‘One of Prescot’s most feared and effective goal-scorers…. Though not a big man he was so dangerous around goal that apprehensive defenders would often concede penalties rather than give him an inch of space’ (Neville Walker).
Frederick William (‘Freddie’) Crampton was born in Warrington on 16 November 1931. His parents were Frederick C. Crampton and Margaret Elizabeth née Millington whose marriage in Warrington was registered sometime between October and December 1928. As with Frank Phillips, we know nothing at present about Freddie’s siblings and education (taking his father’s name suggests he was the first-born son), but he was certainly playing alongside Frank and Ray Phillips in the Earlestown team in the early 1950s. It’s tempting to speculate that Frank, Ray, Freddie and Bill Maddison might have travelled together from Earlestown or Newton-le-Willows to Prescot (perhaps by train) in August 1954 for that trial match, all but young Ray subsequently signing for the Prescot club. If Harry Topping had any doubts about the diminutive centre-forward (just 5 feet 6 inches tall and of slight build) they must have been dispersed on the opening day of the 1954-55 season when Crampton, a young National Serviceman at the time, netted four goals at home to Stubshaw Cross Rovers. The seven goals he scored at home versus Great Harwood on 19 February 1955 have already been mentioned. What is more is that Crampton had scored four against the men from the Showground earlier the same season! By May 1955 he’d scored something in region of 52 goals – the Lancashire Combination’s highest tally for the season. Still playing as an amateur, the 23-year-old striker represented the Liverpool County FA against representative teams from the East Riding of Yorkshire (April 1955) and Italy. Small wonder that by the start of the ensuing 1955-56 season Freddie had signed professional forms. Playing mostly at outside-right, he scored 26 goals for the season and made a significant contribution to Cables’ eventual – and perfectly respectable – 8th place back in Division 1. Crampton’s contribution to the ensuing championship-winning season is best summarised in Neville Walker’s unpublished notes:
Although he was out of the side for almost two months through injury he was back in time to celebrate the end-of-season success – and to score his 100th goal for Prescot, even though by then he was playing almost exclusively at outside right, since the arrival on the scene of Bill Watkinson.
It has already been noted that Cables were runners-up at the end of the two ensuing seasons, Crampton scoring 27 goals in 1957-58 and, following Watkinson’s departure for Skelmersdale, 29 in 1958-59. The most memorable match of 1957-58 was the FA Cup 4th qualifying match at home on 2 November, when a crowd of 3,500 turned up to see Cables (playing in blue and white on this occasion) beat Morecambe 3-0. Crampton scored one of the goals. The following season saw him drafted as a reserve for Lancashire Combination XI versus South Africa XI, a match played on 18 October 1958 at Wigan. The Lancashire team that took to the field included Harry Grisedale. With John Quinn emerging as a talented young winger, Freddie decided to leave Cables in the summer of 1959. He’d hoped to receive a benefit match but the directors decided to award it to the more senior Frank Phillips instead. He’d scored 160 goals in five seasons – an impressive tally, especially if you consider that for four seasons he’d played alongside Jackie Lawton (nearly 90 goals) and the voracious Bill Watkinson for two (over 100 goals). Freddie moved to New Brighton in July 1959 for a transfer fee of £100 and, with a cruel twist of fate so typical of football, scored the winning goal for his new club in a Lancashire Combination match at Hope Street in February 1960. Like Frank Phillips a year later, he moved back to Earlestown in 1960. Off the pitch, Freddie married Janice Arnold at Earlestown on 22 March 1958, ‘receiving a dressing table set as a present from his [Cables] team-mates’ (Walker, unpublished notes). Eric Bond recalls a daughter but is unsure of her name. Freddie worked at the Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows and later in life often met up with his old Earlestown pals Frank Phillips and Eric Bond in an Ashton restaurant: a loose band of brothers known collectively as The Old Codgers who no doubt chewed the cud about Cables’ glory days and other football highlights. He lived at least for part of his life near the Old Crow Inn on Crow Lane East, Newton-le-Willows. Eric recalls Freddie as ‘good company, sportive and always smiling’. He also remembers the way in which Freddie compensated for his lack of inches by climbing to a high ball ‘with the aid of the defender’s shoulder’! Neville Walker notes his habit of wearing his shorts ‘permanently hitched higher than most players of his day, … [giving] him the air of a man ready for action, which is what he most certainly was’.
Like Frank Phillips, Freddie was present for the centenary re-union dinner at the Hope Street Social Club on 21 December 1984. He died aged 73 in Warrington during the summer months of 2005, having survived Frank by six years and Frank’s brother Ray by just a year.
I am indebted to Neville Walker for access to unpublished notes for his book From Slacky Brow to Hope Street; John Hayes for access to his collection of Cables’ programmes from the 1950s; Eric Bond, Phil Taylor and David Williams for their memories of Frank Phillips and Freddie Crampton; and John Williams for assistance with public records.