Norfolk

Hidden letter hints at Canary boss Jimmy 'AJ' Jewell's England past

Jimmy Jewell at Stamford Bridge, London, in 1938 Image copyright HF Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
Image caption Jimmy Jewell refereed the 1938 FA Cup Final before becoming manager of Norwich City nine months later

A letter hidden in the BBC archives for more than 70 years has revealed Norwich City's pre-war manager may have also led the England team.

Arthur James "Jimmy" Jewell, a former referee, coached the Canaries in 1939, before becoming the BBC's main football commentator in 1947.

He wrote to a producer for a Wembley "all barriers" pass, saying he "used one when in charge of an England team".

The National Football Museum described the find as a "fascinating" discovery.

Image caption Jimmy Jewell commentated for BBC Television at the 1948 FA Cup final - a year before he wrote his letter to a corporation producer

The letter, from Mr Jewell - also known as AJ Jewell, was uncovered at the BBC Written Archives Centre in Caversham, Berkshire, during the making of a radio documentary.

It is thought Mr Jewell would have managed the England team in a game during World War Two, according to information pieced together.

Dr Alexander Jackson, a collections officer at Manchester's National Football Museum, said records of those in charge were unlikely to exist, incredible as it may now seem.

"During those wartime games they tended to just list the players selected, as opposed to peace-time minutes which recorded the officials," he said.

"The challenges of wartime reduced the amount of time and details they were able or willing to put into the minutes for these games.

"It's one of those tantalising new discoveries which are fascinating but so hard to verify elsewhere."

Image caption Mr Jewell said he had been stopped by a Wembley steward and suggested it might be better for commentators to use a "pass all barriers" ticket as he had previously done

Mr Jewell, born in West Hampstead, London in 1898, became a referee in the 1920s.

He was linesman for a 1936 Berlin Olympics game under Adolf Hitler's gaze and was referee for the Preston North End v Huddersfield 1938 FA Cup Final.

He made the unusual switch to become Norwich City manager in January 1939, months before the war broke out, with the former RAF pilot returning to serve for a second time.

Image copyright HF Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
Image caption AJ Jewell training with a medicine ball with Charlie Harris at Stamford Bridge, London, for the 1938 FA Cup Final at Wembley

Norwich City writer Ed Couzens-Lake said Mr Jewell's contribution to football should be appreciated.

"He deserves more - the information I have about him, he was a great character, a great football man," he said.

Mr Jewell was the main BBC TV commentator for five FA Cup finals before his sudden death in 1952.

For some though, he is best remembered for awarding a penalty to Preston North End, which won them the FA Cup in extra time.

Preston North End statistician Martin Atherton said: "He's better remembered up here than people might realise, simply because of circumstances of the penalty and winning the trophy because of it... always as AJ Jewell, the referee of the time."

Jimmy Jewell: The Lost Voice of Football is on BBC Radio Norfolk on Monday 26 August at 12:00 BST, and available for 30 days afterwards via BBC Sounds

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