Sir Bobby Charlton, Alan Gilzean, John Dempsey and Francis Lee, are due in the High Court tomorrow in pursuance of a compensation claim for historic hair loss.
The case hinges on whether the four can prove that Mitre’s laced ball – the Thunderball – used widely through the 1960s – removed hair at a faster rate than can be accounted for by male pattern baldness, alopecia areata or variations in testosterone levels.
If successful, the hair loss case could open the way for compensation claims running into millions.
Sir Barnet Fayre, QC, said. “We now have a mountain of such cases. We’ve had to fight those who say it is false memory syndrome, yet, here we are in 2013 trying to right a historic wrong.
“Why should the cream of British football have been rendered like OAPs with complete baldness or ‘horse-shoe patterning’ because of the negligence of the clubs and sports goods companies?
“There was a woeful and demonstrable disregard in their duty care. Regrettably, this case has come too late for Ralph Coates.”
Combing over the evidence
Alan Gilzean noted that during his time with Spurs there was an attempt to brush the story under the carpet.
He said: “Nobody wanted to talk about it. People knew it was going on but for fear of losing promotion, not being picked or being put out on loan to Leyton Orient they said nothing.
“In those days few people questioned the powerful. Mitre, for example, was treated with almost ecclesiastical reverence. When I brought it to the attention of Bill Nick, the then manager of Spurs, all he said was ‘get stuck in son. I didn’t sign you from Dundee for your looks.’”
Coates, who played with Gilzean at Spurs towards the end of the Glory! Glory! Years, said at the time. “The talk in the dressing room was that the Thunderball’s stitching was as efficient at removing hair as one of Charlie Combes’ Wahl No. 4 clippers down at Charlie Bubbles on the High Road.”
The hair bare bunch
Gilzean, speaking about an infamous game at Turf Moor, Burnley, in the winter of 1967, said, “I swear Greavsie aged 10 years in front of my eyes. He went from having a brillo job with a duck’s arse to looking like he’d been clipped by that blind shepherd in the Specsavers ad. That was the Thunderball for you. Devastating.”
Franny Lee, kingpin with Tony Book, Mike Summerbee and Colin Bell of the Man City team of 1967-68, said, “I wasn’t famous for my headed goals, you know, but getting struck on the head by the Thunderball whilst being in a defensive wall could leave you dazed with an enlarged side parting.
“We were out there playing with this thing and all the authorities said was ‘get on with it – it’s safe’. They wouldn’t entertain the idea of any danger or evaluate the risk. Mitre was a respected sports good supplier and in those days nobody asked any questions.
“Yet, they knew it was going on. In a game against WBA, Glyn Pardoe had his widow’s peak totally destroyed by half-time. It was gruesome.”