Born: Wolverhampton, 26 Jan 1869
Died: Mexborough, 2 Dec 1960
Height: 5ft 10ins (1896)
Weight: 10st 9lbs (1896)
1888-1893 Doncaster Rovers
1893-1902 Sheffield Wednesday (173 + 0)
1902 Denaby United
???? South Kirby Colliery
???? Hickleton Main
1910 Coinsborough St. Peters
He persuaded Wednesday to take the 24 year old on their books; he of course went straight into the reserve side, which played in the Yorkshire League. He was a regular in the second string until January 1896 when his first team break arrived.
It was fortunate in some respect as first choice shot stopper Bill Allen arrived before a game complaining he was unable to walk – however Massey happily took his place despite having to play with a broken finger!
Massey had previously already made his first team debut, this coming against Aston Villa on 3 November 1894 at Olive Grove – The Wednesday won 1-0 with Alec Brady netting the winner in the Division One game.
After impressing in the 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa on 18 January Massey found himself first choice keeper for the next four and a half seasons; he was such a master in the box had he often found himself frequently injured – this in a time when keepers could easily find himself bundled into the net by an opponent without the protection which is often received by referees today.
However he would also on a regular basis rise to the occasion as one of the most formidable keepers in the Country – this was demonstrated when reporters said that Massey was on the receiving end of a mass onslaught from the Wolves strikers as they attempted to find an equaliser in the 1896 Cup Final.
The keeper would have be heavily rewarded, sources claim that during the mid 1890’s Sheffield Wednesday players would receive a bonus which grew by 20 shillings (£1) for each round of the FA Cup they won.
In 1893 a writer in the ‘Athletic News Football Annual’ claimed that on average the then modern day footballer earned 60 shillings (£3) per week during the winter months and 40 shillings (£2) in the summer.
It is also reported that Tom Brandon, who applied his trade at Blackburn Rovers and an England international took home a staggering £4 per week in 1896 – this probably made the former Owls full-back the highest paid player in England.
Massey played in the final game at Olive Grove and then the first 29 games at the new Owlerton Stadium, whilst most importantly helping Sheffield Wednesday to the second Division title in 1900 whilst maintaining a record of no losses at home.
Eventually he was on the wrong end of too many knocks and gradually lost his place to initially Frank Stubbs and then the invincible Jack Lyall. The Wolverhampton born keeper missed the whole of the 1901-1902 campaign due to injury.
It was believed that the main stint of his injuries came in the ferrous battles with Sheffield United in the FA Cup. The Owls were drawn against the Blades in February 1900, on the 10th they drew 0-0, the game was however abandoned after 50 minutes due to snow, and seven days later they drew 1-1 and the Owls lost the second replay 2-0 without Massey in goal.
The 1898-99 Division One season is a campaign in which the Owls would soon rather forget; they finished eighteenth with 24 points to their name. They didn’t win one single game away from home, and to add further embarrassment they were hammered 9-0 at Derby County.
One game that was worth mentioning that season was the encounter against the league Champions that season; Aston Villa. Wednesday took to the field on 26 November where the game was stopped after 79 ½ minutes of play owing to falling light with the score locked at 1-1 – the FA’s committee didn’t feel it was necessary to replay the game again in full.
The last 10 ½ minutes were completed on 13 March and Wednesday road out 4-1 victors; in all 29 players were used by both sides in this unique fixture; and as substitutes weren’t allowed in them days with each team changing line-ups in effect you could say this was the first game in which substitutions were made.
They did however bounce straight back, winning promotion at the first attempt. They did it with style, winning the league and not losing one home league fixture; there only home defeat came in the infamous battle with Sheffield United (FA Cup) at Owlerton which United won 2-0 – backup keeper Mallinson deputised for the injured Massey.
His final game with the Owls (then nicknamed the Blades) came in an FA Cup game on 9 February 1901 against Bury, the Owls lost 1-0 in front of their home crowed – ironically his last game in the Football League was also against Bury 28 days earlier, again at home they were defeated by two goals to one.
Unofficial rumours suggest that Massey left the Hillsborough club under a cloud after being accused by someone of taking bribes to let in opposition goals – which were flatly denied. He re-formed he career after leaving Wednesday, re-joining his original club Denaby United as an amateur whilst working at the local pit.
And, it was whilst he was approaching his 40th birthday that he was still playing for South Kirby Colliery, the Doncaster side from South Yorkshire. Unfortunately for Massey later in life he lost an eye in an accident at Barnburgh Colliery.
He died in December 1960 in Mexborough, Rotherham at the grand old age of 91 years old – in fact he was the last serving member of that glorious 1896 side to pass away. He was considered inconsistent when he first joined Sheffield Wednesday but on his day he was more than a fine goalkeeper.
James Massey started his football career at Denaby United, its unclear has to how he went their as the Wolverhampton born goalkeeper found himself miles from home. Massey moved to Sheffield Wednesday via Doncaster Rovers after being spotted by a club official who, in turn recommended him to the Sheffield club, the official had been refereeing a game at Loughborough at the time...
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