Welsh striker Trevor Ford became Britain’s most expensive footballer in 1950 when signed by ‘Bank of England’ club Sunderland for the princely sum of £30,000 from Aston Villa. He also enjoyed a successful spell in Holland playing for PSV during the fledgling years of the professional Eredivisie.

Trevor FordFord made his name at hometown club Swansea City shortly after the end of World War II before moving on to Villa, where he averaged a goal every two games within a three-year stay in the Midlands.

His move to Sunderland brought Ford an early form of celebrity status, but it didn’t all go the centre-forward’s way. Despite a very healthy return of 67 league goals in only 108 appearances, Ford struggled to get on with the mercurial Len Shackleton and eventually chose a switch back to his native Wales with Cardiff City in 1953.

After three years with the Bluebirds, the powerful goal-poacher released an autobiography entitled “I Lead The Attack” which revealed his involvement in an illegal payments scandal linked to that record-breaking transfer to Sunderland at the beginning of the decade. Those cash ‘gifts’ breached the rules of the maximum wage enforced in football at the time and put Ford at risk of losing his livelihood.

Football authorities in England came down hard on the north-east club, handing out extremely heavy fines and banning the player himself from the game. However, his suspension didn’t extend to countries not governed by the Football League and this proved the catalyst for his 1957 arrival in Eindhoven.

Saltburn-born manager George Hardwick was responsible for taking the striker to the Netherlands and coached the side for his first campaign. Former Middlesbrough defender Hardwick would later manage Sunderland in the sixties, the club so entwined in the story of how Ford came to pitch up in Holland.

Tough and uncompromising, Ford added his own brand of battling spirit to Dutch football, making him a nightmare for opposition defenders to mark. He could take the hard knocks and give them back ten-fold.

An impressive tally of 21 strikes in 53 league games suggested Ford’s time at PSV was a success on a personal level, but he largely played second fiddle to the outstanding Coen Dillen, three years his junior.

Dillen sits second in PSV’s all-time leading scorer chart and once went on a remarkable run of being atop the club goalscoring list every year from 1953-1960, fully encompassing Trevor Ford’s association with PSV.

The Eindhoven side failed to win a trophy during the Welsh legend’s stay, but his record in front of goal shows what a fantastic forward he was. Ford also had the enviable opportunity to play alongside a selection of club legends including defender and long-time captain Roel Wiersma, plus namesake forwards Piet Fransen and Piet van der Kuil, who joined from Ajax in 1959 for a then-club record fee.

Following the lifting of the suspension imposed on Ford by the Football League, he returned to Wales for a shirt stint with Newport County to round off a truly remarkable career. He retired with 38 caps for his country, scoring 23 times. Complementary to that, the forceful forward played 401 league matches at club level, hitting 199 goals.

Controversial character he may have been, but those who knew him spoke of a wonderful person and true gentleman, always ready with advice for young footballers. Another Welsh hero of the period John Charles once described Ford as his idol and said this when reminiscing about watching him play: “He used to bang everybody and knock them out of the way. He was never frightened.”

Charles, who also moved to mainland Europe with Juventus in ’57 to become one of their greats, and Ford helped open the way for future generations of footballers to sample the delights of the foreign game, while firmly establishing a niche for the classic British centre-forward abroad.