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Football in Prescot 4: Whiston FC

posted 19 Jan 2019, 03:34 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 19 Jan 2019, 03:35 ]
This article is another in the occasional series looking at some of the other football teams in and around Prescot. It was featured in the programme for the Prescot Cables v Kendal league match on 12th January 2019.

In April 1884, the Flintshire Observer reported that, “On Good Friday, the Rovers will play two matches on their own ground. In the morning with a team from Prescot, which will be represented by some old Holywell players, under the captaincy of Mr George Evans (Bagillt).”

Dee Rovers were one of several teams formed in the north Wales town of Holywell during the 1870’s and early 1880’s. There was a strong Welsh community living in the Whiston and Prescot area, who had relocated in search of work at the local coal mines. It is likely that many of these Welshmen will have worked together and played together. It is not unreasonable to suppose, then, that they would have formed football teams amongst themselves – especially if a number of them had previously played for clubs in North Wales prior to moving to Lancashire.

As we know, Prescot F.C. was founded in November of 1884, and a little over two months after Prescot's first match, another club was begun locally. Whiston Football Club made their debut on February 1st 1885, with a home game against Sankey Sugar Works, at the newly opened ground opposite the Green Dragon pub, on Warrington Road.

The Whiston team for the occasion was,

Whiston: W. Mawdsley, R. Hughes, G. Marsden, T. Yates, J. Allman, G. Evans, J. Jones, J. Yates, J. Caffrey, S. Jones, G. Jones,

They forced a creditable draw, one goal each. The following week, Whiston registered their first victory when they travelled to Stockton Heath and overcame the homesters by four goals to nil.

In all, Whiston played eight games in their first season, winning four and losing two, scoring 16 goals against 8 conceded. As well as playing at the Green Dragon ground, Whiston also had use of a field at Whiston Cross belonging to Mr J Leatherbarrow, of Roper’s Farm and a member of the Prescot Board of Guardians, who was also the club’s President.

The early Whiston teams included a number of Welshmen, reflecting the local community. Indeed, in 1885 an interesting game was staged on the Prescot ground between the "Welsh and English” of Whiston and Prescot. This international clash drew a good crowd and resulted in a hard fought 1-1 draw. The teams were;

Welsh: Marsden, R. Hughes, G. Evans, T. Jones, Jno. Jones, J. Thomas, J.E. Hughes, Jno. Hughes, E. Twiss, Jos. Jones, E. Jones.

English: J. Scott, S. Lyon, J. Case, Hobbins, Knox, Briscoe, Welsby, Leadbeater, J.T. Scott, F. Allen, W. Mawdsley.

Whiston possessed some extrovert players who were firm favourites with their supporters. Amongst these were, W.E. Davies affectionately known to one and all as "Red-un", J. Hughes, who was known, for some reason, as "Cookshop" and T. Chorley - "Chicken" to the fans.

The Whiston goalkeeper at this time was one, Rowland Pennington. “Row” joined Blackburn Rovers in 1890. However, he made only a handful of appearances over two seasons in East Lancashire. Nevertheless, he was custodian of the goalkeeper’s jersey when Blackburn defeated Notts County, 3-1 in the 1891 F.A. Cup Final at the Kennington Oval. 

During the 1886/87 season, Whiston battled through to the semi-final of the County Medal competition, where they were drawn against Aigburth Vale. The tie was to be played on a neutral venue, and the Liverpool and District Football Association surprisingly chose Prescot to stage the match. In a well contested game before about 600 spectators, W. Mawdsley scored a second half hat-trick for Whiston to set up a final with Bootle Wanderers.

The final was played at Anfield on Saturday April 23rd, 1887.Unfortunately for the 2,000 spectators the game was spoiled by a strong wind. The Wanderers raced into a 4 goal lead by half time. In the second half, the Collier lads battled hard and scored two goals, but had left themselves too much to do and eventually lost by 4 goals to 2. Nevertheless, the cup run had been encouraging for the team, just two years after their formation.

By season 1887/88, the Whiston side, known as the “Diamonds” was becoming well known and well respected throughout the district, and even began a third eleven with some success. Arguments had been raging amongst the supporters of the Whiston and Prescot clubs as to which was the top local side, and the first meetings of the two sides were arranged for Christmas and New Year, 1887/88. Both games were eagerly awaited by the followers of the two clubs. For the first of these, it was estimated that 2,000 people packed the Green Dragon ground on Boxing Day 1887. But a lack lustre display from the Prescotians, which disappointed both the crowd and club officials, saw Whiston run out easy winners by seven goals to one.

The return match the following Monday, was again witnessed by a large, vociferous crowd and the Prescot Reporter correspondent was moved to complain of the "unsavoury language" used.  Alas, the language was the least of Prescot's worries as Whiston again triumphed in a one-sided match, to secure the local bragging rights.

"How the mighty have fallen! Licked on their own ground by nine goals to two."

The second teams also played each other over the holiday, with Prescot meeting with rather more success, winning 5 - 1 at home, and 12 -1 away.

lt was around this time that considerable ill-feeling was expressed between the two clubs, not helped by the damage suffered to Whiston's ground in a vandal attack, in which both goal posts were pulled up and smashed, nor by the cutting of the rope surrounding the pitch in the "derby"  match at Prescot.  Mr Henry Beaumont, licensee of the Derby Arms, in Eccleston Street, eventually succeeded in smoothing over the rift by inviting members of both clubs to a joint supper gathering at his hostelry, which was much enjoyed by all present.

On Boxing Day 1888, Whiston demolished the touring Belfast Athletic side 12 – 0 in a friendly at the Green Dragon ground, and in the spring of 1889 they reached the semi-final of the Liverpool and District Medal Competition where they met Kirkdale, regarded by many as the top side in the area at the time. In a stirring match Whiston eventually succumbed by 2 - 1, to the Liverpool side.

It is interesting to compare the full records of the Prescot and Whiston clubs over the season, not least to marvel at the goalscoring!

Season 1888/89                Pld           W            L            D               F           A      

Prescot                               46           29           10           7             200        76

Whiston                              55           38           11           6             251        100

The two "senior" clubs had by now become an important part of the area's social scene. Prescot's membership had risen to 120 after being only 50 strong on formation, whilst Whiston's was a very healthy 170.

Towards the end of January 1889, a benefit game was arranged to raise funds to support Sam Price, the popular player and secretary of Whiston Football Club, who had suffered a long-term injury in a match the previous year. In the game, played at Whiston, a combined Prescot and Whiston XI defeated Blackburn Park Road, 6-3.  

The Prescot Reporter’s correspondent Crossbar prosaically noted that, “the flag fluttered from the summit of the local pub and beer and stout gurgled down the local beer receptacles in Niagarean streams”, before “a capital exhibition of the rude (?), savage (??), shoulder-dislocating (???) and spine-cracking (????) pastime.”

The team for this game was John Hobbins (Prescot), Gat Lyon (Prescot), Tom Jones (Whiston), Alf Lyon (Whiston), George Evans (Whiston), Sam Lyon (Whiston), W.E. Walker (Prescot), Nat Hughes (Prescot), Joe Stott (Prescot), W.E. Davies (“Red-Un”) (Whiston) and W. Mawdsley (Whiston). The referee was the Prescot club’s Mr Pearson Twist.  Goalkeeper, turned Centre Forward, Joe Stott scored a hat-trick for the combined team, with other goals from Hughes (2) and Mawdsley.

In the Summer of 1889, the Whiston club decided to organise a Grand Sports Day at their Warrington Road enclosure, which went on to become an annual, and successful, event at the club. The Prescot Reporter noted that entries had been received, “from nearly all parts of the kingdom for the open races, and applications from local men were legion, which harbingers well for the plucky Whiston club, who have entered on a new era in regard to sports in this district. As an instance of the interest taken in these forthcoming sports, the entries being par excellence, it may be mentioned that some of the most talented and noted runners of the day have promised to come forward and give this game little rising club their assistance.”

The track around the pitch had been specially rolled with a heavy roller borrowed from Prescot Council to enable bicycle racing to take place. In addition, many other events such as sprinting, mile races, Lancashire wrestling and football kicking competitions were held. Music was provided by the Whiston Brass Band, refreshments by Mr Mynett of the Green Dragon Hotel and prizes totalling £20 were awarded to the winners of the events.

The club also opened a “non-political, non-sectarian” social club for the benefit of the township (and also to the benefit of club funds).

Whiston entered a team into the West Lancashire Football League, for the 1889/90 season, where they played alongside many of their old adversaries such as Aintree Church, Liverpool Police Athletic, Aigburth Vale, Liverpool Stanley and Bootle.  Of course, it also meant that "derby" games with Prescot were now regular dates on the calendar.

The arguments were great as to which of the sides was the superior, and there is no doubt that these "derby" games created intense partisanship amongst local supporters and tremendous interest in the two townships. In these early clashes, Whiston usually came out on top, causing their supporters to claim the Colliers to be the area’s top team.

At the start of the 1891/92 season Whiston also entered a team which played several seasons in the newly formed Wigan & District Football League.

About this time, the Whiston player, Tommy Scanlan moved to Northwich Victoria, after a successful few seasons at Dragon Lane. Scanlan scored a penalty for Northwich at Grimsby, in September 1892, which has been incorrectly reported in some quarters, as the first ever penalty scored in the Football League.

Before the start of the 1895/96 season, the first divisions of the Liverpool and District League (as the West Lancashire League had become) and the Wirral District League were amalgamated to form the Liverpool and Wirral League. Whiston were one of the founding members of this new combined league, although they had a disappointing season, winning only 6 of their fixtures and finishing 9th of the 12 teams.

The following season (1896/97) the ambitious Whiston club joined the higher standard, Lancashire Alliance league, of which Prescot were already members. However, after three disappointing seasons they left in 1899 to rejoin the Liverpool & District Combination League, where they played for just one season before the club’s football section appears to have disbanded, although the athletics section continued.