1964-65 : Wigan Athletic 3 Oswestry 0. Harry Lyon gets on to a Walter Stanley cross as Carl Davenport lurks menacingly. Allan Brown looks on from midfield (photo from Wigan World).
In the late 1970s, my Dad and I would typically go out for a beer on Friday nights. We would rarely discuss things like politics or the weather, preferring to focus our conversations on Wigan Athletic’s progress in the Cheshire League. Among our discussions would be recollections of trips to watch Latics in exotic places like Stalybridge, Mossley and Oswestry. We lived in the south of Wigan, rugby league territory, so the pubs around us were steeped in that kind of nostalgia. One of those was ‘The Waterwheel’, run by ex-Great Britain rugby player, John Stopford. In his heyday in the early 1960s Stopford had been a lightning-fast winger for Swinton. Although he never played for Wigan RLFC, Stopford would draw rugby enthusiasts to his pub. We mostly avoided such places, preferring to walk further afield to pubs that were more salubrious for Wigan Athletic supporters.
One rainy night we succumbed, and tried ‘The Waterwheel’. Upon opening the door and the sight of the scrum surrounding the bar we started to think twice about it. There were some burly men there, faces like boxers, some with arms in slings. We were just about to walk out when my Dad said “Look it’s Harry Lyon over there.” It was indeed my hero from my teenage years. Chatting with Harry was easy. He just made you feel comfortable talking with him. Although he had left the club a decade before you could tell that Wigan Athletic was his first love. He said that it was a wonderful feeling running down the tunnel at the start of a game at Springfield Park, with some 3,000 people urging you on.
Harry Lyon was a great favourite with the fans, Wiganers not only appreciating his incredible goalscoring record, but also loving his commitment on the pitch. I asked him who was the best manager he had worked under – he had 5 during his time at the club from 1962-1968 — his reply was Allan Brown. Brown caused waves in the non-league world in 1964 when he took over at Wigan as player/manager, hiring a swath of full time professionals in a semi-professional league. After training, Brown would sometimes take his players to the town centre restaurant where my mother worked. I would be thrilled when she would bring home players’ autographs, usually written on the backs of serviettes.
Brown’s teams played an attacking 4-2-4 with the manager orchestrating from the centre of midfield. Carl Davenport was Lyon’s striking partner in Brown’s first year. Like Lyon he was an excellent header of the ball. I recall going to the Anchor Ground – aptly named at the time, a real quagmire of a pitch – to watch Latics play Darwen in a cup match. My Dad would recall for many years how Davenport had risen so high that his head was well over the height of the crossbar as he put the ball in the opponents net. Although Davenport was often referred to as an inside forward in those days, he was in reality a twin striker with Lyon. No teams found it easy to cope with the two of them. That season Harry Lyon scored 67 goals!
However, when I asked Harry who was the best striking partner he had played with he immediately retorted: Bert Llewellyn. Unlike Carl Davenport, Bert Llewellyn was only 5 feet 4 inches tall. A headed goal was a rarity, but after joining Latics in the summer of 1965, he scored 49 goals in 39 league appearances over the course of the season. Llewellyn was far from an elegant player, but was a natural goalscorer, sniffing around the penalty box for deflections, toe-poking and scrambling the ball into the back of the net. In his four years at Springfield Park, Llewellyn scored 140 goals in 185 appearances in all competitions. Remarkably, he outscored Lyon in his time at the club. Check out this wonderful article on This Northern Soul on Bert Llewellyn.
Since that era there have been lots of twin striking partnerships at Wigan Athletic. What a pity that wonderful pairing of Jason Roberts and Nathan Ellington was broken up when Latics reached the Premier League. How refreshing that Robert Martinez has adjusted his tactical system to play with two big strikers this season. The interplay between Arouna Kone and Franco Di Santo is a joy to watch. It is almost like turning back the clock.
We would love to hear from our readers – which has been your favourite striking partnership at Wigan Athletic?