Hello again – I’ve been persuaded to ramble on a bit more (apparently my previous efforts made Neil Rimmer’s Perm feel young!).
Who was this Harry Lyon fella?– well there have been two legendary Latics Lyons. The first was Jackie who scored a total of 119 goals for us from 1950–55 and played in the famous games against Newcastle United in 1953-54. Unfortunately I never saw him play as he was before even my time (NRP – I have only mentioned Jackie to make me feel young!).
So what about Harry – the phrase “Not a patch on Harry Lyon” is misleading of course, it’s Harry who isn’t a patch on JR., Camera, The Duke, Sir Andrew Liddell et al. Harry was just a part-timer playing in the Cheshire League, so how come that for Latics fans of a “certain age” he will always be their Number 1 hero?
Well, between1962-1969 he played 379 games and scored 264 goals including 66 in 64-5 and 61 the following season. He had a tall, slim build but was as hard as nails with his all-action style and prodigious heading ability – just think of Pascal Chimbonda as a rampaging non-league centre-forward (er – without the gloves) and you’ve got him.
Lots of players have a match which becomes a defining moment in their career – George Best in Lisbon, Geoff Hurst in the World Cup Final, Don Page versus Coventry (!). Harry’s moment came in the FA Cup in 1965. In those days it was virtually impossible to be promoted from non-league to the Football League – there was no automatic promotion like there is now. At the end of each season the bottom four clubs in the league had to apply for re-election against the top non-league clubs and were almost always successful. If you were an ambitious non-league club wanting to gain election a prestigious FA Cup run was essential. That year Latics progressed through the qualifying rounds and were hoping for a home draw and some glory in the First Round. However, the deflating news was that we were drawn away to Doncaster Rovers who were top of Division Four and the only unbeaten team in the country at that time.
Nevertheless we reached half-time with a 1-0 lead thanks to a Lyon header from a corner before disaster struck. Full-back Stuart Houghton had to be carried of with 30 minutes remaining and Latics were down to 10 men (no subs then). Lyon was moved to full-back but we conceded 2 goals before equalising with 3 minutes left to draw 2-2.
The replay the following Wednesday kicked-off at 2 pm (no floodlights) and is the game that Harry is always remembered for. After less than 20 minutes he was carried of on a stretcher with a suspected broken ankle and Latics were down to 10 again. A mood of despondency enveloped a rain-drenched Springfield Park as we realised we now had no chance of winning the match. Then 15 minutes later, a huge cheer as our hero limped back onto the field with his ankle heavily strapped to score (as every Latics Mon should know) his legendary hat-trick. There is a wonderful photograph in the programme versus Blackburn of Harry leaping, Chimbonda-like, to head one of these goals.
Harry lived just a Nicky Eaden sliced clearance from Springfield Park and a few dates later a few of us plucked up the courage to knock on his door and ask for his autograph, which we got – plus tea and biscuits!
But we still had to wait another 15 years to get voted into the Football League !
I’ve mentioned Harry playing as emergency full-back during the first Doncaster game – well how about this. At the end of that season we had an injury crisis and didn’t have a fit goalkeeper. This was a perfect example of “sod’s law” because we had 2 cup finals to play within 3 days of each other. No problem – Harry was selected to keep goal and we won both cups. How many goals did we concede? – well it was less than one (how cool is that !)
So if your reading this and thinking of top ten Premiership finishes or EUFA Cup qualification I hope I’ve been able to convey some of the reasons why Harry Lyon will always be my Latics Legend.
PS – I might be a Lancashire Combination Veteran but please note I’m not that George Barlow bloke!
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