BARRY PIKESLEY - FAMOUS RED HEATHCOTE


The following article is reproduced from "The Robins' Review" .

FAMOUS RED HEATHCOTE

"Prior to that electrifying twist at the denouement of our recent 2-1 victory over Cheltenham Town at the J. Davidson Stadium, in excess of 30 years had elapsed since the surname of Heathcote had last graced a list of the Robins' goalscorers in a competitive first team match.

Saturday, 23rd March 1985, to be exact, when Graham Heathcote netted the last of his career total of 147 goals for Alty during a dramatic 3-2 triumph against Enfield in a Gola League fixture staged at Moss Lane. If my memory serves me correctly, that particular encounter was settled via a stupendous strike at the Chequers End courtesy of Ronnie Ellis.

For those of us Alty diehards ensconced at the back of the main stand who had been condemned to endure the patronising balderdash being emitted by the adjacent radio reporters/commentators from Gloucestershire all afternoon, Sam Heathcote's divine intervention at the eleventh hour was immensely gratifying and it duly elicited rapturous celebrations followed by an effusion of unabashed gloating at the final whistle.

Indeed, merely a few minutes before the Robins' 18-year-old substitute had exhibited exemplary composure when tucking away that inviting Michael Rankine cross, one of the visiting broadcasters had proclaimed that Gary Johnson's side had 'battered' Alty throughout the contest.

Now, I've watched Alty on enough occasions over the past 44 years to be able both to recognise and admit when we are truly being battered and that assertion was simply baseless!

Amidst the post-match ruminations in the Community Sports Hall, a few Alty devotees asked me whether we had just witnessed the fastest ever goal scored by a player who was making their debut for the Robins in a competitive fixture. Well, I'm still struggling to unearth an instance of a swifter goal from an Altrincham FC debutant.

I do recollect one case of an individual scoring an even quicker goal on his home debut though. On merely his second appearance for the club since his transfer from Runcorn, midfielder Neil Doherty scored the only goal of the game after just 16 seconds of a GM Vauxhall Conference clash with Welling United at Moss Lane on Saturday, 3rd February 1996.

The 17-year-old Graham Heathcote scored his opening goal for the Robins in what was only his second game for the club's first team way back on Good Friday, 31st March 1972 when Scarborough visited Moss Lane and were promptly trounced 4-0 in a Northern Premier League (NPL) fixture. In the 71st minute, the youth team prodigy powered his way down the middle of the visitors' defence before calmly slotting the ball past the advancing goalkeeper to put the Robins 2-0 up.

So, that's now a grand total of 162 goals scored on behalf of Altrincham FC by players bearing the surname Heathcote. The third member of the holy trinity is Graham's elder brother Alan, a striker who accumulated a tally of 14 goals in two separate spells for the Robins (1974/75 and 1978/79) during the club's NPL era.

Last Saturday's 3-1 reverse at Wrexham constituted our eighth consecutive away league defeat and we haven't managed to conquer a full-time team on their own territory since that 2-0 success at Eastleigh on the first Sunday of this year.

Speaking of Eastleigh, I confess that I find it inordinately difficult to warm to either that nouveau-riche club or their bumptious manager Richard Hill. Last Tuesday's clash with the Spitfires was largely a dark dogfight of attrition that was only illuminated by two marvellous strikes. A draw represented a fair upshot, in my view.

Meanwhile, the bombshell of Anthony Griffith's retirement, principally in light of its concomitant detrimental impact on the club's playing budget, is demoralising news.

All I will say on this matter is that Andy Warhol was attributed with the prediction that, 'In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.'

Alas, I fear that in the Altrincham FC annals for this season and beyond, Anthony Griffith will assuredly remain infamous for his meagre contribution of five minutes of football for this club.

Sincerely, BARRY PIKESLEY.