TIM WILLIAMSON: BORO’S ROMAN EMPEROR
Middlesbrough Football Club’s first great goalkeeper Tim Williamson holds the club record for the most appearances. Representing the club a staggering 602 times, over a twenty year period between 1902-1923, earning seven England caps.
The Maverick keeper was idolized by young Boro fans in the area, who drew chalk goals on the end of terraced houses and backyard walls, with the initials “TW” between the sticks.
Reginald Garnet Williamson or ‘Tim’ as he was known, was born in North Ormesby 6th June 1884 and grew up in Redcar. He played centre forward and later goalkeeper for Coatham Grammar School, Redcar Juniors, and Redcar Crusaders.
SIGNING FOR THE BORO...
After being spotted by scouts from Middlesbrough, 17-year-old Williamson was invited to play in a friendly against Cliftonville. After impressing in the game, Boro offered Williamson a professional contract, which he agreed to sign on the condition he was allowed to pursue his keen interest in becoming a qualified draughtsman.
Williamson’s first competitive appearance for the club was in a game versus Crook Town, in the Northern Football Alliance on 1st January 1902. With his league debut coming in a home game against Bristol City a few months later, on 19 April 1902.
Initially signed as understudy to Scottish international Rab Macfarlane, he cemented a regular place in 1903–04 as first choice keeper, a spot which he kept for over two decades.
Williamson, who was nicknamed “Tiny” due to him being barely 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) tall, become a crowd favourite and a well-known player throughout the area. Often, like many other players of the era, taking the bus to matches at Ayresome Park, along with Boro supporters.
When first starting out he would wear an over sized green jersey while keeping goal, later opting for Purple, which was also too big for him and said to make him look like a Roman Emperor while wearing it.
Tiny, who stood for long periods of the game with his hands on his hips, while the ball was at the opposing end, was said to be a calming influence on the team. He always kept his cool, the nearest supporters came to see him lose his temper would be when he would occasionally slap himself around the back of the head, after conceding a goal. Much to the amusement of Boro supporters in the goal behind him.
The Maverick keeper would give managers and fans alike moments of nervousness, by regularly sidestepping forwards and knocking the ball over them to catch it.
Along with bringing the ball out of his area into defence to start play instead of just hoofing it up the field. Also eccentric for the time, he would scoop the ball up with his feet and catch it rather than going down on one knee to pick it up like most other keepers.
Also rare for a goalkeeper, Williamson would sometimes take penalties, scoring twice for Boro, until missing one against West Ham United. As he raced to get back to keep the ball out, he considered it too much of a risk and left spot kick duties to outfield players from then on.
Tim was to be the man between the sticks in the last game played at Middlesbrough’s old Linthorpe Road ground in 1903, and the first goalkeeper to play at the new plush Ayresome Park, in the 1903-04 season.
Middlesbrough Football Clubs new home was built on Paradise Field, adjacent to the old Paradise Ground, home of Middlesbrough Ironopolis, who had played in the Football League in the 1893–94 season.
He was the first Middlesbrough goalkeeper to receive an England cap, gaining seven full International caps throughout his career. His first came against Ireland as a 20-year-old, on 25th February 1905, in the first international match played at Ayresome Park.
Williamson went on to score an own goal in a somewhat quiet game, dropping the ball into his own net. Following the blunder, he ended up waiting a further six years for his next cap, along with the brilliance of the Liverpool and Aston Villa keeper “Safe and steady” Sam Hardy, the best goalkeeper around at the time, also keeping him out of the team.
It wasn’t until 11th February 1911, in a 2-1 victory over Ireland at Derby County’s Baseball Ground, did Williamson earn his 2nd England cap. He went on to earn seven caps in total, the last one coming again, against Ireland in February 1913 in a 2-1 win in Belfast.
He was though, part of arguably, one of Middlesbrough’s greatest ever teams in 1913/14 season, finishing a club record 3rd place. Thomas H. McIntosh’s Boro side finished a point behind runners up Aston Villa and 8 points behind Champions Blackburn Rovers.
Tipped as future champions, the following season saw Boro slip to 12th in the table, and with the outbreak of WW1, Ayresome Park closed and was used as a training centre for the army with most players released to go to war. Twenty nine year old Tim Williamson’s reserved occupation meant he was exempt from call up for the first world war and continued to play some football for Boro, winning the northern victory league.
At 38 years and nine months old, Williamson would be the oldest player to represent Middlesbrough FC until Bryan Robson broke his record 74 years later, with his final game came on 24 March 1923, in a 1–0 defeat to Cardiff City.
The Football League later refused to sanction a benefit game for him, on the grounds that the years during the war did not count towards his Middlesbrough service. He did eventually receive a match against Chelsea.
The records held by Tim Williamson will surely never be beaten. Boro’s record appearance maker with 602 appearances between 1902-1923, of which a staggering 130 were consecutive. He was also the scorer of two goals for Boro and received seven England caps in total throughout his career.
On retirement, he was paid a sum of £1000 and was given a silver tea and coffee service from Middlesbrough chairman Philip Bach for his long and dedicated services to Middlesbrough Football Club.
After his retirement in 1923, Tim continued in goal for his works football team rarely going to Ayresome Park, preferring to play golf and go shooting in Teesmouth.
Tim Williamson died on 1 August 1943 at North Ormesby Hospital following an operation and is buried in Coatham Churchyard.