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Born: 04 October 1933
Came from: West Bromwich Albion Went to: Exeter City
First game: 24 August 1957 Last game: 31 March 1964
Appearances: 274 (274/0) Goals: 148
When wealthy chairman Ron Blindell took control at Home Park in 1957, manager Jack Rowley was told to scour First Division reserve sides for talented but inexpensive surplus players. None was better than the first recruit, the West Bromwich Albion inside-forward Wilf Carter. He had played 60 First Division games and scored 12 times, and had also chalked up an impressive 76 goals in 126 outings for their Central League side.
In May 1957, Argyle beat a dozen clubs for Carter’s signature, for a fee of £2,500. Seduced by the cleanliness of the modern, rebuilt post-war city, the sea views from the Hoe and the offer of a club house in leafy Peverell, the Wednesdbury-born forward and his wife were quickly persuaded that his future lay at Home Park. Nine goals in his first 22 games gave few signs of how prolific he would become. Then in December 1957 Carter plundered ten goals, including his first two Home Park hat-tricks on successive Saturdays. He added a third one in March 1958, finishing with 32 goals, 26 in the League and another six in the FA Cup.
The next season saw the team promoted to the Second Division as champions, with Carter again finishing as leading scorer with 25, three of them in the FA Cup. This haul included his fourth hat-trick, away at Mansfield in a 4-1 win. After promotion the team struggled but Carter’s 22 goals, including his fifth hat-trick, ensured relegation was avoided. In some ways this was his best season, proving to the doubters that he could score at a higher level and in a struggling side.
The next campaign was far better for the team but by Christmas Carter had netted only nine times in 20 games. After a poor game in a 6-4 defeat at Charlton on Boxing Day 1960, the chairman wanted Carter left out for the following day’s return match at Home Park. An injury to George Kirby meant that Carter was reprieved and in a stunning show of marksmanship he grabbed five goals in a 6-4 win. That was the day he moved from hero to legend, and in early March 1961 he netted his 100th Argyle goal in his 163rd. game. Appropriately it was the middle goal in a hat-trick in a 3-1 victory over Leeds.
He was in and out of the side during the early part of the 1961-62 season, as the team struggled under new manager Neil Dougall. Once Ellis Stuttard replaced Dougall, as long as Carter was fit he played. He finished with 19 League goals and one in the FA Cup - a fifth consecutive season with 20 goals or more. From then on, goals became harder to come by and in 1962-63 his 31 outings brought 14 goals, including one final hat-trick, against Charlton (who else!) The next season, Argyle really struggled and Carter scored just seven times in 33 games, though nine of those appearances were at left back.
Wilf Carter was not technically brilliant but operated a shoot-on-sight policy. He had a knack for scoring goals and was deadly from the penalty spot, converting 24 of the 27 he took for Argyle. He still holds a number of club records, including the only Argyle player to score five in a Football League game. In addition, he also scored seven hat-tricks, more than any other player in the club’s history. His 148 goals in 274 first team games remains a post-war record, and second overall to the great Sammy Black. No single player has beaten his 16 goals against Charlton (15 for Argyle and 1 for West Brom). His 10 FA Cup goals (in 11 ties) for Argyle has yet to be bettered.
In the summer of 1964 he was released and moved to Exeter. After two indifferent seasons there he brought down the curtain on his Football League career and joined Southern League Bath City. He settled in the city and spent five seasons at Twerton Park, mainly playing in midfield or defence. After retiring from playing in 1971 he had a season and a half as manager of Salisbury City, but after a difference of opinion with the chairman there, Wilf Carter turned his back on the game and became a security guard with the MOD in Bath.
If you can add to this profile, perhaps with special memories, a favourite story or the results of your original research, please contribute here.
From Steve Rhodes in Romsey, Hampshire on 11/11/2013 ...
I make no secret of the fact that in my little world Wilf Carter would have been granted eternal life, preferably staying at age 25 or 26 and scoring goals for as long as Roy Race did in his comic strip team Melchester Rovers. But life is not like that and in early August 2013, just two months away from his 80th birthday, Wilf passed away at his home in Bath.
On Wednesday 14 August 2013 I took my place in a crowded Bath Crematorium, there with scores of others to pay my last respects to one of my all-time heroes. Current Board member David Felwick, himself a fan when Carter was in his pomp, ... More
From Steve Dean in Plymouth on 11/11/2013 ...
Wilf was also a great hero of mine. Whilst he was with the club he lived at the top of Langhill Road, just off Hyde Park Road, and I remember passing his house every day as I walked to school, always looking up the path to see if I could catch a glimpse of the great man. I don't think I ever did, but it's a memory that has stuck for 50+ years!
By Brian Knight* in Cheltenham on 01/07/2014 ...
Every so often (not often enough in the view of most Plymouth supporters) a player will reach the peak of his personal form while playing for Argyle. This category very definitely includes Wilf Carter, who had never been a regular member of the West Bromwich Albion side when he decided to accept Jack Rowley’s offer and go to the West Country in 1957. The move was a tonic for both the player and the club. In his first season at Home Park, Carter scored 32 goals and went on to head the list of goalscorers for five seasons. During his Argyle career, he registered six hat-tricks in addition to ... More
From David Beake in Falmouth on 09/05/2019 ...
I was very sorry to hear of Wilf's passing. I had the pleasure as a boy of living on the same street as him in Plymouth, Langhill Road, and I can recall some kickabouts in the street. Wilf was always a most pleasant man and we felt proud to have him living in the area. I also knew his son Cleeve but where everyone went I have no idea. I knew Steve Dean too and hope he and his family are all well; I see Steve has some recollections of Wilf too; this has all brought back many memories of happy Saturdays in Home Park behind the goal and seeing Wilf on the pitch. I still have memories of the ... More
APPEARANCE DETAILS [reselect competitions]
The details below reflect appearances in all first-team competitions.
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