Changing of The Guard at Cables

At the recent club AGM a quite significant occurrence took place. At the meeting the audience learned that four members of the present Board of Directors were standing down and resigning from their position forthwith. This included the Chairman Peter Kneale, Finance Director Ken Derbyshire, Treasurer Norman Parr and Director Doug Lace.

To any outsider hearing of 4 members of the Board resigning en masse would be forgiven for suspecting that there had been some sort of falling out, teddies being launched from prams all over the shop, bad blood, doors slamming on the way out or even possibly a coup d’état. Conspiracy theorists could have a field day. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In this case the gang of four leave Cables for individual and distinct reasons but wishing nothing but the best for the club and the remaining Board members. To leave a company board in this manner, without being pushed, or without huge disagreement seems to be an unusual thing these days but, I believe it shows that in this case it demonstrates the love that is held for the club and the reason why we as supporters should be eternally grateful that individuals have been willing to give up so much of their time in a voluntary capacity for the benefit of all.

I first got to know Peter, Ken, Norman and Doug around 2005 when the Supporters took over running the club but I have learned over the years that their association with Cables went from much earlier and that like myself and probably like many fans there is a story as to how and when they got the Prescot Cables bug. The length of their association with the club would indicate that once you have caught the virus, there is no antidote, no medication or cure and the only temporary respite or quarantine from the lifelong affliction comes by way of holidays or closed seasons. Its just something you have to live with so you may as well get used to the idea and make the most of it.

Peter Kneale first started going to watch Cable in the 1970’s when he would be taken by his Dad when about 8 years old. At that time Cables were playing in the Lancashire Combination League under the name of Prescot Town. Eagle eyed supporters may have seen the photo that has hung in the Prescot Museum of Peter with his Dad on the terraces when aged about 15. Imagine a photo of yourself hanging in a museum – if ever there was something to make you feel old. Peter has been a very loyal supporter of Cables and stuck with the club through some very tough times following the team even when they lost the ground and became nomads.

Peter’s loyalty came through when in 2005 the previous owner, Ted Mercer suddenly announced that he was packing in. With a very real danger that the club would fold if people did not come forward Peter agreed, with others, to be part of a supporters committee, pulled together to run the club. Whilst on the committee Peter has experienced the ups and downs of non-league football, citing the club’s relegation from the Northern Premier League Premier Division and then subsequently enduring an entire season without winning a league game on a Saturday as a real low period. Having been through that, it’s not surprising that like many fans he really enjoyed the glory years of the club winning successive Senior Cups.

When considering Peters contribution to the club it would be easy to underestimate the part he played, with others, in securing Cables 99-year lease of the ground. It didn’t just happen. It was sought after and very carefully and skilfully negotiated. Although he is a quite unassuming man, he’s no one’s fool. Being a Solicitor Peter was able to offer his legal perspective and opinion to the club for free as we wrangled with Owners, Administrators and latterly the Borough Council during some very tricky negotiations. It is reported that despite having been dealt a terrible hand, holding very few chips and with little bargaining power Peter represented the club in a professional assured manner securing the best that could be secured for the club.

As Chairman of the Club we had someone who was willing to work the turnstile, sell programs and raffle tickets and who would always 100% portray the club in a professional manner when dealing with outsiders such as the Head of the Borough Council. However, with a family and running his own business Peter has recognised that he does not have the time to devote to the role and drive the club forward. He will continue to support the Club and team and is leaving the helm at a time when the club has a superb following and the prospect of a very bright future.

Like Peter, Ken Derbyshire started following Cables when he was a youngster and remembers watching the new stand being built from Eaton Street Park. When he was young he would sit in the Hope Street stand where the changing rooms used to be and from where the players at that time would enter the field. He follows Cables because he was born and raised in Prescot. He strongly believes in the ethos of supporting your local team. It’s his home-town club and it’s the only club he’s ever supported.

As far back as 1960 Ken was a volunteer at the club and as a member of the Supporters Club he would help by selling refreshments from the tea hut that used to be situated at the Hope Street end. His involvement with the Supporters club continued and in 1999 he took the role of Programme Editor. He has therefore been involved in volunteering at Cables for over 20 years.

Ken fondly remembers the pride he felt when Cables clinched the North West Counties Championship at Atherton Collieries in 2003. He distinctly remembers fellow supporter Phil Taylor, a man not known for being overtly loud, singing “I’m Prescot ‘till I die”. But it hasn’t all been fun and laughter though for Ken at Cables. Many years ago, the team failed to beat Droylsden at Home resulting in Cables being relegated from the Lancashire Combination League and this reduced poor little Ken to tears. In fairness he was only a kid at the time.

When the Supporters took over the club in 2005 the operation of a functioning clubhouse was always considered paramount to its success. As well as needing a clubhouse to satisfy league requirements, it also provides crucial fund-raising opportunities. Without making money over the bar, hosting functions and events, quite simply the football team would not be sustainable at this level. However, you need a licensee to do all that and Ken bravely put his head above the parapet and volunteered to help run the bar. This was not an easy task especially given that Ken did not actually have experience in that field. He had worked within the Audit Department of Liverpool City Council. But undaunted he learnt about the licensing trade and has played a major part in developing the bar, with quite limited resources and with his daughter Lynda, has helped make it what it is today. He has given many hours to the club dealing with beer deliveries, cellar management, visiting wholesalers, opening and closing the club, supervising functions on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and dealing with the financial side of things such as submitting accounts to Companies House. For the years that Ken has been involved in the club, utilising his accountancy skills, the club have not had to pay for a bookkeeper or accountant and so he has saved a fortune for the club.

Ken was the principle organiser of a series of successful Prescot Cables Beer Festivals. At one of them it was decided that we would hold an event whereby people could bring their favourite vinyl record in and play it to everyone else. Ken went first and played his In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by American rock band Iron Butterfly. To see the haunted look on people’s faces will stay with me for ever. Hilarious. Have a listen to that song, you will get the picture, it’s a bit niche to say the least.

Without a doubt Ken has done his bit for the Cables and then some. He’s done it all with a very easy-going relaxed attitude and when you consider he’s often been dealing with people who’ve had a drink that is some achievement. I for one intend to buy him a drink when I see him in the clubhouse. You may wish to do the same.

Doug Lace also started going to watch Cables in the late 1960’s when he would attend with other local kids. However, he started watching regularly with his young son in 1989. George Hayward who was our Club President and has since sadly passed invited Doug to join the committee at the start of the 1990 Season. Doug’s motivation for joining the committee was simply to help in keeping the Club in existence.
Doug initially started helping by cleaning the changing rooms. For anyone who has never done this it can be an arduous task, especially in the cold dark winter months when there’s loads of mud to be swilled out. Doug started out doing that and a bit like an apprenticeship, performed many different maintenance tasks until becoming the Club Secretary. Something that many might find hard to comprehend, including me, is that Doug was the Club Sec. for over 20 years and his wife Dot was also the Club Sec for a couple of years. Now that’s real family involvement. With what I know of the role and the amount of paperwork and admin involved with reports, compliance, registrations and fines etc. the thought of doing that for such a long time, as a hobby, fills me personally with dread.

Having known Doug for a while I know that he was very well suited to the Secretary role. He is the sort that when given a task, will do it to the best of his ability and will without fail finish the job and do it properly. Like many, Doug had a full-time job and a family but always made the time to complete what needed to be done to ensure that the club did not fall foul of league rules. His expertise in this area later resulted in his deserved appointment in a role at the County FA.

His endeavour to comply was never more evident than during an away trip to Darlington. Seventy Five of Prescot’s finest travelled in a “luxury” coach with tickets and places organised by my good self. For reasons that I’ve never quite understood it was considered a good idea to stop en route at a town with multiple pubs and cafes and we actually let the travellers disembark with instructions to return within 20 minutes. What were we thinking of? It was a scene akin to when soldiers are dropped by helicopter into hostile territory, with soldiers quickly scattering into the undergrowth to avoid being shot. The time past rather quickly with hardly anyone having returned. Doug ordered me to round everyone up. Despite my best efforts I failed miserably. Doug fearing that he may miss the 2:15pm cut off time for exchanging Team sheets gave me the benefit of his wisdom and some much-needed encouragement through the use of rather industrial language. With this added motivation I did indeed manage to get everyone back on board.
There have been some dark times at Cables. Doug was involved when the Club lost the ground at Hope Street and had to go on the road playing elsewhere for three years. This included half a season at Ellesmere Port, the other half at Alt Park (Knowsley United) and a two-year ground share at St Helens Town. Having seen several teams ground share with us at Hope Street there can be no illusion that it is a desperate situation to be in. There are undoubtedly occasions when individuals may struggle to make the match at Hope Street. Well imagine how hard it is if your team is now playing at Ellesmere Port. We owe it to the likes of Doug and others who kept the club going through those desperate times. Its all about continuity because once a club goes it very rarely, if ever, comes back.

After 30 years involvement with the club and football in general Doug now considers that its time for him to concentrate on some other interests that he has somehow managed to cultivate. How does he find the time? However, his connection with the club is not completely over. After some recent justified criticism of the playing surface, Doug with Harry Molyneux agreed to step in and save the day to maintain the pitch and they have agreed to do this for a short period, allowing the club to source an alternative solution. This is yet further evidence of the special place that the club holds in Doug’s heart, the place where he first took his son David to see a live match.

In 2004 I was personally groomed and exploited by a certain Harry Molyneux to join the Supporters Club and start selling Lottery Tickets. At my inaugural Supporters meeting I had the pleasure of meeting Norman Parr for the first time. After the meeting I recall that he invited me to join the gang for a drink in the Fusilier Pub. He introduced me to everyone and I was impressed with how friendly everyone was to me and I learned a little about Norman. He had been involved in the Supporters Club since around 2000 when it was initially formed. He has remained the Treasurer of the Supporters Club ever since. When the CIC of Prescot Cables was formed he became the Club Treasurer. Norman was ideally suited to the role having previously worked for most of his working life within the BICC Accounts Department.

Norman has played a significant and key role within the financial aspects of the Club. He has been responsible for raising quite literally thousands of pounds for the club each and every year. He has hoovered and cleaned the clubhouse, cleaned the changing rooms, painted, worked in the snack bar, performed kitman duties, sold lottery tickets, Run the 125 Club, sold half time draw tickets, helped with the programmes, performed glass collecting, sorted out the players wages, organised the travelling coaches, put fixture posters up around the town and many other things. In short there isn’t much that Norman and his stepson Paul haven’t done for the club and most will be unaware that Norman has on a number of occasions been an anonymous financial benefactor to the club allowing the club to do things that it would not have been able to without Normans support.

Norman is 84 and has generally been in good health and has been a permanent feature within Cables, both at Home matches and also travelling to most away matches on the coach every season. In addition to following Cables Norman has enjoyed watching County cricket and International Snooker Tournaments. Unfortunately, recently Norman has had a few health setbacks which means that he is not going to be able to commit to all the tasks that he has been performing for the club but hopes to still attend matches and support the team.

So, where does this leave the club? Well undoubtedly we are obviously losing some very good volunteers who we will continue to see at the Club on match days but who will now be attending as supporters. It is clear that they have done much for Cables and have been performing several vital tasks for the club. They have remained loyal to the club, at times, through years of adversity. There have been times when nerves were frayed, the club had little money, Board meeting will have been unpleasant, depressing and tense, when things will not have gone their way, when decisions will have been made collectively by the Board that they did not agree with. But through all that, they stuck with the club through thick and thin. That may be taken as an indication that they were never in it for themselves, that it was not about them, their egos or their own personal aspirations. It was always just about the club, their love for it and what they could do for it.

As I’ve been talking with the four in preparation for writing something like this it’s been obvious that they have all, on the whole, enjoyed their association over the years with Cables and are extremely proud of their involvement and where the club is at this time. Equally they have all stated that a club like Cables is nothing without its volunteers. Its often considered a football cliché to state that no one is bigger than the club but hopefully the four leaving will be like water ladled from a bucket, with the surrounding water pouring in to quickly fill the void that was left.
But key individuals have left and this requires other people to step forward and take responsibility. Cables has some great volunteers and existing Board members who continue to strive to take the club onwards, hopefully to greater things. But as people leave, the job becomes that little bit harder for those remaining. I personally support them and hope that they will take the club to new heights. Initially there is likely to be a transitional period whilst we get used to people leaving and attempts are made to identify replacements for certain roles, particularly on match days. This will require other people to help, we will need to be patient, and perhaps realise that the club needs people to get involved over and above just coming to the match. The club is doing so well and with the right continued support there is every reason why it will do even better in the future. In many ways we are the envy of other clubs because of our support, our location to the town, our CIC status. It has so much potential. Carpe diem (as the saying goes).

Many Thanks to Peter, Ken, Doug and Norman

GeoffC, Sec PCFC Supporters Club

Assisted by
Harry Molyneux, Chair PCFC Supporters Club

Related posts