Gordon Brown spent all his early years supporting in one way or another, as fan, player, newspaper reporter and official, the Warrington soccer scene. Here, in the first of a series written specially for Warrington Guardian, he recollects memories from the Second World War and just afterwards.
WITH Warringtonians gradually getting back to a normal life after the Second World War effort, the main topic on the lips of most men was sport.
Those furtunate enough had enjoyed a variety of games at their depots and stations.
During the war and just afterwards, for example, my father, the late Bob Brown, reckoned by many as one of the best left full-backs in the area, played regularly for station and squadron teams at Royal Air Force, Padgate, where part of the New Town has now taken over.
I vividly remember being taken to games by my late mother and cheering on my father with the words "Come on Brownie."
He often came home from RAF matches covered in bruises, despite wearing the strong old-style shin pads, which I still possess, and in one match he was marking England international Raich (or Horatio) Carter, of Derby County and Hull City, and my father did not escape without a few knocks in that match either.
It was my father who encouraged my initial interest in the game, which was not in Warrington, in fact, but on Merseyside, where I was born at what was then a small village called Maghull.
We were walking along Deyes Lane, Maghull, one day in the war years, dodging United States Service personnel playing basketball in the road, when I glanced over to the left and saw what appeared to be to me, at the age of two, half a house.
I said to him that looks like a funny house; it is only half built.
He replied that it was not half a house but a football stand and it was on the ground of Maghull Football Club, who were in the I Zingari League at that time and now operate in the West Cheshire League from a different ground in Hall Lane.
The old ground was taken for the building of a new school in later years, but while the club was based there he was poised to sign for them.
He had impressed while playing for neighbours Melling Church in the I Zingari League and was all set to put pen to paper for Maghull when war broke out and he joined up.
But that little incident with seemingly "half a house" set me off on a lifetime's interest in what has been universally acclaimed as "the beautiful game" but admittedly not always beautiful.
He encouraged me to support Everton, which I still do, and naturally the first game he took me to watch was at Goodison Park -- a special wartime game in which Everton were beaten 2-0 by Wolverhampton Wanderers, who had their future manager Stan Cullis in their ranks.
I was only three or four and I remember more about sitting with my father, grandfather and great grandfather (the latter two staunch Everton fans as well) than the actual players on the pitch, but I was told that Dixie Dean was playing.
His unsurmountable feat of 60 goals in season l927-28 was a yardstick for all players everywhere for years and two players in the Warrington Sunday Schools League, Joey Rudge (Padgate Cottage Homes) and Harold Lester (Woolston Wanderers) actually achieved the feat, to which I intend to relate in a later article.
Just before the outbreak of war we took up residence in Woolston, which was handy for Padgate while my father was stationed there, and we stayed there for 20 years.
My mother had me by the hand in the old Warrington Market with the old barrell organist and Charlie Lee the oyster man in the gift shop at the corner of the entry when war was declared and newspaper bill boards were soon in place.
A few years into the war and I had to start at Woolston Church of England School (a mission church converted into a day school during the week), where we actually played a match against Padgate Church of England School without goalposts, a substitute for which was folded coats.
But after a dispute over whether the ball had gone over a coat or inside it to register a goal, it was agreed to switch the next match from the school field (which now houses a new church) to nearby Hillock Lane, on a field which had become the home of Hayfield Rovers, who had a fine young side in Division Three (Under 11s) of the Stockton Heath Youth League, an applaudable post-war venture greatly appreciated by many lads cutting their football teeth at the time and for which the enthusiastic secretary was Alan James, who also organised knockout competitions for the Stockton Cup in Division One (under l5s), Heath Cup in Division Two (under l3s) and Oakdale Cup, named after the avenue where he lived in Stockton Heath, in Division Three.
One of the stars of the Hayfield under 11s team was one of my fellow pupils at the school, Jimmy Cleaverley, who later played for Lockers in the Warrington and District League and had a trial with Liverpool, while the leading goalscorer was a lad called Winstanley, whose Christian name escapes me but was known to all as "Winner."
However, in a memorable Oakdale Cup semi final at Padgate Cottage Homes' ground in l947, Hayfield Rovers lost to village rivals Woolston Wanderers with "Cobbles" Jones letting in two goals compared to the clean sheet of "Ashes" Ashbrook in the opposing goal.
The scene was all set for the Easter Monday morning final between Woolston Wanderers and 11th AFC, a team representing the 11th Warrington Scout Troop based at Padgate Cottage Homes and organised by their Scoutmaster Harry Lilly, a true Christian gentleman who used to walk along Green Lane, Padgate, each Sunday with his Bible under his arm on the way to take Sunday School at the orphanage and later started an older Padgate Cottage Homes team which, with outside playing help, became one of the most formidable sides in the Sunday Schools League, but that is another story that I hope to write about in a subsequent article.
The llth AFC won the Oakdale Cup Final with a 5-2 victory over Woolston Wanderers, in which side Johnny Nutall broke a finger, but Woolston took the divisional championship shield which was duly displayed in Mrs Mellor's shop window in the village.
Harry Lilly, a stalwart of the Workingmen's Mission in Thewlis Street, had a good eye for a player and I remember him taking Warrington's eventual World Cup winner Roger Hunt as a reserve for a team playing in a cup semi final against Penketh Boys' Club at Stockton Lane in the late l940s when Roger was younger than the age group being catered for.
George Green, a key organiser at Woolston Wanderers, also spotted Roger's potential and one Saturday one of the Woolston lads rode his bicycle to Roger's Culcheth home and took him back, about five miles, to Woolston to play in the team.
Roger, of course, became a story all of his own. My first recollections of him were in the late 40s playing for Culcheth Primary School against Glazebury Primary School, on the hockey pitch of Culcheth Secondary School, where Roger later joined me.
As soon as he scored a goal I turned to one of my mates, also watching, and said he was a future international, a remark that brought derision from the other lads but turned out to be one of the truest predictions anyone could have made.
When the war ended, my father worked for the Department of Atomic Energy, later the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, at Risley and it was in the late 40s that he founded the DATEN Sports and Social Club, thinking of the name from the initials of Department of Atomic Energy, became the club's first secretary and entered a soccer team in the Warrington and District League Division Three with me as unofficial mascot.
I well remember the first match Daten ever played, away to Statham Lads Club at a pitch in Star Lane, Statham, and Daten lost 4-l.
We then had to play a Guardian Cup tie against First Division side, HMS Blackcap, at Stretton, and predictably they also beat Daten.
I am sure my father would be delighted to see the team still going today, in the Mid-Cheshire League.
At the end of the 40s my father joined the St Ann's team in the senior section of the Warrington Sunday Schools League, in which perpetual champions were Winwick St Oswalds with Padgate St Oswalds not far behind.
St Ann's never won a match while my father was playing for them, but there is a comical side to most things.
My father wore full dentures and for one match against Padgate St Oswalds he left them in the grass at the side of the Padgate Recreation Ground pitch. After the match, no-one could find them, so he had to see the dentist for a new pair.
* There are no doubt plenty of other people who could get their teeth into writing about their soccer memories in Warrington from the l940s.
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