–91. He also won England caps in 1889 and 1892. After struggling with injuries, he was appointed player-manager at Stoke in 1896, and took the club to sixth in the league. After two years in charge, the charismatic wheeler-dealer shocked the Stoke board by transferring himself to Leicester Fosse in August 1898. He even negotiated a signing on fee, prior to making his one and only appearance for the Fosse, at home against Lincoln City.  Having retired, Rowley had to seek reinstatement as an amateur before he could be appointed Stoke City’s secretary. To pay an amateur was a capital offence as far as the Football Association was concerned. Rowley’s signing caused an uproar. All parties concerned felt the force of the FA’s wrath. The Fosse were fined £10, and Billy Rowley and William D Clark, Fosse’s secretary/manager were each suspended for 12 months for unethical practice.