In memory of John Howard

It is with tremendous sadness that the L & C announce the death of our former League Secretary John Howard at the age of 85.

John’s contribution to the league, its reputation and what it has become today cannot be measured and is “unlikely to ever be surpassed.” The outpouring of love and affection since news of his passing confirms as much, with messages from committee members, football clubs, the Lancashire Amateur League (LAL) and Manchester FA emphasising the regard he was held in.

He has been described as “influential,” “dedicated,” “a gentleman,” “mentor,” “a special man,” a man for whom respect came naturally, from people who enjoyed his company, passion and love for the game and the advancement of the L & C and grassroots football.

His knowledge of our league was unrivalled and he penned the most significant piece of history that exists about the L & C – a comprehensive history of our first 100 years.

It is typical of John’s nature that, in more than 250 pages, he only recounts his own time in the L & C in less than a page, not even detailing his time as League Secretary, instead thanking his devoted wife Doreen, “who has shown great patience in accepting that football was part of our life together and I would not have been able to complete this book without her encouragement,” and also preferring to focus on his contemporaries and their contributions

That says a great deal about the man, considering the L & C is a labour of love. His involvement in the league began in 1953 when he began playing for the Manchester Town Clerks and City Treasurers (Mantact) Football Club. During his time with the club as a player and administrator, Mantact enjoyed success by winning the 3rd Division, Division E, and Reserve B Division, as well as the Wray Cup.

John’s enduring passion for the league is remembered by his son Stephen, the L & C Referees Appointment Secretary, whose “first real memories” of football were his dad’s involvement in managing Mantact and being part of the L & C.

Stephen said: “Early memories were at Hough End where he organised everything, picking up players on the way to the game involving long detours, washing the kit, getting the oranges and cutting them into quarters for half-time, team talks and shouting from the touchline.

“He organised training at various venues and he also enjoyed a drink after training. To be honest, growing up for me, it was his passion.”

John progressed all the way through Mantact’s administration, onto refereeing, time as the Discipline Secretary, and membership of the League Management Committee.

Mantact’s resignation from the league meant a stint as Results Secretary, a time which Stephen fondly recalls involved “an answering machine that never stopped on Saturday evening with all clubs ringing in results, and he would leave a message with all the results on, so Sunday night the phone again would never stop, and my job was to take all the results to the post office to ensure they got to the newspapers on time.” It paints an accurate picture of a man who “lived for the league,” as his son eloquently described it.

In later years, John enjoyed a three-year spell as League Secretary, succeeded by current incumbent, Brian Davies. Brian is unequivocal about his predecessor’s influence, both on a personal and professional level, a man described as “the life and soul” of the L & C.

Brian said: “My first interaction with John was going to discipline meetings because the club I was with had discipline problems at the time so I used to have to go to John Howard. He was feared for his power as a disciplinarian but was always very fair and everybody came out of those meetings with a massive amount of respect. Everything was accepted because he was so good at it.

“The influence he had couldn’t be measured. John was a dedicated man of integrity and was the life and soul of the L & C for so long.”

During his time as Secretary, he pushed for greater automation and communication with the clubs. He was a major reason for the Full Time system of recording results, and the continuous lines of dialogue in the weekly updates.

Fiercely protective of grassroots football, John was a great advocate of the L & C vs LAL Interleague Trophy, and maintaining the relationship between the two leagues, along with the ongoing annual games, which have now reached 100 years. The two leagues have always been friendly and helped each other where possible. It is a mark of John’s influence here that the Interleague trophy is named after him, leaving a legacy that he can be proud of.

Peter Duffy of the LAL, described John as “iconic” with “limitless knowledge.”

He said: “On behalf of the LAL, please pass on my condolences to all of John’s family and friends.”

Colind Bridgford, Manchester FA CEO, added: “My thoughts and all at Manchester FA are with his friends and family, personally and within football.”

John’s loyalty to the league meant he not only safeguarded its traditions, but he also embraced change and was a representative for the league on a body that is committed to improving equality and diversity. Even during the Covid pandemic, he was looking to the future, keen to continue developing grassroots football and was responsible for the collation and publication of L &C match sheets as recently as the end of the 2020/21 season.

That is an association with the league of 68 years. It is why messages have arrived in their droves from football clubs far and wide, it is why Fixtures Secretary Malc Kershaw spoke of his “admiration for the man,” and the reason Geoff Garnett describes knowing John as “a pleasure.” It is why Keith Marsden, Registrations Secretary spoke of a “special man” that nobody had a negative word about, and why the likes of Spurley Hey, Stretford Paddock, Govan Athletic, and Chorltonians to name a few paid tribute by speaking warmly about a man who put so much time into the league and amateur football, who will be “a real loss,” who will be greatly missed, was pleasant, and was respected in ways that cannot be adequately put into words, as Dave Jameson of Spurley Hey said.

It is an incredible legacy to leave and whilst we will miss our dear friend immeasurably, we are eternally grateful for his contribution and his indelible mark on the L & C will always be remembered.

John passed away peacefully at Bury Hospice, surrounded by his loved ones and will be deeply missed by his wife Doreen, children Stephen and Helen, his five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

L & C Diversity Inclusion Group

The L & C Diversity and Inclusion Committee member Rob Brown would like clubs to nominate representatives to take part in an open discussion about inclusivity and diversity. It is felt the key people are the football managers and assistants who have the most influence on the playing squads and changing room environment, however all nominees are welcome.

The diversity group’s brief would be to :

1.            Set up the introductory meeting in April – date to be confirmed

2.            The membership should include 5 member clubs and 3 L & C committee members

3.            We would meet 3 times a year or on an adhoc basis

4.            The group will consider the most high profile issues in accordance with diversity and inclusion for grass roots football

5.            Explore issues that would help our league to be as inclusive as possible and make suggestions to the L & C committee as to how it can develop or make           changes to be as inclusive as possible.

6.            The group would also be a sounding board for the league and be prepared to consider issues as they arise and advise accordingly.

7.            The group would be prepared to accept and take part in development  and be as knowledgeable on current issues as possible.

If you have already expressed an interest, please confirm to Rob, as several months have passed since we first started communicating about this matter.

Let the action begin

AFTER months for frustration and lack of playing action there was plenty of hard work done by the L & C management committee, given great support by clubs, to prepare for an exciting new programme once the lockdown on grassroots soccer was lifted.

The league designed a divisional cup competition to finish the season giving all of the 90-plus teams the chance to play at least five games followed by quarter-finals for the top two teams in each group followed by semi-finals and finals for the Rhodes Cup, Wray Cup, Whitehead Cup and Hellawell Shield.

The competition will begin on April 10 and will be looking to avoid midweek matches.

All clubs were also given the chance to take part in a full programme of friendly matches by the league on April 3 to get them back into action and be aware of Covid restrictions and administrative requirements for the upcoming cup competitions.

Some clubs have had to seek out new grounds to play on due to Covid problems with their existing facilities and the league are delighted with some of the temporary venues they have been able to secure.

L & C Referees Secretary Stephen Howard has been busy also and he is pleased to announce that he has a surplus of officials for all of the upcoming games.

The draw for the cups sees teams from the Premier and Division One in four groups of six teams each aiming to reach the final of the Rhodes Cup at Hyde United at the end of May.

The draw gives some of the ambitious teams in division one the chance to show their talent against Premier division teams.

One group sees Rhodes Cup holders Salford Vics and 100 per cent Premier division leaders Mellor lined up with South Manchester and Urmston Town.

Division One leaders Moston Brook will enjoy a local derby with high-flying Premier side AFC Oldham as well as tough games with Lancashire Amateur Cup finalists Milton, Hadfield Athletic and De la Salle.

Rochdalians are another L & C powerhouse and among their opponents are Dom Doyle, Newton, Bury Ams and Irlam Tiger.

The fourth group has recent Rhodes Cup winners High Lane in a tough group containing ambitious new boys Stretford Paddock, Signol OB, North Walkden, Abacus Media and Manchester Polonia.

Teams from Division Two and Three are competing for the Wray Cup and in one of the groups there will be an exciting local derby as division two leaders Old Stretfordians take on Aldermere.

The Whitehead Cup has teams from Divisions A and B in action with new team Kartel taking on Salford Storm and Hillgate in their fixtures.

Finally the Hellawell Shield has teams from Divisions C and D in action with one of the groups just having five clubs, including new boys Greater Manchester FC who will take on Stoconians fourths, FC Bury, Stlay Lions and Didsbury thirds.

The group includes Division C leaders AFC Stockport Warriors and Division D top team Irlam Tigers A.
So plenty of thrills and spills to look forward to in a very exciting end to the truncated season.

New plan in place to finish the season

NOW that the Government has laid down its road map grass roots football has been able to plan the conclusion to another very disrupted season caused by Covid 19.

The Lancashire & Cheshire League management committee has been doing plenty of work in looking at various options and decided to void the current league season in their eight divisions mainly due to the differences in fixtures completed by the teams.

The plan now is to run the four league cup competitions, originally in a divisional format, to give all of the teams the chance to play at least five fixtures followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and cup finals.

The Rhodes Cup, currently held by Salford Victoria, will be competed for by teams in the Premier and Division One in four groups of six teams, playing each other once with the top two teams in each group progressing to quarter finals.

The Wray Cup, currently held by Radclyffe FC, will feature teams in Division Two and Three in the same format and the Whitehead Cup, held by Chadderton Cott is for teams in Division A and B.

Finally the Hellawell Shield, held by Irlam Tigers Rangers, will see teams from Division C and D in competition.

The draw will soon be made and fixtures secretary Malc Kershaw will then plan the schedule which will begin on April 10 with quarter-finals planned for May 15.

The league will provide linesmen for the quarter finals and as usual the semi-finals and finals will be on neutral grounds with officials provided by the league.

Malc Kershaw said: “We will look for the group matches to be played on Saturdays, avoiding midweek games where possible and there will be some adjustments where teams share pitches.

“Referees secretary Stephen Howard is confident that he has enough officials to cover the busy programme and hopefully we will not be affected by bad weather and more Covid restrictions as we look to provide an exciting and competitive end to another very difficult and frustrating season.”

The clubs will all be given detailed information of the draw, rules etc for the planned programme as soon as possible giving them the opportunity to play some friendly games in preparation for the cup competitions.

Spurley Hey suffer “devastating” pitch damage

Spurley Hey FC, one of the most respected and successful football clubs in the Greater Manchester area, have suffered ‘devastating’ damage to their playing surfaces.

The club, founded in 1968, are a vital part of their community, and provide leisure activity in the form of 18 teams made up of two adult teams – part of the L & C AFL, two girls teams, and 14 boys teams throughout different age groups.

Yet the action of mindless individuals have jeopardised the playing surfaces, caused by a quad bike and small motocross bike.

Unfortunately, this is not the first instance of damage, according to Spurley Hey President, Dave Jameson, who said: “Over the years, we have suffered a lot of damage by bikers to our pitches and we recently had fly tippers blocking the approach to the ground.

“We have spent a lot of money putting up barriers around the site and this has limited the damage.

“We are currently in receipt of an FA Improvement Grant this season and with the aid of this grant and from club funds, we have spent in the region of £10,000 in an attempt to improve the playing surfaces.

“So it was devastating to see extensive damage done to the playing surfaces by people driving to our ground and loading bikes and quad bikes over the barriers to drive on the pitches.

“The damage was caused by two children – one on a quad bike and the other on a small motocross bike – and they were accompanied and helped by four adults.”

One of Spurley’s managers caught the perpetrators of this vandalism in the act but was “met with verbal abuse.” The club have sought out assistance from the Police, who are now dealing with the matter.

Dave said it is disappointing for all those who pour their heart and soul into their local community facilities, and he urged other facilities in the area to keep a watchful eye out to avoid similar issues.

“I know that other clubs in the league and various sports clubs in the area have been subject to damage to their facilities and it is very disappointing to see the hard work of so many volunteers treated in this thoughtless manner.

“I would advise all sports facilities to keep a constant check on their grounds to avoid the devastation and disappointment we have suffered.”

Mike Yates, Chairman of the L & C AFL, added: “Spurley Hey are a long-established club in our league and have a really hard-working committee of volunteers who give up their spare time to provide football for the local community.

“What is particularly alarming with this vandalism is that parents were helping the children with their bikes.

“Let’s hope they are caught and suitable financial penalties are administered as a deterrent, and the funds are given to Spurley Hey for repair work.”

Dave King passes away

The Lancashire & Cheshire AFL is saddened to learn that Dave King has passed away at the age of 80.

Dave was one of the most well-known and well-respected members of the L&C community and dedicated more than 60 years of his life to amateur football.

Mike Yates, Chairman of the L&C, paid his own personal tribute: “Dave’s love of football shone throughout his life – as a player, manager, referee and administrator. His knowledge of the game was invaluable in shaping league policy and decision making.

“He will be greatly missed for this, but also for his friendship and popularity within the league committee and the wider L&C league.”

His love affair with the L&C began in 1958 when he joined Aldermere, and he played a remarkable 690 games for the club over a 36-year period. His versatility was obvious given the fact he played in every position for the club. He also held the post as Chairman and ‘held the club together on occasions’. It’s no surprise that he was known as “Mr Aldermere” by many.

Dave’s playing days were curtailed when he broke his leg in a game against Moston Brook, but his versatility and commitment to the league saw him thrive in other roles. Firstly, as a referee for many years. During that time, he gained a notable reputation, as fellow committee member and friend Graham Ellis explained.

He said: “There are various comments from match sheets about Dave King the referee. One said ‘the referee Dave King arrived late after struggling through traffic……and we really wish he hadn’t!’”

It highlights the respect he commanded, but also the high regard he was held in. Graham joined the committee as a result of Dave’s influence in a friendship that lasted for decades.

“Dave will be sadly missed for his football enthusiasm, his warmth, humour, his diligent work, and refereeing experiences.”

He was a vital part of the league committee for many years; during that time, Dave played a key role in all aspects of the league’s business. This included a year as President in 1994-95, and subsequently he was a staple part of the league management committee.

His ‘true vocation’, as explained by John Howard, was his role in organising the L&C’s annual presentation dinner, which is regularly attended by more than 300 guests.

John said: “The work was concentrated over a short period towards the end of the season and required the patience and charm that Dave was renowned for displaying.”

“Grassroots football has prospered over many years and the fact the L&C is now in its 112th season bears witness to the selfless work conducted by so many people over this time.

“Dave has been one of those that has ensured the aims of the original group of league founders have been maintained.

“It has been a pleasure to have known and worked with Dave over the years and I know he will be sadly missed by all his many friends in the game.”

These warm words have been echoed by many paying their own personal tributes. A common theme emerges – one of a man who enjoyed what he did, was a pleasure to work alongside, a character whose presence everybody enjoyed, a gentleman, a man of humour who was the first to offer help, a popular presence, a person who was respected by all, and more than anything, someone who was a pleasure to know.

Geoff Garnett and Dave both began playing in the 1950s and joined the league management committee in the 1980s, at which time they got to know each other very well. Geoff describes a man who was “totally respected by clubs and their officials for his knowledge and willingness to help where needed.”

Geoff added: “His hard work, dedication, knowledge and experience was a vital asset to the league committee. There are so many happy memories I can remember sharing with Dave but the abiding ones are that he was a true legend of amateur football, never afraid to share his wisdom to benefit others.

“It was a pleasure to know Dave.”

The willingness to help is apparent in Keith Marsden’s tribute to Dave, who he described as “an unassuming type whose value to his club and the league cannot be overstated.

“At committee meetings, whenever something needed doing, he was always the first to say: ‘I can give you a hand with that’ and he certainly put tremendous efforts into organising the Annual Dinner over many years.”

Current League Secretary, Brian Davies, first met Dave in the 1990s and got to know him well because of the role of organising the Annual Dinner.

He said: “We worked closely over the final months of the season and that was always a pleasure with his friendly approach. As the date neared, Dave would make a couple of hundred phone calls to finalise the numbers and a small team ensured it all came together on the night.

“A character who will be missed by all those who knew him.”

This contribution to amateur football was recognised in 2018 at the Manchester FA Awards dinner, when Dave was presented with the Frank Hannah Lifetime Achievement Award. This was “richly deserved as his voluntary football work was simply outstanding,” Keith Marsden said, whilst Geoff Garnett described it as “fitting recognition” of his services to the amateur game.

Dave’s indelible mark will forever be imprinted within the L&C’s rich history and his legacy will endure in refereeing standards, the way the Annual Dinner is organised, and commitment necessary to make sure grassroots football thrives.

But more than anything, we mourn a “great guy who will be sadly missed,” according to LAL League Secretary Peter Duffy, and somebody who Malcom Kershaw described as “a true gent and a smashing fella.”

Everybody at the L&C is honoured to have known Dave King, and we extend our deepest condolences to his friends and family.

League action to resume on 5 December

Following the government’s announcement this week, we can confirm that the Lancashire and Cheshire Amateur Football League will resume on Saturday 5 December.

The national lockdown will end on 2 December at midnight, at which time we will revert back to Tier 3 restrictions. Much like prior to lockdown, this will mean cross-tier travel restrictions.

Clearer information will be available in the coming days but as a league, we are ready to resume action and our previous Covid-secure procedures will be expected of all clubs, including risk assessments and control measures. It’s vital that everybody takes the necessary precautions to prevent the virus from spreading again.

All clubs should have received an email with our procedures for use as soon as the season restarts, such as confirmation, team sheet, postponement, Covid case reporting, and the referee’s amended match sheet report.

Many match sheet copies still not having been sent to Please send them this weekend so we are all straight for the restart. It has been a pleasure to write to you all, let’s get back to enjoying some football!

Gill ‘honoured’ to be the first lady

THE involvement of women in football at all levels is rapidly increasing, particularly at junior level, and the management committee of the Lancashire and Cheshire AFL was delighted to join the growing trend by asking Gill Bowden to join the committee in 2019.

Gill was the first lady to join the management committee in its long history and she has made a quick impact in her new role.

Her path in amateur soccer is a great example for other women to follow as she outlined: “Despite having three brothers I only became interested in football in 1998 when my then four-year-old son Daniel began to train with Signol Athletic JFC.

“It was interesting to learn the history of the club which was founded by Anne Signol in 1980. Anne is a very prominent member of the local community owning the ‘The Signol Centre’ which is one of the longest established physiotherapy and acupuncture practices in the Stockport area.

“The club was born from Anne’s work at Stockport Infirmary treating asthmatic children to improve their lung capacity, treatment was only offered once a week so Anne offered daily sessions at ‘The Signol Community Centre’ for all the patients, the sessions were concluded weekly with a ‘kickabout’ in the local park and Signol Athletic JFC was born.   

“When Danny was seven the club took all the boys to play in a tournament in Holland, by this point my husband Gordon was Assistant Manager of the team and I helped with collecting subs and team organisation as we both wanted to give back to the community as Anne had done and add to her legacy.

“Lots of fundraising occurred to help fund the trip and shortly after this I was asked to lead the Clubs social committee which organised many social functions and raised funds to help grow the club.

“Over the years we had Christmas discos, Sportsman’s Dinners, and our annual tournaments which were extremely popular with local teams and those from further afield. I became the Club Treasurer between 2012-2016 and as I am a Certified Accountant, my day job helped with this role.

“The 2009/10 season saw us as an Under 16 team and historically this would be our last year with Signol as they only provided for teams up to Under 16s, however, we didn’t want that to be the end of our Journey with Signol and Gordon successfully convinced the Club Committee to allow us to continue as an open age team and in 2011 we entered the L and C league.

“We chose the L and C as both Gordon and I had watched Daniel refereeing several matches and were impressed with the standard of teams and organisation of the League.

“We are still playing in the League as Signol Old Boys and it is still a family affair with both Danny and Gordon running the team with myself as Secretary and Treasurer.

“In 2019 the League approached me and asked if I would consider joining the committee to assist with managing Fulltime player statistics. I was honoured to be the first woman to join the committee and be a part of its long history and evolution and believe that I bring a different perspective to the meetings. 

“I have been involved in football for over 20 years now and it is exciting to see progression over those years. In 1998 we didn’t have many girls’ football teams but today I see no barriers for any young girl wishing to play football.

“I draw parallels between the business world and football and diversity is one of football’s major challenges, everyone should be aware and accountable for their actions both on and off the pitch yet it does need to be driven right from the very top and the L and C are leading in this and I am proud to be part of this journey.”

L and C secretary Brian Davies added: “I recognised Gill’s excellent work with the Signol team, and invited her to join the league committee. I am delighted Gill agreed, and now in her second year in the role has made a real impact on the completion of team statistics, now running at over 90%.

“It is a real pleasure to see her volunteer considerable time to the league, club and family alongside a busy day job.”

Rob Brown joins L and C committee

THE Lancashire & Cheshire AFL is delighted to announce that Rob Brown has joined the committee.

With decades of experience within football at a playing and coaching level, as well as board level expertise, Rob brings a wealth of knowledge that will prove vital in overseeing league development.

He has been heavily involved in the game within the region, having played for Manchester Boys as a teenager before making his debut for Afroville – later Astro – who dominated amateur football in the area for many years.

His amateur career also included spells at Irlam Town and Gregorians, where he was part of a side that swept the board in 1986.

Rob then moved onto Buxton after impressing in a friendly and signed a long-term contract after attracting the attention of European Cup-winning defender Larry Lloyd. This was a fruitful spell too, which saw the team play in a cup final at Maine Road.

A spell at Winsford followed, with cup competition proving particularly successful before a return to Buxton for a three-year spell.

Rob began his move towards coaching by the age of 33, working as an assistant manager and then joint manager at Witton Albion, which was followed by a scouting role for Charlton Athletic.

A four-year playing stint at Gregorians was cruelly ended by serious injury but Rob channelled that setback by leading the side to two league titles as first team manager.

During his playing days, Rob crossed paths with former Premier League footballer David Hirst, and the enigmatic talent of Frank Worthington in a fundraising match.

He has impressive boardroom experience inside and outside of football, with Wythenshawe Amateurs and Manchester City Council.

The league will draw upon all that experience; as part of his role, Rob will play a crucial part in addressing the issues of diversity in football.

He outlined his plans in this vital area: “I believe the way to address the issue is by creating good lines of communication and getting people to talk and understand the issues – allow people to get things wrong but have the conversation.

“There are lots of opportunities now to allow everyone to learn in different ways and we just need to learn from each other and not force the issue.

“Bigger organisations need to do things the right way and make the type of changes that will have a positive effect further down the line.

“I think a discussion group with officials and players would be a good way to start the conversation.”

Mike Yates, Chairman of the L&C, is delighted to be able to lean on Rob’s expertise.

He said: “I have known Rob for 40 years from our time at Gregorians, so it was great to hear he wanted to become involved.

“He has agreed to develop our diversity and inclusivity policies, which is a great help to the committee. We are very much looking forward to working closely with him.”

League ready for an exciting season

The Lancashire and Cheshire AFL has had a very busy time in the lockdown preparing for the new season involving a lot of hard work by the league committee and clubs, and we are delighted to welcome new clubs into their structure for when the new season gets into action.

The league has had a tremendous response from new clubs with 20 prospective clubs applying and 10 of them will be joining, fielding a total of 12 new teams.

With some of the existing clubs also increasing their number of teams, the league now has 94 teams looking to get into action.

With the season likely to be shorter than normal the league will now extend to eight divisions with new clubs hopefully being placed into divisions that match their playing ability and ambition.

Most of the divisions will comprise 12 teams with several existing teams moving into higher divisions including AFC Oldham, Manchester Polonia and Radclyffe looking to enjoy life in the Premier division.

There has been plenty of action on the field in pre-season friendlies including the new teams with everyone eager to get the new season underway.