Tommy Eglington; Short, blistering pace and a rocket of a shot. Or at least according to my Granddad. Born in Donnycarney, Ireland a Dubliner standing at a little over five feet tall, you’d think he had a pot of gold hidden away somewhere. Well if Tommy did have pot of gold it certainly wasn’t hidden.
Playing from outside left (Left wing) Mr Eglington possessed what was an ungodly speed even referred to as ‘the flash’ by many. When asking my Granddad, a lifelong Everton fan and of Irish descent himself, to talk about Tommy and his memories his first reaction was “Oh he was so fast” The Irishman who is one of the few players who has played for two different international sides with Northern Ireland (IFA) and Republic of Ireland (FAI) associations both claiming full jurisdiction of the entire Ireland, used his speed to great success. It seems as though no matter where he played, he would be fundamental to the squad that he was in, everywhere you read about Tommy the terms ‘chance creator’ and ‘play maker’ are constantly repeated. Eggo (as he was known) was famed for being one of the few players at the time who was able to deliver balls into the box whilst at speed, an attribute that even to this day is found in few players, so combining his pace and precision passing Tommy Eglington was a formidable player to play against.
Mr Eglington, who in 2011 had a commemorative display in his honour revealed by the FAI (Your only meant to get one if you get 25 caps and Tommy got 24, shows you how much he meant to them), began his career in his home country playing for the youth sides Munster Victoria and Distillery (One of the most famous academy sides in Ireland) where he is seen as the most famous product to ever come from the two sides. In 1942 Tommy helped Distillery win the top junior trophy in the country the FAI junior Cup and in the same year moved to one of the top sides in the country, Shamrock Rovers. Eggo spent his early 20’s at Shamrock and in four years at the club was able to help the side reach three successive FAI cup finals winning it on two of those occasions. At Shamrock was where Tommy would meet and build a brilliant friendship with Peter Farrell who played on the opposite wing to Tommy. When reading up on Tommy you cannot escape Peter’s name who went on to essentially emulate Tommy’s career almost move for move. The two greats where known for being especially complimentary in their styles of play and is almost certainly why the two were inseparable.
Eglington would begin his Toffees career with five seasons in the topflight playing with a depleted post-war Everton squad which as the record shows were only ever heading down. 10th – 14th – 18th – 18th and then 22nd place finishes tell that story. With this in mind Tommy was never really able to show the footballing world what he could do with the worlds eye cast towards the top half of the table and scouting not really being as complex as today. But in the English Second division was where his profile amongst the Evertonian fans began to flourish. Tommy holds the record for most appearances in the second division for Everton and when you remember that Everton have only ever spent four seasons outside the topflight of English football its actually quite an achievement. But there is a reason for this, the standard of English 2nd tier was quite simply not up to the standards of Tommy Eglington, you want evidence for this? Well mention his name to Doncaster fans and you may see a look of fear glanced in your direction. On the 27th of September 1952 Tommy unleashed his finishing prowess scoring a phenomenal FIVE goals in a game that finished 7-1 to the Toffees, and yet Doncaster actually finished three places above Everton in the table so whipping boys they were not.
Tommy ended his Everton career in 1957 ten years after joining. He left Everton as one of their top scorers of all time with 88 goals to his name phenomenal for a winger at the time, and over 400 club appearances. Tommy had optimised what it meant to be a player in the community a working class hero if you will, he was that good that in the whole of his ten year stay his position had never been under threat the embodiment of the first name on the team sheet.
Now into his thirties the great speed that Tommy once possessed was beginning to diminish and the top division of England was starting to get away from him, yet while his body may not have been able to keep up with football his skill and passing ability remained top class. Maybe he could have been able to continue playing for Everton but unfortunately with his attacking play style it just wasn’t possible. That said Tommy would go on to make over 200 more appearances and played until 1963!
For his final years in the game Eglington returned to Ireland to play for now dissolved Cork Hibernians. And although his career in England may have ended sadly with Tranmere the universe has a strange way of putting things right. Eglington was regularly picked for the League of Ireland XI to play against other ‘league XI’ sides in friendlies. At the ripe age of 38 Eglington returned to England to play the English League XI built from most of the world cup winning squad some two years later. He may have been on the losing side but in a game that finished 5-2 but Tommy scored one of the final goals of his career against probably one of the best sides in the world.
After retiring Eglington went on to run a butcher’s shop in Dublin for years. Thomas Joseph Eglington passed away on the 18th of February 2004 in Dublin.
Tommy famously aspired to be like the great Stanley Mathews and played against him on many occasions, although Tommy may not have had the reputation that the legendary Stanley Mathews possesses there is no doubt in my mind that throughout his playing career his footballing ability reached those great heights. There is a great story about the two, in a game where the two faced off against each other likely for Everton v Blackpool in order to deal with Mathews the Everton manager told Eglington to play almost alongside the left back to limit his space. Blackpool won a corner and of course Mathews came up the field and passed Eglington, on his way passed he said, “What are you doing back here Eggo, you’re not going to get any goals here”.
Unfortunately because of how the world works Tommy’s name will not be thrust into the category of the all time greats no thanks to Everton’s relegation but to those fans who watched, support, loved and knew him he will always be up their with the best they’ve ever seen.
Let his legacy live on as one of the all-time great legends of the game.
Thanks for reading I hope I covered Tommy’s life well and got across just how good he was. Next time I will be talking about the greatest goal scorer of all time, Josef Bican.