Guest Blog – Steve Bolton: The Pioneering Manchester Ladies Part Two

Today’s guest blog follows on from last week’s guest blog in which Steve Bolton talked of the Manchester Ladies (who also went under the name Wythenshawe Ladies, City of Manchester Ladies, Manchester City Ladies the 1940s & 1950s) and their early years. Today is part two of Steve’s research into this pioneering women’s club (part one can be viewed here: https://gjfootballarchive.com/?p=1863 ).

Over the last few years much has been written about pioneering women’s football teams and Steve’s research is certainly adding to that. I’m sure anyone reading this already knows about my book on Manchester City Women (available here: https://gjfootballarchive.com/shop/ ) and about the other articles on this blog discussing other leading women’s clubs, including the Manchester Corinthians (see: https://gjfootballarchive.com/category/womens-football-2/ ). 

If you played for a women’s team in the Manchester region during the 1940s to 1960s then please get in touch. I’m writing a detailed history of women and football in Manchester and your information may help both mine and Steve Bolton’s research. 

If you played an active part in developing women’s football prior to the FA ban then please get in touch by emailing gary@GJFootballArchive.com or follow me on twitter: @garyjameswriter or facebook.com/garyjames4 

Guest Blog – Steve Bolton: The Pioneering Manchester Ladies Part One

Over the last few years much has been written about pioneering women’s football teams and I’m delighted to say that Manchester has had several of these over the years. I’m sure anyone reading this knows about my book on Manchester City Women (available here: https://gjfootballarchive.com/shop/ ) and about the other articles on this blog discussing other clubs, including the Manchester Corinthians (see: https://gjfootballarchive.com/category/womens-football-2/ ).

Thanks to the Manchester Corinthians the story of pioneering Mancunian female footballers has received some decent coverage in recent years but it would be wrong to think that the women who played for Corinthians were the first women who played football in our region. There are games staged in Manchester going back to the 1880s of course. However, following the 1921 ban (which saw the FA ban women’s football games from FA affiliated pitches) opportunities were restricted significantly.

In Preston the famous Dick Kerr Ladies have been heralded for their efforts and in the 1950s & 1960s Manchester Corinthians found global fame for their exploits, but football tends to overlook many other clubs and in 1940s Manchester, before the Corinthians became established there was another female football club that promoted the sport, charity work and female prowess.

For today’s guest blog researcher Steve Bolton provides the first part of his research into the stories, facts and evidence of this Manchester team:

Part two will be published soon.

If you played for a women’s team in the Manchester region during the 1940s to 1960s then please get in touch. I’m writing a detailed history of women and football in Manchester and your information may help both mine and Steve Bolton’s research.

If you played an active part in developing women’s football prior to the FA ban then please get in touch by emailing gary@GJFootballArchive.com or follow me on twitter: @garyjameswriter or facebook.com/garyjames4 

Guest Blog – Mark Metcalf Writing About Bert Whalley

Mark Metcalf has been working with the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) on a number of ‘blue plaque’ initiatives in recent years. One, which should be unveiled in August this year, is for a major figure in both Stalybridge Celtic’s and Manchester United’s history. That man, Bert Whalley, is perhaps not too well known amongst football fans today but his influence on the Manchester United of the 1950s was immense. 

I’ve asked Mark if he would write this guest blog in the hope that it helps United fans, and football in general, to remember Bert and his contribution. On a personal level, I have to declare an interest. Bert Whalley was a friend of my grandfather, Fred. Fred was a United fan who travelled to most of United’s cup finals up to the 1980s and he’d known Bert through footballing connections when he was a young man. Bert’s death as a result of the Munich Air Crash inevitably affected Fred, as it did many people in 1958 (if you would like to learn more about the air crash and how it affected Manchester at the time please read the in-depth piece I posted here: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/05/the-munich-air-disaster-a-long-read/ ).

Here’s Mark Metcalf’s piece on Bert Whalley…

Bert Whalley information for PFA plaque unveiling at Stalybridge Celtic in the summer of 2021, provisional date is Saturday 7 August 2021 and followed by a special tribute match 

Bert Whalley: 1912- 1958

Born in Ashton-Under-Lyne on 6 August 1912, Herbert (Bert) Whalley played as a central defender for Stalybridge Celtic in the Cheshire League during the second half of the 1933/34 season. Following which he moved in May 1934 to Second Division Manchester United where he remained as a player and coach until his tragic death at Munich on 6 February 1958. 

Stalybridge Celtic (SC)

After three SC reserve games, Whalley made his first team debut for the club on Saturday 16 December 1933 in the Cheshire County League home fixture at Bower Fold against strugglers Sandwich Ramblers. He replaced at centre half Bliss, who had injured his ankle, in 3-0 victory. ‘Looker-On’ in the Ashton-under-Lyne Reporter (ALR) felt that despite ‘the conditions not being the best on which to judge his true merits, he gave a really polished display, exhibiting some delightfully tricky footwork.’ 

The new man had originally played for Ferguson-Pailin, where he worked, in the Manchester Amateur Alliance League. He had also recently signed for Third Division North side Stockport County, whose reserves also played in the Cheshire League. This move had been blocked by new rules that an amateur, as Whalley was, signed to one club in the CL could not be signed by another club in the same league. County were forced to withdraw Whalley’s signing on forms. 

Whalley remained in the SC first team for the match at Bower Fold  on 23 December 1933 and Prescot Cables were beaten 3-1. According to the ALR he played ‘impressively’ in a deserved victory. 

Playing away to Mossley, SC grabbed a point with a last-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw. There was praise for Whalley in the ALR. “He is not as skilful with his head as his feet, but he tackles well and never gets flurried.”

League champions Macclesfield were heavily beaten 6-3 when Stalybridge Celtic visited them on New Year’s Day 1934. The ALR commented: ‘to a man, the team.. was excellent ..each played his part splendidly… Whalley again deputised for Bliss at centre-half with credit.’ (Monday 1st January)

The victorious team had though been beaten two days earlier, 2-1 at Northwich Victoria. Whalley was expected to drop out of the side as Bliss’s ankle injury was now sufficiently recovered but late in the week he contracted tonsilitis and was confined to bed. As such ‘Whalley appeared for the fourth successive game at centre-half, and again gave a promising display, supplying his forwards with clever passes.’   Prince in the home goal produced a series of great saves that included a penalty stop from Prior. 

On Saturday 6 January, Whalley’s side beat Congleton Town 3-1 at home and he had a fine game, especially in the first half, being ‘conspicuous with pretty and effective work which was much appreciated by the spectators.’ (ALR) Prior scored twice from the penalty spot.

The following Saturday, Whalley, although reported as not well, was at Bower Fold to play in a 3-2 victory against Witton Albion. In a lengthy match report his name did not appear once.

However, Stalybridge Celtic then suffered a shock defeat 4-3 at home to amateur side ICI (Alkali) in the first round of the Cheshire Senior Cup. Whalley’s place at centre-half was taken by Bliss. ICI of the Manchester League were more used to playing the Celtic reserves.

When SC beat Winsford 5-2 away on 10 February 1934, Whalley was back at centre half and came in for praise as, ‘resourceful.. tackling determinedly when he and he and his partners, Suttie and Kellard, spent much time helping Mountney and Thornley.’(ALR)  (the full-backs) Staffs Sentinel reporter noted ‘Parkin and Whalley were dangerous on the rare occasions when Celtic attacked, but Robinson made two wonderful saves.’

A month later on 10 March 1934,  Celtic were beaten 3-0 at Runcorn but Whalley was noted by the paper in a brief report as ‘relieving the pressure’ in the first period. The following weekend Whalley was part of the Celtic XI that fell behind at home to Nantwich only to later dominate their opponents to win 10-3. 

In mid-April, Chester Reserves beat Stalybridge Celtic 2-0 and according to the Liverpool Echo reporter ‘Whalley’s generalship was the feature of the Celtic’s team work.’ His side of Travis, Thornley, Mountney, Suttie, Whalley, Kellard, Prior, Scullion, Parkin, Hornby, Murphy was beaten 4-2 in the penultimate game of the season away to Crewe Alexandra reserves. 

The following weekend saw a heavy 6-3 defeat at home to Tranmere Rovers with Mayers at centre-half struggling to contain the Rovers centre-forward Spencer who notched three. Midway through the second period, Suttie took over at centre-half.

Against Chester at home, the half-backs were reported as ‘delightfully skilful, both in attack and defence’ and the visitors left beaten 2-0.

There was a crowd of over 3,000 to witness a 3-3 draw at Hyde United, who recovered to grab a point after falling two goals behind. Whalley was praised for his efforts. 

At home to Nantwich, SC fell behind to a side they had beaten 16-2 the previous season at Bower Field. A shock though was not on the cards as Whalley’s side soon equalised and went on to win 10-3 with Hornby grabbing three and Allen, leading the attack for the first time, scoring four.

It was reported that ‘Whalley gave a magnificent display. Celtic’s centre-half plays the third back game to perfection, while in attack he exerts a commanding and forceful influence.’ 

Away to Prescot Cables, Whalley’s team drew 2-2 and he ‘never allowed Harris, Prescot’s centre-forward any scope, while his passes were so perfect that Prescot were continually chasing the shadow.’ Playing before a crowd close to 2,000, Prescot grabbed a point with two late efforts.

Hyde deservedly beat Stalybridge Celtic 2-0 on the last day of March 1934. On a hard ground at Bower Fold they dealt more easily with a bouncing ball than their opponents. A late Whalley header might have reduced the arrears but it was a day to forget for the home side who ended the day in seventh place in the Cheshire County League.

Stalybridge drew 1-1 at home to Mossley on Good Friday with the home goal coming after a good run by Whalley saw the centre half then find Prior who crossed for Murphy to turn the ball into the net from close range. 

On Tuesday 16 April 1934, Stalybridge Celtic played their last home league match of the 1933-34 season and drew 1-1 with Wigan Athletic. It was probably a game the home side should have won in a match where the ALR felt ‘Whalley was inclined to over-dribble at times but when he discarded this policy he was at his best.’ 

Stalybridge were beaten 4-3 at home to Macclesfield in the Cheshire League Challenge Cup. The winner in extra-time, which because of the emerging darkness had been cut to five minutes each way by the referee, Mr Sergeant, came at the very end of the additional time that had been played and following which the official dashed off to the dressing room as he sounded the whistle. With many home fans believing there was still a minute or so remaining this incensed a fair number who made a rush after Mr Sergeant. The arrival of police officers prevented any serious disturbance. The defeat came despite Celtic having led 3-1 at one point. Whalley played in a half back line-up that included Suttie to his right and Kellard to his left. 

There was better fortune in the Ashton Challenge Cup as Celtic beat Hurst 3-2 in a midweek semi-final fixture with the winner coming on 86 minutes. The winning side’s strength was the half-back line with ‘Whalley putting an effective check on Halliday.’ (ALR)

A 3-1 defeat at Buxton was reported as being the result of the away forwards missing a number of chances whilst the ALR contended that ‘Celtic’s half-back line was their best department.’ 

Hyde United had overcome Ashton National away to reach the Ashton Challenge Cup Final against Stalybridge Celtic that was played on National’s ground. 

Prior to the final, Celtic, winning 2-1 at the interval, were beaten 4-2 at Crewe Alexandra. There was, again, praise for the half-back line up ‘which has been one of the strongest and most consistent departments in the team since Whalley was brought into the side.’

The Ashton Challenge Cup kicked off at 6.45 on Friday 11 May. Hyde had won the trophy in the previous three seasons and started the match as slight favourites. 

The crowd was a large one but they saw a poor game in which Hyde just squeezed home by two goals to one with Keers at outside left, who had earlier scored the equalising goal, netting the winner on the 84th minute. Whilst Whalley was good in defence he was rarely able to get forward to shine in attack. When the Hyde captain, Dennis Izon, was presented with the cup, there were large cheers and scenes of great enthusiasm amongst the Hyde players and their supporters. 

The Reporter of May 12, 1934 that ‘Whalley, who had played as an amateur for most of the season… before signing as a professional for Celtic several weeks ago… signed professional forms for Manchester United on Monday,’ which would be 7 May. 

Whalley, aged 20, 5’ 10” tall and weighing 11st 7llbs, had joined Celtic at the start of the 1933-34 season but after only playing a few reserve games he left to join Ferguson Pailin’s team, where he was employed. 

When he returned to Celtic reserves he was then also signed for Stockport County as an amateur. This resulted in the Cheshire League passing a resolution barring any player from the league playing with the reserves in another League. Whalley was allowed to remain at Celtic and his break came when Bliss, Celtic’s centre-half, was injured and when the reserve player stepped up a level he was an immediate success. 

Whalley was reported as being a keen cricketer, playing for the Trafalgar square first XI in the Glossop and District League. 

Also leaving Bower Field was Ronald Hornby, who had joined Celtic in November 1933. The clever inside-left had made 34 consecutive appearances for the club and scored 13 goals. Hornby joined Burnley.

It was to be eighteen months before Bert Whalley made his first team debut for his new club. 

He was selected by manager Scott Duncan for the Old Trafford side’s Second Division fixture  against Doncaster Rovers at home on 30 November 1934. The match ended in a 0-0 draw before a crowd of 23,569.

Bert Whalley’s Manchester United debut side was Langford, Griffiths, Porter, Whalley, Voce, McKay, Cape, Mutch, Bamford, Rowley and Manley 

In a playing career cut short by WWII, during which played for United and Bolton Wanderers in unofficial wartime competitions, and injury, Whalley went on to make 32 League and 6 FA Cup appearances for Manchester United.  His final game for Manchester United was at home to Blackburn Rovers in Division One on 19 April 1947. This resulted in a 4-0 victory before a 46,196 crowd. With Old Trafford out of use due to war damage this game was played at Maine Road, Manchester City’s ground at the time. Whalley was by now the longest serving professional at Old Trafford and in 1946-47 he led the reserves to the Central League championship. The Manchester Evening News of 18 March 1947 said of him; “The experience of Bert Whalley is a real asset to Manchester United…. signed from Stalybridge Celtic in 1934. His transfer cost nothing, but he has turned out as an invaluable utility player – as pivot, wing-half and even full-back.”

His final first team game side was Jack Crompton, Johnny Carey, John Aston senior, Jack Warner, Whalley, Henry Cockburn, Jimmy Delaney, Johnny Morris, Jimmy Hanlon, Stan Pearson, Jack Rowley 

Later in 1947, Whalley, who according to Jimmy Murphy, manager Matt Busby’s assistant, always described himself as “just an honest trier”, was coaching some schoolboys at Stockport County when a miskicked ball hit him in the eye. The player did not complain until on the way to a reserve match at Newcastle United, he confessed that he was having trouble with his vision. 

On visiting a Tyneside hospital, he refused to be kept in and returned to Manchester for treatment. On Christmas Eve 1947, Whalley was as depressed as anyone as he faced losing his sight in one eye and the end of his football career. It was then that Matt Busby showed one of the reasons why he was a great manager by demonstrating loyalty. Busby, who had become manager at United in 1945, told Whalley that when left hospital he had just the job. In August 1948, Whalley replaced Arthur Gale as the man in charge of Manchester United’s ‘A’ side, the third team at the club. 

Manchester United had ended the 1946-47 season as runners-up in Division One but nevertheless Matt Busby took seriously the comment of Jimmy Murphy, who had managed the successful Central League side that season, when he told him there was not one reserve who could strengthen the first team. Busby replied: “in that case we will have to find our own youngsters.” 

That remark led, after a time, to great players such as Duncan Edwards, Dennis Violet, Bobby Charlton and later George Best. Getting these players was no fluke and in addition to Murphy the two key men were Joe Armstrong, the Manchester United chief scout, who was a shrewd judge of a schoolboy, and Bert Whalley, one of the best coaches in England. Armstrong oversaw a small group of scouts that covered Britain and Ireland and when a youngster came to Old Trafford consideration as a member of the ground staff, he was assessed by Whalley and Murphy, who ultimately had the final say.

With Murphy, by now assistant manager to Busby, occupied with the Wales national team at the time, Bert Whalley, by now the chief coach, accompanied the first team to Belgrade for European tie with Partizan Belgrade in February 1958. On the return flight he, along with many players he’d worked with over the years. was tragically killed at Munich on 6 February 1958. 

Bert Whalley’s funeral was held on Thursday 13 February 1958. Thousands lined the route to Dukinfield Crematorium for what was the longest funeral procession for many years in Ashton and surrounding areas. Crowds of people gathered at factory entrances, having been given time away from their work benches. Shop assistants lined the pavements and school children looked on. 

The cortege of 50 cars stopped briefly a few yards from the Trafalgar Square Methodist Church where Bert worked voluntarily for many years at the youth club. James Scullion, who originally signed the player for SC, was amongst those at the crematorium. Jimmy Murphy was present as was Sandy Busby, representing his father Matt, plus Henry Cockburn and John Aston senior. Stalybridge Celtic were represented by J Turner, R Peace and ex-manager Ernest Ollershaw.  There were floral tributes from a number of football clubs including Manchester City, who had lost of one their own at Munich in Frank Swift. 

Family members listed at the funeral include

Mrs W Whalley

Mr and Mrs R Whalley

Mr and Mrs D Whalley 

John Doherty – a member of the Manchester United side that won the title in 1955/56 described Bert: “What a lovely man. It was a pleasure to have known Bert and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a single soul say a wrong word about him…. it was clear that he had been a useful performer in his time, a stylish central defender who was comfortable on the ball and invariably had time to move it on without panicking. 

“He was not big for a centre-half, standing perhaps two inches under 6ft, and certainly he didn’t go around kicking people, but he carried authority because he had a certain presence about him…

“The hierarchy when I arrived was Matt Busby at the top, with Jimmy Murphy and Bert doing most of the coaching and sharing an office until Bert died at Munich.

“He was terrific to all the young players, always ready with a kind work to lift our spirits. A Methodist lay-preacher, he was a quiet man, in contrast to Jimmy, who was more fire-and-brimstone in his approach, likely to singe the hair on the back of the neck. 

“Bert offered a buffer zone where we could recover our equilibrium after feeling the Murphy wrath, although he was nobody’s fool and people couldn’t take advantage of his good nature…looking back, I loved them both.” 

Taken from The Insider’s Guide to Manchester United: Candid Profiles of every Red Devil form Rowley to Rooney by John Doherty with Ivan Ponting. Bert Whalley is listed at number 1 in this book. 

Further details on the plaque unveiling can be obtained from Mark Metcalf, who is responsible for the project on behalf of the PFA as well as two further projects in 2021 that will see plaques unveiled to Joe Mercer and Stan Cullis in Ellesmere Port: metcalfmc@outlook.com

Thanks Mark for writing this. It is important men like Bert Whalley are remembered. I am also delighted that Joe Mercer will be having a plaque unveiled to him in Ellesmere Port later this year. This is great news. If you’ve not read my pieces on meeting Mercer take a look at: https://gjfootballarchive.com/category/joe-mercer/

Guest Blog – Noel Bayley: To Be Retained

For my first guest blog I’m delighted to say that a writer I’ve admired for years has agreed to contribute. Noel Bayley, the editor of the Manchester City fanzine Bert Trautmann’s Helmet, tells us about the role Covid has played in him sharing the stories of his match tickets. Noel writes…

High up on a shelf in the spare room there is a shoe box. To be honest it’s a trainers’ box but that doesn’t sound quite right. Although, if I’m being pedantic, it’s a blue and white adidas Samba trainers’ box (reduced to £42.49) that has been there for the 17 years I’ve lived in this house. It came with me from the last house so it’s probably more like 20 years old. Maybe older.

The trainers are long gone (lifespan six to 12 months in my hands… or on my feet since we’re being pedantic!) but the very thing that you’re supposed to throw away – the box – lives on. Inside are match tickets. I just throw them in there whenever I get one. But since I haven’t had one for a while (Aston Villa at Wembley on 1 March last year, since you asked) the box should have just sat there quietly doing nothing throughout lockdown.

But then I had an idea. Who hasn’t during lockdown? I’d get them all out, put them in order and, scan them. I’d had an idea to put them on my FaceBook page but as I had a City fanzine FB page, that was the obvious place to put them.  So I started doing that at the start of the season. It started off slowly and picked up momentum. Nostalgia’s big business on the internet… “Remember when…” And what might have been a meaningless game to you might have great meaning for someone else. Many of us measure out births, deaths and marriages in football matches; the ticket is the proof positive of the day when all the other details have melted away.

I’m not a ticket collector, you understand. Collectors eschew shoeboxes in favour of A4 folders with transparent pockets and dividers, all neatly arranged. Many years ago at Maine Road, a ticket collector turned up at ‘Fanzine Corner’ happy to show anyone who was even mildly interested his fantastic collection of tickets, going back years – as neat as a new pin. 

He was proudly showing someone a ticket from a pre-season friendly in Italy in 1992. “I’ve got that one too,” I told him, “only I went to the match.” That was an understatement. My mate and I had spent a week hitch-hiking to Italy only to find that this very match against Cremonese on a mountain top in the Dolomites had kicked off half an hour early. We got to see an hour of the game anyway! My mate died in the intervening years, but I still have some great memories and a tiny slip of a ticket to mark the highwater mark (literally!) of our great adventure almost three decades ago.

And that’s the thing about tickets and programmes and much of the – mainly paper – ephemera that people collect: it tells a story, and if it’s going to tell a story it might as well be your story! Not that I’m a ticket collector, you understand.  

There were several hundred tickets in the box. Easily enough for one every day of a nine/ten-month season, I thought naively. As I painstakingly scanned them I realised that there were some dates when I was spoilt for choice (Boxing Day, for example, and early January when the FA Cup Third Round kicks in) and some days when there were none at all. Not that City hadn’t played, but I’ve had a season ticket for 40 years and for many years all-ticket games were something of a rarity; pay on the gate, no questions asked. Now, of course, every game is all-ticket.  

I roped my mate Josh in for a few more – not that he’s a collector either; more of a curator – but there are still gaps. Even so, most days I can put a match ticket on FB with a story to go under it. Remember when indeed! Derby matches, important matches and games that had memorable incidents like last-gasp goals are the most popular ones I have found: Ian Brightwell’s Derby Day equaliser, York away, Blackpool away in the Cup in 1988…

The author Hunter Davies said: ““There is the serious collector, who goes out of their way and actively searches for items. Then there is the accumulator, a much more passive beast. He or she accumulates by never knowingly throwing things away.”

Davies is, without question, a serious collector. I’m more of an “accumulator.” I’m certainly not a ticket collector. No way, not me. They can be found on trains. 

Which reminds me: I’ll have to tell you about the model train collection I’ve accumulated over the years when I’ve got more time…

To see Noel’s, err um, collection (not that he’s a collector!) have a look at https://www.facebook.com/leonyelyab It’s updated every day and provides a great ephemeral record of a football goer’s life. Every ticket tells a story.

Watch this space for other guest blogs soon.