The Major

A post by Tony Ridge

Franklin Charles Buckley, born 3rd October 1882, was by many accounts an inspirational man and one of the forefathers of modern football management. He was also a brave man as evidenced by his military record in the Great War. Frank Buckley, or “The Major” as he became universally known, was the manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC from 1927 to 1944. His methods paved the way for the great pantheon of managers who followed him in the professional game - Stan Cullis, Matt Busby, Bill Shankly and Alex Ferguson. More of that later. Frank was born in Lancashire and, in 1900, he followed his father into the army, expecting to be sent to South Africa to fight in the Boer War. But he ended up in Ireland and swiftly moved up the ranks to Lance-Sergeant. He excelled in sport and played cricket and rugby, and it was while playing football that he was spotted by an Aston Villa scout.

Career as a Footballer

Young Frank was persuaded to buy himself out of the army (for £18) and after successful trials joined Aston Villa in 1902. He failed to break into the 1st team and the next few years saw him moving around the country playing for Brighton and Hove Albion, Manchester United, Manchester City, Birmingham City and Derby County. It was with the latter two clubs that he established himself at last as a regular on the team sheet, and he was a Derby County player when he won his one and only England cap in 1914 as a big, physical centre half in a surprise 3-0 defeat by Northern Ireland. Shortly afterwards he played just four games for Bradford City before the war intervened.

Back into the Army as a fighting soldier

Frank volunteered and enlisted in the 17th Service Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment - nick-named “The Football Battalion”. It is claimed he was the first to sign up. He was soon commissioned and later as a Major took command of the Football Battalion in France and was badly wounded by shrapnel. After hospital treatment in England he was back on the Somme in 1917. His lungs were already weakened and he succumbed to a gas attack and was sent home for the second and last time, but not before he had been honoured with a Mention in Dispatches (one source claims he was honoured on two separate occasions) for his bravery.