Hoole and Chester Football Club

Chas Sumner talked to Hoole History & Heritage Society about Chester Football Club’s early years. The club was formed in 1885 when Chester Rovers and Old King’s Scholars amalgamated at Faulkner Street, where Chester Rovers had played in 1884. House building caused a move to ‘the Old Showground’ in 1898, to land which had been used for the Royal Agricultural Show in 1893, but further house building in this part of Hoole resulted in Chester Football Club becoming homeless for two years after one season. The team played in Whipcord Lane, when it re-emerged. Eventually moving to the Sealand Road ground, its home until 1990.

Over the years, Chester F.C. has drawn upon a loyal following from Hoole. ‘Making the grade’ as a footballer, and playing for ‘The Blues’ has been an ambition of many boys from Hoole as they kicked balls, cans, even stones, about with their friends.

‘Hoole boys’ who played for Chester F.C. in the past

John ‘Basher’ Evans

In 2010, during the celebration of 125 Years of “The Blues”, one of ‘the City Legends’, Chester F.C. players invited to relive yesteryear, was John “Basher” Evans, from Hoole. Working his way up through the junior ranks of Chester Football, at the age of 18, in 1961, he became a part-time professional, and turned full time professional at 21. At this time, playing conditions, using heavy footballs, often on muddy or wet pitches, meant that strength was essential for success in the game. Always “Basher” to the crowd, possibly due to his robust playing style, John made 44 First Team appearances for Chester F.C. under four managers: John Harris, Stan Pearson, Bill Lambton, and Peter Hauser.

John grew up at 33 William Street with his parents and sister, so he played out around William Street entry and Barrows entry. He went to Westminster Road Infant School, then to All Saints Juniors in School Street.

School days took him past the Co-op in Walker Street, so John remembers the shop in 1950s, staff in white uniforms, and the sale of ‘broken biscuits’ and bacon bones. However, he also remembers the eight double decker buses which lined up outside the Co-op to take Hoole football supporters to the match. As a newspaper boy at ‘Docca Dawson’s’, he remembers both Sid Dawson Junior and Senior. Anyone falling short was told to “Sling ya hook”. Fish and chips came from Jimmy Rileys, on the opposite side of Faulkner Street - Jimmy sported a dicky bow, and was well known for his banter at the counter. ‘Gossie’s’ (The Faulkner) and ‘The Brom’ (The Bromfield Arms) were the rival locals.

Growing up, John joined the Boys Brigade, the band with its distinctive big bass drum and bugle and Ken Harris organising. John was a keen footballer, he played for the Boys Brigade Football Club.

Bible classes were on Sunday mornings at the Mission Room, Westminster Road, when John looked forward to visiting Lewis’s Ice-Cream Parlour for a ‘sixpence ha’ penny special’ (scoops of ice-cream in lemonade soda) afterwards. At All Saints’, aged 9, he played ‘two years up’ in the Under-11s, qualifying because he could kick with his left foot. He was given sixpence whenever the team won. Following reorganisation of schools in Hoole in 1954, John moved to Chester College School site to complete his education at All Saints. John played for Hoole Juniors representing them in the CASA League Select 11 Under-18s in Ireland in 1957. He played for All Saints Under-15s, again, two years up, as well as the College, and Chester School Boys, who played in the Semi-final of the School Boys’ League at Swansea in front of a crowd of 7,500.

When John made his debut for Chester F.C. in 1961, the reporter for the Chester Chronicle described him as ‘the Hoole boy who works as an electrician when not playing football’ The fact that John became a qualified electrician and went on to have a very successful second career after leaving football with Chester F.C. was, John Evans believes, due to the thoughtfulness of John Harris, his first manager at the club. Employment was high and boys leaving school readily found work, but, in comparison with today’s earnings, those in football were then quite modest. John Harris thought it was important to get players into work, so he gave John Evans a letter of introduction for Mr. John Neild and his son David, of Thomas Wood and Co. The company needed a trainee electrician, and John was given a job. Another player from Hoole who signed up for Chester at the same time as John was Freddie Field. The contract they signed was to play for Chester Football Club Limited in the Football League and Cheshire County Football League. The rate of pay was £6 per week, with an additional £3 per week when playing for the First Team. A bonus was paid when the team won.

“Basher” made his debut for “The Blues” against Aldershot, in front of 2,775 spectators on Boxing Day 1961. He received lots of congratulations ahead of the match, but only one telegram, from former manager, Stan Pearson, wishing him ‘Good Luck’. The Chester Chronicle described Chester F.C. approaching the game “with zest”; John gave a good performance defending against Taylor “a clever winger”, but Aldershot won 3-2. John’s football career at Chester took off from then, however, and led to 44 First Team appearances, played at fullback.

Unfortunately, in March 1964, when Chester F.C. was playing in the Fourth Division, pushing to get into the promotion top four in the League, during the game at Gillingham, John ‘took a hefty kick to the back as he charged between two players’. Substitutions were not permitted in those days, so John moved to the wing. The nature of his injury was not realised at the time.

Twenty minutes later, he had to be taken off. A hospital x-ray found two fractured bones to the side of his spinal cord. He was ordered to stay in bed with a plank under his back.

How far John might have gone as a professional footballer can never be known. This very serious injury put John out of football for the rest of the season. Recovery and treatment following it did bring John’s much-loved career in League Football to a close.

So, John’s second career as an electrician opened up; it included three decades of involvement at the Grosvenor Estate. John has many letters expressing appreciation for his hard work dedication and commitment from members of the family and estate staff. He was also a guest at the Memorial Service for Gerald Grosvenor held at Chester Cathedral.

Looking back over his working life, John describes it as ‘A Game of Two Halves’

Thomas Carline and Chester Football Club just before the First World War

Before the First World War Chester Football Club played in the Combination League, of which it was a founder member in 1890. On the pitch, Chester had been very successful in the Combination, finishing runners-up for five consecutive seasons, before finally winning the title in the 1909. However, in 1910, the club elected to move to the Lancashire Combination, a league that offered a higher standard of football, and after promotion, in the first season, settled in mid-table in Division 1.

Thomas Carline lived in Hamilton Street, Hoole, for over 10 years. He later moved to Backford. After school, he worked for Lever Bros at its office in the Liver Building, Liverpool.

Chas Sumner found the first mention of Thomas with Chester F.C. in January 1913, playing for the reserves in the West Cheshire League. He played 23 league games in goal for the club before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. On 22nd January 1913, he played for the first team in a Cheshire Senior Cup tie against Crewe, during which he saved a penalty and was reported to have played a fine game. Three days later, he represented the club in a Welsh Cup match against a South Wales village team, Troedyrhiw. Thomas replaced regular goalkeeper James Fletcher, a former Carlisle and Exeter player, for the next match, after Chester was heavily beaten 6-1 by Walkden Central in March. He had a sound League debut against Chorley, despite a narrow defeat, and, after featuring in the next four games, he was one of only four players retained for the 1913/14 season.

Thomas started the campaign as first choice goalkeeper in 1913 and played in every game up to the end of 1913. It wasn't all plain sailing, since he was reported to have scored an own goal in a 4-0 defeat at Barrow in September. In a Welsh Cup tie against Swansea in January 1914, however, he had a good game and, after the Swans had hit the post with a penalty, he made a wonderful save from the rebound.

The Swansea game seemed to mark a turning point for Thomas

A few days after this game, he was at fault for one of the goals in a Cheshire Senior Cup tie at Macclesfield. He lost his place in the team having missed the league game at Walkden Central through illness the following week. By the end of February 1914 it was mentioned that he did not appear to have recovered his previous good form. In a disappointing performance by the whole team, Thomas was beaten by two goals he should have saved when played his last game in goal in a 2-2 draw with Chorley on February 14th. At the end of February he featured in a 3-1 defeat at Heywood United, which was the last mention of Thomas at the football club.

Thomas Carline and the First World War

There is more to be learned about Thomas during the years of the First World War, and this is being looked into by Dave Rees from Hoole History & Heritage Society. His connection with Chester Football Club came from the study of the names listed on the Hoole War Memorial on Hoole Road, and Hoole Rolls of Honour.

Dave Rees has provided the following record to date, and the details of his place of work at Lever Bros. Liverpool.

On 4th September 1914 Thomas enlisted in the 18th Battalion King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, one of the “Liverpool Pals” Battalions. He was promoted to sergeant before he arrived in France on the 7th of November 1915. He was twice wounded in action, transferring to the 12th Battalion in October 1917. Thomas then returned home to undertake officer training and he married.

Following training, he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and returned to the Front. At the Front, he was attached to the 15th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. Thomas was killed in action on 30th September 1918.

After the war, his name was listed on the Hoole War Memorial, to be honoured and remembered along with others from Hoole who had given their lives during the war.

Acknowledgements:

John Evans, a member of the society, shared his reminiscences, photographs and memorabilia with Hoole History & Heritage Society members and visitors and has given permission to reproduce items for this article. He is currently raising funds for a shelter against the elements to be built at Chester’s ground for wheelchair users and others to use whilst watching matches.

Chas Sumner has given permission for research which he has undertaken to be used as part of this article.

Dave Rees for providing his record of Military Service for this article and the photograph

Photograph of the Memorial provided from set taken by Linda Webb.

[Article researched and written by Linda Webb, May 2017, Hoole History & Heritage Society]