Sammy Abel began playing with a brickworks team in his home
town of Neston, in Cheshire. He came to Bury’s attention and signed pro forms
with them in 1929 but didn’t make the first team of the second division side,
leaving for Accrington after less than one season.
Sammy’s career took off at Peel Park, with 18 goals in 26 league appearances pulling the scouts in. Just as at Bury, he didn’t complete a full season with the club; his last Stanley game was against Chesterfield, at the Recreation Ground, on Valentine’s Day, 1931. His side were walloped 7-3 but he got one of the goals, and something about his mobility, workrate and determination caught the Chesterfield directors’ eye. Stanley went home a man light, but with a cheque for £100 in the chairman’s pocket.
The story of Abel’s sale to Chesterfield is this: An Accrington director, apparently dissatisfied with his team’s performance, told a Chesterfield director after the game that “You can have any of our players for £100.” The reply snapped back: “We’ll have Abel!” In reality Stanley were going through a difficult time, financially, and Chesterfield were simply in the right place at the right time to manipulate this fact to their advantage.
Abel started slowly here; the team he joined were on their way to the Third (North) championship and the directors wisely kept faith, for the most part, with their existing forwards. Sammy bided his time and scored eight goals in five reserve games at the end of 1930-1, just to keep the selectors aware of him. He finally came to prominence in The Spireites’ two seasons in Division Two, where he scored 37 goals in 63 league games.
When Chesterfield were relegated back to the Northern Section in 1933, Fulham came in with a £500 offer. He was never more than a bit-part player at Craven Cottage and, familiarly, was on the move after just one season. His move across West London to Queen’s Park Rangers was his last one, although he traded stability for a move into defence, becoming a decent enough left-back. Again, he wasn’t the club’s first choice, but he elected to settle in London - understandably so, considering the paragraph below. Sammy played only 36 league games in five QPR seasons but made 176 wartime appearances for the club while serving as a Special Constable. After the war, Sam was said to have become a groundsman at Wembley Stadium.
Away from the game Abel and his wife came into a considerable sum of money from a London trunk-maker named Arthur Lawrence. Lawrence was a Fulham supporter who so admired Sammy Abel’s play that when Abel was transferred to QPR, Lawrence transferred his allegiance, too. The two got to know eachother and Abel visited Lawrence’s home; Lawrence’s housekeeper eventually became Abel’s wife. When Lawrence died he left the bulk of his £10,000 estate to Mrs Abel.
For Chesterfield: 70 Football League appearances, 39 goals.