Samuel Weller Widdowson, despite his Dickensian name, is more of a Boy’s Own Paper hero – ‘The Man Who Invented Shin Pads’!
It was as a footballer that he really made his mark in local and national sport, playing for Nottingham Forest and, once, for England (against Scotland in 1880). The story, which is given credence in more than one source, is that in 1874, Sam Widdowson cut down a pair of cricket pads and strapped them to the outside of his football stockings as additional protection; though he was at first ridiculed, the idea took hold and pads have been a requirement of football kit for well over a century.
Widdowson chalked up another footballing first when, as a referee, he took charge of the first match in which goal nets were used - in 1891 between teams representing North v South.
His cricketing exploits were modest by comparison. Widdowson played in two First-Class games for Nottinghamshire, versus Lancashire at Old Trafford in 1878 and v MCC at Bestwood, Nottingham a year later; in 1878 he also represented Notts in a non-First Class game against Leicestershire. His highest score at that level was 25, although in club cricket he once hit 114no for Thos Adams & Co v Heymann & Alexander. He batted right-handed and bowled right-arm round action, his bowling not being called upon in First-Class games.
In addition to his achievements in football - he served on the FA Council after his playing days were over - and cricket, he won trophies as a hurdler and was a good sprinter.
Samuel Widdowson was born in Hucknall Torkard on 16 April 1851 and died in Beeston on 9 May 1927.