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1939/40 Season Summary

Liverpool Echo – Saturday 19 August 1939

Life in the summer of 1939 continued largely as normal. The club installed Billy Semple as head trainer in place of Jimmy Seddon while Bob Jones returned as his assistant.

Liverpool Daily Post – Monday 24 July 1939

At the Football League’s Annual General Meeting it was decided that all players must be numbered for the first time in League matches and there were to be new elliptical goalposts with the framework standardised on all grounds.

The club assembled a professional staff of twenty-four players who, on August 16th, attended their annual pre-season get-together at Arrowe Park, Birkenhead; pitch and putt and bowls competitions were held and prizes were donated by director Mr A. Lofthouse. A lunch of steak and chips or ham and eggs was provided at the Park Cafe and the party, which included directors, trainers and secretaries Gordon Hunt and Les Rimmer, went on to the Argyle Theatre in Birkenhead to attend the second house variety show.

Liverpool Evening Express – Monday 31 July 1939

Southport approached the season in an optimistic frame of mind, with plans under consideration to erect new dressing-rooms and a gymnasium on the far side of the ground; yet they began badly, losing 6-1 at Accrington in the Football League Jubilee Fund game. The following Saturday at Darlington Southport caused a sensation by dropping stalwarts Jack Grainger and Dave Hill in favour of new signing Jack Preece from Bradford City and young Harry Harrison. Darlington won 1—o but on the Tuesday evening a crowd of 5,310 were kept on their toes by a clean, sporting contest against Tranmere Rovers which, fittingly, ended in
a 3-3 draw.

Liverpool Evening Express – Monday 31 July 1939

Saturday, September 2nd saw the German invasion of Poland. A bulletin from the Home Office stated that the situation did not warrant cancelling matches. Southport’s official programme, reviewing the Tranmere game, explained that `Anything up to 2,000 followers of the game were kept away by calls of important work in regard to the nation’s defences. Football, of course, comes a very poor second to the calls of the country in these critical days.’

In disappointing contrast to their spirited showing against Tranmere Rovers, the Southport attack served up a lifeless and disjointed display against Hull City; the game, which ended in a draw, provided little entertainment for the crowd of 3,711. The Southport Visiter observed: ‘It may have been that the players were affected by the international tension; in fact the atmosphere was far from normal’.

After Lowe had scored for Hull in 23 minutes, Dick Spivey, a pre-season signing from Bristol Rovers and himself a former Hull City player, equalised in 57. The following Southport side took the field: Stevenson, Hodgkiss, Preece, Newcomb, Harrison, Scott, Stapleton, Hawkins, Patrick, Hewitt, Spivey. At the time there was every reason to suppose that Joe Patrick had just played his 121st consecutive Football League game for the Sandgrounders; but it was not to be .. .

Clearly not all supporters realised the seriousness of the international situation, as four season tickets were sold before the Hull City game! The outbreak of war came the very next day. The immediate effect was a ban on the assembly of crowds until further notice. All the players were handed their Health and Unemployment cards to enable them to make immediate application for Unemployment Benefit and the majority dispersed to their homes in various parts of the country.

The total blackout of football only lasted a few days. It was announced on September 14th that friendly matches could be arranged and Southport wasted no time in fixing up a visit to Stockport County on the 16th. Permission was granted to play 18-year-old Billy Sinclair who was in the Army. It was reported that Bob Jones, Albert Stapleton and Jack Preece had found employment at Brockhouses, the engineering firm, while Dennis Grainger was working as a hairdresser and his brother Jack had got a job at Hartwood Hosiery.

The Football League held an emergency meeting at Crewe on Wednesday 20th September 1939. It was at this meeting that the Football League came up with the plan to hold a number of regional league competitions. With a number of restrictions imposed by the government this dictated indirectly where and who would form these regional leagues.  

Payments to players were restricted to 30 shillings per match for a maximum of 12 players per side. Registered players could turn out as guests for other clubs if they were stationed nearby. No win or appearance bonuses were allowed and no trophies were to be awarded. The minimum admission charge was set at 1 shilling with exceptions for members of the armed forces, women and boys. Revenue would be shared out according to FA Cup rules with 70% for the home club and 30% for the away club, instead of the usual 75-25 split of the Football League. As in the First World War the original club would keep the players registrations, so when peace returned so would their players. 
 
There was one final rule that determined more than any other the structure of these new leagues and that was the 50 mile travel rule meaning that clubs could not travel more than this distance to fulfil fixtures. 

Eight leagues were formed from the 88 Football League clubs. The North Western League consisted of 12 clubs:

  • First Division clubs: Blackpool, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Preston North End.
  • Second Division: Burnley and Bury,
  • Third Division (North): Accrington Stanley, Barrow, Carlisle United, Oldham Athletic, Rochdale & Southport. 

In another change in direction from the experience of football during the first world car, the Football League launched a cup competition on Monday the 11th March. The Football League (War) Cup competition was to be played in April, May and June 1940, made up of a preliminary round and two-legged first and second rounds. The third and fourth round were to be played on a single tie basis with semi-finals, not necessarily at a neutral venue, followed by a cup final at Wembley Stadium. 

The preliminary round was made up of Third Division North & South clubs. To cut down on distances to be travelled the Football League put these clubs into 4 separate pots, North A & B and South A & B.

Saturday 21st October 1939 was the scheduled start for the new wartime league season and Bob Hodgkiss earned the distinction of scoring the first goal in regional football from a free-kick within two minutes of the start against Oldham Athletic.

As players were called up and left the town, so others came back. In December 1939 Jack Little made his first appearance for six and a half years and obtained employment at the gasworks, while other pre-war players like Norman Kitchen and Jimmy Watt returned to the town to play.

Week by week the exodus gained pace and by March 1940 it was reported that at least sixteen Southport players were serving in the forces.

As the season drew to a close, youth was given its chance. A friendly game was arranged with Preston North End ‘A’ at Deepdale. Though Southport were defeated 8-0, the one redeeming feature was the brilliant display of Billy Dobson, a Holy Trinity product, in the Southport goal. Another star of this game was a Preston youngster called Tom Finney, who gave the runaround to local lad Bill Sumner.

Southport finished tenth out of twelve in the Regional League North West. In April it took a replay and extra time to progress past fellow Third Division side Oldham Athletic in the preliminary round of the War Cup but coming up against First Division Blackpool in the first round they then succumbed to a heavy aggregate 8-2 defeat.

The club announced a loss of £1,303 18s. 1d for the season. A great deal of this deficit stemmed from the summer wages paid out in preparation for a normal season. It was announced after the Annual General Meeting that Secretary-Manager Gordon Hunt had agreed to forgo any remuneration and would carry on unpaid until better times were reached. His gesture was much appreciated by the board. It was further stated that the club now had no paid staff, all the work being undertaken voluntarily. Even trainer Billy Semple’s name was reluctantly removed from the payroll when he started work at Brockhouses.

In the summer of 1940 Gordon Hunt declared that ‘It is the wish of the board that the club should carry on if at all possible and I am trying to complete a list of twenty fixtures for the first half of the season’.

Lancashire Evening Post – Thursday 01 August 1940
Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD

Large parts of this summary are 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

Other sources: ttps://www.englishfootballleaguetables.co.uk/Blog/ww2.html

Liverpool Echo – Thursday 11 January 1940

 

League Division 3 (North) - abandoned
                              P   W  D  L   F   A   W  D  L   F   A  Pts
 1. Accrington Stanley        3   1  0  0   2   0   2  0  0   4   1    6
 2. Halifax Town              3   1  1  0   3   1   1  0  0   3   0    5
 3. Chester City              3   2  0  0   3   0   0  1  0   2   2    5
 4. Darlington                3   1  0  0   1   0   1  1  0   4   2    5
 5. New Brighton              3   2  0  0   6   3   0  0  1   0   2    4
 6. Rochdale                  3   2  0  0   2   0   0  0  1   0   2    4
 7. Wrexham                   3   1  0  0   2   0   0  1  1   1   2    3
 8. Tranmere Rovers           3   1  0  0   3   1   0  1  1   3   5    3
 9. Lincoln City              3   1  0  1   4   5   0  1  0   2   2    3
10. Rotherham United          3   1  1  0   4   3   0  0  1   1   3    3
11. Crewe Alexandra           2   0  1  0   0   0   1  0  0   3   0    3
12. Carlisle United           2   1  0  0   2   0   0  0  1   1   3    2
13. Hull City                 2   0  1  0   2   2   0  1  0   1   1    2
14. Gateshead                 3   1  0  1   3   3   0  0  1   3   4    2
15. Barrow                    3   0  1  1   3   4   0  1  0   1   1    2
16. Doncaster Rovers          3   1  0  0   2   0   0  0  2   2   5    2
17. Southport                 3   0  2  0   4   4   0  0  1   0   1    2
18. Oldham Athletic           3   1  0  0   3   1   0  0  2   0   4    2
19. Hartlepool United         3   0  1  0   1   1   0  1  1   0   3    2
20. York City                 3   0  1  0   2   2   0  0  2   1   3    1
21. Bradford City             3   0  0  1   0   2   0  1  1   3   4    1
22. Stockport County          2   0  0  1   0   3   0  0  1   0   2    0
North West Regional Championship

 1. Bury FC             	22 16  2  4  64:30  34
 2. Preston North End FC	22 15  2  5  63:27  32
 3. Blackpool FC          	22 13  6  3  75:36  32
 4. Bolton Wanderers FC 	22 13  4  5  55:30  30
 5. Oldham Athletic AFC 	22 11  2  9  55:61  24
 6. Burnley FC           	22  9  5  8  48:43  23
 7. Barrow FC           	22  8  4 10  54:57  20
 8. Blackburn Rovers FC 	22  7  4 11  37:40  18
 9. Rochdale FC          	22  5  5 12  38:58  15
10. Southport FC          	22  5  4 13  34:62  14
11. Carlisle United FC  	22  4  4 14  38:68  12
12. Accrington Stanley FC	22  2  6 14  31:78  10


Source: The Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation.Author Dinant Abbink

Liverpool Daily Post – Wednesday 02 August 1939

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