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Tributes to Southport FC’s midfield genius Bobby McIlvenny

The following article was published in the Southport Visiter on 23rd May 2016 and was written by Tom Duffy.

“Belfast born inside forward played in one of the Sandgrounders’ best ever sides”

The daughter of former Southport FC player Robert ‘Bobby’ McIlvenny has led the tributes to him following his death, aged 89.

Bobby, born in Belfast, played in the successful Southport side of the 1955-56 season. His daughter, Maria Ashton, told Visiter.co.uk : “Bobby has the distinction of being one of the smallest players ever to appear for Southport FC. An inside forward, quick and elusive and direct in style, and covered every blade of grass during the game. He was renowned for his tremendous ball skills.
“It’s a side that is still talked about today. He laid on chances galore, whilst netting 16 goals of his own in the 77 Football League games he played between 1955 and 1957.”

Bobby is thought to have inherited his footballing skills from his father, who was an international. He made his debut at just 16, for Glentoran and then moved on to Distillery, then to Merthyr Tydfil, where his brother also played.

He played for Oldham Athletic FC’s championship winning side 1952/3. During his 1950-1954 playing years with Oldham he had 139 appearances and netted 36 goals.

After Oldham he played for Bury, Southport, Barrow, Yeovil and a had a two year stint as player-manager for Colwyn Bay. He then decided to put down family roots in Southport and moved his family to the town in the early 1960s. The family settled in Hawkshead Street.

After football he worked in insurance for the remainder of his career. But Bobby maintained a link with football as youth team manager at Southport, during Billy Bingham’s time as manager

The Belfast man was a very keen golfer, and in 1973 he won the coveted Southport Golf Bowl, and was presented with the trophy by Mr S Dickinson, a former captain of S&A golfcClub.

Maria added: “My dad was a very genial Irishman. He saw the fun in everything, and was always very popular. He loved football and golf. Bobby will be sadly missed by all who knew him. “

Oldham Athletic released a statement on their website which read: “Oldham Athletic were saddened to learn of the passing to former striker Robert McIlvenny, aged 89. McIlvenny served Latics for four years between 1950-1954, scoring 36 goals in 139 games for the club.

“He was one of the smallest players to represent Athletic, as he stood just 5ft 4in in height. He was quick, elusive and direct in style and covered every blade of grass during a game.

“After leaving Athletic in 1954, McIlvenny had spells with Southport, Barrow and Yeovil Town before managing Colwyn Bay. Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this difficult time.”

Bobby was married to the late Harriet McIlvenny and is survived by his daughters Maria, Anne and Patricia.

The funeral will take place at Holy Family church in Southport, on June 6 at 10.30am. All welcome.

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