When Sunderland signed the world's most expensive footballer...

For most Sunderland fans the name Warneford Cresswell will not mean anything – but in 1922 he was the most famous player on the planet.

Forget Madrid's Galacticos, the 5,500 shelled out to local rivals South Shields for the hard-hitting tackler dubbed The Prince of Full Backs was an incredible amount of money. It was a record that stood for six years.

Warney, as he was known, stood at just under six foot tall and was renowned for his calm demeanour and masterful positional skill.

Regarded as a true gentleman on and off the pitch, Cresswell had a reputation as a fair player who would not commit a foul to win the ball, but who could take the ball from a player with grace.

One opponent, whose leg was broken in a challenge with Cresswell, describes how Cresswell came to visit him – not with flowers or a bag of grapes, but a pouch of tobacco.

Born and raised in South Tyneside, Cresswell represented South Shields and England Schools as youngster, as well as playing junior football locally.

Although the First World War prevented him from starting his professional football career in England he did play as a guest for Scottish clubs Morton, Heart of Midlothian, and Hibernian, as well as Tottenham Hotspur.

In the summer of 1919 South Shields signed Cresswell, who were then in the Football League Second Division. He played just under 100 games for the club before the transfer to Roker Park.

The Mariners had already resisted offers from Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur.

Sunderland broke the world record to sign Cresswell from South Shields for 5,500.

Many fans referred to Cresswell as The Iceberg because of his cool and collected style.

He made the right-back position his own at Roker Park, and played more than 150 games for the club in an era which saw Sunderland finish as runners-up to Liverpool in 1922/23 season, he is also played in the side with the likes of Dave Halliday and Bobby Gurney, one of the club's most prolific goalscorers.

After five years on Wearside Cresswell, at the age of 30, was transferred for 7,000 to Everton, where he enjoyed two Football League championships in 1927/28 and 1931/32.

Everton also won and retained the FA Community Shield in 1928 and 1932, and Cresswell also lifted the FA Cup in 1933 when Everton beat Manchester City 3-0 at Wembley.

At Everton he was made club captain, and his cool nature and astute tackling remained as sharp as ever.

Surprisingly Cresswell only received seven England caps.

He lost his tag as the world's most expensive player in 1928 when Arsenal paid Bolton 10,890 for David Jack.

Retiring in 1936 at the age of 38 Cresswell became a manager.

At Port Vale, he introduced strict fitness-based training methods.

After a year he moved to Northampton Town, where he was in charge for two years.

In 1947 he was on the shortlist for the manager's post at Newcastle United, but took up the position at Dartford, resigning after a poor run of results.

The Cresswell name lives on in sport. After his retirement his son, Corbet Cresswell, was in the Bishop Auckland team that won the FA Vase three years in a row in the 1950s.

Now his great-granddaughter is living the sporting dream. Kate Haywood is an Olympic swimmer who was BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2003.

Warney Cresswell eventually retired to his native North East, where he ran a pub in the Sunderland area. He died in South Shields in 1973.

Money may make the world go round but for many Warney Cresswell is the true spirit of football.


1905 Alf Common – Sunderland to Middlesbrough for 1,000

1922 Syd Puddefoot – West Ham to Falkirk for 5,000

1922 Warney Cresswell – South Shields to Sunderland for 5,500

1928 David Jack – Bolton to Arsenal for 10,890

1932 Bernabe Ferreyra – Tigre to River Plate for 23,000

1952 Hans Jeppson – Atalanta to Napoli for 52,000

1954 Juan Schiaffino – Penarol to AC Milan for 72,000

1957 Enrique Omar Sivori – River Plate to Juventus for 93,000

1961 Luis Suarez – Barcelona to Inter Milan for 152,000

1963 Angelo Sormani – Mantova to Roma for 250,000

1968 Pietro Anastasi – Varese to Juventus for 500,000

1973 Johan Cruyff – Ajax to Barcelona for 922,000

1975 Giuseppe Savoldi – Bologna to Napoli for 1,200,000

1976 Paolo Rossi – Juventus to Vicenza for 1,750,000

1982 Diego Maradona – Boca Juniors to Barcelona for 3,000,000

1984 Diego Maradona – Barcelona to Napoli for 5,000,000

1987 Ruud Gullit – PSV Eindhoven to AC Milan for 6,000,000

1990 Roberto Baggio – Fiorentina to Juventus for 8,000,000

1992 Jean-Pierre Papin – Marseille to AC Milan for 10,000,000

1992 Gianluca Vialli – Sampdoria to Juventus for 12,000,000

1992 Gianluigi Lentini – Torino to AC Milan for 13,000,000

1996 Alan Shearer – Blackburn to Newcastle for 15,000,000

1997 Ronaldo – Barcelona to Inter Milan for 19,500,000

1998 Denilson – Sao Paulo to Real Betis for 21,500,000

1999 Christian Vieri – Lazio to Inter Milan for 32,000,000

2000 Hernan Crespo – Parma to Lazio for 35,500,000

2000 Lus Figo – Barcelona to Real Madrid for 37,000,000

2001 Zinedine Zidane – Juventus to Real Madrid for 46,000,000

2009 Kaka – AC Milan to Real Madrid for 56,000,000