In this final look at our famous people of Mid Cheshire, we stay with sporting heroes, this one from Winsford.

On April 23, 1882, John Thomas Brittleton was born at 5 Hill Street, Wharton.

His father, James Brittleton, was a salt boiler, and his mother was Eliza.

John Thomas was known by both names, sometimes Tom and sometimes John; for clarity here, he will be referred to as Tom.

In 1901, Tom was living at home at 16 Hill Street, aged 19, with his parents and younger siblings. 

He started his football career playing for Winsford Juniors aged 10 and subsequently for Winsford Celtic.

During this period, he played in every position, including goalkeeper. After leaving school at 14, he went on to play for Winsford United in the county league and won many competitions, including the Cheshire Amateur Cup.

By the time he was 20, he had been spotted by Stockport County management and was signed up as a professional in 1902.

He retained his job at the salt works but played many matches for Stockport County, although he did miss one so that he could play for Winsford United again in the Cheshire Amateur Cup. 

Tom took the position of inside forward, and in December 1904, after playing against Ashton, the referee sent a recommendation to Sheffield Wednesday.

The club immediately sent a bid of £200 (worth £20,000 today), which Stockport County rejected.

Knutsford Guardian: Tom with his Sheffield Wednesday teammatesTom with his Sheffield Wednesday teammates (Image: Rose Hurley)

An increased and record bid of £300 (£30,000 today) was provided and accepted by the club.

Tom got his big break and signed for Sheffield Wednesday in January 1905. He played in the position of wing half and appeared in all games for the club in the 1906/07 FA Cup-winning season when the team beat Everton 2-1.

Census records in 1911 showed that Tom had married, and he and his wife Sarah had moved to Sheffield, living in a terrace house close to the football ground - quite a different existence to the football stars of today.

Tom made his international debut at 29, playing for England in February 1912 against Ireland, the team won 6-1. He subsequently achieved four more caps for his country, never losing a match.

Tom was a home-bird, and in 1919, the club allowed him to move back to Winsford, although he continued playing for Sheffield Wednesday. In total, Tom played 373 games for the team and scored 33 goals.

His final game for the club was in May 1920 when he was 38, and he was the oldest ever member. After more than 15 years as a club player, he was awarded a free transfer.

All set to return to Winsford United, Tom, however, joined second division Stoke City; it was rumoured that Stoke gave a small transfer fee to Winsford to soften the blow of losing him, although this was never substantiated.

Tom played at Stoke, taking on a player/coach role. He assisted the team in being promoted to the first division in the 1921-2 season. He played in eight matches at the grand old age of 45, a record held until Stanley Matthews beat it sometime later.

Tom returned to his hometown and took on the role of manager at Winsford United whilst also working for ICI.

When he finally hung up his boots, he took over the landlord ship of the Navigation pub on New Road between 1928 and 1934.

Football skills ran through the family as Tom’s brother Sam was also a professional football player, appearing for Stockport County, Preston North End and Southampton.

Tom’s son, John (1906 -1982), also played professionally for Aston Villa for three seasons.

Tom eventually moved to 141 High Street, a small, terraced house, now long gone and replaced by the dual carriageway, and he died there in 1955.

He left £2,517 in his will (the equivalent of £54,243 today), not an insubstantial amount but a far cry from the huge amounts that current football players amass!

Tom was a pioneer of the long throw-in and Winsford's football hero.