by Terry Rowley
These pages chronicle the playing legends of Altrincham Football Club. The texts have been kindly supplied by Terry Rowley, joint editor of the Robins' Review matchday programme. The profiles have previously appeared in the Robins' Review.
By Terry Rowley
After Wayne Rooney's recent debut hat-trick for Manchester United and John Laidlar's website piece on Altrincham's own Philip Pritchard we thought it might be interesting to see if there were any other players who had scored a hat-trick on debut for the Robins and if so, who were they. Surprisingly enough none of the expected 'big' names appear to feature, no Swindells, Worth or Rogers but although some faded away very quickly from the Moss Lane scene at least 3 players who hit debut hat-tricks used it merely as a precursor to some spectacular goal scoring records.
To begin with we have found 7 little known or relatively little known players, (including Phil Pritchard), who all scored a hat-trick on debut they are:
Philip Pritchard (right) was not unique but at 17 years old it was a spectacular start to his Cheshire County League career. It took place in last game of the 51/52 season, a 5-0 home win over Winsford United; unfortunately he only played a further 4games the following season, scoring 1 further goal.
A player called Horridge also scored a hat-trick in Altrincham's 6-5 win over Ashton National at the beginning of the 31/32 season; he only played 3 more games before serious injury ended a promising start.
A trialist centre forward from Wigan Borough, Taylor, scored a hat-trick on debut for Altrincham in the 6-3 win over Whitchurch in 1928/29 and then played the next 2 games (without scoring) and departed.
In season 33/34 another centre forward trialist, called Nixon scored a hat-trick on debut in the opening match of the season, a 4-1 win over Tranmere Rovers reserves and went on to play 20 games that season in all competitions, scoring 11 goals.
Another centre forward, Burgess, in season 30/31 opened his account with 3 against Nantwich Town in a 4-0 away win and went on to play a further 13 games, scoring a total of 15 goals and a further 2 hat-tricks
George Johnson had flirted with League football, having played a couple of games for Rochdale in 1954/55 and 6 games for Southport in1962/63, he came to Moss Lane from Ashton United and started the 63-64 season with Altrincham, making his hat-trick scoring debut in the1st game of season a 7-3 win over Stafford Rangers however after 2 further games he was on his way back to Ashton United.
Arthur Monks, a local amateur inside forward made his debut in a 5-3 home win over Winsford, notching a hat trick. He went on to play a total of 28 games in the 60/61 season and scored a second hat-trick away at Northwich in a 5-3 win and finished the season with 9 goals. Once again though a spectacular start faded to nothing due to injury and in 61/62 he played only 5 games, scoring a further 2 goals and in 62/63 he managed a mere 3 games with no further goals.
Three further players all scored hat-tricks on their Altrincham debuts and all arrived with a reputation for goals and although all had relatively brief Altrincham careers, they all delivered what they were signed for.
Alan Foster had had spells with Northwich Victoria (1958/59-59/60), Crewe Alexandria (1959/60-60/61) and Runcorn before arriving at Altrincham mid way through the 63-64 season as a goal scoring legend. His Altrincham debut was marked by scoring all three goals in a 3-3 draw with Mossley; he then followed this in the next match with a hat-trick in a 5-0 win at Congleton and followed this with 2 goals in his third match, a 5-0 win over Chester Reserves. Injuries limited his appearances and after the opening game of the 64-65 season, he moved to Macclesfield.
18 year old Cliff Stanton arrived at Moss Lane from the Greek Street Baptists in Stockport and made his debut against Eccles United in the seasons opening fixture at Moss Lane, a 4-1 win and a debut hat-trick was followed by a goal in each of his next two games. Cliff continued to score freely during the 26/27 season and finished with 50 goals in 43 appearances for the Robins, a total that included 4 hat-tricks and 2 four goal hauls. Naturally Stanton's prolific scoring attracted the attention of Football League clubs so it was no surprise that the following season he was playing for Oldham Athletic.
The most spectacular start to an Altrincham career must be Richard Best (left), a player that Altrincham had been trying to sign for some time and finally they achieved it for the start of the 1908/09 season His debut was in the opening match of the season in a 3-3 draw with Hooley Hill in the rather grandiosely named, Manchester and Salford, Healy Charity Cup ( a competition that both Manchester United and Manchester City had previously competed in and won). He then scored 2 in his next game, a 7-3 league win over Hazel Grove and followed that with a hat-trick in the next game a 4-1 FA Cup Preliminary round win over Pendlebury and followed this with yet another hat-trick in the 4-4 replay against Hooley Hill, an incredible 11 goals in his first 4 matches!
Best, nomadic throughout his career, didn't see out the season with Altrincham, moving to Nelson after scoring 39 goals in just 29 games, including 5 hat-tricks. After seeing out the season at Nelson he eventually arrived at Macclesfield for the 1910/11 season and in a touch of symmetry scored a hat-trick (on debut again) against Altrincham in the first game to be played at Altrincham's new Moss Lane Ground.
After the article above had been completed, it was pointed out that we had omitted one well known player, Don Weston, apologies for that oversight.
Don came to Moss Lane after a successful league career with Wrexham, Birmingham, Rotherham, Leeds United, Huddersfield, Wrexham and Chester.
Don made his debut in the 8-1 trouncing of Northwich Victoria in front of 2430 spectators at Moss Lane. The other scorers were Ian Morris 2, own goal, Mick Metcalf and of course, Jack Swindells. In all Don played 16 games for Altrincham and scored 9 goals. He moved to Bethesda the following season.
Walter Jones was a natural athlete who possessed a myriad of talents. Although immortalised in Altrincham's football history as the man that demolished the goal posts at Moss Lane, in a relatively short sporting career spanning less than 10 years he created a record, in local sport, that will probably never be repeated. In just under a decade he represented the town of Rochdale at soccer, Rugby League and cricket, as well later captaining the town's crown green bowling team and amidst this local success at a variety of sports he even managed to fit in 5 years as an amateur forward for Altrincham!
During his early days, at Rochdale High School, Walter played Rugby Union and cricket, also going on to play soccer for St Chad's but the real sporting story doesn't really begin till his de-mobilisation from the Royal Navy in 1947.
He immediately joined Rochdale AFC, as an amateur and went on to play two games for the first team, scoring twice, also scoring 29 goals for Rochdale's reserve side, including 3 hat tricks in what was not even a full season.
Wishing to remain an amateur, he joined Altrincham for the 47/48 season and continued to work in the foreign section of Barclay's Bank in central Manchester, which he had joined on release from the navy. In pre-season trials he impressed spectators and management alike and made his Altrincham debut in the inauspicious circumstances of an 8-0 thrashing at the hands of eventual Cheshire County League champions, Rhyl. But, after this initial chastening experience, he went on to lead the Altrincham line to great effect in his first season, going on to gain representative selection for the Rest of the Cheshire League against the champions, Rhyl, (Jones scoring the Rest's goal in a 1-1 draw).
Quick, good in the air and able to shoot with either foot, Walter was the 'find' of the season. In his first season he scored 5 goals against Nantwich in the FA Cup, 4 against Crewe Reserves and a hat trick against Stockport Reserves. The following season he scored hat tricks against Tranmere Rovers Reserves and Buxton. This was followed the next season with 4 against Hyde United in the season's opening 7-1 win and a hat trick against Wrexham Reserves
Not content with his efforts on the football field, during the soccer 'close' season Jones, an outstanding fielder, was also captaining Rochdale CC in the Central Lancashire League, leading Rochdale to their first league title in 21 years in 1948 and later a member of the side that won the Wood Cup in 1952 after being finalists in 1951.
Having started his Moss Lane career as an out and out centre forward, scoring 45 goals in his first season, 39 in his second and 21 goals in each of his third and fourth seasons, he was then tried on to the right wing for the 51/52 season where his pace was probably better utilised in a struggling team and his success in the few games he'd played on the left wing the previous season had probably set his thoughts to the possibilities of playing top class rugby league. So in July 1951 he had asked for trials at Rochdale Hornets and, though continuing to play for Altrincham, he began serving an apprenticeship in Rugby League with the Hornets' 'A' side as a strong running wing with superb defensive qualities. He still finished the 51/52 season for Altrincham with a reasonably good tally, for a winger, of 13 goals.
What little success Altrincham had in those early post war years came entirely in the Cheshire County League Cup, being losing finalists to Macclesfield over two legs in 1947/48, losing finalists to Rhyl the following season (0-4, the final being played at Witton Albion) and finally third time lucky winning the League Cup in 1950/51 with a 1-0 win over Macclesfield. Unfortunately for Walter, he only played in the two losing finals and they were the only medals he won with Altrincham.
During the summer of 1952 there was much speculation in Altrincham and Rochdale as to whether Walter Jones was changing codes from soccer to rugby. The Moss Lane management denied it was so, commenting that Walter was merely training at Hornets to save on travelling, as he still lived in Rochdale. But after just 4 games of the 52/53 season, on the 23rd September 1952 in a 1-0 defeat away at Mossley, Walter had played his last game for Altrincham after adding just two goals to his tally (in the 2-1 win over Runcorn)
He made his first team debut for Rochdale Hornets playing on the wing less than a month later in October 1952, a 14-12 win over Castleford. Later in his career he moved into the second row and went on to play a total of 104 first team games for Hornets scoring 31 tries. He was even considered good enough to be selected as reserve for the Lancashire County squad during the 54/55 season, (though he was not selected to play). He played his last game for Hornets on Good Friday 1956, in an 18-12 win over Leigh.
The next two seasons he spent in coaching and running the Spotland Rangers whilst concentrating on improving his Crown Green bowling skills, eventually being good enough to force his way into the Rochdale team.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck when Walter, aged only 48, was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease which eventually forced him to retire from work 7 years later, (he then worked for Porritt and Spencer, the Bury based paper manufacturer). Although confined to a wheel-chair in his later years due to the degenerative nature of the disease, he was still a frequent visitor to Rochdale Cricket Club> Even when he eventually lost the power of speech he was still alert and interested in sport. Tragically, his condition continued to deteriorate and he was eventually admitted to a nursing home in 1996 where he sadly died in May 2001.
Freddie Pye is a legend not only in Altrincham AFC’s history but also in the history of the Cheshire County League. Fred was many things; outspoken, loud, brash, generous, spontaneous and unconventional but, above all else, he was a winner wherever he went. In Altrincham’s case, in the space of a handful of seasons and with the backing of Mess'rs White and Swales he transformed an obscure, near bankrupt, underachieving club into one of the most exciting, successful and most talked about non league sides in the country.
Born in Stockport in 1928 Fred was playing as an 'all action' wing-half for Cheadle Rovers at 15, winning the South Manchester and Wythenshawe championship and League cup. He was then signed by Stalybridge Celtic and playing for their first team at 17. Due to his style of play he was nicknamed ‘Tearaway Fred’ and his performances soon attracted Manchester United scout Joe Armstrong to invite him along to play for Manchester United as an amateur. By his own admission Pye’s first (and only) game for the reserves, was not a success, with Pye in later years claiming that he was a ‘joke’ and only got 3 kicks of the ball and 2 kicks on the ankle during the game. Although never playing for the reserves again he did become a regular in the ‘A’ side until called up for national service in the Fleet Air Arm. Whilst still in the Fleet Air Arm, he was asked to play by Accrington Stanley and, after receiving permission from Manchester United, made his debut at Hartlepool. On de-mob he was given the choice to either continue as an amateur at United or take a month’s trial at Accrington. He chose Stanley and played his second game at Mansfield Town, after which he was offered full-time terms. Unfortunately, Fred was not successful at Accrington and, after a season and a half, he was released after a total of 5 first team games. He briefly joined Winsford United, where he met his wife to be and started in the scrap metal business.
He was soon to try his hand again as a professional at Shrewsbury but, after only 7 games, he settled for non league football and joined, firstly, Ashton United, followed by Congleton, Runcorn and an 8 week spell at Droylsden. But, by happy chance, former Altrincham defender, Tommy Wright, who had been with Fred at Accrington was now manager of Hyde United and persuaded Fred to sign up at £1 a match. What followed was to be 7 seasons of success for Hyde United, winning the championship twice (54/55 & 55/56), runners up the following season (56/57) and only being denied a hat trick of championships on goal difference to Ellesmere Port in 57158. Hyde also won the CCL Cup in 52153 and 54155, the Manchester Intermediate Cup in 55/56 and 56/57 and reached the lst Round of the FA Cup (losing 5-I away to Workington) in 54/55.
His popularity at Hyde can be gauged by his testimonial game which attracted a gate of around 10,000 spectators which netted Freddie £500. His first move into nanagement was with the Wales side Nantile Vale (59/60) and, the following season, Pwllheli (60/61), guiding both clubs to the league and cup 'double' in successive years. Fred took the unprecedented step of bringing car loads of players from the Manchester area to play for both sides, including Altrincham keeper Bobby Allan. But the travelling (a 260 mile round trip), coupled with a high speed blow out encouraged Fred to try for jobs closer to home, being interviewed and turned down by both Hyde and Buxton before being given an opportunity at Stalybridge Celtic, who held the manager’s post at Bower Fold open till Fred could secure his release from Pwllheli. Fred even took a hefty pay cut, from £30 a week to £12 a week, to take the job and immediately set about revitalising Stalybridge and taking them from 19th place the previous season (60/61) to 9th in the table at the end of the 61/62 season and moving up to 4th the following season. The board at Stalybridge were delighted and offered him a 5-year contract and shares in the club.
Over in Altrincham, Mr White and Mr Swales had already taken a favourable view of Freddie Pye, despite being sued (successfully) by Fred over comments made in the Altrincham programme about former Robins’ striker Robbie Evison, they were convinced that this was the man to lead Altrincham out of the doldrums and were soon visiting Freddie at his scrap yard in an attempt to lure him to Moss Llane. In typical Pye style his opening remark was alleged to have been "I’ve been expecting you!", when they turned up, though it had been an 'open secret' in the press for a couple of months that Pye was the man that White and Swales were after.
Freddie signed a three-year contract on 9th April I 963, leaving former Altrincham favourite, Neil Dewar, to take over at Stalybridge as player-manager till the end of the season, before persuading him back to Altrincham the following season. In following on from name’ managers such as Paddy Fagan and Charlie Mitten, who had failed to make Altrincham successful, Pye had one massive advantage in that he possessed an intimate knowledge of the Cheshire County League and its players.
Part Two is to follow. Below is a further piece on Pye, taken from a contemporary matchday programme.
From The Robins' Review, 13 April 1968
Meet the man who commands the players we have featured on Personality Page this season. Freddie Pye has been manager of Altrincham for five seasons now and in that time has steered the Robins from one success to another. Peter Swales and Noel White rescued the club financially and alter one or two experiments decided that the man they wanted to run the team must not only have managerial ability but know the Cheshire League and its specialised requirements. And they could hardly have turned to anyone more closely identified with non-League football than Fred Pye who began his soccer career in the Cheshire League at the age of 16. That was with Stalybridge as a winger where he did well enough to sign amateur forms for Manchester United.
At 18 he started his two years National Service in the Fleet Air Arm and then came home for a couple of seasons of League football with Accrington Stanley. Then followed spells with Winsford, Shrewsbury and Hyde. He played for Hyde for seven seasons and became known as "Tearaway Fred" in tribute to his style of play. He slipped into management with an apprenticeship in the Welsh League. He used to sign and organise car-loads of Manchester players and Wales did not know what had hit them! In 1961-62 season he took over as manager of Stalybridge and immediately took them up the League table and into a Cup run, doubling their gates. This was when Altrincham moved in for their most important signing. And the Robins have been romping ever since.
A bluntly spoken man, especially in football where he is sure of his ground, he has acquired a reputation as a hard, rapid hire-and-fire manager. But the players respect him for his realism and willingness to call a spade a spade. Certainly wherever he has been in charge, they have responded with success.