Born in the Durham mining village of High Spen, Charlie Purves was a fan of Newcastle United, just across the Tyne. Having failed to achieve his ambition of playing for them, he turned out for a few local sides before being brought south, in 1946, by First Division Charlton.
Charlie was not alone at The Valley. When Charlton won the FA Cup in his first season, no fewer than five of their side were from Northumberland or Durham. Charlie was not playing at Wembley, though, and his employers were not amused when he reminded them of his origins by turning up to play against Newcastle, sporting a Magpies’ rosette.
Two Southampton managers, each of whom had played for Charlton, were interested in Charlie: Bill Dodgin’s enquiries were rejected in January 1949, but Sid Cann struck lucky in July 1951. Cann had plenty of inside-forwards, however, and would stock-up with more, in 1952-53. Charlie would play in half of the Saints’ Second Division matches that season and be ever-present in a Cup-run ended by Blackpool’s win in a Dell replay. With the home side leading 1-0 in that match, Charlie was in “full cry”, as a local reporter put it, bearing down on goal, when the referee inexplicably recalled play for a Southampton free-kick. Had advantage been played, who knows? Charlie may have scored, denying Blackpool victory and denying the nation the romantic “Matthews Final” of 1953.
The Saints would be relegated at the end of that season and Charlie would hardly feature in Division III(South). He now began a non-league career, starting in Kent and finishing at Basingstoke, for whom he was still playing at the age of 43. After which, he worked for Vosper Thornycroft.
Charlie had become the oldest-living ex-Saint when he died, aged 92, just before two team-mates from that 1952-53 season celebrated their respective 90th birthdays. Bill Ellerington was 90 yesterday, 30 June. The best efforts of the club historians have been unable to trace Stan Clements, last visited by us in Gosport. We have reason to believe that Stan is still alive and now the oldest surviving ex-Saint, having become 90 on 25 June.
CHARLES REUBEN PURVES
17th February 1921 – 20th June 2013