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The following season, clean out of the blue, the club was taken over by the Mayor Cllr T Hampson – a pioneer of the car industry – who had built up the Vulcan Motor & Engineering Company in Crossens. The club was financed by this company on the express condition that it be called Southport Vulcan. A new committee was formed (with Edwin Clayton still at the helm) and the original Limited Company was wound up.
The 1918-19 season was only a month old when a young centre-forward, one William Thomas Roberts, who was employed in the Vulcan on munitions work, arrived on the scene, He was regarded by many as the best centre-forward the club has ever had. He netted twice against Rochdale in his first match and week after week he continued to crack in the goals; during one match at Liverpool he hit the ball with such ferocity that it burst through the netting. He possessed phenomenal ball control and was quite deadly in front of goal. In the December against Port Vale he scored all four goals. Tommy Roberts, who was on Leicester Fosse’s retained list, joined Preston North End in 1919 and remained one of football’s most prolific scorers. By September 1927 he had become the first player after the war to register 200 Football League goals.

These were halcyon days as far as talent was concerned and it was generally conceded that the half-back line of C. Roberts (or Holdsworth), Fay and Abram was the best in the area. The club finished sixth and proved themselves to be one of the best sides in the North of England. There were some brilliant players working in munitions at the Vulcan:Sid Bowser-he afterwards won England International honours while with West Bromwich Albion played at inside-left and his wing partner was the former Preston North End international George Barlow.

Yet despite all the promise on the field, by the summer of 1919 it looked doubtful whether the club would remain in being for very much longer. The Vulcan Company had indicated that they were no longer interested in renewing their patronage. On June 5th, 1919 a meeting was called for the purpose of reorganizing the Football Club and at a further meeting at which the Mayor, Cllr E. Wood, presided on Julv 29th. It was revealed that the Vulcan Motor Company had now relinquished their control: since, however, they had taken over all the assets and liabilities along with the unexpired portion of the lease of the ground Southport were effectively debt free.

The Southport Education Committee took over the lease of the Ash Lane ground and also purchased the stands- They proposed to allow the Football Club to use the ground on alternate Saturdays. Cllr Clayton had safe guarded the club’s interest by registering it in the Central League and entering it for the F.A. Cup.

It was proposed and agreed that the club should be reformed and that it should simply be Southport Football Club. The new committee which was formed comprised Messrs R.T.Bentley, J.H.Preston, H.Watchorn, J.H. Robinson, T.Rimmer, G.H.Collinge and J Winterbottom

Prior to the upheaval, the club had applied for a place in the newly enlarged Second Division of the Football League but again they suffered disappointment gaining only 7 votes. Coventry City(35), West Ham United(32), Rotherham County(28),and South Shields (28) were elected. Realistically the application for election was always doomed to failure since the Football League has never allowed “works” teams in its ranks. The reason that the Vulcan Company suddenly abandoned its interest in Southport Football Club may be explained in part by the fact that Cllr. Hampson. Vulcan’s Chairman and Managing Director, was shortly afterwards imprisoned for twelve months after having been found guilty of fraudulently applying the sum of £22,266.5s 1d. to his own use!

Southport’s first peace-time game took place at Oldham on August 30th, 1919

Billy Caulfield scored a hat-trick and Billy Little netted the other goal in a 4-2 win. Early in the season a young inside-forward briefly appeared to partner Billy Semple; some thirty-five years later that same inside-forward now Cllr. Fred Thornley, was to join the Board of Directors.

During the immediate post-war period Southport had no more popular player than centre-forward Tommy Green. One incident involving him was vividly recalled over fifty years later by Gordon Hunt, a young schoolboy at the time.

On November 8th, 1919 Green was sent off shortly before the end of the home game with Bury Reserves for an alleged kick at Watmough. So dissatisfied were the crowd with the referee’s decision that many of them remained outside the ground afterwards loudly protesting about his action. Committee member Harry Watchorn advised them to leave but they stood their ground. It was only when Green himself mounted a nearby cab and asked them for his sake to go away quietly and not create any disturbance that after giving him several loud cheers the crowd finally dispersed. At a meeting under F.A auspices on December 4 th Green was fined 40s. and Southport were ordered to pay the referee’s expenses for attending the meeting.

Later the same month the club were involved in further trouble over an F.A. Cup-tie. Exempted until the fourth qualifying round, Southport were drawn at home to South Liverpool and won 1-0.’South’ protested that the home side had fielded an ineligible player, in that Littlejohn had played for Hurst in an earlier qualifying round. An F.A. commission met to consider the protest and held that the game should be replayed at South Liverpool’s ground at the Dingle. Two goals were shared in the replay and the tie went to a third meeting at Anfield where South won 2-0.

LANCASHIRE JUNIOR CUP WINNERS

Southport did not have long to wait before winning their first post-war trophy however. Competing in the Lancashire Junior Cup. they easily accounted for Prescot and Nelson. A huge crowd of over 7000 was attracted to Chorley for the drawn semi-final but in the replay Southport won through by two clear goals.

The final was against Lancaster Town at their Giant Axe ground and Southport won the cup with a Billy Hooper penalty 12 minutes from time after Billy Little had been tripped in the area. Hooper, an experienced campaigner with Grimsby Town and Nottingham Forest signed for Lancaster the following season. More records fell as 6347 paid £340.1s.10d., Southport’s share being £117.

The team which represented the club in the final was: Halsall, Dorward, Yates, Schofield, Marshall, Norton, Hooper, Caulfield, Green, Little and Semple. Shortly afterwards centre-half Jack Marshall was transferred to Preston North End. The season ended with Southport in sixteenth position- disappointing considering they had headed the table at the end of October.

The success of 1919-20 was undoubtedly full-back Wilf Yates, a Southport Trinity product, who was transferred to Preston North End in the close season and later assisted Tranmere Rovers and Crewe Alexandra. Local talent was now seizing its chance with Billy Little, Harry and “Topping” Sinclair, “Salty” Halsall and Billy Glover establishing themselves in the Central League team.

Next: 1921 – Joining the Football League

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