Them and us – Joe Hinnigan (Latics and Sunderland)

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Joe, who was born in Liverpool on 3rd December 1955, arrived at Springfield Park in August 1975 after being signed by Brian Tiler for a fee of £1,200 from South Liverpool. He had represented Kirkby Schools at Junior, Under 14’s and Under 15’s level before signing a contract at Everton without making the grade. A similar fate awaited him during a six month spell at Aston Villa and it was from the Villans that he signed for South Liverpool. He initially had difficulty settling in at Springfield Park and he was put on the transfer list during his second season at the club.

Things were so bad that at one stage he was banned from the ground. However, after a ‘clear the air chat’ with new manager Ian McNeill he was recalled from the reserve team and scored the winning goal in the Lancashire Junior Cup Final against Chorley at the end of season 1976/77 and he never looked back. He played 119+1 Northern Premier League games for the Blues and he scored 8 Northern Premier League goals before Latics were elected into the Football League.

He made his Latics League debut on 19th August 1978 against Hereford United at Edgar Street in the Blues’ first ever Football League game which resulted in a 0-0 draw. Joe is in the Latics history books as scoring Latics’ first ever Football League goal and he did this on 2nd September 1978 against Newport County at Springfield Park. It wasn’t too long before the ‘big boys’ were alerted about Joe and it came as no surprise when he left the club to join Sunderland for a then club record incoming transfer fee of £130,000 in February 1980. He had made a total of 66 League appearances for the Blues during which he scored 10 League goals.

The step up in class (Sunderland were in the old Second Division, two league’s higher than Latics),was of no consequence to Joe and he became a crowd favourite in the North East after making his Roker Park debut on 23rd February 1980 against Luton Town in a game that resulted in a 1-0 victory. By the end of the league campaign Sunderland were promoted to the old First Division (now the Premier League) and his old supporters at Springfield Park were hardly surprised that he made such great progress with Sunderland. The following 1980/81 season saw Joe score his first goal for the Mackems in a 2-1 defeat against Aston Villa on 7 March 1981. He then scored in the next two matches with victories over Crystal Palace on 14 March 1981 and a brace against Coventry City on 21 March 1981. After making 63 league appearances and scoring four goals, he was on the move again in December 1982, signing for Preston North End.

He made his debut for the Lilywhites on 19th March 1982 at Deepdale against Cardiff City which resulted in a 2-1 victory. He went on to make 33 league appearances for North End during which he netted 5 times, before bidding farewell to the Deepdale faithful after his last game for the club against Bradford City on 5th May 1984. In August 1984 he signed for Third Division outfit Gillingham and his time at the Priestfield Stadium yielded 103 league appearances and 7 goals. His next port of call was Wrexham, for whom he signed in July 1987, where he went on to score twice in 54 league appearances. His final league club was Chester City for whom he made 29 league appearances, during which he scored once.

After retiring from the game he became the physio at Sealand Road and later he was to become their assistant manager. He returned to Springfield Park as assistant to Graham Barrow in September 1994, before following ‘Rambarrow’ to Rochdale in 1996, heading back to Chester City after Barrow bit the bullet at Spotland. He then teamed up with Barrow again at Bury in 2005. He is currently the physiotherapist for Accrington Stanley following a spell at Shrewsbury Town in the same capacity.


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