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.
Often forgotten when the Altrincham greats are discussed, Connaughton was a key component in Altrincham's championship winning side of the early 1980s. John was an unfussy, dominant and quietly competent keeper, who succeeded the much heralded (and short term) Alex Stepney as Altrincham's number 1 and saw them through two of the most successful years in their history.
Born in Wigan, he began his senior career as a junior at Manchester United where his early promise earned him three England Youth Caps during the 1967/68 season (v Bulgaria, Netherlands & USSR). His first team career at United lasted exactly 3 games and took place over only 8 days during April 1972! He had however played first team football at both Halifax Town and Torquay United, whilst on loan, prior to his Manchester United debut against Sheffield United, the same team he was to join later that same year for £15,000. But, after two seasons and only 12 league games for the 'Blades', he was released and joined struggling Third Division Port Vale where he spent the next five and half seasons, mainly as first choice keeper, until replaced by another future Altrincham keeper, Trevor Dance.
He made his Altrincham debut in the 7-0 league cup semi-final win over Barnet and helped Altrincham to lift the inaugural Alliance Premiership title and reach the final of the Alliance League Cup (losing to Northwich Victoria in the two-legged final, after extra time and penalties). The following season John missed only one Cheshire Senior Cup game (when the entire first team were 'rested') as Altrincham not only retained the League Championship but also won the two-legged Alliance Premier League Cup by beating Kettering. He also played in the FA Cup third round game at Anfield.
This was a tough act to follow for the following season and, although failing to make it a hat trick of titles, Connaughton was part of the side that beat Runcorn in the Cheshire Senior Cup and reached Wembley in the FA Trophy, only to be beaten 1-0 by Enfield. Furthermore, he helped Altrincham on yet another FA Cup run, beating his former side Sheffield United (after a replay) and York City (also after a replay) before going out 6-1 to Burnley. At the end of the season he retired from playing, due to business commitments, at the relatively early age (for a keeper) of 32 after playing 127 games, with 47 clean sheets for Altrincham. But in that time he had won two league championship medals, an FA Trophy finalist's medal at Wembley, a Cheshire Senior Cup winner's medal and a winner's and a finalist's medal in the League Cup, on top of two good FA Cup runs.
|Professional Career||Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||CSC||FAT|
|Halifax Town (loan)||1969-70||2||0||0||0||2|
|Torquay United (loan)||1971-72||22||3||0||0||25|
Like watching Brazil: Mark Maddox, with back to goal, shapes to convert a nod on from Gary Talbot, extreme right, for the first goal against Burscough, 25 October 2003.
When ‘Mad Dog’ slotted home the fifth shoot-out penalty against Kettering Town in the FA Trophy on 22 January 2003 he became a "Legend". That was the promise we made him at the previous game against Runcorn, "score the winner against Kettering and you’re a legend", so Mark duly obliged and becomes the only currant player to be selected.
Mark has almost become part of the furniture at Moss Lane (having completed 9 seasons at Moss Lane). He would have qualified eventually as "legend" for being the 100% committed and popular player(and programme contributor with Maddox's Memoirs!) that he is. Mark arrived at Moss Lane at the start of the 1996/97 season from Sunday football in Liverpool, though he had been a trainee at Tranmere Rovers.
He started his Altrincham career as a full back, before slotting into his more accustomed role at the centre of the back four. His time at Altrincham has not always been easy but he has always given everything. Mark's first season unfortunately ended in injury causing him to miss the final run-in which led to relegation to the UniBond Premier League. At the start of the 1998-99 season he was lured to the bright lights of Barrow, but things didn’t work out and he barely got a game in his time there. By December 1998 he was back at Moss Lane, where he struggled to get into a side that now contained both Chris Timons and Paul Ellender. There were no complaints, though, from Mark and he knuckled down and still gave nothing less than 100% when called upon.
Back in the Conference for the following season, Mark took his chance when Paul Ellender was sold to Scarborough and, since then, barring injury (and the odd suspension) he has been a regular choice at centre-back. In 2004-05 he complted 300 first team appearances (quite an achievement in this day and age) and could be good for a few more yet.
Wherever he plays, though, you get nothing less than 100% commitment; a nice guy and a 100% clubman; "good on ya"!
FOOTNOTE: Mark's total appearances for Altrincham at June 2005 stand at 298 starts and 19 used-substitute appearances.
Affectionately christened ‘England’s No.1 by the fans, Stuart (right) has been one of the most outstanding keepers Altrincham have had since the War. Tall, loud and a great shot-stopper, he dominates his area like the best keepers always seem to do. Stuart was the last signing that John King made before departing Moss Lane for good, but what a legacy!
Stuart had built quite a reputation at Trafford FC and had previously played for Irlam Town and Maine Road by the time that he was lured to Moss Lane in 1997/98 season. On his arrival, Matt Dickins was the Number 1 and Stuart was limited to just 3 games in that first season but Dickins was released at the end of that campaign and Stuart must have thought that his moment had arrived - until the arrival of Andy Dibble.
However Stuart was totally professional and learnt a lot from Dibble. He continued to work at his game and eventually got his chance when Dibble departed. Stuart then remained first-choice keeper to the end of the season, winning a UniBond Premier League title, a Cheshire Senior Cup winner's medal and a place in the Conference. Stuart started life in the Conference with some outstanding performances (remember Telford away?), which brought him rave reviews which had scouts from clubs all over the country coming to watch him.
Stuart's penalty save at Telford in 1999; just one of a string of great stops in that game.
Unfortunately, a cartilage operation on his knee went wrong and Stuart was forced to sit out most of the season and watch Altrincham get relegated back to the UniBond Premier League after one just one season. The next two seasons in the UniBond saw Stuart perform consistently as a near ever-present but it was obvious that he wanted, quite rightly, to play at a higher level, so it was no surprise when, at the end of the 2001-02 season, he signed for Leigh RMI to take the opportunity to play in the Conference again.
He left Moss Lane having won a UniBond title medal and a Cheshire Senior Cup winner's and loser's medal.
Footnote: Leigh surprisingly released Stuart in October 2003 after he had been their player of the year in 2002/03. In all, he made 52 Conference appearances for The Railwaymen. He rejoined Alty on 17 October 2003 and made his (second) Alty debut at Hyde on 21 October 2003. After an impressive series of performances Stuart underwent a hernia operation in May 2004 but was fit to star again in season 2004-05. By June 2005, Stuart had made 265 appearances for Altrincham and had scored 1 goal (at Runcorn on Boxing Day, 1998).