The 21st August 2014 marks the seventieth anniversary of the death of Sam Jennings who was one of three former players to pass away during World War Two.
Who was Sam Jennings?
A well-travelled footballer, Jennings had appeared for West Ham, Reading and Nottingham Forest before joining Vale in 1929 at the age of 31. Jennings proved to be the perfect foil for another veteran Albert Pynegar and Jennings duly impressed with a brace of goals on his debut. He finished the season as top-scorer with 27 goals including a hat-trick against South Shields.
The goals of Jennings and Pynegar had powered Vale to the Third Division North title and the tall forward continued his goalscoring form the following season. He scored four against Bradford Park Avenue and finished top-scorer for a second successive season with 17 goals.
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Sam Jennings at the Vale
Third Division (N) Title 1930
Top scorer 1929-30,1930-31
Jennings, who reportedly use to train by racing his greyhound to the ball, was eventually sold to Stockport in September 1931 due to Vale’s purchase of the young and upcoming Stewart Littlewood.
Jennings continued his journeyman existence, spending two years in the French leagues before taking over the Rochdale manager’s position in 1937.
His wartime service
Jennings was not a well man when he signed up to fight for his country. Suffering from bouts of tuberculosis, he sadly passed away on the 21st August 1944 aged just 46 years. He was buried at Hastings crematorium eight days later.
Sam Jennings. 1898-1944. RIP. Forever Valiant
Other World War Two casualties
Two other former players, Tom Cooper and Haydn Dackins, sadly lost their lives in World War Two. Fenton-born, former England International Cooper died in a motorbike crash while working as a despatch rider. Dackins was killed in action in 1943 during the Allied invasion of Sicily.
Meanwhile, future captain Tommy Cheadle was injured by a German grenade and former striker Jack Roberts (right) managed to escape from a German prisoner of war camp in 1944 by walking across a desert despite suffering a broken neck (read our cult hero feature on Roberts)
Image Credits: The top image is composed from a photo of Sam Jennings from a Reading squad line-up published on www.chrisdlee.com and a photo of a field of poppies is by L.S.Wilson. Image of Tom Cooper from englandfootballonline.com
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Vale’s World War One losses
You may be interested in reading our sister article about two former Port Vale players who sadly lost their lives in World War One.
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The Ode of Remembrance
To all who lost their lives in the service of their country we say:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.