Newsprint became scarce and after 1939-40 programmes were reduced to a single sheet. Despite the escalation of the war the local pressmen — and in particular Len Peet ("The Scout' of the Southport Journal) — published a constant stream of football news which was eagerly lapped up by the increasing number of servicemen. Amongst these now was Secretary-Manager Gordon Hunt, who signed up with the R.A.F. in September 1940. In no time at all Bert Pelham returned as Honorary Manager, reinforcing the distinctly 'early thirties' atmosphere at Haig Avenue.
Rigid economy was practised by the directors in an effort to keep the flag flying as attendances dropped below the Soo mark. With the Southport players on only £1 a week, the club was one of the few to pay less than the maximum wage of thirty shillings. On January 7th, 1941, without any discussion, the Town Council passed a resolution that the Town Clerk be instructed to communicate with the club with reference to the arrears of rent owing in respect of the ground. The following month the Council agreed to write off £45 on the understanding that the other £45 would be paid immediately.
It was revealed hereabouts that the Southport directors were digging into their own pockets for a fixed weekly contribution to enable the club to continue. The dire situation was summed up by Sam Banner when he said 'We want to carry on although there is no income for us out of this wartime football. Some day this war is going to end and real football will be back again. If we can carry on during the war period we shall automatically retain our place in the Northern Section when the normal football programme resumes'.
The most impressive performance of 1940-41 came when, having disposed of Crewe Alexandra 10-4 on aggregate in the preliminary round, Southport surprised Liverpool by winning 3-2 at Anfield in the first leg of a League War Cup tie. They progressed to the next round by drawing the second leg, only to go out to Everton. The following month Southport welcomed back Harry Lowe into their ranks after an absence of more than ten years, when they played Bolton Wanderers. It was on this occasion that the Southport Journal reported that Harry Harrison was far too good for the 15 1/2-year-old Nat Lofthouse, the Wanderers' centre-forward.
Travelling to games presented its own problems. As it was not possible to hire a coach in Southport, Billy Semple and Reuben Hilton often used to catch the train to Preston where they met up with the Southport players, many of whom were stationed at nearby Blackpool. On one such occasion, when visiting Rochdale, Billy Semple experienced probably the Most harassing day of his twenty-eight years with the club to date. When the coach driver had difficulty in locating the ground, a young passer-by called Woods was asked for directions and then invited on board in case he was required to play! When Spotland was reached, they found that three players had not turned up. Fortunately Southport also had a supporter with them in Tony Oldfield,- time well-known in motor racing circles; whilst the twelfth man was automatically drafted in, Semple had no alternative but to ask Oldfield and Woods to cbmplete the team. It was hardly surprising that Southport were beaten by ten clear goals!
On a happier note, the club also recorded their biggest win in years when they defeated Stockport County 8—o. Billy Hullett, a guest player who was officially on Manchester United's books, netted five goals and finished the season as top scorer with nineteen goals from only thirteen games. He was followed by Frank Curran, recently released from Army service to undertake vital war work, with eleven. It was subsequently reported that there had been a loss of km overall but optimism was expressed by club officials, who pointed out that the fixtures for 1941-42 would bring many of the best-known Lancashire clubs to Haig Avenue and thus add new interest to the football played.
As an example of the efforts put in by supporters during these hard times, Ralph and Annie Carr held weekly Workers' Club dances at St John's Hall in Wright Street, giving pleasure to hundreds and putting much needed money into the coffers of the club.
Reproduced with Permission from:
The Sandgrounders: The Complete League History of Southport F. C., by Michael Braham and Geoff Wilde (Palatine Books, 1995). ISBN 978-1-874181-14-9
If you can provide any further information please contact me