With World War II now a thing of the past and Europe (along with the rest of the world) picking up the pieces, the English, after six long years of conflict, were ready to embrace their great loves once more. Beer. Football. The 1946/1947 season marked the beginning of professional football on the British Isles, with Liverpool under the guidance of George Kay clinching the championship and adding a fifth cup to their trophy cabinet. This triumph also put an end to a 24-year negative streak (although it’s worth noting that half of those years saw no league competitions).
The “Reds” were fortunate to possess the deadliest attacking duo in the top tier, as Kay had paired Jack Balmer with Albert Stubbins from Newcastle. These two central forwards would go on to score 24 goals each, becoming the leaders of that legendary squad. Of course, the 1946/1947 season is etched in the memory of all Liverpool fans (and English football enthusiasts) for the unbelievable record of the unique Jack Balmer. On November 23, 1946, Liverpool triumphed over Arsenal 4-2, with Balmer netting a hat-trick (a penalty in the 15th minute, a long-range strike in the 61st minute, and a header in the 68th minute). He inscribed his name in golden letters into the annals of English football records forever. This was his third consecutive hat-trick, as he had previously achieved one against Portsmouth on November 9, and another against Derby on November 16 (in this game, he even scored four goals).
Naturally, this triple hat-trick record still stands to this day, and honestly, I don’t think it will ever be broken. Fernando Torres came close in 2008 (wearing the Liverpool jersey), scoring consecutive hat-tricks on February 23 against Middlesbrough and on February 5 against West Ham. Yet, Balmer’s record endures as a testament to his extraordinary talent and the glory of that bygone era. Jack Balmer was a Liverpool man through and through. He donned the red jersey of the Liverpool Football Club throughout his professional career, although, in his amateur days, he also wore the colors of Everton. It’s worth mentioning that his family was filled with ardent Everton supporters, with some of his uncles having even played for the “Blues” during the early years of the club.
Balmer’s Liverpool journey began in 1928 when he signed for a mere £8 per week, leaving behind his father’s trade as a builder. During the war, he found himself on the front lines, serving in the British Army. Little did anyone expect that the boy who had once signed for Liverpool, and had been ridiculed by a portion of the Anfield crowd for his statement, “I shudder when I see someone sliding towards me,” a statement he made in the early years of his career (and famously copied by Beckham when pursued by a lumbering Terry on a gloomy afternoon at Preston), would etch his name forever in history at the age of 31. Balmer stayed with Liverpool until 1952 as a player, having the honor of captaining the team from 1947 to 1949. Afterward, he continued his journey with the club from 1952 to 1955 as an assistant coach. Naturally, neither he nor anyone else could have foreseen such a remarkable destiny.
The man who had been mocked by a substantial portion of the Anfield crowd for his statement was now immortalized in the pantheon of this great club, thanks to his goals and extraordinary contributions. Closing this chapter, it’s worth mentioning that Albert Stubbins, the tough striker who supported the attack that season, didn’t quite reach the pinnacle of greatness, despite having a noteworthy career. However, he did leave a significant mark. Besides the 1947 championship, Stubbins found himself on the iconic cover of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album, alongside legends like Dylan, Edgar Allan Poe, Aldous Huxley, Karl Marx, Marlon Brando, Einstein, and Oscar Wilde, among others.
Of course, if you were to ask me, I’d say that Jack Balmer’s rugged charm with his short hair and mustache would have been an even better fit. But, as they say, the soul of the “Beatles” is a mystery. In the end, these footballers from a bygone era remind us that greatness can take many forms, whether it’s scoring goals or gracing the cover of a legendary album. Each player contributed to the rich tapestry of history in their own unique way.