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Football in Prescot 3: Prescot Wireworks FC

posted 22 Oct 2018, 04:58 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 22 Oct 2018, 05:02 ]

This article continues the series looking at some of the other football teams in Prescot. It was featured in the programme for the Prescot Cables v Kendal F.A. Trophy tie on 13th October 2018.

Those familiar with the history of Prescot Cables will know that the original club folded in 1902, following a dispute with landlords, Prescot Cricket Club. However, football remained immensely popular in the old town with a number of other clubs regularly fielding elevens. As part of our continuing series, looking at the other Prescot clubs, we feature Prescot Wire Works F.C.

In 1903, employees of the old town’s major employer launched a football side. The Prescot Wire Works quickly established themselves and achieved some degree of success.  In 1906, they carried off the Liverpool & District League Championship, and also the Liverpool Junior Cup.

Around this time the Wire Works side possessed a clever centre forward by the name of Thomas Jones. Although “rather on the small side” Jones was said to be “quick on the ball and a good shot” and he soon attracted the attention of Everton. Tom “Prescot” Jones became a prolific goalscorer in the Blues’ reserve side. Despite his slight stature, Jones achieved a remarkable feat, scoring 7 of Everton’s 8 goals in a Lancashire Combination victory at Nelson in December 1906. He made his debut for the first team in April 1907 against Sunderland at Goodison Park, scoring two goals in a 4 – 0 win. In 1910, “Prescot” Jones was transferred from Everton to Birmingham City.

For the 1906/07 season, the Wirral League restructured its affairs to become the West Cheshire League and welcomed a number of Liverpool clubs, including Prescot Wire Works - by then regarded as the senior club in the town - who were admitted straight into the first division. In their first season the Wire Works more than held their own and finished in a respectable mid-table position. They reached the final of the Wirral Senior Cup, where they met another Liverpool club, Garston Gasworks. Unfortunately, the Prescot side were overcome by the Gasmen by 2 goals to one.

During this period, the team featured two brothers, who both moved on to different pastures in 1909. James “Tim” Speakman joined Liverpool where he made just 8 appearances for the Reds during a four year stay.  The club programme of 25 October 1909 noted that "He possesses a useful turn of speed, and is much faster than would seem to be the case, for when running he moves with little apparent effort.” Older brother Sam, moved from Prescot to Colne, where he had some success, before joining his younger sibling at Liverpool in 1912. 

Much interest was aroused amongst followers of football in Prescot when the draw for the Qualifying round of the 1908/09 Liverpool Junior Cup was announced, for the Wire Works club had been drawn away to the recently reformed Prescot Athletic. With the Wire Works side unquestionably “top dogs” in the area at the time, this would be the first official meeting of the two town rivals.

The scenes were reminiscent of the early Prescot - Whiston derby games as the supporters of both teams packed the Athletic grounds for the game. Indeed, such was the attendance that each club received a net "gate" of £7 14s. 2½d. The game itself lived up to expectations, but unfortunately, neither team could manage a goal in normal time or a period of extra time, and both sets of supporters went home happy with a 0-0 scoreline. The replay took place the following Saturday, and it was equally well supported, as the Wire Works finally asserted themselves and emerged as victors by two goals to nil.

For season 1909/10 Prescot Wire Works was one of a number of Liverpool based teams who transferred from the West Cheshire League to the Liverpool County League. It was rumoured that “unfair and underhand threats and inducements” had been undertaken to undermine the strength of the West Cheshire League and it was claimed that the Liverpool County FA were behind the move. In the end, the move proved to be a good one for the Wire Works and they enjoyed some early success in the new league, finishing as runners up to champions, Garston Gasworks, in their first season.

The following season saw the reformation of the Liverpool County Combination, bringing teams from the Liverpool & District League into a new two-division structure, with Frederick Stanley, the 16th Earl of Derby donating a handsome championship trophy.  Prescot Wire Works were admitted into Division One, alongside Prescot Athletic, meaning that derby games once more became regular features of the local football diary. The Wire Works side again had a good season and, once again, finished as runners-up; this time to Skelmersdale United. (Athletic also had a creditable first season, finishing in fourth place).

During the summer of 1911, the football world in Lancashire was in turmoil after 13 football league sides withdrew their reserve sides from the Lancashire Combination league, in favour of the newly formed Central League. As a result, the Combination was reorganised, and a large number of new clubs were elected into the second division. Amongst these were Prescot Wire Works and South Liverpool. However, the Lancashire Football Association put forward the counter proposal that South Liverpool should remain in the Liverpool County Combination, whilst the Wire Works should be allowed to join the Lancashire Combination. In the event the FA ruled that both sides should remain in the Liverpool County Combination for the 1911/12 season, much to the frustration of the committees of the two ambitious clubs.

Season 1912/13 again saw them as bridesmaids, finishing as runners-up to old foes, Garston Gasworks in the Liverpool County Combination Division 1. The following season, they continued to make a mark in the league, eventually finishing in third position on goal difference, behind champions, Skelmersdale United and runners-up, Wallasey Borough.

For season 1914/15, Prescot Wire Works had applied, and been readmitted, into the West Cheshire League but were, initially, refused a clearance certificate to do so by the Liverpool County Combination and were reported to the Football Association, before eventually being allowed to take their place.

However, the Great War now cast it’s shadow over local communities, and it was obvious that with men enlisting in huge numbers, clubs were struggling to raise teams, especially for away games. Money was short and with declining attendances, clubs were finding it difficult to cover their own expenses. Faced with such difficulties, most leagues had no option but to close down for the duration. Indeed, the Football Association issued a circular appealing "to the patriotism of all who are interested in the game to support the Nation in its present serious emergency ..... Players and spectators who are physically fit and otherwise able are urged to join the Army at once." The West Cheshire league struggled on until the end of the season, with many fixtures unfulfilled, before, it too, wound up.

The Wire Works club was reformed at the start of the 1920/21 season, when they rejoined the West Cheshire League. Several members of the Prescot F.C. side moved across to the Wire Works outfit to see them off to a good start. The Prescot club also allowed the use of the Athletic Grounds at Hope Street for the Wire Works’ home games. The Wire Works even entered the F.A. Cup, where they defeated Old Xaverians and Winsford United at home in the Preliminary rounds, before crashing to a heavy 7 – 0 defeat at Wrexham in the 1st Qualifying round (Wrexham went on to beat Prescot F.C. in the next round). The following season the Wire Works entered the English Cup again, but slumped to a humiliating 9 – 0 reverse at Eccles United at the first hurdle.

During the early 1920’s, the general play of the side attracted League scouts from far and wide. For one home game, representatives from four First division clubs – including cup winners, Tottenham Hotspur – were said to be present, looking out for promising young players. Indeed, the entire Wire Works team was invited to Manchester to fulfil a midweek trial game against a strong Manchester United XI. The Electricians impressed and came away with a creditable draw.

Sadly, this would be a swansong for the Prescot Wire Works club, as it folded at the end of the 1921/22 season, noting that the gate receipts were covering less than half of the expenses of the club.

In a later feature we will look at the story of the Prescot B.I. Social F.C.