The footballer Tony Hateley, who has died aged 72, was a striker famed for his heading ability and prodigious goalscoring at several clubs, including Aston Villa, Chelsea, and Liverpool. At Anfield, for one season, his alliterative pairing with Roger Hunt earned them the nickname the H-bombs.
Hateley's entry into top-flight football came with Villa, with whom he played for three years from 1963. Among his memorable feats there were four second-half goals against Tottenham Hotspur that brought his side back from 5-1 down to draw 5-5. His 68 goals in 127 league appearances kept Villa in the First Division and brought him to the attention of Chelsea.
At Stamford Bridge, Peter Osgood had recently broken his leg and the manager, Tommy Docherty, paid a club record £100,000 to buy Hateley in 1966. Osgood was a supremely elegant player around whom Chelsea's pass-and-move game was based; Hateley was something different. Everything good about him took place with his feet off the ground, and on terra firma he was not quite so convincing. Hateley struggled. The 1966-67 season saw him score only six goals in the league, although his was the winning header against Leeds in the 1967 FA Cup semi-final that took Chelsea to Wembley; it was the summer of the All-London final. Pitted against Tottenham Hotspur, unable to match the wily Terry Venables and the indestructible Dave Mackay, Chelsea lost 2-1.
So Hateley was on the road again, this time to Liverpool for £96,000. The Merseysiders had just finished their first season without a major trophy for four years and Hateley, thought their manager Bill Shankly, was the man to change all that. The 1967-68 season was only three games old when he scored a hat-trick against Newcastle United, but although Hateley scored 27 goals that campaign he did not quite fit in. Liverpool were a passing team and now they were having to launch long balls to the big man up front, where skilled defenders soon learned to contain him.
Bob Paisley, Shankly's assistant, was no fan and was said to have begged persistently for Hateley to be substituted in one particular match. His pleas fell on deaf ears until Hateley was floored after colliding with an opponent. Paisley quickly called for a stretcher and bound the striker's legs together before he was carried off. When Shankly inquired later after Hateley's welfare, Paisley supposedly said: "He's fine. I was just making sure that after I'd got him off you'd not get him back on again."
Liverpool finished the season without silverware again and Hateley moved to Coventry City for £80,000. He managed only four goals in 17 games there, lasted one season, and moved to Birmingham City.
Born in Derby, Hateley's future had been more or less settled at Normanton junior school, where as a six-footer towering over his contemporaries he won the Derbyshire schools high jump championship and was switched from centre-half to centre-forward to capitalise on his prowess at achieving lift-off. He began his career at Notts County in 1958, returning to the club at the end of his career after his move away from Birmingham City and scoring 32 goals in 57 games to help County to the Fourth Division title in 1970-71. He followed up with a brief spell at Oldham Athletic, then at 33 went to the US, but his knees gave out after three appearances for the Boston Minutemen.
So it was that in 1974 he ended a career of 434 league games over 16 seasons, scoring 211 goals with seven clubs and attracting a combined total of transfer fees – around £400,000 – that was then a record for English football.
There was a failed business venture, then a job as a sales rep for a brewery. His final years were clouded by Alzheimer's, a disease that has afflicted many footballers who sustained injuries heading a heavy, sodden ball.
Hateley is survived by his daughter, Tina, and son, Mark, a former England centre-forward, from the first of his two marriages.
• Tony Hateley, footballer, born 13 June 1941; died 1 February 2014