History 1 of 2

1. Formby Hockey Club

Although records are somewhat scarce, it is known that Formby HC was founded around 1900/1902 and became affiliated to the Lancashire County Hockey Association in 1902. The founder members were mainly old boys of Merchant Taylors School, who wished to find an alternative sport to Rugby Union and set up a club at Formby. The most distinguished player from this era was A.H. Noble who won 6 caps for England and played in the 1908 Olympic Games.

On the outbreak of war in 1914, the club was temporarily disbanded, with most of the members enlisting in His Majesty's Forces. When peace was restored, the club was re-formed and operated successfully until 1937. Again, not many records exist from this period. We do have a copy of the 1928/29 fixture card on display in the pavilion which indicates that most of the officers of the Club were Liverpool businessmen rather than local residents. After a difference of opinion over the use of the ground between the Formby Cricket Club and the hockey players, attempts to find an alternative ground turned out to be in vain and the club was once again disbanded. Any thoughts of a prompt resumption were then delayed due to the outbreak of World War Two and it was not until 1954 that some members of Formby Cricket Club who had been playing hockey for other local clubs, decided the time was right to begin the third phase of Formby Hockey Club.

From 1954, two teams were fielded regularly including several cricketers, notably Russell Brown, Bobby Dean, Eddie Highton, Paul Morrice, Stuart Povall, Ian Paterson and John Byron. In succeeding years, Colin Whalley (who later played for Hightown) made 153 appearances for Lancashire, was capped 49 times for England and represented Great Britain at the 1968 Olympic Games, later becoming manager of the England team at the 1986 World Cup in London. Other cricketers who also adapted well to hockey were Alan Bryan and Keith Wood, each of whom captained the first team at both sports. Although there was healthy rivalry amongst local clubs, there were no formal leagues at this time and teams had to put up a good show on and off the field in order to retain a strong fixture list.

The next significant phase of the club's growth began in 1969 with the formation of a third team, many of whom were teenage members of the Cricket club. Chairman Norman Lister persuaded well respected coach John Cooke to help these youngsters to master the basics, a process which has been replicated to the present day. The recruitment of a steady stream of youngsters, many of whom were pupils of Formby High School led to the formation of a fourth team in 1974. At around this time, several senior clubs in the North West had been keen to see organised leagues established and it was decided to form the North West League in 1976 for 1st and 2nd teams only. Initially, clubs were assessed on the basis of results over the three seasons 1972-1975. Although

Formby finished in 14th place in an unofficial "merit table" in 1974/5, they narrowly missed out on a place in the new First Division which consisted of 16 clubs.It was to be a frustrating eleven seasons before they eventually progressed to that level.

There are numerous sporting tales which illustrate that, from time to time, every club needs a little bit of luck as well as lots of hard work to make progress. In the summer of 1975, Hans Berge, a German who had played at Harborne in the Midlands and Ben Rhydding in Yorkshire was transferred by his employers to work in Liverpool. After touring the area, Hans and his wife Lotte decided Formby looked to be a nice place to live. After moving in, he found his way to Formby Cricket Club, met a few hockey players and decided he would like to join us. For those of you who never met him, Hans was well over six feet tall and a giant of a man in every sense. We soon discovered he was a fearsome striker of short corners. In the 1975/6 season, he scored more than 30 goals as well as being an outstanding defender at left back, forming a formidable twosome with the slightly smaller Peter Mackarell on his right. After only one season, he was elected as Captain, a role he held for five years until he was appointed to a new position in Berlin. Hans made friends with many players and even tried to learn some of the mysteries of Cricket. He organised a tour to Germany in 1976, the destination being Travemuende on the Baltic coast, where an eventful week passed all too quickly.

Turning to the serious side of League Hockey in 1976, Formby began well in Division Two and were in third place at the Christmas break. A couple of poor results in January meant they finished in fourth place. This pattern repeated itself several times in the next decade, as Formby always seemed to be in line for promotion at Christmas but usually had one or two nightmares and narrowly failed to go up. This particular "bogey" bit the dust as Formby stormed through the 1986/7 season, finishing as Champions and also winning the Wilkinson's Sword Award for Sportmanship (voted for by the Umpires).

As Formby entered the First Division in 1987, reorganisation was in the air. The National League was set to start the following season, along with six Regional leagues forming a pyramid, so it was important to finish no lower than 10th out of 16 to gain a place in the new North Premier League. Despite the higher standard of opposition, Formby coped well in the First Division and held a place in the top half of the table all season. Promotion to the North Premier League was secured following a 2-0 home win over Wigan thanks to goals from Phil Capper and Richard Mercer.

After successive promotions, Formby looked forward to the new challenges posed by the North Premier League, with high quality opposition nearly every week, much more travelling and most games played on Astroturf. For the next four years, most first team games were played at Blaguegate, Skelmersdale, prior to the installation of our own Astroturf at Cricket Path in 1992.

Their first venture into the North Premier League was more successful than could ever have been imagined. At the Christmas break, they were unbeaten, having won 5 and drawn 5, in second place only two points behind the leaders. In February, a narrow defeat to eventual champions Ben Rhydding meant they had to be content with third place - an excellent achievement. The following season they began well, but an injury to Phil Capper in January coincided with a goal drought and a final placing of sixth. At the third attempt, Formby became champions in 1990/91. In a tense finish to the season, a draw in the penultimate game at home to Timperley left them level with Sheffield but with an inferior goal difference. By winning their final game 5-0 at Tynemouth, Formby were able to turn the pressure onto Sheffield, who then had to win their final game against Ben Rhydding a week later by four goals. Some of the Formby players watched this match and were delighted when Sheffield could only manage a 3-1 victory. Formby Hockey Club were Champions of the North and qualified to play in the National League in 1991/2 !

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