29th September 2017 |Club News | Views

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Today we look at an ex player who many may not be aware of, Gilbert Godsmark.

Gilbert played for Ashford United over 100 years ago, and was sold to Newton Heath (now Manchester United) before he died just one year later.

(Main image above) The Newton Heath team of the year 1900/1901.

We got in touch with Mark Wylie, the curator at the Old Trafford Museum and he very kindly helped with putting together this article.

Gilbert Godsmark went to Newton Heath from Ashford United on the recommendation of our old centre forward, Bob Donaldson. Donaldson (pictured below), played for Newton Heath from 1891 to 1897, before signing for Luton Town, Glossop North End and then eventually Ashford United in 1899 until February 1900.

(Above) Bob Donaldson Image via mufcinfo.com

Back to Godsmark, the southern recruit made an immediate impact, his debut against Sheffield Wednesday winning him a favourable verdict from the Athletic News: ‘Godsmark proved a great success, he has any amount of dash and ability.’

Sadly, having previously enlisted in the Army Service Corps on 8th June 1896, he was called up as a reservist for the Boer War and was ordered to report to the Southern Headquarters of the Army Service Corps in April 1900. Serving as Private 12690 Godsmark in the 2nd Company ASC, he was immediately shipped off to the front line in South Africa with the 75th Battery Royal Field Artillery as a driver. Newton Heath received the grim news that Gilbert Godsmark had died in February 1901. The Army Service Corps archives record that Gilbert Godsmark died of disease in Pretoria on St Valentine’s Day 1901. The eighteen shillings and six pence owed to him in back pay following his death was paid in full to his father.

Another player, George Foley, who was a teammate of Godsmark at Ashford United, joined Newton Heath in 1900. It is reasonable to assume that Foley was recommended to go to Clayton (the suburb of Manchester where Newton were based) by Bob Donaldson. Foley was first tried by Newton Heath in a reserve team friendly match against Crewe Town. He was reported to have ‘shaped well’ in a 5-0 win. Quickly drafted into the first team, he must have felt at home on his debut as he was partnered by Gilbert Godsmark on the right wing. For a time, Foley took over the outside-right role, left vacant by William Bryant’s transfer to Blackburn Rovers. Unfortunately, his lack of League experience was evident, and he found Newton Heath’s first Football League representative a hard act to follow. Foley departed in the close season, making way for the arrival of Alf Schofield from Everton.

Gilbert Godsmark

Place of Birth: Derby
Date of Birth: January 1877
Place of Death: Pretoria, South Africa
Date of Death: 14/2/1901
Height: 5 ft 3 ½ in
Weight: 12 st 0 lb

Gilbert Godsmark’s known career

Ashford United (Kent League)
Newton Heath 25th Jan-Apr 1900 for £20 (with a further £20 after a trial period)

Did You Know?

After his death it was revealed that Gilbert Godsmark had joined Newton Heath for an agreed fee of £40. Half was paid on signing, the remainder to become due if he was kept on after a trial period. Because of his tragic death the £20 balance was not paid. Ashford United promptly served a writ on Newton Heath for the balance of the fee!

Gilbert Godsmark’s appearances for Newton Heath:
9 appearances, 4 goals

03/2/1900 Division 2 Sheff. Wednesday (Home W 1-0)
10/2/1900 Division 2 Lincoln City (Away L 0-1)
17/2/1900 Division 2 Birm’ham City (Home W 3-2) 1 goal
24/2/1900 Division 2 New Brighton Tower (Away W 4-1) 1 goal
03/3/1900 Division 2 Grimsby Town (Home W 1-0)
10/3/1900 Division 2 Arsenal (Away L 1-2)
17/3/1900 Division 2 Barnsley (Home W 3-0)
24/3/1900 Division 2 Leicester City (Away L 0-2)
31/3/1900 Division 2 Luton Town (Home W 5-0) 2 goals

George Foley’s appearances for Newton Heath:
7 appearances, 1 goal

17/3/1900 Division 2  Barnsley (Home W 3-0)
24/3/1900 Division 2  Leicester City (Away L 0-2)
07/4/1900 Division 2  Port Vale (Away L 0-1)
13/4/1900 Division 2  Leicester City (Home W 3-2)
14/4/1900 Division 2  Walsall (Home W 5-0) 1 goal
17/4/1900 Division 2  Walsall (Away D 0-0)
21/4/1900 Division 2  Middlesbrough (Away L 0-2)