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The Pride Of The Peacock

Words by Simon Hall
Illustration by Michael Parkin

The 21st of August 1965 may seem like another unremarkable date in history for many, but in the world of English football it’s a day on which things permanently changed, as the first ever official substitution was made in the Football League. We take a moment to remember the original bench-warmer, and a name that will forever be entwined with association football.

The substitute was introduced to EFL laws in the 1965-66 season. Teams were only allowed to make one substitution per game and that could only be to replace an injured player. However, it quickly became apparent that there was a flaw with this plan. For some teams, players started to get injured on a remarkably consistent basis around the 70-minute mark which, understandably, led to calls of foul play. Tactical substitutions were eventually introduced for the 1967-68 season and, thus, the substitute as we know it today was born.

The player lucky enough to be the answer to the pub quiz question ‘Who was the first ever substitute?’ is Keith Peacock, then of Charlton Athletic. Peacock came on in what would be comical circumstances by today’s standards. Charlton’s goalkeeper Mike Rose got injured 11 minutes into a game against Bolton. Scottish international John Hewie was put in goal and Peacock wrote his own piece of history by making his way onto the pitch.