From signing for Everton as an unknown centre back from Stockport County in July 1930 to making his England debut against Wales in November the following year, Charlie Gee completed an astonishing ascent to the top of English football.
Over the following decade he would make more than 200 appearances for Everton, becoming a stalwart of one of the club’s finest teams.
When Gee arrived at Goodison winning a first-team place was no easy feat. Ahead of him in the pecking order were Tom Griffiths and Tommy White, Welsh and English internationals respectively. But Gee buckled down in the Central League and made a big impression playing for the reserves. Within months of his arrival he had replaced the injured Griffiths as Everton’s first-choice centre back and claimed a Second Division championship medal. A year later he had added a First Division title to his collection.
An old-school defender who relished physical battle, Gee’s unstinting commitment instantly made him a crowd favourite. His progress into the Everton team was eased by Dixie Dean, who gave him the lowdown on centre forwards’ tricks and flourishes. ‘Dixie was a very astute judge,’ he would recall, ‘and his advice made me an experienced centre half. He used to tip me off about the strengths and weaknesses of centre forwards I was playing against.’
WITHIN A YEAR of his debut he was called up to the England squad, making his debut against Wales at Anfield in November 1931. His opposite number that day was the unlucky Griffiths, who would move on to Bolton Wanderers soon after.
Gee was, a profile later concluded,
A strong, determined pivot. Particularly effective in the use of his head. At one period inclined to be rather impetuous. A powerful tackler and uses the ball much better than formerly.
A second cap came against Spain at Highbury in December 1931 in what was Dixie Dean’s last international appearance. Dean bet Gee his £6 match fee that England would put more than five goals past Ricardo Zamora, Spain’s flamboyant goalkeeper, to which the defender agreed. Dean scored just once, but England won 7-1 and Dean collected his winnings.
It would take Gee a further five years to earn back his match fee. He was struck down by injuries that necessitated a cartilage operation – a career-threatening procedure in those days of unrefined surgical procedures – and he missed most of the 1932/33 season. A third and final international cap did not come until 1936.
ALTHOUGH STILL only in his late twenties, Gee began to fall out of favour with the Everton management. In November 1937, the pendulum swung back in favour of a Welsh centre half and Gee lost his place to T.G. Jones. A month later the Everton board consented to his moving house to Manchester, a rare allowance at a time when clubs liked their players to live within sight of the stadium. The following April Gee rejected the terms offered him, a development that would not endear him to the boardroom. He seems to have belatedly accepted a new contract, but thereafter was a peripheral figure.
Gee’s impact on Everton’s history transcended his own playing days. When, in 1930, he had the chance to choose between several First Division clubs, his trainer at Stockport – Harry Catterick senior – advised him to go to Goodison. Later that decade Gee was able to return the favour: his old coach told him that his son – Harry Catterick – who was playing as an amateur for Stockport was ready for bigger things and Gee promptly passed on word to the Everton management.
‘I was there with Theo Kelly in the Tory Club at Stockport when young Harry signed the forms,’ Gee said in 1969. And so began one of the most enduring relationships in the club’s history.
Gee played more than 200 games for Everton, but bad luck ultimately prevented him from winning more medals. His cartilage problems kept him out of the FA Cup winning team in 1933, and by the time of Everton’s title win in 1939 he had lost his place to the more polished T.G. Jones.
POST-FOOTBALL, Gee became a woodwork teacher in Manchester, later retiring to St Asaph in North Wales.