by Terry Rowley
These pages chronicle the playing legends of Altrincham Football Club. The texts have been kindly supplied by Terry Rowley, joint editor of the Robins' Review matchday programme. The profiles have previously appeared in the Robins' Review.
Born Duntocher, Glasgow on 13 June 1943. Died, 1992
Willie Mailey probably never made it as a top-level goalkeeper because of his lack of inches (5ft 8½"). But his skills had impressed Everton and they signed him in June 1960, but he never made the first team, his lack of height was believed be a huge disadvantage in the first division. In March 1963, Crewe Alexandra took a chance with Willie and he used intelligence to compensate for a lack of aerial dominance. His shot-stopping abilities and general awareness made him one of the better keepers in the lower divisions. So good was he that he kept Geoff Hickson out of the first team. In the 1967-68 promotion-winning campaign, Willie only missed two matches and kept 17 clean sheets. After six seasons with the Crewe and the club's purchase of a couple of six-foot plus keepers, Willie stepped into non-league football, with Altrincham and proved to be a top class signing. In all, Willie played three seasons in the Northern Premier League for the 'Robins' before moving on to give further good service to Macclesfield. In his first season with the 'Robin's' Willy won a NPL Cup winners medal and was also a Cheshire Senior Cup finalist (losing 2-3 to Hyde United). In his next season (70/71) he collected a North West Floodlit League medal when Altrincham defeated Macclesfield over two legs, he also kept 12 clean sheets through the season. In his last season he kept 19 clean sheets and played in all 67 games Altrincham played that year. He was also in goal when the young tyro, Graham Heathcote made his debut at Moss Lane against Chorley.
John was part of the British Universities side managed by Roy Rees and it was Rees that brought him to Moss Lane from Burnley, finally making his debut at the tail end of the 71-72 season. From that point John went on to become Altrincham's most successful player in terms of trophies won and also setting the records for the most appearances for Altrincham (677) and as an England semi-pro international (24 caps).
'JD' played for 16 seasons at Moss Lane broken only by a short interlude at Bangor City during the 75-76 season. He was at the club during its glory years and played in just about all the major matches, including those against Blackburn Rovers, Liverpool, Everton and Spurs. Along the way he won just about every major honour available to a player. From England caps, to FA Trophy medals, to Alliance Premier League championships and Cup 'doubles', JD won them all. He was comfortable at either left-back or in midfield and, in fact, the Alty captain during his early years, Lennie Dickinson, said that the only sensible thing that Les Rigby did as manager at Altrincham was play 'JD' in midfield. He had a 'thunderbolt' of a shot that gave the Robins options at free kicks and he was no mean penalty=taker either, when 'Nipper' Heathcote wasn't in the side. His all round play was excellent, either in ball-winning or in distribution.
His Altrincham career finally ended during the 1986-87 season when he was coaxed to Runcorn by John King and Graham Heathcote. He then had spells at Witton Albion and back at Altrincham, both as assistant to Stan Allan. He famously saved the Robins from almost certain relegation as caretaker manager after Allan was sacked at Easter in season 1991/92 but was not offered the job full time. 'JD' went on to become assistant manager to Bryan Griffiths at Morecambe in January 1993 and stayed until Griffiths was sacked in December 1993. He was eventually appointed manager of Burscough in May,1995 and went on to lead them to two promotions. Six years on, he still remains there as manager today. A true legend!
* Thanks to Stan Strickland, Graham Heathcote and Bill Coop for assistance.
Born 19 February, 1950
Barry Howard was the cutting edge that made Altrincham such a potent force in the late 1970s and early '80s. Blessed with both pace and skill he not only provided goals, he also scored more than his fair share. Stocky, extremely quick and with a shock of curly dark hair, Barry quickly drew attention to his performances on the left wing. Originally from Ashton-Under-Lyne, he started his career at Oldham Athletic as a junior before moving to Hyde United and then Runcorn, where he got his first taste of success. He had a short spell at Stockport County before signing for Altrincham in the summer of 1978 for the club's then record fee of £3,000! He slotted in immediately and helped the side to finish runners-up in their final year in the Northern Premier League, before they went on to win the inaugural Alliance title and the League and Cup double the year after. The following season (81/82) he received a winner's medal in the Cheshire Senior Cup and a finalist's medal at Wembley in the FA Trophy defeat by Enfield.
But not only was he successful with Altrincham, Barry also won 7 England semi-professional international caps as well. He left Moss lane during the 1983/84 season moving, first, back to Hyde and, then, to Witton and finally on to Ashton United, his hometown side. He will always be remembered as an entertainer and one who gave of his best every time he turned out for the club.