Over a hundred-and-fifty years ago, and that much of bygone era that the beautiful game was taking its first, tentative steps, the very first ‘sporting heroes’ were witnessed.
It was also a time where individuals were more multi-disciplined in their sporting exploits, what price a global superstar of the modern era competing in two, three, or even more sports today, never mind on a regular basis.
Whether it be a Revis or a Daft, a Lymbery or a Hodges, the mid-late 1800s was as rife with star names just as much as the playboy millionaires from the noughties onwards.
Messrs. Daft, there was a few of them within sporting realms, and one such gentleman, that of Harold ‘Harry’ Butler Daft, he was one of the best, at both football, and cricket.
Radcliffe-born, in April 1866, to Richard Daft, and nephew of Charles Daft, the latter being involved in the first-ever Trentside derby the month before, would also go on to play for Notts County, both as an amateur, and a professional, first appearing aged just 19 years, in 1885.
Within four years he’d appeared for County in two separate spells, turned out for neighbours Forest, as well as Newark, and London-based Corinthians, made his England debut, and also played County cricket, as had his elders, for Notts – he was talented enough.
Upon turning professional Daft’s league debut for County would come in September 1888, away at the Victoria Ground, then home to Stoke City, netting his first goal for the club, at Trent Bridge, a few weeks later, in a 3-3 draw with Blackburn Rovers.
A five-year period, between 1889 and 1894, was to be Daft’s most successful as a footballer, making his England debut in the Home Nations encounter against Ireland, at Anfield, in March 1889.
Blackburn’s Jack Yates would score a hat-trick as England beat their Irish counterparts quite handsomely, 6-1; never on the losing side for his country, Daft would go on to claim four more international caps.
Two of those came in 1890, a 3-1 victory away to Wales, and a 1-1 draw in Scotland, prior to a magical 1891, when Daft claimed his fourth cap, and his first England goal, in another 6-1 win over Ireland, this time at Molineux.
On the club front, County would finish the league season in third place, three adrift of eventual champions Everton, and were runners-up in the FA Cup, having claimed a seasons’ best, 7-1 victory away to Blackburn Rovers in mid-March.
Blackburn though would gain quick revenge but a week later when winning the cup, 3-1, at Kensington Oval; County’s time was still to come.
1892, in Belfast, Daft would make his last appearance for England, this time as a captain, scoring both goals in the 2-0 win over Ireland – his England record finishing with four wins and a draw from five outings, scoring on three occasions.
Following a second spell at Forest, Daft returned to County for the 1893-94 season, leading them to FA Cup success, thus becoming the first side out of England’s top flight to life the famous trophy, he starring in a 4-1 win over Bolton Wanderers, at Goodison Park – Scotsman James Logan would net three times after the wonderfully named Arthur Edwin Cooke Watson, of Hucknall Torkard fame, had opened the scoring.
County’s line-up on that famous, late March afternoon, was –
George Toome (Nottingham), Fay Harper, Jack Hendry, Charlie Bramley (Nottingham), David Calderhead, Alf Shebden (Nottingham) Sam Donnelly, James Logan, Dan Bruce, Harry Daft (Radcliffe)
Upon winning the FA Cup, Daft would return to another of his former clubs, this time Newark, to see out what had been a relatively successful, decade-long career, for club and country.
He also played County cricket did good ol’ Harry Daft, following in the footsteps of his Uncle Charles, and briefly alongside that of his brother, Richard.
Making around 200 appearances for Notts between 1885 and 1899, registering some 4370 runs, taking 86 wickets, Harry would debut against Marylebone in May 1885, at Lords, and his last, at Trent Bridge, against Lancashire, some fourteen years later.
A worthy note from Daft’s Notts debut is that, having reached 23 runs in his first innings, he was to be bowled out by none other than Mr. W.G. Grace.
A highly accomplished cricketer, and one of the best batsmen of his day, the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanac said of Daft in his obituary following his death in 1945, aged 78 years –
“He was especially strong in defence, with skill in placing his strokes, he never suggested forcing ability and scarcely reached the high standard of his country’s best batsmen.”
Sport, in particular those of football and cricket, coursed through Daft family blood and veins, they were most certainly heroes of their time.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @England Harry Daft played five times for England and represented Notts County as well as Notts CCC