The Early Years
By Ian Templeman
The origins of the football club known today as Ashton Town AFC can be traced back to one man who worked at a local textile mill.
Makerfield Mill, located in Windsor Road in Ashton-in-Makerfield was one of Lancashire's leading textile mills in the 1950's. The mill itself was known locally as the "Weaving Shed", and at the height of the Lancashire Textile Industry several hundred people were employed there. In 1953 one of the workforce, a man called Derek (Mick) Mycock decided to form a works football team comprised entirely of mill employees, to offer local men the chance to play in organised football matches. He approached the miil's management with the idea, and permission was granted for a piece of land adjacent to the works in Windsor Road to be used as the site for the football club's ground. Once confirmation was received that his application for membership of the Wigan Sunday School League for the start of the 1953-54 season had been successful, Mick set about forming the first squad of players to represent Makefield Mill F.C.
With a sizeable workforce employed at the mill, finding enthusiastic potential players proved to be easy enough, but Mick soon realised that having a large pool of men available and willing to play for the club was not necessarily a guarantee of success. The first two seasons in the Wigan Sunday School League were disastrous from a playing point of view, as the club won only two games and earned the unenviable nickname of "The Chopping Blocks". The inevitable loss of interest after such a poor run of results, allied to a lack of quality players available, meant that Mick had to change his original plan of playing only mill employees in the team. He had also been disappointed with the standard in the Wigan Sunday School League, and he decided that a move to a higher standard of football, with players drawn from outside the mill's workforce, was the only way for the club to progress. Mick successfully gained permission from the Mill's management to bring in four non-employees, and set about planning for the next phase of the club's development.
The club successfully applied to join the St Helens Combination for the start of the 1955-56 season, and with the playing surface at Windsor Road now established as being one of the finest natural playing pitches in the area, Mick used this as a selling point to attract new players to the club. A season of consolidation saw an improvemnt in the fortunes, and Mick then decided to extend the experiment of bringing in outsiders to play for the club. The restriction on the use of outside players was totally lifted, and from this point on Makerfield Mill F.C. set out to bring leading local players from other clubs to play at Windsor Road.
This move was a turning point in the club's history. Notable players such as Derek Fearnley, Bill Greenwood, Don Langford, Ron Cottam, Cliff Williams, John Austin and Arthur Riley came on board, joining established players such as Bob Selby and Peter Smallwood for the start of the season 1956-57. By this point Mick had enlisted the help of two other men to assist in the running of the club - Joe Glaze and Arthur Jones - and the three men were to be the driving force behind the club for the next few years. With an extended pool of players to choose from, a second team was established for season 1956-57 and an outstanding campaign saw the club's run of success begin when they won the Liverpool County F.A. Shield - the first club from the Wigan area to do so since 1932-33 when Parr St Peters were the winners. In the same season, they also won the St Helens Hospital Cup, the Rainford Pottery Cup and the Tom Worrell Cup and in the league they were St Helens Combination Division Two Runners Up.
Not content with this success, Mick began planning for the following season and decided that the addition of promising young players to the squad would keep the momentum going. Eric Greemn, Bill Pomfrett, Walter Corless and Norman Turner, all under 20 years old, were signed up, as was 17 year old Len Riley who had just been released by Bolton Wanderers. Also, for the start of the season, a new kit was purchased, and the team changed from the tangerine shirts and grey shorts that they had worn in their first years of existence to a kit similar to that of Blackburn Rovers, comprising blue and white halved shirts with blue shorts and blue socks.
The change of kit and the injection of youth into the playing proved to be a winning combination. The club enjoyed another outstanding season in 1957-58, winning the St Helens Combination Division Two and dominating local cup competitions. They won the St Helens Hospital Cup for the second year running, the Martin Cup, and were runners up in the Guardian Cup, Tom Worrell Cup and Rainford Pottery Cup.
Having defeated a number of well known Warrington sides during their run to the Guardian Cup Final, the club applied for membership to the Warrington Amateur League at the end of season 1957-58. The member clubs had been impressed by the team's performances during the cup run, and Makerfield Mill were accepted into the First Division straight away.