With Ashton having scored 5 goals twice against Notts opposition already this season, Jez Sayle explores the terminology associated with this feat.
A number of sports use nap in different contexts; to snooker, pool and billiards players it relates to the fibres in the cloth on the table, whilst to the horse-racing public it’s a near certain winner... however in footballing terms going nap is to have five goals to your credit – either as a team or, more unusually, an individual. The link between the number five and the word nap comes from playing cards. In the card game called Nap, five cards are dealt to each participant and to win all five tricks available is known as ‘going nap’ or a ‘nap hand’, both terms that occasionally creep into sports reporting. But why Nap? The card game was originally called 'Napoleon' and, although sometimes referred to by its full title, is usually shortened to just Nap.
The first ever Ashton (then Hurst) player to go nap was a gentleman by the name of Ernest Jones in a game against Marple during the post war season of 1918-1919 – to make the feat even more remarkable it was Ernie’s debut too! A struggling Marple were crushed 13-1 in a Lancashire Combination game, this club’s record victory, but only three players scored - allied to Jones’s nap hand were four-timers from his two inside forwards, Birch and Davies.
The 1920’s and 30’s were the hey-day for attacking football and Hurst scored a century of goals in a season six times over these two decades, twice getting into the high 90’s for good measure too! In the 1927-28 season twelve of the Cheshire League’s 22 member clubs scored a ton or more, including Hurst. It is not surprising that there were a good few of the club’s five-timers in this period. By date order these were Percy Schofield in 1925 v Witton, Jack Cheetham in 1928 v Nantwich, Arthur Denton in 1931 v Winsford and Steve Morris in 1933 v Witton (again!). During this period Charlie Broadhurst went not one but two better, setting a club record of seven goals in a game against Northwich on May 1st 1926. His feat went virtually unrecorded in the press as this was the time of the General Strike and no papers were published that week!
Nap hands were not restricted to the inter-war periods. As in 1919, the first season back after conflict saw a five goal haul - Fred Leech went nap in a game against Rhyl in November 1945. One of the more remarkable five-goal hauls of this period was by a player called Holden who was picked for Stalybridge Celtic as an emergency centre-forward and went nap in 1951 – Holden was normally a goalkeeper! It took until the club had become Ashton United and returned to the Lancashire Combination before another player went nap; Bill Murray hit five in a trouncing of Fleetwood in December 1952. Assisted by his cousin (A. Halton) Murray, a former Manchester City player, spent the following summer replacing the old wooden fencing in front of the main stand with the concrete version that surrounds the pitch to this day. The most recent Ashton player to manage a ‘fiver’in a game actually went one better, finishing with a six-goal haul, as the wayward but talented Padi Wilson bagging a double hat-trick at Congleton in 1997.