A Record Attendance at Hope Street

Alex Jackson, who helped attract Hope Street's record attendance

This feature examined the day of the record attendance at Precot Cables’ Hope Street ground. It was printed in the programme for the home game against Dunston on 14th September 2019. 

MEMORY MATCH: Prescot Cables v Ashton National

FA Cup Preliminary round, 17th September 1932

In today’s feature, we turn the clock back 87 years to September 1932, when Cables began their FA Cup campaign with a Preliminary round match against Ashton National. Remarkably, more than 8,000 fans packed the stands and terraces at Hope Street for the game. They had come to witness how the Cables would fare against the star studded, Cheshire League side, who included Alec Jackson, the ex-Huddersfield, Chelsea and Scotland international.  

Ashton National were an ambitious club who had amassed a squad of ex-League players and expected to challenge for honours. Principal amongst their new signings was that of Alec Jackson, who was in dispute with Chelsea, who had placed a £6,000 transfer fee on his head, at the end of the previous season. No League club had shown a willingness to match Chelsea’s valuation, so Alec had chosen to move, outside the jurisdiction of the Football League, and joined the Cheshire League side on a temporary basis. His contract was said to be 10% of the gate receipts, or a minimum of £15 per week, plus expenses.

Given that league footballers at the time were limited by a maximum wage of £8 per week, this was a lucrative venture for the former Scottish international, but something of a gamble for the Ashton directors.  The club gambled that the inclusion of a big “box office” name in their side would boost attendances sufficiently, that they would not be losing out in the innovative, but potentially risky, deal.

The Cheshire League side had entered the FA Cup for the first time in season 1932/33, and they were drawn to travel to Prescot for the Preliminary round tie. Local interest in the game was intense, especially when it was confirmed that Jackson would be playing, and the Prescot club secretary Bob ‘Tebay’ Rogers was anticipating the largest attendance in the club’s history. These days it is hard to imagine a special train being run for a Prescot Cables match but, that day, four special excursion trains brought around 1,000 supporters from Ashton to Prescot station!

Jackson owned a pub and had other business interests in London, and still lived in the capital. He made the journey north on the Saturday morning, and was met at Lime Street station by the Ashton team manager and escorted to Prescot to join his teammates.

The first half of the game was fairly dull, with both teams seeming to cancel each other out. However, seven minutes before half time Duncan Lindsay received an inside pass from Drinkwater and scored for the National. Shortly after, Joe Keegan fired a shot towards the Ashton goal, which was held by the visitor’s goalkeeper. Billy Howard and Fred Rogers crowded in on the ‘keeoer and one of them charged him into the back of the net. In the manner of the time, many believed it to be a fair challenge and the equalising goal, and the majority of the crowd celebrated wildly, only for the referee to signal a free kick, for a foul on the goalkeeper.

Half time: Prescot Cables 0, Ashton National 1

In the second half, the Cables were resurgent and overwhelmed their visitors. The Prescot Reporter noted that, “play became boisterous, and hard knocks were given and taken with equal rapidity”. Many in the crowd were asking, “where’s Jackson?”, as the football league man made little impression on the game, being outplayed by the clever and nimble Prescot defence.

Cables’ equaliser was a fine team goal. Joe Keegan dashed down the touchline with the ball at his toes and centred to Billy Howard. Howard passed it to Bob Cherry, who headed it back into the centre of the penalty area. Hector Hodgson flung himself full length at the ball and headed it into the net.

Ten minutes later, Hodgson scored a second, from a similar diving header, which the goalkeeper got his fingers to, but couldn’t keep out.

Just a minute later, Hodgson broke away and was tripped in the penalty area by Suttie. Tommy Naylor took the spot kick, but the visitors goalkeeper saved well. In increasing desperation, Ashton pressed for an equaliser, and Brown tried a shot from the halfway line, which nearly deceived home goalkeeper Jimmy Trill.

In the 89th minute Hodgson sealed the victory, and completed his hat trick, when he converted a cross by Cherry.

Final Score: Prescot Cables 3, Ashton National 1

Prescot Cables: Jimmy Trill, Tommy O’Brien, Tommy Naylor, Downey, Peter Burke, James ‘Paddy’ Kane, Joe Keegan, Billy Howard, Hector Hodgson, Fred Rogers, Bob Cherry

Ashton National: Arthur Briggs (ex Hull City & Tranmere Rovers): Smith (ex Bury), Gibson; Suttie (ex Manchester Central), Cecil White, capt. (ex Congleton Town & Wigan Borough), Slicer (ex Leicester City), Fred Smith (ex Stockport County), Alec Jackson (ex Chelsea), Duncan Lindsay (ex Newcastle United & Bury), N. Brown (ex Stockport County) and Jimmy Drinkwater.

Referee: Mr J Brown (Wigan)

Whilst it was a solid team performance by the Cables, special praise was reserved for several of the players.

Centre forward and hat trick hero, Hector Hodgson was playing in only his second game for Prescot Cables, and against an experienced and capable defence he showed that he had dribbling, heading, and shooting ability well above the average.

Nineteen-year old centre half Peter Burke, had joined Cables after being released by Liverpool in 1931. In May 1933 he moved to Oldham Athletic, where he made 99 appearances, scoring 6 goals, over 3 seasons. In 1935 he became Norwich City’s record signing, and appeared for the Canaries on 119 occasions. After the war he played one game for Southport, before rejoining Cables in 1946.

Billy Howard had a long association with Prescot Cables. A big crowd favourite, and a prolific scorer – he once grabbed five goals in a game against Accrington Stanley. Billy’s “enthusiastic” style led to a number of sendings off. In 1936 he was offered terms by Hull City, which he declined, but he later left Hope Street for Ashton National and Hyde United, but returned to the Prescot squad in 1938

The appearance of Jackson had, indeed, boosted the attendance, which has, subsequently, been quoted as 8,122, which still stands as the record attendance for the Hope Street ground.

Roy McDonald