Them and Us – Ron Suart (Wigan Athletic and Chelsea)

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The visit of Chelsea for the opening game of the season on Sunday afternoon gives TNS the opportunity to profile a man who managed both clubs, Ron Suart.

Ron was born in Barrow-in-Furness on 16th November 1920.  He became a rock steady full back and played all of his football in the North of England.  His first port of call was his hometown club Barrow and then following a stint at Netherfield he was snapped up by Blackpool for whom he signed professional forms on 1st January 1939.  The club was sat at the summit of Division One when the Second World War was declared.  He played for the Seasiders during the war in the Football League North against the likes of Leeds United, Middlesbrough, Gateshead, Newcastle United, Doncaster Rovers, Sunderland, Bradford Park Avenue, York City, Halifax Town and Huddersfield Town.  The League was obviously disrupted by the hostilities and a full season was completed just the once in 1945/46.

He made 103 League appearances for the Seasiders without scoring in a ten year stint at Bloomfield Road, and he was unlucky in that he missed the FA Cup Final of 1948 through injury.

He then signed for Blackburn Rovers on 1st September 1949 and during a six year spell at Ewood Park made 176 League appearances without scoring.  With his playing career almost at an end he decided to try his luck as a player manager and in September 1955 he became the player manager of Latics, replacing Walter Crook, another former Blackburn Rovers player.

Ron made his Lancashire Combination debut for the Blues on 8th October 1955 against Bacup Borough at Springfield Park with the Blues running out 6-0 winners, the largest winning margin of any Wigan Athletic manager on debut to date.  He was to make 22 LC games without scoring and left the club at the end of that season to manage Scunthorpe United, but not before ensuring the Blues finished third in the league and won the Lancashire Junior Cup, shared the Makerfield Cup and finished runners up to his former club Netherfield in the  Lancashire Combination Cup.

He managed to lead the ‘Iron’ to the championship of the Third Division North in 1958, and it must be remembered at this time of the club’s history they were actually called Scunthorpe and Lindsey United.

In the summer of 1958 he moved on to manage Blackpool and in the process became the first former player to ever manage the club, replacing Joe Smith who had resigned due to ill health.

He spent nine years at Bloomfield Road, keeping the Tangerines in the top flight and reaching the League Cup Semi Finals in 1962.  He was a great talent spotter and whilst in charge at Bloomfield Road unearthed treasures like Alan Ball and Emlyn Hughes.

He resigned his post in January 1967, was succeeded by another former ‘Pool legend Stan Mortensen, and within four months the Seasiders were relegated.  Meanwhile, Ron had become the assistant manager to Tommy Docherty at Chelsea until October 1967 when Docherty resigned and Suart spent a short period as caretaker manager until the Pensioners’ appointment of Dave Sexton as manager.

Ron was instrumental in Chelsea winning the 1970 FA Cup Final and the European Cup Winners Cup Final a year later.  Sexton was sacked in October 1974 and Ron then became the manager of the club, but he was unable to avoid  relegation before being replaced himself by Eddie McCreadie in April 1975.

His last known job in the game was as chief scout for Wimbledon, but heavy debts incurred by the London outfit led to him being axed in February 2002 at the age of 82.

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