Following hot on the heels of Billy Bigham‘s death we now have received news that Alex Russell has passed away after a short illness, aged 78. Thus, the Club have lost their greatest Manager and arguably one their most skillful players within a few days.
I have been following the fortunes of Southport Football Club for sixty-five years and there is no doubt in my mind that Alex was the most cultured, ball playing inside-forward that I have ever seen in a Southport shirt. He possessed outstanding constructive qualities and was the midfield supremo in the Southport team that reached the fifth round of the FA cup in 1966 and went on to gain promotion to the Third Division the following season. Alex reserved his greatest performance for the Fourth-Round tie against Cardiff City. He ran the show and repeatedly tied Cardiff’s defence in knots.
Alex missed the run-in to Southport’s promotion season after being the victim of a late tackle at Halifax in April 1967. This ended a run of 92 consecutive League games and necessitated a cartilage operation. He was out of the team until December, returning in time to play in the Everton Cup-tie in January 1968.
Alex had been Everton Manager Harry Catterick’s second signing in March 1961 having previously represented South Shields Boys. When Southport Manager Lem Newcomb signed him in November 1963 Everton, realising his potential, insisted on retaining a financial interest in him so that in the event of his being transferred Everton would receive a substantial slice of any transfer fee. Southport eventually circumvented the Everton transfer clause by transferring him to Blackburn Rovers in a straight swap for Laurie Calloway in August 1971. Spells at Tranmere Rovers and Crewe Alexandra (on loan) followed before Jimmy Meadows brought him back to Haig Avenue in November 1972 .
Alex will always be remembered for scoring the dramatic 93rd minute free kick against Hartlepool that clinched the Fourth Division Championship in April 1973. He remained at Haig Avenue for a further two seasons bringing his career tally to an impressive 426 games – 346 (+ 2 sub) appearances for Southport and scored 75 goals. Only Alan Spence and Joe Patrick scored more goals in the Football League.
At Everton Alex had been an apprenticed printer and he qualified as a compositor in 1965. On retiring from the game Alex went back to printing and took over Watkinson and Bond in Churchtown before selling his business a couple of years ago. Alex remained a regular attender of matches at Haig Avenue and deservedly became one of the first players to be inducted into the Southport Hall of Fame in 2019.
Alex is survived by his wife, Lyn, his three daughters, Tina, Megan and Amy, and by son Alex(Junior) who played some 600 games for a myriad of Football League clubs.