Away From The Numbers

FOLKLORE LEGENDS:

CHARLIE FLEMING

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Charlie Fleming in all his East Fife glory
Charlie was born in Blairhall in July 1927, and he signed for the Fife from his local side Blairhall Colliery in June 1947. He went on to spend seven and a half wonderful and exciting season at Bayview, scoring a total of 169 goals (119 League, 8 Scottish Cup and 42 League Cup) in only 241 appearances in the process.

An inside-right, Charlie came to Bayview at a time when the side was packed with prolific goalscorers, Henry Morris and Davie Duncan in particular. In his first season with the club, Charlie managed two goals from his handful of appearances, in a season that saw Henry Morris score 62 goals and Davie Duncan score 40. Competition for places was tough and it's highly unlikely that we'll ever see the likes of that goalscoring prowess ever again at Bayview.

It was the next season though that Charlie was to get his chance. Doug Davidson was out injured , so Charlie was brought in to deputise against St Mirren, and he scored. A week later he scored a hat-trick against Dundee at Dens Park, then one against Partick, two against Queen of the South, two against Hearts, a further three against Partick and so on and so on. Charlie was an instant hit and success story with the Fife faithful, who were becoming used to a long line of immense goalscorers.

The Bayview terracing took Charlie to their hearts and christened him "Cannonball Charlie", whilst others knew him as "Legs".

It was no surprise when he made the number eight jersey his own! The papers soon started to take an interest in Charlie too, with many articles appearing about the Methil labourer with the mighty shot.

Charlie Fleming in a paper collecting card from Rover comic
Charlie's goals helped the Fife reach their second League Cup Final in 1949/50 (as well as the Scottish Cup Final). Charlie wasn't in the team that had triumphed two seasons earlier, but he was in the winning team this time and on the scoresheet as well. And what a trio was on that scoresheet in the 3-0 win over Dunfermline, with Charlie, Henry Morris and Davie Duncan all getting a goal apiece.

Charlie never won a winners medal though. In those days the Scottish League didn't automatically present medals to winning teams. East Fife offered the players a bonus or a medal. Charlie took the money because "you can't eat a medal!".

Four seasons later, Charlie was back at Hampden with the Fife and back on the scoresheet, in the 3-2 League Cup Final triumph over Partick Thistle.

Season 53/54 was a particularly good one for Charlie, as he became another East Fife player to get a full Scotland cap. In the 51/52 season, Charlie had played in the Rest of Britain side which played Wales as part of their 75th Jubilee Celebration, but this full cap was the big one.

Charlie made his Scotland debut against Northern Ireland in Belfast. Charlie scored two goals and Scotland won 3-1, but amazingly, just like his Fife counterpart Henry Morris, Charlie never played for Scotland again. It was a great moment for Charlie though. "All the kids in the street came in to get their photo taken with my cap".

Charlie's last game for the Fife was on New Years Day 1955, in the local derby against Raith Rovers. After that game, Charlie signed for Sunderland, leaving behind him at Bayview an outstanding goal record. The transfer fee was around 20,000 and a player exchange in the form of Scottish international Tommy Wright, showing just how much Charlie was valued by the Roker Park side.

His 169 goals make him the club's third highest all-time goalscorer and he features in the club's top five players on goals per game and games per goal ration's (averaging 0.69 and 1.43 respectively).

Charlie Fleming playing for Sunderland
Charlie at Sunderland
Once at Roker Park, Charlie continued his impressive goal record. In his first full season with Sunderland, he was the second top goalscorer in the First Division with 28 goals and 32 goals for the season in all competitions. The next season he netted 27.

In each of his first two seasons there, Sunderland lost out in the semi-final of the FA Cup. Charlie later recalled , "It broke my heart. It is every footballer's dream to play at Wembley".

Charlie went on to spend three and a half seasons with Sunderland, breaking goalscoring records for them and netting 71 goals in 122 appearances.

Leaving Sunderland in the close season of 1958 Charlie spent seven seasons at Bath City where he averaged a phenomenal 50 goals a season with the non-league club and became their all time leading goalscorer!

Charlie made an immediate impact for the Twerton Park side scoring four goals in a pre season friendly and then hat tricks in the Club's first two games of the season against Barry Town and Worcester City and he finished his first season with 49 goals for the Club.

Charlie Fleming playing for Bath
Charlie at Bath
He soon became a legend at the Club guiding Bath to their first ever League Championship when they won the Southern League in 1959/60.

His time at Bath City was documented in an appreciation booklet by Club historian Philip Tanner.

Charlie left Bath to go to Trowbridge Town in 1965 as player manager. He was also in charge of Washington Darts in America, Toronto City in Canada, and Hakoah in Australia. He then returned to Scotland and was involved in organising club football at schoolboy level.

A true East Fife legend, Charlie sadly passed away on August 15th 1997, aged 70 years old.

Charlie Fleming was that rarity in modern day footballers - a player who was an instant success with every club he played for. Thankfully East Fife saw the most of Charlie's talents and his astonishing goalscoring record and exploits will live on in Bayview folklore forever.

It was no surprise when Charlie was voted by the fans as one of the forwards in AFTN's East Fife All Time Greats Pre 1970 side.