The art of the long-throw is one very familiar to football fans today. When Stoke City were promoted to the Premier League in 2008, they managed to utilise Rory Delap’s bullet-like throw-in’s to great effect. The Potters weren’t the first club to deploy such a technique, but they were certainly the most celebrated, and throw-in specialists have been commonplace ever since.
Leicester City’s Christian Fuchs is among the most notable long throw specialists in the Premier League right now, but almost every club has a player who can summon up some real distances on their throws. West Ham have Michail Antonio, Watford have Jose Holebas, Burnley have Ben Mee; everyone is at it. Well, everyone except Newcastle United it would seem. The Magpies don’t seem to have had a long-throw specialist for a good while now, but ironically, it was a Newcastle United great who pioneered and brought the move to the English game in the first place.
Sam Weaver was born in the village of Pilsley, located ten miles west of Chesterfield and 25 miles east of Macclesfield, way back in 1909. Sam was the youngest of ten children, and his father was a banksman at Pilsley Colliery. The youngster began playing football at a young age, turning out for Pilsley FC and Sutton Town as a teenager, as well as going on trial at Sutton Junction. A month after celebrating his 19th birthday, Weaver signed for Hull City.
The Tigers paid Sutton Town a fee of £50 to acquire the services of their young left-half, and it proved a shrewd piece of business. He made 48 appearances for the Yorkshire club between 1928 and 1929, scoring 5 goals and helping the team to a 12th placed finish in the Second Division. Weaver left Hull just before reaching half a century of appearances, but after only 20 months at Boothferry Park, the Tigers sold Weaver for some fifty times the amount he had cost them.
Newcastle United were the buyers, and £2,500 was the fee. He joined midway through the 1929-30 campaign, which saw Newcastle slump to a 19th placed finish in the First Division, but reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup, with Hughie Gallacher at his indomitable best. That debut season would come to sum up Weaver’s time at St. James’ Park, with them experiencing joy in the cup and heartbreak in the league during his seven years in the North East.
Weaver quickly became a fan favourite at St. James’ Park. Whilst his long-throw’s were what got people talking, it was his driving force in the Newcastle United midfield that was probably his most valuable asset. Physically unassuming, standing at 5’10” and weighing 11st 7lbs, he had a real presence on a football pitch. He was a fiery figure in the teams engine room, breaking up play and driving the Magpies forward, and he was soon named club captain.
His greatest triumph at St. James’ Park came in 1932, when Newcastle became FA Cup winners for the third time in their history. A crowd of 92,298 were present at Wembley Stadium, as Newcastle overcame strong favourites Arsenal to win 2-1, courtesy of two goals by Jack Allens. The ecstasy of cup glory would be followed by the agony of relegation from the First Division only two seasons later though.
Weaver spent much of the 1933-34 campaign playing in a more advanced role, rather than in his traditional position. He topped the Magpies scoring charts that season, bagging 14 goals, but Newcastle’s porous defence saw them drop down into the Second Division. Weaver stuck around for two seasons in the second tier, before Newcastle cashed in and sold him to Chelsea. They received a hefty fee of £4,166 from the West London club.
Weaver turned out twice at Wembley Stadium in a matter of weeks, as a few weeks before the FA Cup final, he had won his first cap for England in a British Home Championship match against Scotland. England ran out 3-0 victors, and Weaver retained his place for the countries next match against Ireland in October 1932, which they won 1-0. His third and final cap for the national team came in 1933, in a 2-1 defeat to Scotland at Hampden Park. Weaver was selected once more, but he was sadly ruled out of England’s May 1934 tour of Central Europe. All three of his England caps came during his time at Newcastle United.
He went on to have three solid seasons at Chelsea, captaining the club up until the Football League was suspended due to the outbreak of war in 1939. When the Football League returned in 1946, Weaver was 37, and he hung up his boots for good in 1947, following a brief stint at Stockport County. He went on to work as a coach at Leeds United, Millwall and Mansfield Town, before taking the reigns as Mansfield boss in 1958. Weaver only managed Mansfield for two years, but he remained at the club in various roles up until his retirement in 1971.