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Remembering Gordon Howarth

11 August 2023

The club is saddened to hear of the death of former player Gordon Howarth at the age of 83.

Gordon, who played for the Shrimps in the 1961-62 season, will always be remembered  for the goal that earned the Shrimps a famous FA Cup victory over league club Chester City.

Born in Prescot on October 7, 1939, Gordon was an amateur with Prescot Cables before joining Bury where he failed to make a first team appearance. A move to Netherfield followed before being signed for a fee by Morecambe at the start of the 1961-62 season.

He started off well with a goal on his league debut in a 5-3 home win over New Brighton.

The cup winning goal against Chester gave Morecambe their first ever win against league opponents. 

The Guardian reporter at the game described it in detail stating: “Morecambe were soon on the attack and Borrowdale was going through when he was nudged from behind and lost possession. Hardie, the Chester keeper had run out to clear but miskicked and the ball flew to Howarth who at the second attempt put the ball into the corner of the net from a narrow angle.’’

Gordon had a great season helping the Shrimps win the Lancashire Combination League and Lancashire Junior Cup but lost his place for the following season and spent the campaign in the reserves, making his last appearance on May 7, 1963, in a 1-0 defeat at Chorley.

His son Kevin is a well known local cricketer who was Carnforth’s professional for a couple of seasons.

He was part of the team that won the Lancashire Combination League and the Lancashire Cup in a hugely successful 1961-62 season.

Gordon Howarth featured in Derek Quinn's book of interviews with former players and fans and is printed in full below.

I only spent two seasons at Morecambe but they were two sensational years for me and the team. 

I have so many fantastic memories with the main one obviously being scoring the winner in the FA Cup tie at Chester City. It was a sensational result really because in those days non league clubs simply didn’t beat Football League sides it was as simple as that. 

A friend of mine actually played for Chester and he was telling me before the game that they hadn’t really taken it seriously and spent most of the week before on the golf course because they were expecting to win easily. I scored early on and the rest is history as it were and in the end we fully deserved to win and I went close to scoring a second as well in the game. 

The win led to an interview in the Sunday Express for me and the reporter chatted with my wife Muriel who came out with the classic line that “There was no reason why Morecambe could not win the FA Cup.’’ 

She got some stick from the likes of Keith Borrowdale after that who said Arsenal and Manchester United would be quaking in their boots now! 

The win came as no surprise to me because we had a great team with some wonderful players and characters and when I look back and think of Keith Borrowdale I am convinced that he would be a Premiership player now and how he didn’t play higher is still a mystery to me.

The Chester win meant we played Weymouth in the next round and unfortunately it was a day where nothing went right for us. We were missing three of our most important players for the game with Don Cubbage and Joe Dunn out and I think I had one of my worst ever games for the club although I did have a shot cleared off the line that rebounded off the underside of the crossbar. 

Jackie Keen said he was sure the ball had crossed the line but it wasn’t given and we were out. 

Everyone says we would have played Preston North End in the third round but I am sure that is wrong because the number you were given in the draw was based on alphabetical order so I am sure it would have been different if we had gone through.

I loved playing for Joe Dunn because his philosophy was simple. If they scored four, we would score five. It was as simple as that and the football we played was fresh and exciting. The Chester win was the highlight but we also beat a superb Wigan Athletic side who were the Chelsea of Non League football in those days and I remember a game where we scored eight against a Burscough side who were full of ex pros. 

I scored more than 30 goals from outside left in my second season with the club and I was nowhere near the top scorer with Borrowdale and Ian Whitehead banging in even more. 

The three of us grabbed the goals but the star of the show was Ray Evans, a player we nicknamed “Puskas’’ because he was a bit portly just like the Portugal legend. But he was the best passer of a ball I have ever seen and another who was a real character. 

Off the field he loved a bet and I remember when we were having a pre match meal before the Chester game he asked me to lend him five shillings for a bet. A few hours later he gave me £2 back which was quite a lot of money in those days.

After all the success I was really sorry to leave Morecambe the way I did. At the start of every season all clubs had what they call public trials and we played against Workington and Burnley who were both in the Football League and I thought I did really well. 

But Joe Dunn told me he would be letting me go and I was pretty hurt after all I had done as part of a great team. Joe told me that every year the club had to bring in a new face to keep things fresh for the fans and I was the one making way. He did the same with Ken Udall who was a sensational goalkeeper, replacing him with a goalkeeper who was nearly 40! I was still only in my 20s and should have looked for another club in the Lancashire Combination but I went into the North Lancs League and played for Galgate and although I enjoyed it it was a mistake really. 

I was unhappy at the time but have spoken to Joe plenty of times since and didn’t hold any grudges.

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