and reproduced by kind permission
The season of 1936-37 can, in retrospect, be identified as the one in which Southport turned the corner. Gordon Hunt made a positive start as Secretary and by the April had been promoted to Secretary-Manager, the position vacated by Jimmy Commins. His early signings reflected, not untypically, his leaning towards experience; on ten occasions Southport fielded a side with five players the 'wrong' side of thirty. Indeed the half-back line of Newcomb, Frame and Crawford which appeared quite regularly totalled over 104 years between them.
At 35, captain Bobby Crawford was the oldest; he was the veteran of a dozen seasons at Preston North End, whence he had moved on to Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers. Tommy Frame, an aggressive centre-half from Manchester United — 'I had to get in among 'em!' — missed only four games; yet it was Lem Newcomb who was to prove the real acquisition, not only as a player but, many years later, as an inspiring and dedicated manager.
Another feature of the squad was the predominance of players from north of the border. There were five in the opening line-up: Crawford, Frame, full-back Jimmy Purdon and forwards Micky Burke and Tommy McKay. Off the field Southport were fortunate to secure the services of former England International Jimmy Seddon as the replacement for Frank Jefferis.
the Friday night eve-of-match routine of checking that all the players were safely back in their lodgings by 9.I5.p.m. Woe betide any offenders who were reported to Gordon Hunt the following week! The inexperienced would wait until Billy had been round on his bike and then slip out for a night on the town; but they underestimated the wily Scot who would often call back a second time and literally `catch them out'!
The improvement on the field was slow and unspectacular; although still undefeated at home, Southport had only accumulated four wins going into the new year. December was a particularly bleak month, only a 2—I Cup defeat at Bristol Rovers interrupting a sequence of four League reversals. Immediately prior to this, the team had lost the services of Purdon who had been performing splendidly in defence. He suffered a badly gashed head during the match at Rotherham. With both reserve full-backs unfit, Jimmy Seddon recommended Port Vale's George Heywood whom he knew from his time as trainer at Altrincham; Heywood duly stepped into the breach, but no sooner was Purdon ready to resume than Jack Grainger got injured against Darlington. By the time he had recovered, George Silk was operating so successfully at left-back that Grainger was consigned to the reserves for the remainder of the campaign.
On a more positive note there were only five games in which the Sandgrounders failed to score; Tommy McKay can claim much of the credit as one of the finest ball-players ever to grace Haig Avenue. Early on the centre-forward spot was the problem, neither Tommy Savage nor Norrie Alden seeming able to impose their authority. On October 2nd, after three weeks of negotiations, Gordon Hunt finally completed the transfer from Luton Town of the man who was to become one of the scoring legends of Southport — Joe Patrick.
`Hat-trick' Patrick, as he was already known, was a native of Carlisle who had appeared for several clubs with mixed success. He signalled his intentions with a goal in his first game, two in his second and, true to his nickname, a hat-trick in his third; the two goals that followed in the 3-3 draw at Oldham took him to eight in four games and he continued in similar vein; during February and March he equalled the club record by scoring in six successive matches.
Southport might have opened the campaign with a victory had Tommy Frame not failed with what proved to be the only penalty awarded to them all season. It was only the second miss of his entire career. Few team changes were required until Patrick's debut match against Crewe Alexandra, when Burke pulled a groin muscle and Norman Kitchen was left hobbling on the wing. Burke was out for a couple of months; Kitchen dropped into the reserves, allowing Paddy McCarthy to reclaim his old position. He only returned to first team duty after McCarthy suffered a kick in the face against Lincoln City in January; McCarthy was unable to regain his place and never appeared again.
Kitchen had in fact pre-empted Joe Patrick with the hat-trick which drew the match at Tranmere Rovers in September. It was one of three games which featured a sudden 'goal-rush% the scores had been tied at 1—i after 8o minutes. Something similar happened at Gateshead in December when the score reached 4-4 by the 57th minute, though here Southport eventually lost by the odd goal in nine; Jack Grainger always rated Patrick's three goals in this game as amongst his most brilliant. Finally, against Barrow in March, after George Carter had put Southport ahead in 4o seconds, it became 2-2 in just 12 minutes; the hectic pace slackened thereafter and the sides finished level at 3-3.
During January there were ugly scenes at Haig Avenue when Hull City's third and fourth goals looked suspiciously offside. Rutherford booted the ball into touch in disgust and as referee Dr A.W.Barton made to take his name an unprecedented invasion of some twenty incensed spectators stormed onto the field. Fortunately the police soon had things under control and the match resumed. Hull's 4-1 win was Southport's first home defeat but there were few who felt the scoreline was merited.
In a final flourish to the season Patrick scored seven goals in the four April games, including another clean sweep in the 3—o win over Gateshead. His eventual tally of 29 only just failed to eradicate Waterston's record of six years earlier. Patrick was by no means alone in scoring on his debut; Burke, Alden, the I8-year-old Harold Hampson and George Pateman all emulated this feat, the last named scoring twice in the second half at Accrington Stanley; by a curious coincidence he had just arrived from Accrington in a straight exchange for Frank Curran, who made his Stanley debut the same day. Pateman's efforts scarcely mattered, however, as the home team won 6-3.
Two more of Gordon Hunt's early signings deserve a mention; both were north-eastern lads who started out in the reserves but goalkeeper Joe Rutherford created such an impression that, after taking over from George Talbot for the Bristol cup-tie, he retained the jersey for the rest of the season. 'Roy' Royston, on the other hand, spent an entire year as a wing-half in the second team; his time was still to come.
Season Summary 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
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