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First of a hat-trick of successes for Stockton Heath - part 11
Gordon Brown looks back at 1954.
Although Stockton Heath, forerunner of today's Warrington Town, were approaching the end of their first season in the prestigious Mid-Cheshire League and the start of their second, having already collected the League Challenge Cup with a 3-0 final victory over Goostrey at Knutsford and attracting considerable local support with crowds of around the l,000 mark at Loushers Lane Police Ground and then Stockton Lane, the vast majority of Warrington soccer fans travelled as they do today to watch the big clubs in Manchester or Liverpool, less than 20 minutes by train each way.
That is why I never offer apologies for throwing into the Warrington soccer scene reference to the "big boys" as there is bound to be someone reading this with allegiance in some direction. As I have previously disclosed, I am a life-long Everton fan and the most outstanding recollection for any Evertonian who remembers it is that at the end of season l953-54, we won back our place in the First Division.
After the wonderful FA Cup run of the previous season, promotion was what the supporters wanted as a follow up. Three seasons in the second flight were enough to bear.
What made the way back even sweeter for the Goodison club was that Liverpool took their place.
Only sour point, of course, was it meant Merseyside was still starved of a top "derby" game.
Derby games were not to return until the l962-63 season with Bill Shankly leading the 'Pool to promotion after the Anfielders had languished in the Second Division for eight seasons after several near misses with chances spoiled by the likes of Scunthorpe United, Rotherham United and Leicester City.
It is interesting to note that sons of Warrington played a part in both those phases of Liverpool history - Jack Molyneux playing a key role in Liverpool's fight back to the First Division and helping lay the foundations for what the club has now become and Roger Hunt rising to be a never-to-be-forgotten legend as Shankly continued to build up the club in its development for successors to take it to being one of the best in Europe and, arguably, the world.
But more of that, with Roger scoring in the l965 FA Cup final triumph over Leeds United and his part in the club reaching the following season's Cup Winners' Cup final and collecting Football League championships when we reach the l960s.
But Everton were the "in" team for l954 as far as I was concerned.
Although I had left school, I was so small that gatemen used to tell me to continue using the boys' pen for the old nine pence admission fee when I should have been paying ls.3d. I just hope I don't get a bill from Everton if they read this, as Roger, when we were chatting a few months back, threatened to nip into Goodison and tell them all about it!
The game that stood out in my memory above all that term was the one at Oldham Athletic, a 4-0 win clinching promotion as runners-up to Leicester City on goal average.
Former Everton goalkeeper George Burnett was in Oldham's goal, having just been transferred. I was not at Boundary Park, but it was the first result I looked for in the folllowing morning's newspaper.
I watched most of Everton's home games while they were in the Second Division and of them I think the one I enjoyed most was the 7-0 win over Doncaster Rovers the previous season when Tommy Eglington, my favourite left winger and Irish legend, netted five. Doncaster were no push-overs and had the division's leading goal scorer in Ray Tindall, but on this occasion he did not get a look-in.
First Division champions this year were Wolverhampton Wanderers with West Bromwich Albion winning the FA Cup final 3-2 against Preston North End, and on the Warrington front Stockton Heath marked their first season in the Mid-Chesire League by winning the League Challenge Cup with goals in the final from Les Arnold, George Hayes and Alan Melbourne, going through the competition without conceding a goal and putting a total of l6 in the net.
In the year when Warrington Rugby League Club, then styled as Warrington Football Club on the front of Wilderspool Stadium, had mustered four trophies, including the Challenge Cup and the Championship, it was sheer delight to soccer fans to see the Mid-Cheshire League Challenge Cup siting proudly in the window of J.E. White's sports shop in Sankey Street. And what was more, this was just the first of a hat-trick of successes in the competition.
It was also the start of a succession of Warrington League titles for Runcorn Randle - four on the trot, in fact.
Bold Colliery had just emerged from the St Helens Combination and took the Guardian Cup.
Moore United won the Depot Cup, Croft the Starkey Cup, Vulcan, from Newton, were Division Two champions and Eagle Sports, from Rubery Owen works, were Division Three champions.
Stockton Heath started their second season in the Mid-Cheshire League by winning eight of their first l0 matches.
Secretary from the outset as a founder member was Jimmy Drinkwater, a friend of mine from the l950s until he sadly passed away in the l980s.
He was one of the finest ambassadors for true amateur football, and it was fitting that when the club reached the FA Vase final at Wembley in l987, he should be given a seat in the Royal Box next to the Football Association's leading officials.
More about that era later in the series, but on entering the Mid-Cheshire League the club gathered together a strong committee. Former Football League referee Ted Plinston became chairman and there were also people involved like Stan Rees, the trainer and local window cleaner and Bill McMutrie, and some extremely keen fans, who would turn up in black and gold favours, many with rattles, which were still popular then, and shouting themselves hoarse.
One of the keenest was a Mrs Fairhurst, of Central Avenue, Orford, who never seemed to stop cheering.
By the way, relating to a later era than l954 but before the Vase final appearance, I have been reading an intriguing book, of which one of the co-authors is John Cartledge, who played for the club in the late l960s and early l970s and was the first team's leading goal scorer with l3 in l970-7l and 25 in l97l-72.
Sadly, John, who also turned out for Northwich Victoria, developed alcohol problems and, as a result, used to frequently appear before Warrington Magistrates' Court, where he became an acquaintance of the other co-author, John Hayes, who was a clerk of court.
Now, with John Cartledge a reformed man running a Christian book organisation in Ghana, and John Hayes retired, the two have got together to produce "Alcohol - Thriller or Killer."
The book can be obtained from Mr Hayes, l5 Rydal Avenue, Warrington, Cheshire WA4 6AU, by sending a cheque for £8.50p to cover cost and postage.
It is a good read that also mentions some of the town's other sporting stars.
Cartledge's son Steve maintained the Town connection, playing for them in recent seasons.
Cheerio until next time when I hope to continue local soccer recollections of l954.