Venue: North Field, Jericho Lane (Wednesday 8th April 2015, 6.30pm)
I only saw that this game was being played on the previous evening, as I alluded to in the AFC Monton blog. As such, I though there was unlikely to be a better time to get in the visit to the famed South Liverpool, mostly because I knew that they issue a programme, one of the rare things to be seen within the amateur ranks. So, after looking at the train times and seeing it was relatively simple, off to Jericho Lane I was.
Boarding at just before 5pm on Wednesday evening, I was soon rattling on towards Liverpool &, more specifically, Hunts Cross station. So, after passing through Warrington, Widnes amongst others I soon arrived at the yellow-clad Merseyrail station at Hunts Cross. Here, I had a short wait for my connecting train onwards to Aigburth station, which was under 10 minutes away, and I arrived here at just before six o’clock and with 15 minutes until kick-off and a 25 minute walk (so Google told me). In fact, it would turn out to be nearer 15 as I chose to jog to get there, making it just in time for the supposed scheduled start. But, as I arrived and read the match poster on the car park gate, the time read 6.30pm. In addition, the match referee was yet to arrive, so my sweaty arrival was not required. Not happy.
As it was, I picked up my programme for £1 along with the sentiments of “Enjoy the game!” and took a seat on the only benh in existence, just in front of the refreshment/dressing room area. With five minutes to go to kick-off, the ref finally rocked up, rock-and-roll style and we could get underway. But, not before a description of the ground. Well, there’s a barred-off pitch, dugouts on opposite sides, the changing rooms and not very much else. The only part of hard standing is a slim line of paving down the side to the right of the pitch. Even then, it only extends to half way, from the dressing room building at the far end. So, very basic. However, South Liverpool’s ground wasn’t always this small. Here is the history of that and more on the club’s past…..
The accepted beginnings of South Liverpool FC start in the late 1890’s when a side called Africa Royal relocated to Dingle south of the city and changed its name, before re-locating again in 1921 to become New Brighton AFC. As such, a new side was created, in 1935, and this is the current club. This South Liverpool originally played in Holly Park, Garston and joined the Lancashire Combination, immediately winning it three years on the trot, from 1937 to 1939. The “two” South Liverpool’s competed against each other on occasion, until 1983 when New Brighton folded.
The idea in the 1930’s was for South Liverpool to join the Football League, applying on no less than 10 occasions. However, despite winning four honours in 1939 including the Welsh Cup over Cardiff City, the club only attracted five votes (in comparison to Hartlepool’s 38 & Accrington’s 28). They never were elected. Apparently, thousands welcomed the side back from their Welsh Cup victory at 2am! After WWII began, the club joined the Western Section of the Cheshire County League and one season was played before the cessation of football.
After the war, the club remained in the league until 1951 when they re-joined the Lancashire Combination in the Second Division. In September 1949, the club competed in the first match in the UK to be played under permanent floodlights. They entertained a Nigerian X1 and was commentated on by Ken “they think it’s all over” Wolstenholme. The attendance 13,007 for a 2-2 draw.
The 1951 season ended in promotion to the Division 1 but dropped back to Division 2 in 1960. Two years later, they were back in the top flight, winning the title in 1966. During the 1960’s, the club were relatively successful in the FA Cup, reaching the First Round on no less than eight occasions and the second round once, where they lost out to Brighton & HA in a replay. In 1967, the 40-year-old legendary Hungarian Ferenc Puskas competed at Holly Park in a fundraising match. In 1968, South were invited to join the new Northern Premier League, where they utilised players such as Jimmy Case and John Aldridge who went on to have good careers at Liverpool. Here, they won two honours, the 1984 NPL Challenge Cup and 1988 President’s Cup.
The club remained in the NPL until 1991, when the limited company folded, causing the committee to take on the club as South Liverpool AFC. After a season out, the senior team merged with Cheshire Lines to create the imaginatively named Cheshire Lines South Liverpool. This side competed in the Liverpool Combination Division 2, immediately gaining promotion. After one further season, the clubs decided to split into separate entities.
Back as South Liverpool solely, the club had to drop back to Division 2 for 1995-’96, but again immediately won promotion. For the next decade, the club remained in the Liverpool Combination, winning the 1997 Liverpool Junior Cup and the George Mahon Cup in 2002. In 2006, the club’s former Holly Park home was demolished and is the current site of Liverpool South Parkway station. Also, the league merged with the I Zingari League to create a new Liverpool County Premier League, and due to the club’s 11h placed finish, they were placed in Division 1, the second tier, though won a further George Mahon Cup in 2009 and an I Zingari Cup in 2011. The following season saw South move to the West Cheshire League and had to join the Division 3. The following two seasons saw immediate promotions from Divisions 3 & 2, the latter as champions and both times with the club achieving a 100% away record. Last season, the club finished in fourth place in the 1st Division. The club have also recorded four Lancashire FA Trophy wins (1937,’38,’39,’84).
This season, the club are pushing for the title, with their rivals coming from “across the water” in the shape of Cammell Laird Reserves. As such, no less than a win this evening would do. Their opponents, Hale, occupied 5th place, with Liverpool top. Hale looked a solid outfit, though, with their goalkeeper and skipper looking particularly impressive, despite not being happy with the size of the gloves he was wearing he commanded his box well. As such, chances were at a premium, with Hale having the best chance within the first minute, as the South goalkeeper charged down a low shot. On the stroke of half-time, the deadlock was finally broken as star striker Alex Woodcock used his pace to sprint clear and slotted confidently into the far corner. 1-0. Half-Time.
I had a sausage roll/pie thing (I was told it was a pie in a sausage roll pastry) and the mention of pies certainly got a member of the South committee excited, though he was disappointed when told their indeed were none, as he was told. SO, after handing over £1 for my pastry, I quickly ate it before the second half began pronto.
This carried on in the same vane as the first, with both goalkeepers having little to do in terms of saves but both sides having a game of good quality. South began to drop back on their lead as the light dimmed and the game drew towards its close. They also began to bring on target men to hold up the ball a bit more, and this certainly worked. James Kelly replaced Woodcock with stoppage time looming, and within seconds he’d put the ball in the back of the net from just outside the area, with the helpless ‘keeper rooted to the spot.
A deserved three points for the home side, who were done a favour by tonight’s opponents on the following weekend as they defeated Laird’s reserves to render their game in hand somewhat obsolete. South are a big club who find themselves languishing down in the local leagues, sadly. The fact that the admission is free and they do a programme is testament to them as a club who know the priority is to get people in to watch, and the more than decent attendance for the level is proof. Hopefully, they can regain their position in the higher reaches one day in the future.
I was soon back to the station at Aigburth after a 25 minute stroll. And when I say stroll, I mean the slowest walk ever seen. As such, I was still in time for an earlier train, and I jumped off at South Parkway, but I could have got over to Hunt’s Cross and “paid” for the whole journey. Still, at least I had been to both their new and old grounds (sort of) within the same day. Remember the history that was made around you next time you are on the platform at South Parkway…
You can view some old pics of Holly Park here: www.clubwebsite.co.uk/southliverpoolfc01/photogallery
My South Liverpool M.o.M.- Alex Woodcock
My Hale M.o.M.- The ‘keeper
Game: 6- decent quality, not many chances
Ground: 5- Basic.
Food: 5- Not bad, at least there was something to review. And it was cheap.
Programme: 7- A really good effort, good read for £1.
Fans: 7- Quite a few turned out for this one.
Value For Money: 6- Only thing was travel. Almost a 10….