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A continued look at 1953 – part eight
Freddie Worrall, who was appointed general manager of Stockton Heath Football Club (now Warrington Town)
FIRSTLY I must apologise for the delay between this and my last article.
I have been in hospital for a major operation, but I now feel fit to resume the series and continue where I left off with the entry into the Mid-Cheshire League of Stockton Heath, the forerunner of present-day Warrington Town.
A lot of friends have been leaving messages hoping that I had not forgotten former Liverpool player Jack Molyneux, who was born in Warrington, and the 1958 Rylands Recreation team that won the Liverpool Junior Cup.
All can rest assured that none have been forgotten and will be given space when I reach the appropriate year.
Before the 1958 team Rylands had a reasonable side in the Warrington League's Second Division in 1953 to which I referred in my last article as having lifted the Starkey Cup.
Captained by full back Bert Churm, they included many other fine players, including a tall centre half, Tex Coyne.
When I read that Warrington Town now had a player named Liam Coyne, I was wondering if there was any relation between the two. But Town secretary Barry Thorpe assures me that Liam is not a Warrington lad and lives in the Manchester area.
This all brings me back to Town and their memorable start to life in the Mid-Cheshire League as Stockton Heath.
Not since 1921, when Monks Hall, from the Liverpool Road iron works of Monks, Hall and Company, completed a two-year stint in the Cheshire County League had Warrington had a soccer team at a grade higher than district league level.
Nearest clubs of a standing higher than the district league were Lancashire Steel (Irlam) in the Manchester League, and Newton YMCA and Burtonwood Old Boys in the Liverpool County Combination.
There was no keener soccer enthusiast in the Warrington area than Jimmy Drinkwater, of Rosebank, Farrell Road, Stockton Heath.
He had helped form Stockton Heath Football Club just after the end of the Second World War.
In black and gold quartered shirts, they had fielded some good sides, notably when Eric Griffin was captain and Eric Buckley was in goal.
They were always an ambitious amateur club and used to enter the Cheshire Amateur Cup when it was a rarity for a Warrington League side to do so.
I remember going to watch them defeat Old Altrinchamians 2-0 with goals from Griffin and Ray Corlett in 1950/51 season in pouring rain at London Road, Appleton, now a school site, where they officially started life after using Stockton Lane, Grappenhall, a later home, on a temporary basis. And when Mike Wheeler wrote A History of Warrington Town Football Club to mark the club's appearance in the FA Vase final of 1987 at Wembley, he appropriately titled the book From London Road to London Town.
Entry into the Mid-Cheshire League was destined to attract all the top players in the Warrington area, but London Road was not quite up to the standard required by that league, which sported some fine grounds, the doyen of them all being the Moss Farm, Winnington, home of ICI (Alkali), who tried out the company's fertilisers on their turf and finished up with a playing surface as good as Wembley.
So the Heathens, as they were nicknamed, arranged to play home games on the almost equally immaculate "bowling green-like" pitch of Warrington Police in Loushers Lane. I was so keen, I cycled to the pre-season training sessions at the Police Ground. Players gathered at the first one included Griffin and Buckley and also full back Joe Cleeton and the late Alan Melbourne, who became captain, and who sadly died in the 1980s.
The first two matches in the Mid-Cheshire League were away and resulted in 5-2 victories over Runcorn Athletic and Altrincham Reserves with Les Arnold, a bustling centre forward in the Dave Hickson mould, grabbing four goals in the Altrincham game and one in the Runcorn match, when Walter Leigh got a hat-trick.
The initial home game, in the first round of the Mid-Cheshire League Challenge Cup on September 2, was marked by Heath beating Runcorn Athletic for a second time, this time 2- 0 with goals again from Arnold and Leigh. The team that night, parading before more than 800 spectators, was: Foster, Melbourne (capt), Rothwell, Cleeton, Jim Hayes, George Hayes, Leigh, Corlett, Arnold, Benzies, Robinson.
Eventually, new faces came along to Loushers Lane and a typical team could be Cliff Waterworth (from Golborne United); Melbourne and Cleeton; Don Banner (from Rylands), Jackie Boardman (from Golborne United) and Wilf Martin (capt); Harry Bennett (a diminutive winger, also from Golborne United), Alan Foster (who persisted in remaining amateur and joined Crook Town to try and get attention from the England amateur selectors, and later played for Crewe Alexandra in their infamous 9-0 FA Cup replay against Tottenham Hotspur), Les Arnold, Bobby Rothwell and Harry Tipping (another fine winger who sported a bald head, even at such an early age).
Heath appointed Freddie Worrall as team manager. They took the former Portsmouth and Crosfields winger from Warrington Rugby League Club, where he had been physiotherapist.
Freddie, who died in the 1980s, played for Pompey at Wembley when they beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 4-1 in the last FA Cup final before the Second World War and had been in the club's 1933/34 team beaten 2-1 by Manchester City in the final. He was also capped by England.
Freddie was certainly a great inspiration to Stockton Heath and they ended their first Mid-Cheshire League season as winners of the League Challenge Cup, in the final of which they beat Goostrey 3-0 at Knutsford with goals from Arnold, George Hayes and Melbourne.
That is all for now about 1953, but I hope to continue reminiscing about that momentous year in my next article, when I intend to recall more memories from the Warrington League and other local amateur games.