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Manchester City FC keeper from Diss who went on to play a small part in FA Cup folklore



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February 24 marked 100 years since the birth of a Diss goalkeeper, who would go on to play a little-known part in FA Cup history.

German goalkeeper Bert Trautmann famously played on with a broken neck for Manchester City in the 1956 FA Cup Final win against Birmingham City.

But his career for the club – and that legendary feat – might never have happened had it not been for fellow goalkeeper Alec Thurlow, who was born in Diss on February 24, 1922.

Alec Thurlow, back row centre, by now a Manchester City player, turned out for a Diss and District side when they entertained a Norwich City XI in 1949. Submitted by Gary Enderby (55176393)
Alec Thurlow, back row centre, by now a Manchester City player, turned out for a Diss and District side when they entertained a Norwich City XI in 1949. Submitted by Gary Enderby (55176393)

After finishing school, Thurlow worked in Ives Shoe Shop in Mere Street, before turning out for Diss Tuesday, a team set up by the town’s shop workers.

When the Second World War broke out, the aspiring keeper joined the RAF as a gunnery instructor for six years.

During that time, he played for Halifax Town, before signing his first professional contract with Huddersfield Town, where he spent two seasons between 1944 and 1946.

Alec Thurlow, by now a Manchester City player, turned out for a Diss and District side when they entertained a Norwich City XI in 1949. Submitted by Gary Enderby (55176395)
Alec Thurlow, by now a Manchester City player, turned out for a Diss and District side when they entertained a Norwich City XI in 1949. Submitted by Gary Enderby (55176395)

Having made a name for himself, he signed for Second Division side Manchester City.

Thurlow played 21 games for them, including the very next game after signing – a 0-0 draw against Tottenham in front of 55,000 fans – and, having won promotion, the Manchester derby the next season, in front of a crowd of 78,000.

He was signed as a replacement for retiring England keeper Frank Swift, only for the unfortunate Thurlow to contract tuberculosis (TB).

This forced City’s hand, who went back into the transfer market to snap up Trautmann, who would go on to play more than 500 games for the club, including the ‘56 final.

Alec Thurlow, by now a Manchester City player, turned out for a Diss and District side when they entertained a Norwich City XI in 1949. Submitted by Gary Enderby (55176391)
Alec Thurlow, by now a Manchester City player, turned out for a Diss and District side when they entertained a Norwich City XI in 1949. Submitted by Gary Enderby (55176391)

Forced to retire, Thurlow spent a year at Kelling TB Sanitorium, near Holt, before moving back to Diss to live in Shelfanger Road and returning to work at Ives Shoe Shop and later for the Co-operative Insurance Society.

Although he was cured of TB, he developed a chest and heart complaint and died, aged 34, on March 5, 1956. He would be buried in Roydon cemetery.

Gary Enderby, Diss Town FC historian and the club’s programme editor, who compiled the information on Thurlow, said: “It is a sad story, but I think there is some pride that the town had a Manchester City keeper from here who is buried just down the road.”



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