This article appeared in the insert for the rearranged game with Goole on 6th March 2018. It focuses on the remarkable movement of players from the Prescot area to Hull City in the early years of the 20th century – largely at the instigation of one man with a keen eye for footballing talent.
The fantasy team below depicts a Hull City side drawn from players with very strong links back to Prescot, showing that there is more that connects the two places than just the M62!
HULL CITY F.C.
1. Roughley or Mercer (W.)
3. Robinson (Capt)
7. Mercer (D.)
9. Lyon (S.)
10. Lyon (J.)
Born in 1882, Prescot lad, William Samuel Robinson, has been featured in these pages before. He played several successful seasons around the turn of the century at Centre Half for the old Prescot club. In January 1903 he joined Manchester City. Billy made just one league appearance for Manchester City in 3 seasons. However, he went on to have a fruitful league career with Hull City, when they were admitted to the football league second division in 1905. Robinson played in every game for the east coast outfit in the four seasons he spent there, (119 appearances, scoring six goals between 1905 and 1908) before the Hull directors, reluctantly agreed to sell him to Bolton Wanderers for a “fairly high” fee. Robinson made 31 appearances for The Trotters between 1908 and 1910, before ending his playing career at Accrington Stanley. After his playing days were over, Billy maintained his close connections with the Prescot club, whilst acting as a “scout” for Hull City, recommending many great players to the Tigers.
Edward Roughley was one of a number of local footballers drafted in to the Prescot side to make up the numbers during the player’s strike in April 1902. After the demise of the Prescot club at the end of that season, Ted Roughley played for three seasons at St Helens Recs during which time he only missed one game. He joined Hull City in 1906, at the same time as Walter Dagnall, Joe Edelston, and Edwin Neve. He was described as a “clever and resourceful custodian”. Ted made his reputation as one of Hull City’s greats making 166 appearances before signing for the, then, Midland League outfit, Chesterfield Town in 1914. Despite approaching 40 years old, he joined the Birmingham Combination side Rugby Town after the war, where he became a crowd favourite over the next 3 seasons, gaining “the admiration of the spectators for his all-round brilliant custodianship”. He finished his football career with the Birmingham side, Great Heath in 1923, aged 43.
William Henry “Billy” Mercer was a goalkeeper of some reknown. Born in Prescot in 1892, he went on to make 203 appearances for Hull City between 1914 and 1924. He moved from Hull to Huddersfield Town, where he made 79 appearances. Mercer played for Huddersfield Town in their 3-1 defeat to Blackburn Rovers in the 1928 F.A. Cup Final. He finished his career at Blackpool.
Prescot players Jimmy Middlehurst and J. (Tommy) Burns were both invited by Hull City to take part in a practice match, alongside goalkeeper Billy Mercer, in 1912. All three impressed sufficiently to be signed on professional terms. Before the intervention of the war Middlehurst was developing as a promising full back for The Tigers. During the war he turned out regularly for Liverpool, where he made a great impression and the Reds were keen to sign him after demobilisation, although he returned to Hull. Research on Tommy Burns is ongoing.
Although not a son of Prescot we have included Joe Edelston, as he was another player recommended to Hull by Robinson. Wiganer, Edelston moved from St Helens Recs to Anlaby Road in 1912. In all, he played 238 times for The Tigers, before he moved to Manchester City in 1920. His stay at Maine Road was brief, appearing just 6 times before he moved on to Fulham. At Craven Cottage he became a crowd favourite and moved into management after hanging up his boots, managing the Fulham Reserve side before taking over the first team. Joe’s son, Maurice, was also a footballer and later became a successful sports broadcaster on radio and television.
During 1921, Prescot’s wing-half George Davies joined the continual stream of players to Hull City, where he played 11 games for the club, before being released to join Merthyr Town. After a spell in South Wales he played for Grimsby Town, before returning to his home town and turning out for Whiston Parish in 1925.
In 1912, Prescot Athletic signed David William Mercer, a young Outside Right from junior football in St Helens. Mercer impressed at Prescot and was signed by Hull City in January 1914. At Hull, he became a legend and was known as “Magical Mercer”. In total he made 218 consecutive appearances for the club. Of these, 142 appearances were during the war. In 1920, he was selected by the FA for a representative squad to tour South Africa. In a controversial move in 1921, Mercer was sold to Sheffield United for a, then, British record fee of £4,500. He went on to make 241 appearances for the Blades, scoring 22 times. He played in the 1925 FA Cup Final when Sheffield United beat Cardiff City 1 – 0, and was selected twice for England. During his Sheffield United days he played alongside his brother, Arthur on many occasions. In 1928 he returned, briefly, to Prescot Cables before he resurrected his league career in 1929/30 playing 29 times for Torquay United.
Walter Dagnall, an inside forward had originally played for the old Prescot side in 1904, before joining Hull City. He played 8 times for the east coast club in the 1906/07 season, scoring two goals, before returning to Prescot Athletic via St Helens Recs. Dagnall had a brief spell with Skelmersdale United before returning to Prescot for a third time. He ended his playing career at Rossendale United.
Edwin “Ned” Neve had played for the old Prescot club before it folded, and moved on to St Helens Recs to continue his football. On Robinson’s recommendation, he joined Hull in 1906, with Dagnall, Roughley and Edelston. He appeared 104 times for The Tigers, scoring 12 goals before he was signed by Derby County in 1912. Ned played 47 times for The Rams, before he moved down the road to Nottingham Forest in 1914. In May 1916 he was conscripted to the Army and was severely gassed during his time in France. After he was demobilised he was not in good health and did not play football again. Sadly, he died in 1920, said to have been the result of his gassing during the war.
Sam Lyon was born in Prescot in 1890. The centre forward played for Prescot and joined Hull City during the 1910/11 season making 6 starts, before he moved to Barnsley at the start of the 1914/15 season. Sam was erroneously reported as killed in action during the First World War whilst serving with the Lancashire Fusiliers – a press cutting he treasured. In fact, Sam was injured during the conflict and spent more than 15 months in hospital in France and England. After the war he made a full recovery and became a successful Crown Green bowler, representing Yorkshire.
Jack Lyon was born in Prescot in 1893 and played for his home town team. Jack joined his older brother Sam, at Hull City in 1912. The inside forward remained at Hull City until 1920, making 39 appearances and scoring 6 goals, before he was recruited by Leeds United for their first season in league football, for a reported fee of £200. He made 33 appearances for Leeds in season 1920/21, scoring 4 goals. After leaving Elland Road he returned briefly to Hope Street fold before crossing the River Mersey to represent New Brighton. Although considered to be too one-footed to be a natural centre forward, Jack Lyon scored 78 goals in 78 games in his first two seasons with the Rakers in the Lancashire Combination and his scoring rate was instrumental in securing New Brighton’s place in the new Division Three North in 1923. He went on to enjoy success in Welsh football, winning the championship with Mold Town in 1924/25, when he netted 92 goals in 30 games. It was something of a coup for Cables when he rejoined them, again, in 1926, where he ended his career as player-manager.