Australia, South Wales, Scotland, New Zealand, South Africa, Hull, Hell, Halifax, Timbuktu or wherever! Far and wide as Headingley has cast her net over the years, and welcome as star players from all quarters of the globe have been, there was born south of the river on Christmas Eve in 1944 a local lad who was to prove himself worthy to rank with the very best.
Schooled at Low Road, and groomed for a time at Hunslet Boys’ Club prior to joining Bison Sports, Michael Shoebottom was snapped up by Leeds in February 1962 after just one ‘A’ team trial. And little wonder, for within a matter of days the mettlesome 17-year-old scrum-half was marking his 1st team debut with a try and earning a special mention in Yorkshire Post dispatches ‘in the match against lowly Doncaster, Shoebottom reigned supreme round the scrum, tackled hard and sure, had the build to shake off tackles and pace off the mark to take him through the gaps he so readily exploited. His display was the one bright spot in a dull game. Some spot! Times without number over a period of nine years he illumined the Headingley scene in a way that none of his contemporaries could match.
Irrepressible, brilliant on attack, fearless in defence, infectiously enthusiastic, exciting, dynamic, wholehearted. ‘Shoey’ was the eighty-minute all-action man, a workaholic who rarely failed to communicate his zest for the game to the man on the terrace. What matter it was snowing heavens high and freezing cold, here was a player who could quicken your pulse and warm the cockles of your heart in deep midwinter.
An all-round performer, equally resourceful at full-back or centre whenever circumstances demanded, it was from stand-off, however, in partnership with Barry Seabourne, that he was to provide mainspring drive and sizzling flashes of spontaneity as the Loiners carried all before them to finish as League Leaders and Yorkshire League Champions four years running. As for Finals, of the seven they contested between 1964 and 1970 he missed not one.
When it came to representative honours, ‘versatile’ was scarcely the word! For all that he made only four appearances with Yorkshire and three with England, he figured at centre, stand-off and scrum-half; and he even went one better at Test and World Cup level, his sterling display at full-back in the crucial3rd Test at Sydney in 1970 bearing the unmistakable MS hallmark of total commitment. As for Headingley folk, what thrills were in the pipeline as the raw apprentice emerged from the chrysalis of adventurous youth to temper enterprise with tactical awareness … a couple of daredevil touchdowns at Thrum Hall of all places, to shock Halifax in the 1964 Yorkshire Cup semi-final.
Four tries and nine goals in a midweek romp at Mount Pleasant in August 1966, his 30-point tally falling just one short of the Club record established by Lewis Jones at Odsal in 1956, operation ‘Extraction’ at The Boulevard in December 1967, with Hull’s teeth drawn somewhat painfully (after all, why bother with an injection?), to leave the old Thruppenny Stand