In the eyes of many older supporters, Gordon Dale was the most naturally gifted player to wear the blue since the second world war. A traditional 'winger, he had the beating of any full-back on his day: the club would have enjoyed far more success during his time here had they invested in a centre-forward with the ability to make the most of his service. They didn't, and the reward for their conservatism was relegation from Division Two in 1951.
Signed from Worksop Town for £500 in February 1948, Gordon progressed through the juniors and reserves before making his debut at Craven Cottage on March 12th, 1939. Only injury kept him out after that, and scouts soon began filing reports on Chesterfield's tricky and confident winger. Offers began to come in but the club resisted them all until relegation came.
Dale was one of several talented men to move out during that dark summer. Portsmouth- the reigning Football League champions - stepped in with a £20,000 bid: that was the most that they had paid for a player, and easily the most that Chesterfield had received. Indeed, the British transfer record for anyone at the time was £34,000.He had to wait a season for a decent run in Pompey's team and never really became a regular, despite that club's decline from being the First Division's leading club at the start of the 'fifties to being its bottom club at the end of the decade. After 114 Pompey appearances in a little over six seasons he was allowed to move on to Exeter City, where he played 124 League games before retiring from full-time football.
Dale was not able to make the most of his talent after leaving Chesterfield. Lingering injuries did not help his cause: he came from nowhere, into a settled and successful team stuffed full of internationals, with a huge fee round his neck - see Kevin Davies's biography for what that can do to a player. He may, as some Chesterfield and Pompey fans believed, been a bit too 'showy' for his own good, and throughout his career his inclination, having beaten a man once, would be to turn back to that man and do it again, as much as cross the ball.
Whatever the cause, a career that once promised England caps ended in the Southern League with Chelmsford City. Upon retirement, he returned to Portsmouth and became a newsagent. Gordon died in Portsmouth in 1996.
For Chesterfield: 92 league appearances, 3 goals.