Of all the “one-match-wonders” who have qualified for inclusion in this website, Alf Charles has probably generated the biggest word-count elsewhere – at least until Aly Dia had his 53 minutes of fame in 1996. The reason is simple: Alf Charles was the Saints’ first black player.
Alf was a sportsman of some note in West Indies for, not only was he an excellent cricketer he was also good enough to represent Trinidad at football when the inter-island competitions were played. Unfortunately his footballing career in the Caribbean was to come to a shuddering halt. His club, Everton, repeatedly won the league-and-cup double during his time with them, during which he was affectionately known as “King Charles”.
He was capable of playing in any outfield position although he was especially at home at centre-half. In September 1933, a clash between Alf and a Casuals opponent triggered an on-pitch battle, in which spectators became involved. Alf was sent off, along with his brother, Frank, and two opponents. When the two brothers each received a three-year ban, Everton withdrew from the League and football across Trinidad inevitably felt the shock. Banned from playing in his native country, Alf made for England, effectively sponsored, according to the Trinidad Mirror, by his friend, Learie Constantine, who not only introduced him to his cricket team, Nelson CC (see scrapbook section) with whom he played for two seasons and met “with considerable success both as a batsman and bowler” but also brought “Mr. Charles’s prowess as a footballer to the notice of English clubs.” The Mirror added a character reference: Charles was a “non-smoker and total abstainer”.