Club: Aston Villa
Era: 1960-1961, aged 27
Top Speed: 82
Dribble Accuracy: 82
Dribble Speed: 84
Short Pass Accuracy: 76
Short Pass Speed: 78
Long Pass Acc.: 72
Long Pass Speed: 76
Shot Accuracy: 90
Shot Power: 81
Shot Technique: 87
Free Kick Accuracy: 65
Keeper Skills: 50
Team Work: 78
Injury Tolerance: B
Weak Foot Accuracy: 5
Weak Foot frequency: 5
There is no doubt that by 1960/1961 with forty one goals Gerry Hitchens had become well known to the average English football fan. His distinctive blonde hair and barrel chest made him easily recognisable and his all action style as well as his goalscoring exploits made him a hero to many, especially around Villa Park
Quick, strong and brave Hitchens was more insidious in his movements. He would invariably be there to pounce if a defender slipped up and often took his markers by surprise by gliding in front of them undetected to score when there seemed to be no danger at all.England Career
Hitchensâ€™ first game for England was in a Wembley friendly against Mexico. Within a minute Hitchens had bundled home his first goal for his country and then played his part as the Mexicans were crushed 8-0.
This earned him a place on Englandâ€™s European summer tour and he was selected for his second cap in the prestige friendly away to Italy. This was the game that was to change Hitchensâ€™ life.
Hitchen's headed England into the lead with typical opportunism after hesitation in the Italian defence and he then burst through to equalise after Italy had recovered to lead 2-1.
Englandâ€™s day was then completed when Jimmy Greaves raced away to secure victory with a clinical cross shot late on. The dream partnership with Greaves?Italian Job
At this time Italian clubs were beginning to invest in foreign players in a big way for the first time and British talent, mainly because of the massive impact made by John Charles at Juventus, was high on their shopping lists. From nowhere Hitchens suddenly became a wanted man after his two goals in Rome and before the summer was out he had been snapped up by Inter Milan for the tidy sum of Â£85,000.
With Greaves, Denis Law and Joe Baker all heading for Italy at the same time Hitchens might well have been the export most people expected to fail but, as it transpired, he was the only one able, or at least willing, to make a go of his career on the continent.
Within a year Greaves, Law and Baker had all returned to the comforts of home but Hitchens remained. This had more to do with character and personality than ability but it says a lot for Hitchens as a man that he was able to overcome the many difficulties and irritations inevitably suffered by an Englishman abroad while the fact that he continued to ply his trade at the top level of Italian football for the best part of a decade proves that, without ever setting the world on fire, he was able to more than hold his own in Serie A.
Hitchens would stay with Inter for fifteen months before moving on to Torino, with whom he spent two and a half seasons, before spending two seasons with both Atalanta and Cagliari.Why is Hitchens not better remembered?
If Hitchens had drawn up a list of the things he had had to give up with his move to Italy he would probably not have added â€œEngland capsâ€ to it but, in reality, that was probably the truth. Despite the good impression the striker had made on Englandâ€™s European tour it was a case of out of sight, out of mind when the international programme started up again in the autumn. Bobby Smith returned to the fold while Ray Pointer and Ray Crawford were also given opportunities to stake their claims to partner the established Greaves.1962 World Cup
Come the following spring, with the 1962 World Cup finals approaching, Hitchens found himself back in the international reckoning. Neither Pointer or Crawford had sufficiently impressed the selectors during their brief opportunities while injury put paid to Bobby Smithâ€™s chances.
At the start of the World Cup in Chile Hitchens had an impressive record at international level of four goals in five games but his fledgling partnership with Greaves had never truly convinced. Although Hitchens was a willing front runner his real strengths were the same as Greavesâ€™. Both men would have been happier playing alongside the selfless and highly physical Smith.
In Englandâ€™s opening game of the tournament, a 2-1 defeat against Hungary, Hitchens and Greaves singularly failed to gel and it was Hitchens, inevitably, who carried the can.
The quarter finals meant a meeting with the holders, and red hot favourites, Brazil and Hitchens was back in the side after Peacock was stricken with illness on the eve of the game.
Again the Hitchens/Greaves partnership failed to ignite although they did combine in a way when Hitchens brought England level before half time. Greaves headed against the woodwork from a Johnny Haynes free kick and Hitchens, with typical alacrity, was on hand to turn home the rebound.
This goal made it five in seven for Hitchens in an England shirt but he would never have the chance to improve on that tally. He was omitted from the England squads for the games immediately following the 1962 World Cup and would never be called up by Alf Ramsey who took control of the England side early in 1963.
That probably didnâ€™t come as much of a surprise to Hitchens. During the 1962-63 season Ramsey had taken his Ipswich Town side, surprise champions of England, to Italy to play AC Milan in the European Cup. Hitchens, a pleasant, friendly man, despite having been transferred to Torino by this time went to greet the Ipswich party at the San Siro but, having offered Ramsey a warm welcome, was met with a frosty â€œOh yes, you play in these parts.â€
On his appointment as England manager Ramsey quickly made it known that only players playing in England would be considered for the national team and Hitchens was able to forget any lingering international ambitions he may have harboured.