ARNSIDE Cricket Club has paid tribute to one of its cricketers and former semi-professional North Lancashire league football player Gordon Howarth after his death. 

Mr Howarth was a five-foot-four-inch athletic powerhouse, small in stature but a giant in sporting status. He was born in Prescot, near Liverpool. He majored with double honours – in association football and in cricket.

With no cricketing background, he was first persuaded to give it a go at the Arnside club in 1958 at the expense of an Athletics career as a sprinter. 

Needless to say, duck and water combined, although his progress was stuttering as he missed five full seasons between 1967 and 1971.  If he had played these years, he would have achieved the career milestone of 1000 wickets, the milestone that all bowlers strive for. 

He made the move from kicking a football to spearing a cricket ball seamlessly.  His run-up was short, economical and with a fast right-arm action could skid off the wicket with laser accuracy.  He took 856 wickets and with Jack Baldwin, forged a legendary opening bowling partnership in the Westmorland Cricket League. His 48 wickets in the Championship year of 1986 were central to the cause.  In his 1972 comeback season, he had two 9-wicket hauls, against Trimpell and Silverdale. 

He also takes with him what is believed to be a Westmorland League batting record. Although he admitted to little pretension of prowess with the willow, he had 110 career not outs which crucially included two which secured losing draws against Shireshead in 1986. 

Those draws won Arnside the title by two points. 

In his earlier life as a footballer, he was signed by the Anfield club aged 15 and played as an amateur for the next three years.  In 1956/7 he became a semi-professional for Bury FC followed by five seasons, first with Netherfield FC and then on transfer to Morecambe FC.

The 1961/2 season in particular encapsulates the footballing prowess of Mr Howarth.  It was his first with Morecambe and was to be the Shrimps’ best since their move to Christie Park in 1921/2. All-out attack was the game plan which suited him down to the ground as a prolific scorer from his outside left position.  He ran as fast as a whippet skinning his marker, his speed matched by balance, ball control, dribbling skills, and the gift of timing. He could kick one of those old hard and usually soaked leather case balls with fierce power and accuracy.

The season ended with Morecambe as Lancashire Combination Champions as he contributed 22 goals and countless assists.  But it was in the FA Cup that Mr Howarth carved his name into FA Cup folklore.  Drawn away to Football League outfit Chester City in the Second Round of the Cup an early header by Howarth was cleared off the line, but bounced straight back to him and he expertly steered it into the net.  The BBC Radio 2 Sports Report duly read out Chester City 0 Morecambe 1.

He was feted and received a national award of an engraved cigarette lighter sponsored by the Sporting Record. 

The Third Round tie against Southern Premier Division Weybridge was played in front of a record Christie Park crowd of 9383.  Unfortunately, as far as the Shrimps were concerned, it was a damp squib with the visitors running out 1-0 winners.

After his Morecambe days and marriage, he took a two-year sabbatical before being enticed back to play for the all powerful Galgate team from 1965 before finishing his footballing days with two seasons at Trimpell from 1967.  “Have goals, will travel” was his motto and his outstanding performances included a seven-goal bag against Bulk St. Anne’s in December 1967. 

Still capable of outrunning a blowing wind and leaving for dead hapless defenders, work commitments ended his footballing days in 1969.  In 2010, local football historian Terry Ainsworth conducted a poll of contemporaries and he was chosen by his peers as the crème de la crème in the North Lancashire League for the period 1960-1970.  This was not a surprise to anyone who had seen him play.

In 1980, he assumed the office of club secretary for Arnside CC. Under his tenure, the club opened a new pavilion. 

In 1993 in his mid-fifties, he retreated from playing and from the administrative frontline, but not from Arnside CC where he was omnipresent rarely missing a game.