Eric Fred Brook (27 November 1907 – 29 March 1965) was an English footballer who played in the outside left position. He is the all-time record goalscorer for Manchester City in all competitions and was an England international. Brook was a muscular player with 'one of the fiercest shots in pre-war football' and was a good penalty taker. Brook is regarded as one of Manchester City's and England's greatest ever players He has been described 'as a brilliant roving
forward for Manchester City and England' and 'one of the great names of British soccer'.
Brook was born in the Yorkshire town of Mexborough in 1907. After playing amateur football for Wath Athletic, Brook began his professional football career with nearby Barnsley, playing in the outside left position. Brook has been described as an 'unorthodox' outside left 'with a licence to roam'. Brook treated the left wing as 'a home to look in on'. Brook could play anywhere on the pitch if the need required, including in goal. He replaced an injured goalkeeper on at least three occasions over the course of his career. One such game in which he played in goal was when Manchester City played Chelsea. The then City goalkeeper Frank Swift claimed that 'before helping to tuck the blankets over me (on the stretcher) Brookie had pulled my jersey off-about two sizes too big for him- and was ready to keep goal'. Brook played 78 times for Barnsley and scored 18 goals. His performances provoked interest from teams in the First Division.
In 1928 Brook and team mate Fred Tilson were transferred to Manchester City for a combined fee of £6,000, the pair making their debuts on 17 March against Grimsby Town. Brook and Tilson joined a strong forward line at the club that included two England internationals in Tommy Johnson, Billy Austin and Frank Roberts. The team also included the England international centre half Sam Cowan and the Scotland captain Jimmy McMullan. Brook scored his first goal for his new team in a 5–3 victory against Clapton Orient. Frank Roberts scored a hat trick in this game. In his first season for Manchester City Brook played 12 times and scored two goals helping the team to earn promotion to the First Division.
In the 1928–29 football season he made 42 appearances and scored 14 times. His team mate, Tommy Johnson, scored a club record of 38 league goals that season. Brook's 'workmanlike' club form earned him a call up to the England in 1929 and he made his first appearance for his nation against Ireland. Brook was part of a strong England forward line which included Middlesbrough's George Camsell, Leicester City's Hugh Adcock and Ernie Hine and Birmingham City's Joe Bradford. England won the match by three goals to nil with two goals from George Camsell and one from Ernie Hine. Brook went on to play for England a total of 18 times, scoring 10 goals. He may have played more times for his country but faced competition from Arsenal's Cliff Bastin. However, the versatility of both players meant that they often played together for England, usually with Bastin playing in the inside left position. Despite the rivalry, Brook and Bastin were in the latter's words 'always the greatest of friends'. The only players to have scored more goals for England, prior to the second world war, who did not play in the centre forward or inside forward positions were Cliff Bastin and Charles Bambridge. Only twelve players in total scored more goals for England than Brook prior to the second world war. In addition to playing eighteen times for England, Brook often competed in trial matches for the Rest of England against the national team.
In the 1929–30 football season Brook helped Manchester City to third in the league. The City team had been strengthened by the acquisition of the outside right Ernie Toseland and the wing half Matt Busby. In the 1930–31 football season City bought the prolific Scottish centre forward Dave Halliday from Arsenal as a replacement for Tommy Johnson. Despite this Brook was the club's top scorer that season with 16 goals. He was also the club's top scorer in the 1935–36 football season. He often played in the centre forward position for his club and has been compared to Don Revie in this position. Revie was a deep lying centre forward in the Nándor Hidegkuti mould and Brook roamed the pitch in a similar manner when adopting this position. His passing ability enabled him to play in the position with aplomb. In the 1931–32 season the City team, which now included the Scottish centre forward Alec Herd, managed to reach the semi-final of the FA Cup but were defeated by Arsenal by 1–0 with a goal from Brook's England team mate Cliff Bastin. Brook had scored a brace in a 6–1 demolition of Brentford in the fourth round of that year's competition. Greater success for Manchester City in the FA Cup would follow in subsequent seasons.
Brook played in consecutive FA Cup finals in the mid-1930s, collecting a winners medal on the second occasion. In the 1933 FA Cup Final he was part of the Manchester City team that was defeated three goals to nil by Everton, who were captained by his England team mate Dixie Dean. The Everton team also included former City player Tommy Johnson. Brook was in fine form in that year's competition, scoring two against Walsall in the fourth round and a hat-trick against Bolton Wanderers in the fifth round. In the semi-final against Derby County he set up two goals in a 3–2 victory. For the first goal, he 'beat international full-back Cooper and centred for right winger Toseland to score from close range'. He then 'lobbed beautifully for Tilson to run between two defenders and head the second The third goal was scored by Jimmy McMullan. Brook was the first player to wear the number 12 shirt in an FA Cup final as Everton wore 1–11 and City wore 12–22. In the 1934 FA Cup Final Brook set up the winning goal, which was scored by his friend Fred Tilson, to earn City a 2–1 victory over Portsmouth. Brook had scored a 'wonder goal' in front of a record crowd of 84,569 against Stoke City in the sixth round of that year's competition. According to Gary James, 'many fans from the 1930s claimed it was the greatest City goal ever scored at Maine Road'. The FA Cup winning City team included goalkeeper Frank Swift and left half Jackie Bray, who would both emulate Brook by going on to appear for England.
In the 1934 British Home Championship, Brook scored in every one of England's matches. England came second that year to Wales, who had defeated them 2–1 with goals from Dai Astley and Thomas Mills. Brook also scored once for the Rest of England in a 7–1 victory in a trial match against the England team (which included Wilf Copping and Cliff Bastin) at Roker Park in March 1934. Raich Carter scored four of the other goals and Bobby Gurney scored twice. Ken Willingham scored England's goal. In Sunderland 'the scoreline became more popularly known as England 1 Sunderland 6' as 6 of the rest's goals were scored by Sunderland players.
In the same year, Brook was involved in the famous Battle of Highbury international against the world champions Italy. The England team had not competed in the 1934 World Cup and were considered, in England, to be the real world champions. Seven of the eleven players who played for England that day played for Arsenal (Frank Moss, George Male, Eddie Hapgood, Wilf Copping, Ray Bowden, Ted Drake and Cliff Bastin). Brook, Cliff Britton, Jack Barker and a young Stanley Matthews were the other four England players. The only other occasion when seven players from the same club have been on the pitch for England was in a game in 2001 when seven Manchester United players appeared against Albania (though two of the United players, namely Teddy Sherringham and Wes Brown, had come on as substitutes). Jack Barker purportedly commented to Brook before the game 'You've got to take off your hats to these Arsenal players. If one of us were to drop out, another Arsenal man would step in'. In the match Brook and Bastin caused the Italians 'an infinite amount of trouble by their passing and quick shooting'. Brook missed a penalty in the match but redeemed himself by scoring two goals to help England to a 3–2 victory. He scored his first goal by heading the ball past Carlo Ceresoli after a precise cross from Stanley Matthews. He scored his second goal of the game from a free kick which Stanley Matthews described as being like a 'thunderbolt'. England's third goal was scored by Arsenal's Ted Drake. Italy's two goals came in the second half and were both scored by Giuseppe Meazza. Stanley Matthews remembered the game as the most violent that he had been involved in, in his long career. Brook finished the first half with a broken arm while Drake had two black eyes. After the game, Brook 'returned to Manchester with his arm in a sling'. Brook is only one of four England players to have scored more than one goal in a game against Italy, the others being Mick Channon, Gerry Hitchens and Tom Finney.
In the 1934–35 football season Brook scored 17 goals and City finished fourth in the league, ten points behind champions Arsenal. In the 1935 British Home Championship Brook scored once and Tilson scored twice for England in a 4–0 victory against Wales at Ninian Park. England won the Home Championship that year despite suffering a 2–0 defeat against Scotland. Brook was one of three City players who appeared for England against Wales and then Ireland, the other two being Jackie Bray and Fred Tilson. This would not occur again until 1972 when Colin Bell, Francis Lee and Rodney Marsh all played for England against West Germany. This record was emulated in 1976, when Joe Corrigan, Mike Doyle and Joe Royle played for England against Italy (a game which England won 3–2) and in 1978 when Joe Corrigan, Peter Barnes and David Watson played for England in a 1–1 draw against Brazil. The record was surpassed in 2010 when six Manchester City players (Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry, James Milner, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Adam Johnson) appeared in a 3–1 victory against Switzerland. Brook also scored for the Rest of England in a trial match against the national team in March 1935. The result was a 2–2 draw, with Ted Drake scoring a brace for England and Bobby Gurney scoring the other goal for the rest.
In the following season, Brook was Manchester City's top scorer with 13 goals. Matt Busby and Sam Cowan had left the City team in this season but Sam Barkas had been brought in from Bradford City. City's forwards had had an unsuccessful season and the team finished ninth in the league. Peter Doherty was bought from Blackpool to address the lack of goals. Doherty had an immediate impact on the team. Doherty scored two goals and Brook scored a hat trick as City defeated Bolton Wanderers 7–0 in March of that season. In the British Home Championship of 1936, Brook and Matthews both scored once and Tilson scored twice in a 3–1 victory over Ireland at Windsor Park. In the game against Scotland, Brook was part of an England forward line which included Sammy Crooks, Bobby Barclay, George Camsell and Cliff Bastin. The result was a 1–1 draw, with Camsell scoring his sixteenth goal for England. The draw meant that Scotland won the championship that season. In the same year, Brook scored in the 6–2 demolition of Hungary. Ted Drake scored a hat-trick and Raich Carter and Cliff Britton scored the other goals.
In the 1936–37 football season Brook was an ever-present in the first Manchester City side to win the League Championship. The team went on an unbeaten run after Christmas, winning 14 times and drawing 6 games. The championship was won at Maine Road with a 4–1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday. Brook scored the first of his two goals in this game with a 'sizzling drive' which was described by one report as 'not so much a goal as a piece of forked lightning'. Brook scored 20 goals in this season and was the club's second highest scorer behind Peter Doherty who scored 30. He was also the highest scoring winger in the league that season. In the 1938 British Home Championship Brook played alongside City team mate Sam Barkas in a 5–1 victory over Ireland. Brook's goal in the 75th minute was to be the last for his national team. The other goals were scored by George Mills (who scored a hat trick) and Willie Hall. Brook made his final appearance for England in a 2–1 victory over Wales. England won the championship that season. In the 1937–38 football season Brook was part of the City team that were relegated from the First Division despite scoring more goals than any other team. Brook scored 16 goals that season. Brook made his last appearance for Manchester City in the 1939–40 football season. He scored his last goal for City in a 6–1 victory against Wrexham in the Western Regional League in 1939, the Second World War having disrupted the normal league programme. In over eleven years with Manchester City, Brook scored 178 goals in 494 appearances, making him the all-time highest Manchester City goalscorer, ahead of Tommy Johnson who scored 166 in all competitions and Colin Bell who scored 152 goals in all competitions. Only five players have appeared for Manchester City more times than Eric Brook: Alan Oakes, Joe Corrigan, Mike Doyle, Bert Trautmann and Colin Bell. Of the 158 league goals Brook scored for City, 145 were scored in the first division. The only left wingers to have scored more goals in the top flight of English football are Cliff Bastin who scored 150 and Grenville Morris who scored 153. The highest scoring right winger in the history of the top flight is Tom Finney who scored 164 goals for Preston North End. Only 91 players have scored more goals than Brook in the top division of English football.
Brook, like his City team mate Frank Swift, was selected to represent England in wartime internationals. Brook won two wartime caps in games against Wales and South Africa in 1939. In the match against Wales, Brook played alongside his Manchester City team mates Frank Swift and Bert Sproston. The England team also included Joe Mercer who would go on to manage Manchester City in the 1960s. In 1940, Brook was selected to represent England in a wartime international against Scotland. Whilst travelling to the match, he and Sam Barkas were involved in a car crash. Brook suffered a fractured skull. Brook and Barkas were replaced in the England team by Joe Richardson and the Scottish International Tommy Pearson. As a consequence of his fractured skull, Brook was unable to head a ball and decided to retire from football. His England team mates Frank Swift, Raich Carter, Stanley Matthews, Cliff Bastin and Tommy Lawton were able to continue their careers after the war. In contrast Brook became a coach driver in his home town of Mexborough. Later in his life he also spent time working as a barman in Halifax, and as a crane operator. He died at home in Wythenshawe in March 1965.
Brook is regarded as one of the finest players to have graced the English game and has been inducted into the Manchester City FC hall of fame along with Billy Meredith, Tommy Johnson, Sam Cowan, Fred Tilson, Frank Swift, Peter Doherty, Roy Clarke, Bert Trautmann, Ken Barnes, Roy Paul, Alan Oakes, Neil Young, Mike Summerbee, Colin Bell, Tony Book, Francis Lee, Joe Corrigan, Paul Lake, Niall Quinn and Uwe Rosler. In 1977 the Manchester City Council named eleven streets in a new estate in Moss Side after famous City players including Brook, Frank Swift, Fred Tilson, Sam Cowan, Horace Barnes, Max Woosnam, Tommy Browell, Jimmy McMullan, Sam Cookson, Billy Meredith and Tommy Johnson. He is listed as the eighth greatest ever City player on the Times website, seventh in Ian Penney's book The Essential History of Manchester City and fourth in the Manchester Evening News. Brook appears in The EFG Bumper Book of QI Annuals in which he is portrayed (imaginarily) with one arm in a sling and another arm in the air, with his hand grasping the Jules Rimet Trophy, with two team mates holding him aloft, in a similar fashion to how Bobby Moore was held aloft by his team mates after England's victory in the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final, due to his brace in the 3–2 victory over the then World Champions Italy at the Battle of Highbury in 1934.
|14 October 1933||Windsor Park, Belfast||Ireland||3–0||British Home Championship||1 (1)|
|15 November 1933||St James' Park, Newcastle||Wales||1–2||British Home Championship||1 (2)|
|14 December 1933||White Hart Lane, London||France||4–1||Friendly match||1 (3)|
|14 April 1934||Empire Stadium, Wembley||Scotland||3–0||British Home Championship||1 (4)|
|29 September 1934||Ninian Park||Wales||4–0||British Home Championship||1 (5)|
|14 November 1934||Arsenal Stadium||Italy||3–2||Friendly match||2 (7)|
|19 October 1935||Windsor Park, Belfast||Ireland||3–1||British Home Championship||1 (8)|
|2 December 1936||Arsenal Stadium||Hungary||6–2||Friendly match||1 (9)|
|23 October 1937||Windsor Park, Belfast||Ireland||5–1||British Home Championship||1 (10)|
As a player
- Manchester City
- FA Cup winners: 1934
- Football League champions: 1936–37