by Terry Rowley

These pages chronicle the playing legends of Altrincham Football Club. The texts have been kindly supplied by Terry Rowley, formerly joint editor of the Robins' Review matchday programme. Many of the profiles have previously appeared in the Robins' Review.

151. Ira William "Bill" WINSTANLEY

152. Albert BEECH

153. Thomas "Tommy" CUNLIFFE

151. Ira William "Bill" WINSTANLEY

By Terry Rowley

  • Born: Prestwich or Pendleton. 26th October 1910
  • Died: 1985
  • Bill Winstanley was definitely, another case of ‘one that got away’, even though it has to be said he made a successful move, going from Altrincham reserves all the way to playing in the First Division of the Football League.

    Born in Prestwich, he played for Langley Road Social club, Walkden, before trying his luck at a higher level in his early twenties and he turned out for Altrincham reserves. It was here that he was spotted by a scout from First Division, Stoke City and invited for trials in July 1933.

    He obviously impressed as he was offered a contract in August. He bedded into the reserves, eventually becoming captain of Stoke City Reserves. He made an instant impression on new manager Bob McGrory and made his debut on the 26th October 1935 against Derby County.

    Bill went on to play in twenty-seven League matches that season, as Stoke finished fourth in the table. In addition to those League matches he also played in five FA Cup ties, making a total of thirty-two games for the 1935/36 season.

    Bill then played a further twenty-one matches in 1936/37 season before tragedy struck when he suffered a broken leg on Christmas Day, 1936 playing against Chelsea. He then missed more than a year’s football.

    In 1938/39, regaining fitness, he was not able to force his way back into the first team, and played only a single game. Frustrated, in January 1939, Bill requested to be placed on transfer list.

    The club agreed to release him and, in May 1939, he moved to then First Division club Grimsby Town where he was appointed captain of the reserves. Unfortunately, his stay was only brief as, due to the invasion of Poland and the imminent start of the Second World War, organised football ceased.

    The games that Bill played were expunged and his career finished.

    Bill then returned to Manchester and in October he turned out once for Stockport County in the War-time regional league, (Western Section). He then reverted to amateur statusand played for Trafford Park. He was also a good cricketer and played for Great Chell, (a suburb of Stoke) in the North Staffs League, whilst on Stoke City’s books.

    There is no record of Bill playing football after World War Two.

    *Note Winstanley is referred to as either Bill or Ira in reports.

    Ira/ Bill Winstanley’s playing record.

    • Langley Road Social Club
    • Altrincham Reserve team full-back.
    • Stoke City After trials in July 1933, signed August 1933.
      • 1935/36 26 games - 0 goals in league; 5 games - 0 in FA Cup
      • 1936/37 21 games - 0 goals in league.
      • 1938/39 1 game - 0 goals in league
    • Grimsby Town (05/1939).
    • Stockport County (10/1939) Wartime guest: 1939/40 1 game - 0 goals
    • Trafford Park FC

    152. Albert BEECH

    By Terry Rowley

  • Born: Fenton Staffordshire 24th September 1912
  • Died: Fenton Staffordshire 24th September 1912
  • Albert Beech was born, lived, married and died in Fenton, part of Stoke on Trent. But Altrincham can claim him as one of their own, based on the results of one season at Moss Lane. His performances for Altrincham ended with him being signed by First Division Huddersfield Town.

    Albert gained his early experience with Leek Alexandra before moving to Stoke St. Peter's, (also based in Fenton), and earned four medals including a Sentinel Cup medal.

    He was scouted by local league side Port Vale as a teenager and signed as an amateur in November 1930, accepting professional terms in September the following year. He played only one first team game for Vale and that came at home, against Manchester United on 28th November 1931, a 2-1 defeat. He spent the rest of his time playing for the reserves before being released at the end of the 1931/332 season.

    From here he signed for Cheshire County League side Hyde United for the 1932/33 season.

    He joined Altrincham in the summer of 1933 and became Altrincham’s top scorer in the 1933/34 season, playing primarily at inside left. He made his debut on the 26th August 1933 and scored his first goals four days later. Albert was a regular scorer throughout the season, including scoring a hat trick against Crewe Alexandra Reserves in a 6-2 win on 2nd December.

    His performances drew the attention of League clubs meaning he was watched a number of times by scouts from various clubs. He finished the season with twenty-four goals and gained a Cheshire Senior Cup winner's medal when Altrincham beat Congleton, 1-0 in the Final played at Edgeley Park in front of 5,671 spectators.

    Obviously, his performances throughout the season meant that it was virtually impossible for Altrincham to retain his services. Albert eventually signed in June 1934 for First Division Huddersfield Town, along with young Altrincham left back, James Taylor. Albert made his Huddersfield debut on 27th August 1934 in the 1-0 home win over Derby County but he only played two more matches for the first team that season.

    However, he did play inside-left in a testimonial match in September against Hearts at Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh. Huddersfield lost 3-0 in front of 6,500 spectators. Albert was described in the match report ‘as a forceful sort of player’.

    The 1935/36 season was much better for Albert as he played sixteen league games and scored four goals, all four being scored over the course of eleven days in three consecutive games. His firsst goal came on 14th April 1936 in the 1-1 draw with Portsmouth. Four days later he scored twice against Sunderland in a 3-2 defeat and a week later scored in the 1-1 draw with Manchester City.

    Huddersfield finished third in the table. Albert must have hoped for better things but it was February 1937 when he was next selected for the first team and, after playing in three further games for Huddersfield, he was brought in to play left-half, resulting in two defeats and a draw, with his final match coming on the 27th February 1937 a 5-0 hammering at Middlesbrough. He never played for Huddersfield again.

    Albert was transferred to Third Division South side Notts County in June 1937 for a fee of £1,000. But he went on to play only fourteen games throughout the 1937/38 season and was subsequently released at its conclusion.

    Moving back to Fenton he then joined Northwich Victoria, along with another former Port Vale and Altrincham player, George Heywood, in July 1938. Northwich played him at inside-right, Inevitably, he scored against Altrincham in November. He continued to play for Northwich until the start of World War Two. The onset of war prevented any further participation in professional football when he was just twenty-seven years old.

    Albert Beech's Career

    • Leek Alexandra:
    • Stoke St Peters:
    • Port Vale: (amateur 11/1930 Professional 09/31) 1931/32 1 game - 0 goals in league games
    • Hyde United: 1932/33
    • Altrincham: (05/1933) 1933/34, 35 games - 14 goals in league games, 8 games - 4 goals in FA Cup, 2 games - 1 goal in League Cup, 4 games - 5 goals in CSC
    • Huddersfield Town: (05/34) Played between 1934/35 - 1936/37 (total 22 appearances - 4 goals).
      • 1934/35 3 games - 0 goals (Division 1).
      • 1935/36 16 games - 4 goals (Division 1, finished third in table)
      • 1936/37 3 games - 0 (Division 1),
    • Notts County: (11/ 06/1937 £1,100) 1937/38 (13 goals in League +1 other),
    • Northwich Victoria: (07/1938) 1938/39-19 39/40. He was 5'9" tall and weighed 10 stone

    NB His Altrincham record is incomplete, missing three scorers in games in which he played.

    153. Thomas "Tommy" CUNLIFFE

    By Terry Rowley

  • Born: Garswood, Wigan, 1886,
  • Died: Unknown
  • Height: 5'7", weight: 10st 12lb
  • Tommy was born in Garwood, Wigan and his father worked as a coal miner. Around 1898, Tommy started playing football as a schoolboy for Audenshaw, who at that time were a well-known amateur team, before moving on to join Hooley Hill FC in 1902.

    He joined Earlestown in March 1905 and, a year later, had trials at Blackburn Rovers, for whom he made his one and only senior appearance in a 2-1 defeat to Preston North End on 13th April 1906. He was released and then joined St Helens Recreation in June 1907.

    ‘Recs’, as they were knowns, were founded in 1878 as part of the recreational side of Pilkington’s Glass. Tommy spent six seasons there, playing in the Lancashire Combination Division 1. But, on 14th June 1913 Saint Helens Recreation decided not to continue with Rugby Union or Association Football and to concentrate solely on Rugby League so folded both sides.

    Altrincham immediately signed up a number of their players prior to the commencement of the 1913/14 season, including, F. Williams, Pattern and Hamlet. Williams became Altrincham’s regular left-back until November and Pattern became first-choice for the season at left half.

    Altrincham were the also fortunate in obtaining Tommy’s signature in January 1914. Outside of football Tommy held a number of jobs, beginning with coal miner, fish trader and, in the 1911 census, he was listed as Professional Footballer and self-employed fish hawker.

    He made his Altrincham debut on 10th January 1914 in Altrincham’s 3-1 defeat at Hyde in the Cheshire Senior Cup, with his league debut coming a week later, also away at Hyde. This time, Altrincham won 2-1 with Tommy on the scoresheet.

    After this Tommy remained first choice for the rest of the season, playing in fourteen League games and picking up an Altrincham Senior Cup winner's medal, as Altrincham defeated Northwich Victoria, 1-0 in the final.

    Tommy usually played at outside-left, apart from a short spell in December, and January when he alternated wings with ‘Buller’ Reynolds at outside-right throughout the 1914/15 season. Although records are incomplete Tommy scored a highly credible fourteen times in a minimum of thirty-seven games. Although not particularly fast, he possessed excellent ball control, crossing and dribbling skills.

    With the First World War in full swing football was organised on a more regionalised level. All players were considered amateur for the duration of the War. For the 1915/16 season, Tommy started the season at inside-left to accommodate, Ernest Bracegirdle but shifted back to the left wing in November, when Bracegirdle no longer became available. Tommy played for Altrincham until the 5th February when he was selected to play for Liverpool at Anfield, against Blackpool.

    From reports at the time he played exceptionally, giving the Blackpool full-back, Crompton, a ‘roasting’ and was reported to be Liverpool’s best forward and, although not the fastest, exhibiting a full range of tricks, dribbles and back heels.

    Obviously, Liverpool would avail themselves of Tommy’s abilities for the rest of the season, although he did make one further appearance for Altrincham in a friendly game against Warrington Town on 24th April. Tommy had made a further twenty-three appearances and scored a further nine goals. For Liverpool Tommy played four games in the main tournament and played all ten games in the subsidiary competition.

    The following season Tommy missed only one game for Liverpool, playing a total of 35 games out of a possible 36 and scored his first goal on 24th March 1917 in a 4-0 win over Rochdale. Now considered a first team regular, Tommy played in the first eight games of the 1917/18 season, then made National headlines for all the wrong reasons when it was revealed that Tommy had been taking part in coupon betting, in direct contravention of FA rules.

    The person who exposed Tommy was a regular gambler on football. It appears that he had used Tommy as a means of placing his money. It was a shilling a time but, on the second occasion, he predicted the correct score of a certain match and the odds were 70-1 against. Cunliffe explained that he hadn’t been able to get the bet on in time. But the punter wanted his winnings of £3 10s. Cunliffe admitted he hadn’t bet on the match in question but admitted to having done so on previous occasions

    Below is just one article as reported in the national press (Western Daily Press, 30-10-1917):

    Monday, October 29 – 1917

    At the sitting of the Football Commission appointed by the Lancashire Football Association, at Preston, yesterday, Thomas Cunliffe, the well-known Liverpool outside left who admitted having betted on coupons on two successive weeks and also during previous seasons knowing he was acting contrary to football rules, was suspended for ever from taking part in football or football management. The commission also decided that he be prevented from entering any football ground. The commission in a rider issued a warning to players that permanent suspension must follow any breach of football rules prohibiting betting'.

    It appears that the lifetime ban administered by the Lancashire FA was not ratified by the FA and was probably rescinded in a post-War amnesty.

    Whatever the reason, Tommy was allowed to sign for Oldham Athletic in August 1919 playing twice for the first eleven and also a further thirty-five games and six goals for the reserves, before briefly moving on to Witton Albion and then re- joining Altrincham for the 1921/22 season.

    He made his second debut in the season'sopening fixture, a 2-0 win at Moss Lane over Runcorn. Once again, although records are incomplete, Tommy scored a further four goals in a minimum of thirty-five games.

    Tommy finished his playing career at Mossley, joining in June 1922, scoring ten goals in thirty-nine appearances during the 1922/23 season, before retiring.

    Note: The football pools were like the tote, utilizing a system of pool betting, deducting a commission and giving out the rest in prize money, in most cases to those predicting sufficient draws from a list of fixtures.

    Fixed-odds football coupons were initially more popular, offering large prizes for accurate, specific forecast results accompanied by a small stake. In 1907 a National Anti-Gambling League survey in Liverpool showed an estimated 140,000 stakes went to the leading three bookmakers a week.

    A major increase in demand followed World War I. In 1920 the Football League began lobbying for a ban, largely because of anxieties that players might fix matches for betting gain. The Bill's Memorandum claimed that, while there was no wish "to prevent legitimate skill competitions in the result of football matches, the prizes for which are guaranteed by reputable newspapers and periodicals," coupon betting had "become a danger and a menace to a most entertaining and health-giving sport."

    The resulting Ready Money Football Betting Act introduced fines and then imprisonment for those who knowingly wrote, printed, published or circulated advertisements, circulars or coupons of any cash football betting business.

    Tommy Cunliffe’s Career

    • Audenshaw: 1898,
    • Hooley Hill: 1902,
    • Earlestown: (March 1905) 1905, record not known
    • Blackburn Rovers: (March 1906) 1905/06 1 League game,
    • St Helens Recreation: (June 1907) 6 seasons, Lancashire Combination Division 1
    • Altrincham: (January 1914)
      • 1913/14: 14 games - 4 goals in league, 1 game in CSC, 2 games, 0 goal in Altrincham Senior Cup (ASC), winners
      • 1914/15*, 28 games - 11 goals in league, 5 games - 1 goal in FA Cup, 3 games - 0 goals in CSC, 1 game -1 ASC (37 games 13 goals
      • 1915/16 Wartime 23 games - 9 goals
    • Liverpool: (Wartime) February 1916,
      • 1915/16 4-0 Lancashire Principle competition 10-0 Supplementary Competition
      • 1916/17 29-1, Lancashire Principle Competition 6 games - 0 goals in Supplementary Competition.
      • 1917/18 8-0 Principle (Last game Preston N E October 1917)
    • Oldham Athletic: (April 1917) 1916/17 1 game in Lancashire Senior Supplementary (2-1 defeat v Bolton Wanderers)
    • Oldham Athletic: (August 1919) 1919/1920 2 games - 0 goal in l league (35 games - 6 goals for reserves), Witton Albion >B>Altrincham: (August 1921) 1921/22, 26 games -3 goals in league, 6 games - 1 goal in FA Cup, 2 games - 0 goals in Lancashire Combination, 1 game - 0 goal in Cheshire Senior Cup : (June 1922) 1922/23 39 games - 10 goalsa

      *Note: Incomplete