Rest In Pieces: South Liverpool FC 1894-1994

By Hyder Jawad

Book review by Colin Serjent - 8/5/2015

I had a 27 year association with South Liverpool Football Club, and have so many memories of those times that I could have written a book myself!

As well as being a passionate supporter since I was ten-years-old I also wrote match reports of South for the Garston-based Liverpool Weekly News when I was 16 and 17 years-old. Elton Welsby took over the role when he joined the paper as a cub reporter.

I also wrote a weekly column for the free local weekly paper Merseymart for several years during the 1980s and match reports for the Liverpool Football Echo, Liverpool Echo and Daily Post.

I remember during one period, due to a lack of a telephone at the club after another arson attack on the stand, I had to dash from the ground, Holly Park, at half-time and full-time to file my copy from a public phone box - this was before the advent of mobile phones. - to the Football Echo.

Spanning 656 pages and containing over 300,000 words, Rest In Pieces is certainly one of the largest football club histories in existence.

There are some great comments by Hyder Jawad about South. All the quotes used in this review are taken from the book.

'The history of South Liverpool is less about the lives that people lived, the club did not live in a vacuum. No football club does. To ignore the contexts would be to neglect the key position of South Liverpool Football Club in Liverpool's rich and vagarious heritage.'

He details the history of the club from 1894-1994. I will focus on the 27 year period I was associated with the club, from 1964-1991.

Jawad speaks about the arrival of a manager, Allen Hampson, during the 1960s, who transformed the club.

'Not since the end of the 1930s had the arrival of one man done so much to shape life at Holly Park. Under Hampson South Liverpool would become one of the top ten or twelve non-league teams in England.'

High praise indeed.

One of my favourite players was right winger Dave Watson, a prolific goalscorer and expert penalty taker. He was once on the books of Liverpool, but due to the high quality of the squad at Anfield in the 1960s he could not make a breakthrough to the first team.

'He, like other players, could have left Holly Park for bigger clubs. But he chose to stay because of the family atmosphere erected by Hampson.'

One of the first matches I attended was the FA Cup first round 4-2 replay victory at Holly Park in November 1964 against Fourth Division Halifax Town. It was staged on a Wednesday afternoon due to the poor quality of South's floodlights. I bunked off school to go!

'On a day when reputations were at stake, Watson outshone every Halifax player. Bill Shankly watched the game from the stand. The attendance was 5000 plus.'

South then lost 2-0 at home to Workington Town in the second round, who were top of the Third Division at the time.

In 1965 South played away in the First Round of the FA Cup to Wrexham at the Racecourse Ground, losing 4-1. 'In context this was one of the most anti-climactic results in the club's history.'

Two years later Ferenc Puskas, legendary captain of the Hungary team of the 1954 World Cup, played at Holly Park in a Puskas XI in a charity match against a Billy Liddell XI, in aid of the local Bankfield House Community Centre. Puskas scored a hat-trick. It attracted a crowd of over 10,000.

The Northern Premier League, which South participated in until their demise, was formed in 1968, their first mach being at Gateshead on 10 August. They were among five clubs from the Lancashire Combination who were promoted into the new set up.

'But it proved very difficult, the NPL was merely to exaggerate South's financial problems and exaggerated the chasm between the strongest and the weakest.'

In the first few weeks of the campaign they suffered a humiliating 7-1 home defeat to Bangor City, with the diminutive figure of Tommy Harper in the South goal. I still remember the ridicule I received from some of my mates for the shambolic way the team performed.

South were the first fully professional football club in England to stage a game on a Sunday (7 March 1971). They allowed free entry to the match, but to get around the Sunday Observance Act of 1780, spectators could only gain entry by buying an official match day programme. The programme editor Mal Bullock, said 'Something had to be done to bolster our disgraceful attendances."

But the experiment did not work - the attendance was barely higher than if it had been played on a Saturday.

South again performed well in the FA Cup, reaching the First Round in 1972, but lost 2-0 against Tranmere Rovers at Holly Park. Rovers included Ian St John, Tommy Lawrence and Ron Yeats, all legendary figures from the Liverpool side under Shankly.

On the same pitch the three of them played on I was sent off for swearing at the referee while appearing for South Liverpool Youth Supporters. They also fined me!

Talking about money John Aldridge commented on how much he received when moving to South from Liverpool Sunday League side Garston Woodcutters. In season 1978/79: £3 basic wage, £2 appearance money and £3 win bonus.

South finished 19th in the NPL in 1983 - their worst league placing since 1960.

But the following season saw a remarkable transformation in fortunes. Under a new chairman, Jim Smith, John King was appointed manager with George Rooney his assistant.

'South were about to enter a period that would sum up its entire history. Success, failure, relevance, irrelevance, public support, public disdain, illusion - and ultimately, collapse.'

Season 1983-84 was their most successful since 1938-39. John King had resigned as manager in mid-season to be replaced by Bryan Griffiths. He led the team to the Northern Premier League Cup. the Liverpool Senior Cup and the Lancashire Junior Cup.

He had taken over as manager in February 1984. 'The task facing Griffiths at Holly Park, that of maintaining exaggerated expectations born of the few months of improvement under King, was so difficult that his ultimate achievement in leading the club to three trophies inside four months was astonishing.'

In all the team played a staggering 76 league and cup matches.

But Griffiths resigned shortly after victory over Liverpool in the final of the Liverpool Senior Cup - their last game of the season.

'South's most successful post-war season ended in abject anticlimax.'

Unfortunately the success they enjoyed during the season had an adverse effect. Many of the players left for better wages at other clubs. Even during their successful years attendances at Holly Park were still abysmal - with paltry crowds of only 150-250 sometimes. Some photographs taken at matches show no spectators present in certain parts of the ground.

in the 1988/89 season, in what was a precursor of future problems, vandals broke into the club's offices at Holly Park and caused £3000 of damage.

Soon after that season ended vandals set fire to the main stand, but worse was to follow. 'Somebody, or something, had burnt down the South Liverpool members club.'

Following this incident, Jim Smith took over as manager.

After the other social club at Holly Park had been burnt down I phoned Jawad at the Liverpool Echo to inform him about this. He visited the scene and said 'The overpowering smell of petrol rules out any suggestion of an accident.'

In his book Jawad said: 'South's future at Holly Park, which began in 1935 when cows and chickens occupied what was then a dairy farm, was drawing to an anticlimatic close. South Liverpool will not survive this.'

He described the people who set ablaze the two social clubs at the ground as 'local vermin who torched the place and broke our hearts. To my mind, no one incident more accurately summed up the vulnerability of South Liverpool FC to the uneducated and nihilistic minority of the nearby estates. Their role in the demise of the club was great. The local community was poorer for their presence.'

Strong words indeed but he was correct.

South then proposed a move to a purpose built stadium at the Mystery Park in Wavertree, costing £500,000. But the proposal was turned down by Liverpool City Council.

On 9 April 1990 South competed in their last game at Holly Park, defeating Liverpool in the semi-final of the Liverpool Senior Cup. Central defender Eddie Johnson scoring the last ever goal at the ground in a 1-0 win.

South then moved to Bucks Park, home of Bootle FC. 'That South Liverpool Football Club inhabited a ground in the north of Liverpool, the club's name was a misnomer.'

The final home match of South in the NPL resulted in a 2-2 draw with, according to Jawad, Bishop Auckland, watched by less than 30 spectators. I thought it was Gateshead they played, their first opponents when they joined the NPL in 1968.

What a sad end to a great club. The title of the book is appropriately titled 'Rest In Pieces.'

The club remained in the NPL until financial problems forced the limited company, South Liverpool Athletic & Association Football Club Co.Ltd, to fold after the 1990-91 season. A committee formed itself in the summer of 1991 and took over the name "South Liverpool A.F.C."

In 2006, the site of Holly Park had been redeveloped and was opened as Liverpool South Parkway railway station. I was recently there in early spring, waiting for a train, and was delighted to hear a loud chorus of birdsong emanating from the trees surrounding the railway lines.

Among the many other memories I have of Holly Park was speaking to legendary Liverpool manager Bob Paisley. I also spoke to Spurs double winning manager Bill Nicholson (the team winning the league and FA Cup in 1961), who was attending a Friday night game involving South, while the rest of the Spurs team and staff were based at the Adelphi Hotel, prior to playing Liverpool at Anfield the following afternoon.

In April 2015 South won their first league title since 1966 when winning the West Cheshire Amateur Football League Division One.

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Sorry Comments Closed

Comment left by Frank thomas on 12th May, 2016 at 17:31
I was at the Sunday game in 1971, think it was against Kirkby town (another club who died of apathy) south won 2-1 if I remember rightly. Nice piece, thanks for the memories..