OBITUARY: The fastest wide man in English football liked John Lennon and thought Ringo Starr was ‘dozy’ when he shared a bill with the Beatles… and ‘singing winger’ Colin Grainger’s career hit the high notes with goals against Brazil on his England debut
- Colin Grainger, who was known as the ‘singing winger’, has died at the age of 89
- The winger played for Sunderland and Leeds during his career from 1950 to 1978
- Musician Grainger played with the Beatles and met John Lennon and Ringo Starr
- Grainger scored twice on his England debut in a 4-2 win over Brazil in May 1956
You do not earn a nickname like the ‘singing winger’ without having an eventful life and no one can say Colin Grainger did not live his to its fullest.
Grainger, who has died at the age of 89, was once the fastest wide man in English football, running down the wing for Sheffield United, Sunderland, Leeds and more. He famously scored twice against Brazil on his England debut.
Yet it was his talent for singing which saw this West Yorkshire-born footballer sign to the HMV record label.
Colin Grainger made more outings for Sunderland, between 1957 to 1960, than any other club
Grainger (fourth from right) stands left of Sir Tom Finney in this photo from their England duty
He found success in this new career, too, even sharing the bill with the Beatles at shows in Stockport and Manchester in 1963 while he was a player for Port Vale.
Speaking to Sportsmail in 2019 about his colourful past, Grainger was brilliantly frank as he said: ‘I was in a dressing room with all four of them.
‘I liked John Lennon. He seemed down to earth somehow. And Ringo, well, he were a bit of an idiot — he had a Dinky toy and he were saying, “I’ve got a car, I’ve got a car”. I thought, “You dozy bugger”.’
The left winger collected seven England caps, scoring twice against Brazil on his debut in 1956
An opportunity to tour with US band the Hilltoppers and earn £5,000 a year was turned down, even though the most he could make as a footballer was £20 per week. He loved being a left winger, winning seven caps for England.
Grainger saved his singing for the off-season instead, spending his summers touring to make money.
After winning over fans with his football — and the arguably harsher critics of the working men’s clubs with his singing — he became a scout for Barnsley, Leeds and others.
Sheffield United were among those paying tribute to Grainger, praising his incredible past that few footballers could compete with.
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