RIP Jack Richardson

Manager Trevor Hitchen shakes hands with David Kerr at training

Manager Trevor Hitchen meets his players in 1958.

Supporters who, like me, have been following the fortunes of Southport Football Club for over sixty years will be saddened to learn of the death of Jack Richardson who passed away at the Southport and Ormskirk General District Hospital on 30th May just a few days after his eighty eighth birthday. Born in Rock Ferry, Jack was evacuated to Wales for the duration of the war. He returned to finish his education at Kirkland School and began in Birkenhead League football with New Ferry Athletic and later played in the West Cheshire League for Lobol ( the Unilever team where he was employed as a lead headed fitter ) . After National Service in the Far East he played for Canterbury in the Kent League before returning north. Jack joined Southport on a two months trial as a part-time professional making his Lancashire Combination debut against Lancaster City in the opening day of the 1956-57 . After successfully completing his trial he was signed for the rest of the season and made his senior debut in two Lancashire Senior Cup ties against Preston North End in October 1956. The following month he replaced the the injured Ray Minshull for the First Round FA Cup tie against York City . Turning full time professional in 1958 Jack was an ever- present in the inaugural Fourth Division Campaign which was my first full season watching Southport . Jack became my hero after he saved a penalty kick against Barrow which Manger Trevor Hitchen described it as a “cracking save”. The previous week he had not been at his best as Southport lost to Halifax Town in the FA Cup and he had asked to be placed on the transfer list. Although it was reported that Newcastle United were interested in signing him Jack remained at Haig Avenue until early the following season when he was allowed to join Wigan Athletic shortly after the arrival of Arthur Barnard making the last of his 103 League appearances at home to Workington on 1st September 1959. Jack made 136 Lancashire Combination and Cheshire League appearances with the Latics over the next four years when he reverted to part-time status and was employed at the Heinz factory at Kit Green. There followed spells at Chorley and finally Holyhead in the Welsh League before he retired from the game in 1967.During his non-League career Jack won a clutch of medals but the game that game him greatest satisfaction was when Southport drew 0-0 with Everton to share the Liverpool Senior Cup in May 1958. At 5ft 9in Jack was small for a goal keeper . He was confident, agile and spectacular although there were occasional lapses of concentration .As a nine year old I vividly remember an occasion with Southport leading Gillingham 2-0 late on in the game a spectator next to me called out from behind the goal “You’re in the money tonight Jack” (referring to his winning bonus). Jack replied “Aye” and half turned round only to find seconds later the ball was nestling in the back of the net! Fortunately Southport held on to win 2-1. Another unusual feature of Jack’s game at that time was that unlike most goalkeepers who would punt the ball up field Jack preferred to roll the ball out to full backs Bill Dodd and George Rankin to set up attacks. Jack was employed as a security officer for many years at the Bank of England and was a popular visitor to Haig Avenue when he came over from his Formby home to watch games on the ground. Some twenty five years ago when my son Alex and I were playing imaginary games of football in the back garden and it was my turn to go in goal I would tell him “I’m Jack Richardson”. You see I have never forgotten my first Haig Avenue hero.