Football

Away from transport, my other interest is in football.

During season 2017/18 I began submitting articles for inclusion in the award winning matchday programme of Prescot Cables FC. I am proud that these have appeared in print.

This page will contain my writings for the programme, plus any other pieces that I may, occasionally, pull together on football related subjects.


Feedback on this stuff is welcome. Please feel free to contact me at roy.mcdonald@hotmail.co.uk   
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Played in a mudbath

posted 4 Oct 2019, 06:25 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 4 Oct 2019, 06:26 ]

Memory Match; Stalybridge Celtic v Prescot Cables

FA Cup Third Qualifying round, 29th October 1932

In a previous feature I looked back at the occasion of the record attendance at Hope Street, for the F.A. Cup Preliminary round match against Ashton National, in September 1932. Here, I take up the story of the rest of Prescot Cables' FA Cup campaign in the 1932/33 season.

This article was printed in the programme for the Prescot Cables v Brighouse Town match on 28th September 2019.

After overcoming Ashton National, Cables were drawn away to the Liverpool I Zingari League outfit, Earle. Supporters who travelled to Woolton Road, Wavertree, were confident of a comfortable victory against the amateurs, but were surprised by the tenacity of their opponents. A single Hector Hodgson goal was enough for Cables to scrape home with a one – nil win.

In the second qualifying round, Cables had to travel again. This time their opponents were Droylsden, then of the Manchester League. Cables returned home with a 2 – 1 win, thanks to goals from Fred Rogers and Paddy Kane.

The draw for the third qualifying round meant that Cables had to travel, once more, to Stalybridge Celtic, of the Cheshire League.

It had been raining almost continually for a week prior to the game and it showed no signs of abating when the Prescot team arrived, late, after having lost their way in Manchester.

The Prescot Reporter’s football correspondent, “Leon” summed it up:

“Imagine a small field, on which rain has been pouring, practically incessantly, for a week. Imagine that, in that field are 50 cows, and that it is still raining. Imagine, also, that there is a drinking trough, the ground around which has been ploughed up by the beasts’ hooves, and that pools of water lie in various parts of the field. Fix that wretched picture in your mind’s eye, and then substitute goals for the trough and 22 footballers for the cows. Then you will have an idea, and an unexaggerated one, at that, of the distressing conditions under which Prescot Cables played Stalybridge Celtic.”

“Never in all my experience have I seen a football match played in such weather. Apart from the water-logged ground, rain and sleet, accompanied by an icy wind, and blowing at gale force, added to the discomfiture of players and spectators.”

It was soon obvious that good football on the Bower Fold quagmire was out of the question. The players were soaked through, shivering, and thoroughly disheartened, as they slipped and floundered in the oozing mud. As the game went on, they became exhausted and the ball was booted listlessly about. Throughout the match, players from both sides repeatedly asked the referee to abandon the tie, in view of the strength sapping conditions, but he would have none of it. Cables’ players requests being met with jeers and boos from the home supporters, who considered it to be bad sportsmanship.

Half time: Stalybridge Celtic 2, Prescot Cables 0

Shortly after the restart, Hodgson grabbed a goal for Prescot, but there was to be no come back.  Eventually, there were just fifteen players left on the field, - 7 for Cables and 8 for Stalybridge - the others having retired through exhaustion. Oakes grabbed a third goal for Celtic near the end. At this point, and with only two minutes remaining, the referee relented and stopped the game the game. It was later alleged that he said that he had done this because the Prescot players refused to continue. However, this was disputed as Prescot had clearly kicked off, again, after conceding the third goal.

As Stalybridge had just taken a 3-1 lead, the home crowd were, unsurprisingly, incensed at this decision, and surrounded the official, who required a police escort from the field.

Once safely back in the dressing room, the players were able to recover and take a hot bath. However, on getting into the bath, Prescot’s Fred Rogers collapsed and had to be attended to by the St John Ambulance Brigade, who were also called on to attend to other players from both sides.

Result: Stalybridge Celtic 3, Prescot Cables 1 (Match abandoned)

Stalybridge Celtic: Savage, Brown, Whittaker, Scholes, Turner, Bell, Clifford, Butler, Wright, Oakes, Stevenson

Prescot Cables: Jimmy Trill, Arthur Tarrant, Tommy O’Brien, Downey, Peter Burke, Paddy Kane, Joe Keegan, Billy Howard, Hector Hodgson, Bob Rogers, Jack Roscoe

Referee: Mr Bolton (Oldham)

After the match Prescot immediately lodged a protest, which was heard by the FA committee in Liverpool on the following Wednesday evening. After hearing evidence from the referee, a Stalybridge Celtic official and the Prescot secretary, Bob ‘Tebay’ Rogers, the committee decided that the game should be replayed, as the full 90 minutes had not been completed. Unbelievably, the replay was ordered to be replayed at Stalybridge on the following evening!

Hasty work was required by Mr Rogers to notify players by telephone and messages conveyed by motor car to players living in Wigan, Waterloo, Seaforth and Freshfield, be ready for the replay. However, although all the players reported fit, the effects of the first game had left their mark on several of them, and the football committee decided to rest some players and reorganise the team.  

Conditions were vastly improved for the replayed match and the ground was said to be looking quite fresh, in a gentle evening breeze, bearing few scars of the quagmire a few days earlier.

The early exchanges were all in Cables’ favour, and it was against the run of play when Celtic scored after 12 minutes. Cables dominated the rest of the first half but the Stalybridge goal led a charmed life, and it was something of an injustice when Celtic scored a second, two minutes before the interval.

Half time; Stalybridge Celtic 2, Prescot Cables 0

Stalybridge were dominant in the second half, and the tired Cables players were penned in their own half for practically the whole of the 45 minutes. Celtic added three more goals to their tally and thoroughly deserved their emphatic victory.

Final score:  Stalybridge Celtic 5, Prescot Cables 0

Stalybridge Celtic: Savage, Brown, Whittaker, Scholes, Turner, Bell, Clifford, Butler, Wright, Oakes, Stevenson

Prescot Cables: Trill, Tarrant, O’Brien, Naylor, Burke, Kane, Cherry, Howard, Hodgson, Downey, Roscoe

Referee: Mr Bolton (Oldham)

Stalybridge Celtic went on to reach the first round proper, but were hammered 8 – 2 at home to Hull City.

Alex Jackson: A free-lance footballer

posted 4 Oct 2019, 06:20 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 4 Oct 2019, 06:20 ]

In an earlier article, I featured the occasion of the record attendance at Hope Street, for the F.A. Cup Preliminary round match against Ashton National, in September 1932. Supporters crowded into the ground keen to see Ashton’s star player, the former Huddersfield and Chelsea player, Alec Jackson.

In this feature, I look, in more detail, at the man they had come to see. This feature was included in the programme for the Prescot Cables v Widnes game on 24th September 2019.

Alexander Skinner Jackson's rise to fame was meteoric. He was born in 1905, at Renton, a small town North West of Glasgow, and in 1922, joined Dumbarton from his junior team Renton Victoria, for the princely sum of a new leather football. The following year he visited Pennsylvania with his elder brother, Wattie, who was also a competent footballer. The brothers joined the Bethlehem Steels team in the American Soccer League, and Alec soon eclipsed his elder brother as a star player in the team.

After a year away, Alec returned to Scotland and played, again, for Dumbarton, but it was not long before he was signed by Aberdeen. His play for the Dons brought him almost immediate International honours. (In 1928, he would become the first player to score a hat trick at Wembley, as a member of the Scotland side which trounced England, 5–1.)

At the beginning of the 1925/26 season Huddersfield Town won the race to sign the mercurial young Scot, ahead of Bolton, Everton, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Liverpool. Alec enjoyed a successful time with the Yorkshire club, - in his five years there they won the league in his first season, and also finished second, twice, and reached two FA Cup finals. He even released a cup final record, discussing Huddersfield’s chances in the 1930 FA Cup Final against Arsenal!

Then, in a portent of more recent times, Chelsea tried to buy their way to success, and in September 1930, they paid a fee in the region of £8,500 to Huddersfield to secure the transfer of “football’s number one personality boy”. Though proving an enormous attraction at Stamford Bridge, he rarely revealed his best form for The Pensioners.

In April 1932, Chelsea dropped a bombshell announcing that they had decided not to re-engage Jackson, and had placed him on the open-to-transfer list with fee of £6,000 on his head. It was widely considered that this was a punishment following a disciplinary issue in an away game at Manchester City, late in the season. However, a French team, Nimes, had made Jackson (and several other players) a very lucrative offer. Alec had threatened to accept it unless Chelsea broke the wage cap in operation at the time. Chelsea refused and placed him on the transfer list.

Despite being a the peak of his career, and aged just 26, the high transfer fee meant that no club was prepared to take on the star, but it, effectively, left Alec as a free agent to go anywhere he pleased, as long as it was outside the jurisdiction of the Football League.

Aware of his situation, Mr. Robert Hartley, the ambitious chairman of the Ashton National Club made an audacious bid to sign the Scottish international. The problem was they didn’t know how to contact him! They had read in the newspapers that he had been injured at Aldershot, where he was in camp with the London Territorials. Taking a chance, the club sent a telegram addressed to “Lieut. Jackson, Territorial Training Camp, Aldershot”, asking him to telephone the Snipe Inn, Audenshaw, at ten o'clock that night, to discuss terms. Jackson made the call and a meeting was arranged in London, the following day, where he agreed to join the Cheshire League side.

In newspaper articles at the time, Jackson explained his reasons. Chelsea held his transfer at fee of £6,000, and if he wanted to return to League football the fee still held good. He was the landlord of a pub in London’s Covent Garden, had interests in a hotel in nearby Leicester Square and wrote a syndicated newspaper column. He made no secret of the fact that his motivation was financial, “My income will easily top anything I have had before. It will quite likely make me the highest paid footballer in the country. I shall be paid far more than it is possible for any man in the Football League to be paid. The League maximum is £8 a week and I hope to get three or four times as much as that.”

“This experiment of mine is, largely, as a result of a desire to make money, but I am just as anxious make some kind of protest against the transfer scheme which makes it possible for Chelsea to order me out telling me they do not want me to play for them this season and to put me on the transfer list at a price which nobody will pay. I cannot play in the Football League until it is settled, but I have got to live, so I have accepted this contract. I have always disagreed with the fixing of a maximum wage for the professional footballer. By all means maintain a minimum wage in all jobs, but to limit the pay a man may demand is an aggressive scheme designed for the sole benefit of the clubs. If a star footballer attracts a big gate, he should be paid for his attractions. Nowadays, he is a public entertainer like a theatre artist. In this offer I see a chance of testing my theories.”

"l have agreed to play for Ashton National for four weeks. It is an experiment for both parties. The club see possibilities in exploiting a star player as an attraction, just as League cricket clubs have done. For my own part, I stand or fall by my own value. I shall get what I am worth, no more and no less.  If this four-week contract proves the idea to be sound, the club and I are going to arrange future terms on the basis that I get what I am worth. I am in strict training, and I shall give the crowd value for their money.“

He said, “Business in London prevents me from training with the Ashton team, but thanks to the efforts of friends who are willing to pace me with motor-cars all round Richmond Park, I shall manage to be 100 per cent fit for my first game.”

The signing created considerable interest in non-league football circles, and the “box office” appeal of a star player did, indeed, boost attendances at Ashton’s games, and also benefited their opponents when Ashton played away – for example, the record attendance at Prescot Cables for the FA Cup tie. By playing in the FA Cup for Ashton, Jackson had immediately decreased his potential value for another league club, as being “cup-tied” they would only be able to call on him for League games. One can only imagine the reaction this would’ve had in the Chelsea boardroom!

The early signs of success and increased gate receipts were sufficiently encouraging that both parties quickly agreed to extend the arrangement to the end of the season.

By mid-October, Jackson was writing in his newspaper column, “I have never enjoyed football so much as I have since my audacious adventure of this August. The men who control my new club are genuine sportsmen, and have treated me generously. L am receiving thrice the maximum wage of an English league player. My comrades are good players. We possess an abundance of the right sort of team spirit.”

However, in February 1933, with National sitting in second place in the Cheshire League, the directors at Ashton informed Alec that the agreed contract, guaranteeing him 10% of the gate, or a minimum of £15 a week, plus expenses, was beyond the sound finances of the club. Jackson's reply was immediate. “I could not allow them to be out of pocket over me. I decided to rip up the contract. They have been very sporting to me, and have treated me very well, so I thought it was the best thing to do to help save them.”

It seems that once the novelty wore off, and with Jackson missing a number of games through a series of injuries, attendances at National Park had started to slide. The Ashton National manager lambasted the Ashton public for their failure “to repay us for our enterprise in signing such a famous player”.

However, there would be no reconciliation with Chelsea and Jackson joined Margate in the Kent League, who paid him £10 a week, plus expenses, for the remainder of the season, although another injury cut short his time there.

In the summer of 1933, and with Chelsea still seeking £4,000 for his registration he signed for OGC Nice for one season before moving on to Le Touquet, and giving up on football altogether at the age of only 28. The man who had been dubbed the best player in football a mere three years earlier may have made his point about the worth of star players, but, ultimately football lost one of it’s brightest stars far too soon.

During the Second World War Jackson, who still had a commission in the Territorials, fought in the Eighth Army in North Africa, and after being injured in Libya, he became Garrison Adjutant at Abbassia Barracks, Cairo, where, in a soccer match against a Springbok eleven he played righthalf, at the age of 37. The Garrison won 13—3.

After becoming a welfare officer in an Eighth Army rest camp in Italy, he harboured ambitions to promote a footballing tour of the UK with an Eighth Army football side. “An Eighth Army side would be a big attraction back home," he said. “Sportsmen everywhere would consider it an opportunity to pay tribute to the boys out here, while war charities would benefit enormously”.

At the end of the war, and by now, a Major, he extended his stay in Africa, and was assigned to the Suez Zone. In November 1946, he was driving a truck near the Suez Canal, when he lost control and overturned, suffering serious head injuries.

Aged just 41, Alec Jackson died in a Cairo hospital three days later. He left a wife and 10 year old twins. 

A RECORD ATTENDANCE AT HOPE STREET

posted 4 Oct 2019, 06:11 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 4 Oct 2019, 06:12 ]

This feature examined the day of the record attendance at Precot Cables' Hope Street ground. It was printed in the programme for the home game against Dunston on 14th September 2019. 

MEMORY MATCH: Prescot Cables v Ashton National

FA Cup Preliminary round, 17th September 1932

In today’s feature, we turn the clock back 87 years to September 1932, when Cables began their FA Cup campaign with a Preliminary round match against Ashton National. Remarkably, more than 8,000 fans packed the stands and terraces at Hope Street for the game. They had come to witness how the Cables would fare against the star studded, Cheshire League side, who included Alec Jackson, the ex-Huddersfield, Chelsea and Scotland international.  

Ashton National were an ambitious club who had amassed a squad of ex-League players and expected to challenge for honours. Principal amongst their new signings was that of Alec Jackson, who was in dispute with Chelsea, who had placed a £6,000 transfer fee on his head, at the end of the previous season. No League club had shown a willingness to match Chelsea’s valuation, so Alec had chosen to move, outside the jurisdiction of the Football League, and joined the Cheshire League side on a temporary basis. His contract was said to be 10% of the gate receipts, or a minimum of £15 per week, plus expenses.

Given that league footballers at the time were limited by a maximum wage of £8 per week, this was a lucrative venture for the former Scottish international, but something of a gamble for the Ashton directors.  The club gambled that the inclusion of a big “box office” name in their side would boost attendances sufficiently, that they would not be losing out in the innovative, but potentially risky, deal.

The Cheshire League side had entered the FA Cup for the first time in season 1932/33, and they were drawn to travel to Prescot for the Preliminary round tie. Local interest in the game was intense, especially when it was confirmed that Jackson would be playing, and the Prescot club secretary Bob ‘Tebay’ Rogers was anticipating the largest attendance in the club's history. These days it is hard to imagine a special train being run for a Prescot Cables match but, that day, four special excursion trains brought around 1,000 supporters from Ashton to Prescot station!

Jackson owned a pub and had other business interests in London, and still lived in the capital. He made the journey north on the Saturday morning, and was met at Lime Street station by the Ashton team manager and escorted to Prescot to join his teammates.  

The first half of the game was fairly dull, with both teams seeming to cancel each other out. However, seven minutes before half time Duncan Lindsay received an inside pass from Drinkwater and scored for the National. Shortly after, Joe Keegan fired a shot towards the Ashton goal, which was held by the visitor’s goalkeeper. Billy Howard and Fred Rogers crowded in on the ‘keeoer and one of them charged him into the back of the net. In the manner of the time, many believed it to be a fair challenge and the equalising goal, and the majority of the crowd celebrated wildly, only for the referee to signal a free kick, for a foul on the goalkeeper.

Half time: Prescot Cables 0, Ashton National 1

In the second half, the Cables were resurgent and overwhelmed their visitors. The Prescot Reporter noted that, “play became boisterous, and hard knocks were given and taken with equal rapidity”. Many in the crowd were asking, “where’s Jackson?”, as the football league man made little impression on the game, being outplayed by the clever and nimble Prescot defence.

Cables’ equaliser was a fine team goal. Joe Keegan dashed down the touchline with the ball at his toes and centred to Billy Howard. Howard passed it to Bob Cherry, who headed it back into the centre of the penalty area. Hector Hodgson flung himself full length at the ball and headed it into the net.

Ten minutes later, Hodgson scored a second, from a similar diving header, which the goalkeeper got his fingers to, but couldn’t keep out.

Just a minute later, Hodgson broke away and was tripped in the penalty area by Suttie. Tommy Naylor took the spot kick, but the visitors goalkeeper saved well. In increasing desperation, Ashton pressed for an equaliser, and Brown tried a shot from the halfway line, which nearly deceived home goalkeeper Jimmy Trill.

In the 89th minute Hodgson sealed the victory, and completed his hat trick, when he converted a cross by Cherry.

Final Score: Prescot Cables 3, Ashton National 1

Prescot Cables: Jimmy Trill, Tommy O’Brien, Tommy Naylor, Downey, Peter Burke, James ‘Paddy’ Kane, Joe Keegan, Billy Howard, Hector Hodgson, Fred Rogers, Bob Cherry

Ashton National: Arthur Briggs (ex Hull City & Tranmere Rovers): Smith (ex Bury), Gibson; Suttie (ex Manchester Central), Cecil White, capt. (ex Congleton Town & Wigan Borough), Slicer (ex Leicester City), Fred Smith (ex Stockport County), Alec Jackson (ex Chelsea), Duncan Lindsay (ex Newcastle United & Bury), N. Brown (ex Stockport County) and Jimmy Drinkwater.

Referee: Mr J Brown (Wigan)

Whilst it was a solid team performance by the Cables, special praise was reserved for several of the players.

Centre forward and hat trick hero, Hector Hodgson was playing in only his second game for Prescot Cables, and against an experienced and capable defence he showed that he had dribbling, heading, and shooting ability well above the average.

Nineteen-year old centre half Peter Burke, had joined Cables after being released by Liverpool in 1931. In May 1933 he moved to Oldham Athletic, where he made 99 appearances, scoring 6 goals, over 3 seasons. In 1935 he became Norwich City’s record signing, and appeared for the Canaries on 119 occasions. After the war he played one game for Southport, before rejoining Cables in 1946.

Billy Howard had a long association with Prescot Cables. A big crowd favourite, and a prolific scorer - he once grabbed five goals in a game against Accrington Stanley. Billy’s “enthusiastic” style led to a number of sendings off. In 1936 he was offered terms by Hull City, which he declined, but he later left Hope Street for Ashton National and Hyde United, but returned to the Prescot squad in 1938

The appearance of Jackson had, indeed, boosted the attendance, which has, subsequently, been quoted as 8,122, which still stands as the record attendance for the Hope Street ground.

When North Korea came to Merseyside

posted 29 Aug 2019, 08:53 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 29 Aug 2019, 08:54 ]

This story has always interested me, and I finally found the time to piece together a few different snippets to bring it together. It appeared in the Prescot Cables match programme for the first home game of the new season on August 20th, 2019.

In today’s feature we take a look back to the World Cup of 1966, staged in England; how one unknown football team won the hearts of the nation, and recall a little known local element to the remarkable story.

The groupings for qualifying stages of the 1966 World Cup were heavily stacked in favour of the European and South American countries. Of the 16 places available at the finals, only one was reserved for the whole of Africa, Asia and Oceania. As a result, thirty-one African nations boycotted the tournament in protest at their being no automatic qualifying place for an African country and a hugely complex qualifying system involving Asia, Oceanic and African countries.

This left South Africa, Australia, North Korea and South Korea to battle out qualification in a round-robin tournament. However, FIFA’s subsequent decision to ban South Africa, due to the apartheid regime there meant that qualification would be a mini tournament of three nations to be held in Japan. Because Australia did not formally recognise the state of North Korea, the venue for the mini qualification tournament was switched from Japan to Cambodia. As a result, the South Koreans withdrew for political reasons, meaning that qualification would be a straight shoot out between Australia and North Korea.

Soccer in Australia was still very much a minor sport at this time but, despite this, the team, largely made up of ex-pats, was confident of qualification and even commissioned a batch of 300, “Australia World Cup 1966” ties. The unknown quantity of North Korea easily defeated them in both playoff games (6 – 1 and 3 – 1), meaning that they qualified for the 1966 World Cup finals by playing a mere two games rather than the long, convoluted route that would otherwise have been required.

Initially there were doubts as to whether the squad would even be allowed to enter England. Like Australia, Britain had never formally recognised North Korea – or as it styled itself, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).  Archive records reveal that serious consideration was given by the British Government to refusing visas to the North Korean players and officials as a means of solving the problem, with civil servants concerned that allowing entry would cause diplomatic difficulties with Britain’s allies.

FIFA made it very plain to the FA that if any team who had won its way through to the finals was denied visas then the finals would take place elsewhere. FIFA’s diplomatic pressure won the day, facilitating the team's arrival in England. The only concession was that the team would be known as North Korea, rather than the DPRK. They were drawn in Group D, alongside the Soviet Union, Chile and one of the pre-tournament favourites, Italy.

All of North Korea’s games were scheduled to take place at Middlesbrough’s Ayresome Park stadium, and there were concerns that Teessiders would turn against them in view of their country's part in the Korean War, just 13 years earlier.

After flying into London, the Korean squad travelled north by train, bemusing fellow passengers by singing patriotic songs at full volume throughout the journey. By the time they arrived at the St. George Hotel in Middlesbrough, the tired and slightly bewildered players had fallen silent. Unable to speak a word of English, they struggled to communicate with their hosts, leading at one point to the Police being called to an apparent altercation at the Hotel, over a missed evening meal. However, any fears of animosity from the locals quickly evaporated.

After complaining that the practice ground specially laid out at their hotel was bumpy and that serious practice was "virtually impossible” they were given the use of Middlesbrough’s training ground at Hutton Road. However, they found that this, too, was not to their liking and finally found a training ground to suit them at the fifth attempt, just five days before their opening game. They completed their preparations on the I.C.I. chemical works ground at Billingham, and many locals turned out to watch them practice. Spectators were impressed by their technical ability, breathless all-out attacking style, impeccable manners and evident modesty. The locals noted that the North Koreans' average height was just 5ft 5in and that they played in red – the same colour as Middlesbrough – and immediately warmed to them.

Their opening game in Group 4 took place at Ayresome Park against the Soviet Union. The Koreans battled courageously and played some speedy football, but the European side was much stronger physically and two goals in a minute on the half-hour mark broke the resolve of the “tiny men with mighty hearts”. A third goal in the final minute sealed a 3-0 defeat. It looked like the plucky Korean adventure would be destined for an early end.

However, in their second game, their “astonishing energy, non-stop running and enough enthusiasm to move a range of mountains, brought them their success” when a late Korean goal resulted in a one-all draw against Chile, before just 13,792 rain soaked fans.

With Italy also losing out to the Soviet Union, but defeating the Chileans, the final game between North Korea and Italy would be crucial. A draw would see the double world champions through, but an unlikely victory for the North Koreans would see them qualify for the quarter finals.

Local fans headed to Ayresome Park looking forward to admiring Italy, but an early knee injury to their captain, meant that they had to play much of the game with 10 men (this was before substitutes were permitted). Five minutes before half time, Korea’s Pak Doo-Ik crashed the ball into the Italian net. The majority of the fans in the ground erupted in celebration. In the second half, the dogged North Koreans stood firm against the increasingly despondent and desperate Italians, and as the final whistle went, they had caused a sensation and qualified for the knock-out stages, with the Italians facing a return home to shame and ridicule.

In the quarter final the North Koreans would meet Portugal at Everton’s Goodison Park ground. Whilst most people were expecting, and perhaps even hoping for, a spirited show from the North Koreans, anything other than a Portuguese victory was unthinkable. If the Italians had been taken by surprise and hampered by being a man short, the Portuguese, featuring Eusébio - the Black Pearl - were unlikely to fall into the same trap.

The Italians had been confident of progress through the group stages, and knowing that the quarter- final was to be staged in Liverpool, they had made arrangements as early as February 1966 with Fr Peter Blake, the director of Loyola Hall, the Jesuit Spirituality Centre and Retreat, in Rainhill, to stay there before and after their game. They had even brought an engraved chalice to present to the residence in thanks.  

The Koreans, by contrast, had made no plans, as they hadn't expected to progress in the competition. On the Thursday before the quarter final, the North Korean party of 75 moved from Teesside to Merseyside, where they were accommodated at Loyola Hall, in the rooms which had originally been reserved for the Italian squad. The Koreans also had the use of the team bus which had been used by the Brazilian squad during the qualifying stages on Merseyside. It is said that they even held a training session at the Prescot B.I. Social ground, although I have been unable to corroborate that.

For the Koreans, the experience of living in the retreat was unnerving. They had always slept in team dormitories, now they were put in single rooms. Many eventually took to sleeping two to a room. The squad considered that the rooms had 'strange pictures' - presumably the religious iconography of the retreat - which they found unsettling. After some negotiation the pictures were removed. But, worst of all was the chapel, which was floodlit at night and was dominated by a huge crucifix. Having no particular religious connotations for the Koreans, nor previous experience of the image, the players only saw a figure of a man in pain with 'scary nails' in his hands and feet. Amongst all this, it is no wonder they all had difficulty sleeping at their new camp!

Shortly after their arrival, Mr Danny English, the manager of the Ship Hotel, which still stands opposite the main entrance to Loyola Hall in Rainhill, was startled to receive a request to provide drinks for the entire Korean party. “Certainly”, he replied, “just let me know what you require and I will supply it. I thought it was a trifle strange for I’d heard that the Korean team were teetotallers, but I figured I must be mistaken, and I waited for the big order to come across from Loyola Hall. It sounded like being a good one for business. When their man arrived at the Hotel with the order, you know what they wanted? A hundred bottles of Soda Water, nothing else! It shook me a bit, but I managed to find them 99 bottles in the cellar and sent them over. No wonder those Koreans play football with so much bubble!

With the North Korea now established as instant heroes with the Boro fans, it was reported that 3,000 people from Middlesbrough travelled to Liverpool to see them play Portugal in the quarter-final at Goodison Park. Remarkably, the game was not a sell-out, and spectators were able to paying 7 shillings and sixpence (37½ pence) at cash turnstiles on the day for admission the game!

The match was less than a minute old when Pak Seung Jin hit a shot from outside the area that flew past the Portugal goalkeeper, and into the top left-hand of the net to give the North Koreans a shock lead. Somewhat against the run of play, in the 22nd minute, a cross from the right eluded the Portuguese keeper at the far post and Dong-Woon Lee was there to put it into an empty net. The North Koreans were two up! The crowd was lapping up the excitement, and began chanting “easy, easy”, and “We want three”.

Shortly after, Pak Doo-Ik hit a shot from outside of the area that was blocked by a defender, but it fell invitingly to Seung-Kook Yang. “He must score. He must score,” shouted David Coleman in the match commentary for TV, as the player dribbled the ball round a defender and paced it in the back of the net. Sensationally, just 24 minutes into the game and North Korea led by three goals!

However, the shell-shocked Portugal rallied and with the Koreans still naïvely piling forward - defence wasn’t part of their game - Eusébio showed just why he was one of the best players of his era. He single-handedly dragged his side back into the game and went on to net four goals in just over a half-hour, either side of the break, including two penalties. José Augusto added a fifth just before the end.

Portugal went on to lose to England in the semi-final and the North Koreans returned home, but not before they presented to Loyola Hall, the chalice which had been passed on to them by the Italians.  The chalice, and other material commemorating the Korean World Cup football team’s visit are kept in the Loyola Hall archives to this day.

Some reports say that when the Korean squad returned home many members of squad were sent to the gulags for their shaming of the country in the manner of their defeat. However, this has been strongly disputed by most documentarians, and the squad is still held in high regard by Pyongyang.

An excellent BBC documentary of the North Koreans exploits in the World Cup 1966, called The Game of Their Lives, can be viewed on You Tube.

Prescot’s POWs

posted 24 Apr 2019, 03:45 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 24 Apr 2019, 03:45 ]

This is another story that I have been aware of for some time, but had found difficulty in "fleshing out". A trip to the Archive section at Kirkby Library led me to the local newspaper microfilm files, which filled in much of the detail. 

The story was featured in the match programme for the Prescot Cables v Newcatle Town game on 13th April, 2019 - meaning that I had two historical features published in the same edition - very proud!

The story of Bert Trautmann’s journey from German prisoner of war to Manchester City goalkeeping legend and Wembley hero, is probably one of the most well-known in football circles, and it will gain a new audience thanks to the release of the new movie, The Keeper. 

With the film in cinemas now, it is topical to look at Prescot Cables’ own story of German ex-prisoners of war.

More than a year after the end of World War II, there were still over 400,000 German prisoners of war (POWs) being held in camps across Britain. They were mainly put to work in agriculture and on other tasks to rebuild Britain, such as brickmaking, construction and road repair. POWs even helped to construct Wembley Way for the 1948 Olympics.

Public sympathy for the POWs was growing steadily. The freedoms for which the war had been fought were being denied to the German POWs. Treating the defeated men in this way was considered cruel, and behaviour which might be expected of the Nazis. By the end of 1946, repatriation had started, but criticism of the slowness of the process continued until it was completed in 1948.

However, a significant number of the POWs were reluctant to return to Germany because, for example, their original home was now within the Soviet-controlled sector, or they had formed a relationship with a British woman. The UK Government introduced a scheme under which men could be discharged from their prisoner status and could apply to stay on in Britain, as civilian workers. About 25,000 men were granted this status.

The trial game for Prescot Cables prior to the 1948/49 season, featured three former German prisoners of war, who were now living locally.

One of them, Albrecht, particularly caught the eye. Writing in the Prescot Reporter, correspondent, “Winger” noted, “Not big, he is nevertheless an obvious athlete and his play is tireless, intelligent and altogether admirable, He thinks ahead, and before he gets the ball has the situation ‘taped’. His passes, accurate and effortless, are invariably directed with the idea of systematic progress. Albrecht is certainly a good footballer.

The only fly in the ointment as I see it, is that in defence, Albrecht relies almost entirely on intelligence whereas a good brisk, clean tackle is, at times, the only effective method.”

However, “Winger” was not so fulsome in his assessment of the other two Germans. “Countryman Marschallek’s energy and physique would be a Godsend if it wasn’t for the fact that his idea of the game is somewhat rudimentary. Time and again he passed the ball back towards his own territory when he could have had a crack at goal with advantage. Little was seen of the other German, Lobedan. I do not think either of the other two Germans are worthy of consideration for a place in the first team – just now at any rate.”

Despite, “Wingers” assessment, only one, Walter Marzchellech, made the breakthrough into the Cables squad. Described as a big, gangling, awkward looking forward, he made his Cables debut away at New Brighton Reserves in September 1948, before marking his home debut with a first minute goal in a 3 – 0 win against Ashton United, four days later.  

The Prescot team was, Alf Hobson, Sid Stanley, Harry Topping, Bill Rogers, Bert Jelly, Bill Rainford, Terry Garner, Walter Marzchellech, Jimmy Veacock, Sandy Lyon, and Bobby Middleham.

Contemporary newspaper reports variously referred to him using substitutions of s, z, e, a, ch, gh and k. It seems that many also struggled to pronounce the unfamiliar name, leading Cables’ tannoy announcer at Hope Street, Bill Martindale, to helpfully report that, “For the benefit of our supporters, may we announce that the christian name of our German friend, is Walter”!

There does not appear to have been any post-war, anti-german sentiment towards the player, and Marzchellech soon won a place in the hearts of the Cables’ supporters thanks to his enthusiastic play and goal scoring. He was especially popular with the younger fans. After one match he was so much the target of juvenile autograph hunters that police officers deemed it necessary to intervene and escort him to the dressing room.

Walter celebrated his engagement to a local girl, Vera Riding, by scoring a hat-trick (including two penalties) in a 7 – 0 home victory over Stoneycroft in the Preliminary round of the FA Cup in September 1948.

By October 1948 the Hull Daily Mail was already reporting that “Another attraction for the scouts at Prescot is the German inside forward Marzhellch (sic) of Breslau, who is 28. A strong marksman and a player who is considered well above the Lancashire Combination standard.”

However, his sparkling early form soon deteriorated. A newspaper report of the time noted that “Marzchallek shows little sign of developing into the right kind of inside forward and appears to have lost his greatest asset – speed. His falling off has been as unusual as his quick rise.” In the FA Cup defeat at Rhyl, Walter was cautioned by the referee for foul play. On being spoken to by the official, his reply was, “Me don’t play dirty, me play hard.”

Despite a switch from inside forward to centre forward, he was quickly dropped from the first team.

Because of the agreement with Liverpool FC, Cables were not running a reserve team, and this lack of playing opportunity was causing disquiet amongst players not in the first eleven. Consequently, players of the calibre of Sandy Lyon, Freddie Kilshaw and Harry Boydell were all seeking moves away from Hope Street to secure regular football.

In December 1948, Walter joined the exodus and was granted permission to play for St Helens Town, where played 5 games, scoring 2 goals, including one on his debut, and actually played in the same side as Bert Trautmann.

He returned to Hope Street in April 1949 during their congested run-in to the season. He appeared in just a couple more first team games for Cables, but his football still failed to impress the reporters, being described as, “a trier, but no more”.

Walter moved from Prescot Cables to newly promoted, Bootle in August 1949, along with teammate Eddie “Jock” Anderson. He later played for Ellesmere Port Town.

He married his fiancée in 1949 and settled in the Longview area of Huyton. In March 1955, the London Gazette reported that he had been granted a UK Certificate of Naturalisation. By this time he had anglicised his name to Walter Marshall, and was working as a welder.

Walter was involved in local junior football for many years, including a couple of spells as manager of Huyton United.

The Greatest all-round sportsmen you’ve probably never heard of

posted 24 Apr 2019, 03:38 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 24 Apr 2019, 03:38 ]

This story was originally written for inclusion in the Senior Cup Final programme. However, the Editor forgot that he had it! It finally surfaced in the match programme for the game against Newcastle Town on 13th April 2019. I have been fascinated by these two remarkable men, since reading books about each of them, and came across them again whilst researching the Northern Nomads.

 

The City of Liverpool has produced more than it’s fair share of sporting heroes.

Born just a few miles, and a few months, apart in Liverpool in 1892 were two boys who became phenomenal polymath sportsmen. They remain virtually unknown, yet they should be celebrated amongst the city’s greatest.

Growing up, the paths of the two boys took very different directions.

Benjamin Howard Baker’s father, a ”wholesale druggist”,  was determined that his son should not go to public school, and he was educated at Marlborough College, a small independent preparatory and secondary school in Liverpool. After completing his schooling, the young Benjamin entered the family chemicals business in the city. By contrast, Max Woosnam, the son of the chaplain for the Mersey Mission to Seamen, spent most of his early childhood in Aberhafesp in Mid Wales and was sent to boarding school at the age of seven, then on to Winchester College and Cambridge University.

The paths of the pair did not cross until the early 1920’s, but they went on to become great friends, and even played football for the same Chelsea, Northern Nomads and Corinthians sides on several occasions.

These days, the term ‘amateur’ is often used in a derogatory way to mean poor or second rate. However, the true meaning of the French word is that of a lover of something. Thus, a century ago an amateur sportsman was regarded as one who loved participating in sport for it’s own sake, rather than for monetary gain. Throughout their sporting careers, both Howard Baker and Woosnam remained staunchly amateur, even when playing alongside full-time professionals for club and country. Their love of the game was absolute.

Benjamin Howard Baker excelled in a wide range of sports from an early age. He was introduced to athletics after his father took him to the Liverpool Harriers club in an effort to ‘tire him out and stop him jumping about’. Tall and agile, he was an all-round athlete, although he specialised in the High Jump discipline for Liverpool Harriers. He was the AAA champion six times, and Northern champion seven times. He also won Northern honours at the Discus, Hammer, Long Jump, Pole Vault, Hurdles and Javelin.

Howard Baker held the British High Jump record on three separate occasions – his 1921 record of 6’5” (1.95 m) stood for 28 years. The Daily Telegraph lauded him as “The Liverpool jumper with the figure of Apollo”. He was selected to compete for his country at the 1912 Olympics, in the High Jump, Standing Jump and Triple Jump. In the 1920 Olympics, he finished sixth in the High Jump and eighth in the Triple Jump competition.

In football, he played, as a centre-half, for Marlborough Old Boys and Liverpool Balmoral, represented Lancashire and had trials for England amateurs in that position. He was signed, as an amateur, by Blackburn Rovers. However, he did not make any first team appearances for the Ewood Park outfit before the Great War intervened. He had the reputation of being the longest dead ball kicker of the time.

An ankle injury sustained on mine-sweeping duty on a Q boat during the war forced him to switch to goalkeeping, and it was in this position that he played for Preston North End and Liverpool at reserve team level after the war. After impressing for the Reds in a reserve derby fixture, Baker was signed by Everton in November 1920. In all, he appeared more than 100 times in League games for Everton, Chelsea and Oldham Athletic.   

Throughout his time with professional clubs, he maintained his amateur status and also played a number of games with the famous amateur sides, Northern Nomads, and after his move to London, with the Corinthians, when he wasn’t appearing in League teams. He earned his first senior England selection in May 1921, keeping a clean sheet in a 2-0 victory over Belgium.  He also made ten appearances for the England Amateur team.

His propensity for producing spectacular saves and juggling the ball, basketball-style, made him a firm favourite amongst spectators. He often used his pre-war outfield experience to charge out of his area, Sweeper-style, to clear the ball, in a manner otherwise unseen at this time.

A true all-rounder, Howard Baker also played for Liverpool Cricket Club, scoring two centuries, was an international goalkeeper in water polo and played tennis at Wimbledon and won the doubles event at the Welsh Indoor Open Tennis tournament in 1932. He was also a star turn as an exhibition swimmer and diver, and even found time to row, sail and box!

In 1962 Basil Easterbrook of the Lancashire Evening Telegraph eloquently summed up this exceptional sportsman: “Howard-Baker loved football, but very properly he only sought it as a balance from his other life as a manufacturing chemist… Baker played for fun outside of the shadow of the pay envelope.

Maxwell Woosnam was a ball-playing all-rounder, who excelled at every sport he played. His abilities were first noted during his schooldays where he captained both the golf and cricket teams as well as representing the school at football and squash. He even scored a century for a Public Schools XI against the M.C.C. at Lords.

Tall, with rugged good looks, topped with a shock of blond hair neatly parted in the centre, Max Woosnam was the archetypal Boys Own Paper hero.

At Cambridge he represented the university at cricket, lawn tennis and real tennis, and captained the football team. He also honed his skills to become a scratch golfer. After leaving Cambridge, Woosnam took part in the famous Corinthian tour of Brazil in the summer of 1913 where he became one of the stars of the touring team.

At the outbreak of the Great War, Woosnam enlisted with the Montgomeryshire Yeomanry and fought at Gallipoli as well as on the Western front, earning a distinction for his bravery. After the war, Woosnam moved to work in Manchester and joined Manchester City, as an amateur, initially playing only in the home games, claiming that away trips would interfere with his work.

At the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games he won tennis gold in the men’s doubles and silver in the mixed doubles – on the same day!

His popularity at City was such that his teammates elected him team captain – a rare honour for an amateur in a professional side – leading them to runners-up spot in the First Division, before heading to Wimbledon that summer to collect the men’s doubles title.  He also captained the British Davis Cup team in America in 1921.

The following year, he was selected, and appointed captain, for England’s 1-0 win over Wales at Anfield, in what was, surprisingly, to be his only international football appearance. 

As a footballer, Woosnam would never enter the field of play without a freshly laundered pocket handkerchief and often played carrying it in his left hand.

Both men were not averse to a bit of showmanship.

Woosnam, as a member of the British Davis Cup Tennis team, was invited to a house party at Charlie Chaplin’s Hollywood mansion, whilst in America. Max and Charlie took an instant dislike to one other. Challenged to a friendly game of table tennis by his host, Woosnam promptly won the match using a butter knife as a bat (his great party-piece). Chaplin was not amused – especially when Woosnam later threw his host into his own swimming pool – and retired to his room until the tennis players had left.

Sometimes, during half-time at a match, Howard Baker would stay on the pitch and perform demonstrations of high jumping to entertain the crowd. He, too had a party-piece, which he ably demonstrated at a function in Paris, jumping up to kick a chandelier – which greatly impressed the famous socialite and actress, Lily Langtry, who witnessed it.

After his sporting career, Woosnam spent most of his working life in personnel at ICI in Cheshire, eventually joining the board of the company. Yet he still found time to manage and coach the works team during a successful run in the FA Amateur Cup in the 1930’s. Howard Baker continued working in the family wholesale drugs, cleaning products and soap business, eventually taking over from his father and becoming a highly regarded figure in Merseyside business circles.

Max Woosnam died in 1965 of respiratory problems brought on by his lifetime of smoking (and probably not helped by working at Chemical plants?). Benjamin Howard Baker outlived his contemporary by more than 20 years, dying at the age of 95, regretting only that he never had the opportunity to try the ‘Fosbury Flop’ high jump technique invented more than 40 years after he retired.

Both men’s lives and achievements are now largely forgotten, as neither sought to gain acclaim for their prodigious talents and deeds. Neither had a desire to draw attention to themselves or recognition in the newspaper columns of the time. Woosnam considered it ‘the height of bad manners’ to talk about himself, and claimed the idea of turning professional was ‘vulgar’.

Both men were content to play hard, do their best and to enjoy their sport.

We shall never see their like again.

Red, Wolf, Tiger, Black Cat - Len Ashurst

posted 24 Apr 2019, 03:32 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 24 Apr 2019, 03:33 ]

This story was originally scheduled to appear in the match programme for the game against Leek Town on March 30th, 2019. However, the game was postponed, and the programme was re-used for the rearranged game on 9th April, 2019. During the research for this feature, I was able to have a telephone conversation with Len, to confirm some of the details. He was very helpful, and still takes a keen interest in footballing matters on Merseyside.


Len Ashurst was born in March 1939 in Fazakerley, Liverpool. Initially a centre-half, he was moved to left-back by Liverpool Schoolboys as the team were short on naturally left-footed players, and he helped the side to win the English Schools Trophy with an 8–1 aggregate win over Southampton Schoolboys.

He was signed to the ground staff at Liverpool in 1954. He was also serving an apprenticeship as a compositor at a printers called Elliot & Yeoman in Liverpool. Ashurst spent three years on Liverpool's books and became an England youth international, winning seven caps in the 1956–57 season.

Having just returned from an England trip to Barcelona, Ashurst found a letter waiting for him, telling him to report to Anfield for his debut with the reserve-team the following day. Ashurst had just played three games in four days in Spain and, not surprisingly, played poorly for the Reds second string. After that game the Liverpool manager, Phil Taylor, called Ashurst into his office and told him that he was not being offered a professional contract and was being released.

Die-hard Reds fan, Len Ashurst’s world was suddenly turned upside down. [Some years later, Bill Shankly would tell him, “Lenny, you should’a been a Liverpool player, laddie”]

The devastated player quickly received offers from two other clubs – Everton and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Coming from a family of Liverpudlians, Everton was never an option and Ashurst was signed by Stan Cullis for Wolverhampton Wanderers on amateur terms for the 1957-58 season. Soon after his arrival in the Midlands he was selected for a Wolves’ third team game at Bilston. Whilst waiting at Molineux to board the coach, the Sunderland first team arrived for their league game against Wolves.

The England youth coach George Curtis was assisting Sunderland manager Alan Brown. Curtis expressed surprise to see Ashurst standing there and when told that he was playing for Wolves' third team, he advised young Len to secure his release and there would be a professional contract waiting for him at Sunderland. Ashurst formulated a plan to facilitate the move.  

In order to gain his release from Wolves, the young scouser boldly told the formidable Cullis that he didn’t like the travelling, nor the set-up he found himself in Molyneux, and wanted to leave professional football to continue his printing apprenticeship at home, and to play, as an amateur, for Prescot Cables. Cullis reluctantly, but immediately, agreed, although if had known it was a ploy, it is unlikely that he would’ve been so amenable!  

During a recent conversation with Len Ashurst, I asked him why he had chosen Prescot Cables over the other potential clubs on Merseyside. He told me that it had been on the suggestion of his Dad, as Cables were doing well and were, probably, the top team, locally, at the time. [Cables had won the Lancashire Combination in 1957, and just a few weeks before his move had reached the first round proper of the F.A. Cup for the first time in their history].

Ashurst approached Cables as a free agent and was immediately signed on. I also asked Len, if the Cables management was aware of the plan to move to Sunderland. He confirmed that he had kept his intentions to himself!

Len Ashurst made his debut for Cables second string against Horwich RMI Reserves, at Hope Street on 7th December 1957, and made a favourable impression in a 2 – 1 defeat, in a team which included six professionals with first team experience. Ashurst also played the following week for the Reserves at Lytham, before the club received a seven-day notice from Sunderland to talk to the player.

Sunderland had secured a printing apprenticeship in the North East, enabling Ashurst to transfer his indentures, and he signed part-time professional forms at Roker Park on 27th December 1957. He made his debut for the reserve team the following day.

As an Amateur, Cables did not receive any fee, or goodwill payment from Sunderland for the move.

Ashurst first appeared for the first team in September 1958, and went on to make 458 appearances for Sunderland, putting him second in the all-time appearances list in the club’s history, and one of only two outfield players to top 400 appearances. He scored four Sunderland goals during his 13 years at the club. A ferocious and fearless tackler, and a little ‘hot-headed’ in his early years, he earned the nickname “Psycho”, long before it was famously applied to Stuart Pearce. Ashurst soon settled down to become a solid and reliable full back. Remarkably, he only gained one cap – an appearance for England under-23’s against West Germany at White Hart Lane in 1961.

He moved to Hartlepool United, as player manager in 1970, playing 53 times and scoring twice.

Ashurst was a real no-nonsense kind of manager, who often bemused his players with unusual expressions to motivate his teams, saying things like, 'I want you to go out and eat rocks' or 'go and rip the doors up'.

He went on to manage Gillingham, Sheffield Wednesday, Newport County (overseeing the most successful period in the club's history, including promotion to the Third Division, winning the Welsh Cup, and reaching the quarter finals of the European Cup Winners' Cup, in 1980/81, before losing to Carl Zeiss Jena) and Cardiff City (securing promotion from the third division in 1982/83), before returning to Sunderland as manager in March 1984.

Despite taking them to their first ever League Cup final, his time as Sunderland manager was not successful, and the team was relegated from the first division. Ashurst was sacked in May 1985, and took a role as coach with the Kuwait national football team and later the Qatar national football team.

After returning to England, he was appointed assistant manager of Blackpool and then, in September 1989, he returned for a second spell as manager of Cardiff City. He spent two years at Ninian Park, before resigning in 1991 as the team struggled both on and off the pitch. His last managerial role was a one-year stay at Weymouth.

During the mid-1990s, Ashurst became heavily involved in an administrator's role at the Football Association. In 2002, he became a Premier League match delegate, and was tasked with independent assessment of match officials.

Considered a legend in his adopted Wearside, Ashurst now lives in quiet retirement in Whitburn, Sunderland, with his wife, Valerie.

The Liverpool Senior Cup

posted 24 Apr 2019, 03:22 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 24 Apr 2019, 03:23 ]

This piece was written for the final of the Liverpool Senior Cup, on April 2nd 2019, which saw Cables into their fourth consecutive final, having won it in the previous two years. The full story of the Liverpool Senior Cup is little documented and the fact that this game would be the 125th staging of the final tie, was too good an opportunity to miss to try to tell some of the background. Most of it was discovered from delving into back copies of local newspapers through the excellent British Newspaper Archive.


The Liverpool Senior Cup is the premier knockout tournament staged by the Liverpool County Football Association.

The competition is one of the oldest County Cup tournaments in the country, having first been staged in season 1882/83, with the competition being held in most seasons since then. The Cup was suspended during the First World War, but was played throughout the Second World War. During the 1960’s there were several seasons where the competition was left unfinished, due to fixture congestion, ground unavailability etc. Consequently, this evening’s match marks a milestone as the 125th Final tie of the competition during it’s 136 year history.

The first winners of the Competition, in 1883, were the original Bootle side. Bootle would win the trophy on two more occasions in the 1880’s before going on to play one season as a football league club in 1892 and folding soon after.

The format of the tournament has changed on several occasions.

In the early days the tournament was an open, knock-out competition, contested by the leading teams across the region, including sides from as far afield as Southport, Skelmersdale, St Helens and Chester.

In season 1892/93 the first change was made when the competition was limited to eight invited sides, being Aigburth Vale, Aintree Church, Bootle, Chester, Earlestown, Everton, Liverpool and Southport Central. The final of the revamped competition was the occasion of the first ever competitive meeting of Liverpool and Everton Football Clubs, played at Bootle’s Hawthorne Road ground. As the Liverpool Mercury noted, “It is the very irony of fate that these two clubs should be thus thrown together after having designedly kept apart hitherto for well understood reasons. They are the divided representation of the old Everton Club, and having taken rival sides on a matter of policy, are in strong competition for local prestige, almost to estrangement. However, they meet at last, and the issue of their first contest will be watched with great interest”. Everton showed their disdain for the final tie, by arranging first team friendly against the Glasgow side, Renton, for the same day. In the event, Liverpool won this first “derby” game, 1–0.

Everton dominated the tournament up to the turn of the Century, with only the short-lived Rock Ferry club breaking the Blues grip of the trophy. This led to a serious falling off of interest taken by spectators in the Senior Cup. As a result, in 1901 the Liverpool County FA revamped the competition, again, and ten of the strongest teams in the district were entered to compete for the handsome cup and medals offered. They were Everton, Liverpool, Southport Central, Wrexham, Tranmere Rovers, Birkenhead, Melrose, White Star Wanderers, Hudson's, and Warrington. Everton and Liverpool were exempted from the first two rounds of the tournament, giving them free passage into the semi-finals. Looking back, it does seem remarkable that Wrexham – even as leaders of the Football Combination – were invited to participate!

By 1903, the LCFA decided to dispense with the qualifying rounds for the Senior Cup and leave the final to be fought out between Everton and Liverpool, with the proceeds of the gate to be divided, equally, between the Association and the two clubs.

This arrangement persisted for the next ten years, until the competition was expanded to four clubs for the 1913/14 season, with Merseyside’s other two league sides, Tranmere Rovers, and New Brighton making up the numbers alongside Everton and Liverpool, who now fielded their reserve elevens.

The four team arrangement continued after the war. However, despite the Blues and the Reds continuing to dominate the competition, the LCFA eliminated the reserve team requirement in 1925, allowing teams to place their strongest sides on the field, should they think fit to do so.

For the 1927/28 season, Merseyside’s fifth league club, Southport, affiliated with the Liverpool County Football Association and applied for entry into the Liverpool Senior Cup. As this now became a five team tournament, it necessitated the introduction of a preliminary round tie, before the semi-finals.

In 1929, Liverpool set the record score for the Senior Cup Final, when they thrashed Tranmere Rovers by nine goals to nil, at Anfield.

In 1931, Southport won the trophy for the first time, defeating Tranmere Rovers in the final, and breaking a 34 year stranglehold on the cup by Everton and Liverpool. The Sandgrounders retained the cup the following season.

For season 1935/36, Merseyside’s three Lancashire Combination teams, South Liverpool, Marine and Prescot Cables, were invited to enter the Senior Cup, making it an 8 team knock-out tournament.

The Senior Cup competition continued during the Second World War and, once again, the tournament was restricted to just the five Merseyside clubs in the football league. 

However, the 1940/41 competition was unfinished and scrapped, due to fixture congestion at the end of the season. To avoid a repeat, it was agreed that the 1941/42 cup ties would be telescoped into the Football League games, and either Regional or League War Cup matches could also count also for the Liverpool Senior Cup.

With New Brighton dropping out in the 1942/43 season, the completion saw the introduction of two-legged semi-finals, which also doubled up as league games. Remarkably, it was undecided whether the final, between Liverpool and Everton, would be a one-off game, or two-legged – even after Liverpool won, at Anfield, by 4 goals to 1. Eventually, it was decided that a second leg would be played at Goodison Park, which was won by Everton, but Liverpool lifted the trophy, 6 – 4 on aggregate. During these wartime games, it was common practice for clubs to include some guest players, in the team. However, Southport took this to extremes in lifting the 1944 trophy, naming 10 guest players in their side for each of the two final games against Everton!

In season 1949/50, the Liverpool County F.A. introduced a new competition, known as the Liverpool Non-League Senior Cup, in order to provide a trophy for the area’s senior clubs outside the Football League. The final was a two-legged affair – the first contested by Bootle and South Liverpool. Prescot Cables reached the final of this competition five times in the first 12 years, defeating Skelmersdale United (twice) and Bootle, and losing to New Brighton and South Liverpool.

The two competitions ran side-by-side for nearly three decades, but by the mid-1960’s there were a number of seasons when the competition was not concluded, mainly because Liverpool and Everton could not fit in the extra games involved owing to a glut of priority fixtures in the League, F.A. and F.L. Cups and European matches. Interest in the Liverpool Senior Cup was waning. Similarly, for the non-league sides, the Senior Cup was becoming more of a hindrance and clubs were increasing indifferent to participation.

It was clear that change was needed, and for season 1977/78 the two Senior Cup competitions were merged into a new Liverpool Senior Cup, with the inclusion of the area’s top non-league sides, alongside the four Football League clubs (who were exempted to the quarter finals). The following year Southport failed to gain re-election to the Football League, but continued to compete in the Senior Cup as a Norther Premier League side.

Formby were the first winners of the restyled tournament, beating Tranmere Rovers 1 – 0 in the final, to lift the original, handsome trophy.  1969 saw the first all-amateur final when Marine defeated Guiness Exports. In 1979/80, Prescot Town reached the final but were narrowly beaten 1 – 0 by a strong Liverpool reserve side.

Liverpool and Everton have, both, won the trophy on several occasions since the merger of the tournaments. Although they have not taken part in recent seasons, Liverpool have won the trophy on the most occasions (8, plus one shared), closely followed by Marine (7) and Everton (6, plus one shared).

However, there is no doubt that the inclusion of the non-league sides revitalised the competition and has seen it develop into one of the top County Cup Competitions. Since 2000, teams from the EvoStik (Northern Premier) and Hallmark Security (North West Counties) Leagues, such as Burscough, Marine, Skelmersdale United, Bootle, AFC Liverpool, and Prescot Cables have all reached the final. In 2009, Waterloo Dock became the first side from the Liverpool County Premier League to reach the final.

Overall, Everton and Liverpool dominate the Liverpool Senior Cup winners table, but this may be considered a somewhat meaningless statistic, given that, for many years they were the only teams eligible to contest the final, or were the senior sides in the four match tournament.

Should Prescot Cables win the game tonight, it will be their third consecutive victory in the competition. If Southport triumph, it will be their 12th victory overall (including two shared), and their 5th in the “open” era.

Memory Match: Cables electrify Prenton Park

posted 27 Mar 2019, 03:15 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 27 Mar 2019, 03:23 ]

Tranmere Rovers v Prescot Cables: Liverpool Senior Cup Semi Final – February 2012

This piece featured in the match programme for the Prescot Cables v Widnes semi final tie in the 2018/19 Liverpool County FA Senior Cup. 
As a supporter of both clubs, it was a great story to write up. 

For this Memory Match feature, we turn the clock back seven years to the Liverpool Senior Cup Semi-Final on February 28th, 2012, when Prescot Cables travelled to Prenton Park to play Tranmere Rovers.

Cables had been beaten 7 – 6 on penalties by Southport in the previous round, but had been reinstated after the Sandgrounders were expelled for fielding an ineligible player.

This was new manager Shaun Reid’s third game in charge of Cables, and one he was looking forward to. “This is an excellent opportunity for these lads to show they can play at a higher level,” said Reid. “It’s 11 versus 11 and if our eleven want it enough and work hard enough then we can get something out of the game”.

However, the new manager was concerned about the fitness levels of his side and feared that their undoing could be in the final stages when fatigue would strike the part-time players. 
Shaun Garnett named a very strong looking Tranmere side for the tie, including a number of players with considerable first team experience.

Cables began the game brightly and deserved the lead, on 20 minutes, when a long free kick was not dealt with by the Tranmere defence, allowing Steven Tames to sneak in, unmarked at the far post to turn the ball in. Tranmere’s ex Swansea and Leeds star Andy Robinson netted an equaliser ten minutes later, firing a low free kick from the edge of the box past the wall and the despairing dive of Steven Loughrigg. 

However, within five minutes Cables went ahead again, when Tames’ shot from the angle of the penalty area took a wicked deflection off Mark McChrystal, which wrong-footed the keeper and nestled inside the near post.

Half Time: Tranmere Rovers 1, Prescot Cables 2

Just a minute into the second half, Tranmere thought they had levelled the game again when Bakayogo’s cross was volleyed home by Andy Robinson, but the strike was ruled out by a flag for offside. Rovers piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser, which eventually game just before the hour after Longrigg was unable to hold a stinging long range shot and Zoumana Bakayogo turned in the rebound. 

Cables were full of character and fight, epitomised by a Man of the Match performance from captain, Joe Gibiliru. Indeed, Cables had the ball in the net again, when a deep free kick was glanced into the net by Freddie Potter. Unfortunately for Cables the lineswoman on the near side flagged for offside.

With the scores level, Tranmere went ahead for the first time in the match in the 89th minute when neat interplay down the left between Akins and Bakayogo led to a square ball across the box for Joe Conchie to tap into an empty net.   However, the Cables heads did not drop and they belied their Manager’s fears of fatigue when, four minutes into added time, John Couch’s deep cross from the right wing was placed perfectly onto the head of Michael Grogan to nod the ball into the far corner and snatch a dramatic equaliser, to the disgust of Rovers manager, who complained bitterly to the referee about the amount of stoppage time played.

Full Time: Tranmere Rovers 3, Prescot Cables 3

In extra time, the fitness of the Tranmere players began to tell and Rovers went ahead again just before half time in extra time, when neat footwork by Ellis Healing played in Conchie to blast the ball past Longrigg.

Incredibly, within a minute, never say die Cables came back again. A ball played into the Tranmere area was headed on to Steven Tames. With his back to goal, he completed his hat trick with an audacious back heel, to the disbelief of the Rovers defenders and goalkeeper, and the delight of the small band of travelling fans.

Unsurprisingly, the pace of the game dropped in the second half of extra time, and several Cables players were affected by cramp after giving their all. Lucas Akins flashed shots past the post and bar for the homesters, but with no further scoring, the match went to a penalty shootout.

Full time after Extra Time: Tranmere Rovers 4, Prescot Cables 4

Josh Labadie, Will Vaulks and Michael Kay for Rovers and Joe Gibiliru and Steven Tames for Prescot all successfully converted their spot kicks, at the Cowshed end, before the decisive moment of the match. Liam Hollett blasted Cables’ third penalty straight down the middle, but Andy Coughlin in the home goal, diving to his left stuck out a strong right hand to prevent the goal, and give Tranmere the advantage.

Joe Conchie netted Tranmere’s fourth, meaning that Michael Grogan had to score to keep Cables in the tie. He coolly sent the keeper the wrong way, but Lucas Akins kept his composure to convert for Rovers and win the tie.

Penalties:

Tranmere Rovers Prescot Cables
 Labadie 1 - 0 
  1 - 1 Gibiliru
 Vaulks 2 - 1 
  2 - 2 Tames
 Kay 3 - 2 
  3 - 2 Coughlin save from Hollett
 Conchie 4 -2 
  4 -3 Grogan
 Akins 5 - 3 

Tranmere Rovers win 5 – 3 on penalties

TRANMERE ROVERS (4-4-1-1): Andy Coughlin, Will Vaulks, Michael Kay, Mark McCrystal, Zoumana Bakayogo (Steve Wainwright 91), Jake Kirby, Joss Labadie, Ellis Healing, Lucas Akins, Andy Robinson (Joe Conchie 60), Enoch Showumni (Ellis Appleton 60). 
Sub not used: John Courtney (gk).

Goals: Robinson (30) Bakayogo (59) Conchie (89, 104)

PRESCOT CABLES (4-1-4-1): Stephen Longrigg, Michael Grogan, Liam Hollett, Stuart McMullan, Colin Flood, Joe Gibiliru, John Couch, Jacob Baptista (Tony James 80), Chris Rowntree (Chris McGann 69), James Thomas (Freddie Potter 58), Steven Tames. 
Subs not used: Francis Foy, Jack Booth.

Goals: Tames (20, 35, 105) Grogan (90)

Attendance: 273

The defeat was heart-breaking for Liam Hollett and for the Man of the Match Joe Gibiliru, but was cruel on the whole of the Evo-Stik First Division North side, who had matched Tranmere Rovers, toe-to-toe, for 120 pulsating minutes of cup football.

After the game, Reid said he was delighted with the endeavour of his new side but disappointed to have lost and frustrated with a decision which denied them a goal to win the tie. “If you look at the side Tranmere put out, then it was clear their intention was to win the game,” said Reid. “So for my boys, who had been at work all day, to put that sort of shift in was great. They all gave it everything, but football can be very unjust because we deserved to win the game. Tranmere couldn’t cope with us when we changed shape but we still lost the game and that riles me.”

After just eight games in charge Reid quit Prescot Cables to take the manager’s job at Warrington Town, causing much anger around Hope Street.

Hat trick hero Steven Tames was invited for a trial by Sheffield Wednesday, but went instead on trial to Accrington, and eventually moved to Southport at the end of the season.  He now plays for Bala Town in the Welsh Premier League.

A Storm at Hope Street

posted 25 Feb 2019, 04:10 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 27 Mar 2019, 03:24 ]

This article was printed in the Prescot Cables v Atherton Collieries programme on 23rd February 2019. I particularly enjoyed piecing this story together.

The Social Club at Prescot Town Football Club saw performances by many groups during the Merseybeat era of the early 1960’s. An up and coming beat combo called The Quarrymen were said to have played there in 1959! [Unconfirmed and more likely to be the Prescot BICC Social Club?]

Today, we look at how one Merseybeat legend also became a Prescot Town player.

Alan Earnest Caldwell was born in Broadgreen, Liverpool in 1938. He was born with a speech impediment, a stutter, and as he grew up he became interested in sports, particularly athletics. He ran for the Pembroke Harriers, and set the Pembroke Athletics and Cycle Club steeplechase record.  He was also a very capable footballer and a good swimmer and ice skater. Because of his wild and zany behaviour and his stammer, some people regarded him as a figure of fun, and he took refuge in sport and, increasingly, in music through Skiffle and Rock and Roll.

Caldwell had fronted several groups, with different names and ever changing line-ups but, by 1959, the group was now settled. Naturally, the tall, athletic, fair haired and quiffed, Alan, was the front man and vocalist, and styled himself as Rory Storm. His stammer did not affect his singing. Amongst his backing band – The Hurricanes – was a lad called Richard Starkey on drums. Rory rechristened him Ringo Starr.   

Rory Storm and the Hurricanes played numerous gigs across Merseyside and beyond, (including residencies at Butlins and in Hamburg) and developed a huge fan base, due to their on-stage antics and showmanship. Rory Storm and the Hurricanes received the most votes in the first Mersey Beat magazine reader’s poll, but many votes were disqualified as they had been posted from the same place at the same time and were all written in green ink. Although it was never proven, it was thought that Storm, himself, had posted the votes!

Despite their popularity, Rory refused to take up numerous chances to record. His sister, Iris, later noted that "He was happy to be the King of Liverpool; he was never keen on touring, he didn't want to give up running for the Pembroke Harriers ... and he'd never miss a Liverpool football match!" 

Storm loved his football – watching, and playing - and was the organiser of the Mersey Beat All Star football team which, naturally, included himself at Centre Forward.

In September 1964, More than 700 people - a much larger crowd than Prescot Town’s average gate at this time - attended a football match between the All Stars and The Peppermint Lounge at Hope Street.

The All Stars won 9- 6, with Rory netting four goals. Billy Kinsley of the Merseybeats later recalled: “Rory Storm took all the penalties, all the free kicks, all the throw-ins and all the corners. He wanted a record kept of everything, so his dad was constantly taking photographs. Rory got the ball, lined it up and made sure that his dad was ready with the camera before he kicked it. Once, while he was doing this at Prescot Cables, the promoter Sam Leach ran from the back of the team and took the penalty instead. Rory was enraged because Sam Leach had taken the penalty – and missed! To make matters worse, his dad had taken a photograph of Sam Leach kicking the ball. Rory chased Sam round the ground and we had to continue the game with nine men.” 

Everton's Jimmy Gabriel refereed the match and a radio commentary was broadcast to local hospitals, with more than £20 raised for the Alder Hey Hospital charity. After the match Storm expressed a wish to sign for Prescot Town, saying, “I would love to have a shot at playing in a higher standard of soccer”.

The Mersey Beat team at the time could call on stars such as Joey Bowers (Fourmost), Billy Kinsley (Merseybeats), Mike Gregory (Escorts), Vince Earl (Talismen), Ty Hardin (Hurricanes), Lee Baron, Freddie Starr, Shane Fenton (Rory’s brother-in-law), Eddie Amoo (Chants), Chic Graham and others, well known on the Merseybeat scene.

A few weeks later Rory Storm brought the All Stars back to Hope Street for another charity game, this time against Prescot Town Reserves. This one was probably to measure his own performance against “proper” footballers?

Season 1964/65 was a dreadful one for Prescot. They had changed their name from Cables to Town at the start of the season, and had resurrected their second team, but financial woes meant that there were only 4 professionals on the club’s books, the rest being made up of assorted amateurs (over 40 players were used during the season). Not surprisingly, results on the pitch were equally dire, the first team went 28 games without success, until recording their first win just after the New Year. Both the first team and the reserves would finish bottom of their divisions.

Against this background, Rory Storm signed as an amateur for Prescot Town, in October 1964, in the same week that he also signed a new recording contract with the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein! He marked his debut for the Town Reserves, with a spectacular (and typically Rory) goal against Gleneagles, when he collected the ball from his own penalty area and ran with it, the length of the field, to crack home an unstoppable shot from the edge of the Gleneagles box. A couple of weeks later, he scored his second goal, and it was equally spectacular – a screamer from 25 yards, which enabled the Reserves to record their first win of the season. Despite the release of his second single, the same week (a cover version of America from West Side Story – a hugely ill-judged decision by Epstein!), he said his ambition was, “to get into the first team before Christmas”.

Later in the month, Rory swapped his football shirt for his trade-mark, gold lamé suit, when he performed, with The Hurricanes, at the Football Club’s Social Club, to raise funds for the club.  He said, “It is one way we are able to say a tangible thank you to the Prescot club for having allowed us the use of their ground for our Merseybeat matches. This is a fine club, deserving of better support and luck.

Early in 1965, Rory Storm and The Hurricanes embarked on a lengthy tour of Germany, meaning that his brief football career was cut short. Although he continued to front the Mersey Beat All Stars, he never pulled on the Prescot jersey again.

In 1967, Rory Storm disbanded the Hurricanes and became a disc jockey, working at the Silver Blades Ice Rink in Liverpool, in Jersey and Amsterdam, and as a water-skiing instructor in Benidorm.

When Storm's father died, he returned from Amsterdam to Liverpool to be with his mother. He developed a chest infection and could not sleep properly, so he took sleeping pills. On 28 September 1972, Storm was found dead, at his home in Broadgreen. The post mortem revealed that, although  he had alcohol and sleeping pills in his blood, it was not enough to cause his death, which was ruled as accidental. 

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