Derby-born Harold Crockford enjoyed a respectable scoring record at many of his clubs; it is something of a mystery, then, as to why he should have moved about among the third divisions so much, without being given more than a season at anywhere but Chesterfield.
The mystery surrounding Crockford began during the Great War. He was 21 when war broke out but had apparently played little football of a decent standard, up to that point. Serving with the Royal Field Artillery he was also able to play under wartime conditions for Watford, Clapton Orient, Brentford and Southampton. For some reason or another he often played under the pseudonyms of “Stewart” and “Hughes” as much as under his own name. In trying to arrange trials with Fulham and West Ham, he claimed a footballing pedigree with Motherwell, Dumbarton and Newcastle United. For playing under a false name, Crockford served a period of suspension with the FA, but was pardoned in time to be signed to Fulham, who saw something in this rough diamond, in December 1917.
An energetic player, he could play at inside-forward and centre-forward with equal effectiveness despite strongly favouring his left foot. Lack of opportunity at Craven Cottage led to his moving to Exeter City, where he finished as top scorer in 1922-3.
Many of Crockford’s subsequent wanderings appear to have come about through itchy feet on the player’s part and, with “top scorer” on his cv, he moved to Port Vale in the summer of 1923, but stayed for only a month or so. Citing his wife’s poor health he was transfer-listed at his own request. The Valiants charitably allowed him to find another club on the understanding that he would find one in the south, and they were understandably miffed when he put pen to paper for Chesterfield.
Crockford stayed at the Recreation Ground longer than at any other club but, having found stability and made progress, he left The Spireites with the board’s blessing after requesting that his contract be cancelled because he was barracked by the crowd. Short spells at Gillingham and Accrington came to nothing as Crockford developed a reputation for moving around.
He found some success at Walsall in 1925-6 but engineered a move to Darlington after only one season in which he finished as top scorer. His transfer to the Feethams side, who were a comparatively well-funded club in those days, brought only more misery as Crockford still failed to learn his lesson about the other man’s grass. He would certainly have achieved more had he been able to put down roots with one club, and repeatedly found that following the best money offer didn’t actually bring much prosperity in the long run. After a spell at Norwich City he saw out his football career with Bedford Town and Tunbridge Wells Rangers, before becoming a turf accountant near Stamford Bridge, in London.
For Chesterfield: 52 appearances, 28 goals.