Former Oswestry Town Managers

The Merry-go-round of Managers we see in the modern game was not so different in the past at clubs like Oswestry and as far as my memory and collection goes we have had over thirty since the war, albeit that some have come back for a second bite of the Cherry.

Tommy Gardner was installed into the hot seat at Victoria Road as Player Manager in 1949, prior to him Tom Vaughan an old Oswestry & Welshpool player acted as Secretary Manager. Gardner the ex Liverpool, Grimsby, Hull, Villa and Barnsley pro had also assisted Wrexham & Welligton Town. He was famous for his long throw, he played for England v Czechoslovakia & Holland in 1934/35,he also turned out in the wartime guest system for Blackpool where he figured in their 1943 Cup Final win.

He was followed by George Antonio Rowlands who had started with Maesbury Millers before leaving Oswestry for the big time, the ex Blue partnered Stanley Matthews at Stoke City and also played for Derby, Doncaster and Mansfield and was a wartime guest with Wrexham.

He came to us from Wellington Town and as Player Manager in his first season he took us to third place in the Birmingham League, and topped it by winning the Championship in 1952/3,five points ahead of Kidderminster Harriers.

When Antonio returned to Wellington Alan Ball was appointed Player Manager for the 1954/5 season, Ball another pro at Birmingham, Southport & Rochdale, had been a player under Antonio in the Championship side. Alan who also kept the Kings Head in Church St was the Father of England World Cup winner Alan Ball of Blackpool, who later became a Goodison Park legend. Alan Jnr. went to the National and Oswestry high schools.

Keith Thomas was at the helm for the 1957/8 season, he returned to us from Exeter City having joined Sheffield Wednesday from Blues before moving to Cardiff City and Plymouth Argyle. Blues had been up & down between the first/second division between 54/5 and 57/8 due to reorganisation a promotion and then relegation, but under Keith we bounced back and took the title by three points from Brush Sports, and enjoyed a run to the 1st round proper of the F A Cup. Back in the top flight for 58/9 we finished as runners up to Wolves who only lost one game and that was to us at Oswestry. Having scored 134 league goals the previous season, we top scored again with 96, five more than Wolves.

George Antonio Rowlands was back and the man to lead us into our first season in the Cheshire County League in the 1959/60 season, he had played first and reserve games the previous season, we made a solid start in our first season, tenth place finish and we reached the first round proper of the F A Cup again.

In the Cheshire League era Managers came thick and fast, when Antonio stepped down in 1961 we had a period when the Directors handled team selection, this due in no small part to finances. Dick Jones, well known in Cheshire & North Wales circles was in charge by 1964/5,then ex Blue and Shrewsbury stalwart Norman Hobson became Player Manager in 1966/7.  Scotland and Blackpool legend Jackie Mudie was part of the Portmadoc influx in 1967/8, this included Mel Charles, who struggled for fitness and the gem that was Mick Porter, who proved such a good signing for us.  Mudie had a short stay he was replaced later that season by ex England, Manchester United, Leicester and Derby star, Johnny Morris; his son Ken, a great defender also played for us, before becoming a Wigan star.

Then the 1969/70 season saw the first coming of the legend that was Fred Morris, Fred, a winger was sold by us to Walsall, he also played for Mansfield and Liverpool amongst others. Under Fred we won the Cheshire League Cup, beating Marine in a thrilling two leg Final in 1971/72 and much to the delight of us Blues he made it a double by beating Rhyl at Buxton in the first Cheshire League Shield Final, Cup holders v Champions.

Fred was a tireless worker for the club and was instrumental along with the Committee, Supporters club, Chairman Tudor Griffiths and other business men and supporters, in getting Floodlights installed at Victoria Road. His side finished in 5th place in that 1971/2 season the best since Antonio’s side did the same in 1960/1,and would remain our best finish in our Cheshire League membership.

Season 1973/4, Len Kilby took over the reins, Fred Morris had resigned after a very poor Welsh Cup result the previous season. Kilby had built a very good side down the road at Welshpool and several of that squad came to play for us. Under him we enjoyed good Welsh Cup runs and again reached the 1st round proper of the F.A. Cup in 1974,also won for the first time was the Border Counties Floodlit League.

When we moved to the Southern League in 1975 we had Dick Jones back in charge and we enjoyed a great start having been in the top four and had a 100% home league record at the time of his resignation in November, he left due to financial pressure, the side needing to get four figure gates to finance the team. Dave Pountney the ex Villa and Shrewsbury man took over until April, when he was replaced by Alan Boswell the former Wolves and Shrewsbury keeper who was to lead us into the 1976/7 season. He in turn was replaced by January 1977 by Idris Pryce, the ex Wrexham man having the job until January 1978. Alan Ball Senior stepped in for the second time between Managers to help coach the squad.

March 1978 the club appointed ex England, Bolton and Manchester City man Freddie Hill, Hill brought in some fine players and we were amongst the leading pack in the Southern League for most of the 1978/9 season. He was still in charge to take the club forward to new pastures, the Northern Premier League in season 1979/80, but it came as a surprise to fans when he decided to leave the club because he was unwilling to work under Arthur Rowley, the reserves Manager who the board had made General Manager with a say in first team selection. Rowleys first game in charge was February 23rd v Grantham. The former Shrewsbury goal machine only held the post for eight months, his last game being the home game v Lancaster City on October 18th 1980.

Back at the club for the second time was Freddie Morris who appointed Idris Pryce as his number two, Fred brought in some good players but we could only manage to secure 18th place, followed by 16th in 1981/82, this was against the background of a looming financial crisis, Fred having the budget slashed and releasing many contract players. Fred resigned the post in January 1983 and John Roberts the Wales, Arsenal, Birmingham, Wrexham defender who joined us after he left Hull took over as Caretaker.

K.O.(Ken) Roberts was appointed as Manager in April 1983 as we finished 18th. The 83/84 season saw an influx of ex Chester & Wrexham players, Ken had been Chester Manager & General Manager for many years and later spent three years as Wrexham’s Chief Scout and youth development officer. A former Wrexham player who went to Aston Villa, he sustained a serious injury that killed his league career, Ken did play a few games for us with Antonio in the Birmingham League. Ken was replaced in March 1984 by Stuart Mason and the club avoided having to apply for re election thanks to a good finish to the season.

Masons side made our best ever start in the NPL but then had a horror run of only two wins out of 17 games and elimination from all the Cups, he was sacked by the club and his player Trevor Storton took over helped by Trevor Phillips. We finished 14th and did have a bonus of winning the Shrops. Senior Cup Final. Storton stayed in charge until September 1986 and left the club along with Trevor Phillips after we were caught out playing Steve Austin under a false name in our 1-0 F.A. Cup win over Prescot Cables. The ex Chester man joined up with his brother Stan at  Telford where he had much success. Following his departure senior pro’s Brynley Jones and Steve Edwards took over as Caretakers. We finished the season 17th.

1987/88 proved to be our last season at Victoria Road and the man chosen for what turned out to be a dour season was ex Altrincham and Wigan star John Rogers, he had won it all at non league level and also played in the league for Port Vale and Wigan. Rogers came to us after managing Witton Albion and South Liverpool. He enjoyed no success at all  and we had only two wins out of twenty starts prior to a 1-7 home loss to Marine. That proved to be his last game, the club turned again to ex Chester man Brynley Jones to take over, he had been playing with Marine as had former Blue favourite Tony Livens. Carleton Leonard who had played for him the previous season was asked to continue with the reserve side and as a first team squad man, and hope to bring some useful youngsters on via the Mid Wales side.

Despite a spirited finish with wins and draws over some of the top half we finished second bottom above Workington but just short of Matlock, so we would have been relegated if there were suitable clubs to come up. The final home game saw us loose to Mossley in what was a very sad day, 1-2 at our home of over 100 years