Our thanks are due to Scunthorpe United fan, Phil Mooney, for alerting us to the death of Paul O’Riley in a Melbourne care home. Paul, who had emigrated to Australia more than 46 years ago, died on 25th November, aged 73. He will be remembered by supporters of a certain age as Southport’s striker in what was a struggling side in in mid 1970s.
Paul was brought up in Huyton where he played centre-half and captained the local schoolboy teams. He was spotted by a Hull City scout and joined the “Tigers” straight from school as a sixteen-year-old apprentice.
When still only 17 he made his first team debut in August 1968. He appeared to be on the verge of a glittering career when three months later he scored four goals in an FA Youth cup tie against Bradford City. However, he was unable to break in to the first team on a regular basis with a youthful Stuart Pearson also coming through Hull City’s youth team ranks.
In March 1971 Paul had a two-month loan spell at Scunthorpe United scoring 4 goals in 11 games. Back at Hull he remained on the fringes of the first team squad making 19 appearances plus 11 as substitute and scored two goals.
After eight seasons at Hull City, Paul joined Barnsley on a free transfer where he scored 2 goals in 14 appearances before drifting into non-League football with Goole Town in December 1974. Southport resurrected his career when he signed in March 1975 and made an immediate impression by scoring twice on his debut in a 3-3 draw at Rochdale. Paul suffered several niggling injuries whilst at Haig Avenue ( as well as falling off a ladder at home! ) and this frequently kept him out of the team. Paul’s discipline was also an issue after he was suspended and fined for failing to turn up to play in a Reserve match . Whilst at Goole Town he had also been suspended for failing to show up for three matches over the Christmas/New Year period which suggests that he may not have taken football career as seriously as he should have done.
Paul told Geoff Wilde that he had a personality clash with skipper Duncan Welbourne, and this may have accounted for him only having 19 League starts and 11 substitute appearances and scoring four goals. On a happier note, I well remember him scoring a goal in the second leg League Cup victory at Stockport County which set up the lucrative visit to Newcastle United tie in the next Round. His last appearance in the first team was a 7-0 defeat at Haig Avenue by Liverpool Reserves in the Liverpool Senior Cup.
Paul was one of the few footballers of his era to sport a beard and his rugged good looks may have weighed in his favour when he was selected (with John Higham and Paul Farrell) to model shirts in a fundraising fashion show held at the Prince of Wales Hotel in July 1976.
Paul was freed by Southport in October 1976 and had then a brief spell with Corby Town whilst waiting for his Australian contract to come through. Emigrating to Australia in early 1977 he first played for Mooroolbark, then spent two seasons playing for Eastern Athletic in Hong Kong and concluded his career with Ringwood City in 1982. He settled in Melbourne where he lived until his death.