OPINION: Tributes to a pair of former Seasiders

Cyril LawrenceCyril Lawrence
Cyril Lawrence

Cyril Lawrence, at the grand old age of 99, was previously considered fit and healthy before testing positive for coronavirus after an unexpected admission to a care home.

It came after his loving wife Clara, also 99, required hospital care after suffering a fall.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Had events not conspired against him and his family, chances are Cyril wouldn’t have become the latest victim of this dreadful disease and, in all likelihood, would have lived through to see his 100th birthday in June.

For those that don’t know Cyril’s story, it’s a fascinating one.

At 19, the former winger was considered to be one of Blackpool’s rising stars prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.

He was close to making a breakthrough in a squad that, including Stan Mortensen, topped the old First Division at the time.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Unfortunately, Cyril’s progress as a footballer was halted due to the war and he never went on to hit the heights he would have done.

He will, instead, be rightly remembered as a war hero.

He lied about his age and enlisted in the Royal Navy to serve on a battleship, seeing active service in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Arctic and Pacific.

A gunner, he was involved in the notable pursuit and destruction of the well-known German battleship Bismarck.

He did make a couple of wartime appearances for the Seasiders, representing the club in a fixture against Bolton Wanderers in December 1939 before returning for another game, while on leave, against Stockport County in September 1943.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Once the war finished, Lawrence re-signed for Blackpool in 1946 on a deal worth £5 a week with a £3 bonus when he made the first team.

The winger, born in Salford, left in 1947 to join Rochdale before going on to feature for Wrexham.

Cyril’s daughters Elaine and Norma, who are now arranging their father’s funeral, fear Cyril won’t get a proper send-off because of the restrictions that limit just 10 mourners to attend.

That would be the ultimate kick in the teeth for a family that weren’t even allowed to be at his bedside for those last moments, instead saying their goodbyes via a video call.

The cruelty of this dreadful virus clearly knows no bounds.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Once we return to some sort of normality, whenever that may be, it would be good if Blackpool could invite Cyril’s family to Bloomfield Road to give him the send-off he properly deserves.

Last week also marked the 18th anniversary of the death of another treasured Seasider in Billy Ayre.

Having only covered Blackpool for the last four years, I was never fortunate enough to have met Billy or to have witnessed his side play.

But from the emotional and heartfelt testimonies I’ve read, and the videos and clips I’ve watched, it’s clear to see why he’s held in such high regard.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

For a start, wearing Blackpool’s kit while managing from the sidelines ensured he stood out from the start. What other coach would do that?

What a picture he was, standing pitchside in his tangerine jersey with that famous bushy moustache.

But his passion was surely the main characteristic that enamoured him so much to the Bloomfield Road faithful.

Whether it was the manner in which he jogged onto the pitch with his fists clenched, or stirred the fans onto the terraces into a frenzy, Ayre had that connection with the fanbase that most modern day managers would dream for.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

As football fans, we always appreciate those players and managers that, put in simple terms, ‘get it’.

As supporters of lower league teams, football isn’t always about winning games of football or tasting success year on year. If that was the case, we’d all be supporting Manchester United or Liverpool.

Football is about the community, about bringing people together – an escapism from whatever woes you leave at home.

Perhaps that’s why so many people are desperate for it to return, so they can take their minds off the current situation.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ayre might not be recognised alongside Ian Holloway or Joe Smith when it comes to achievements – although he did guide the Seasiders back to the third tier via a penalty shootout win at Wembley in the play-off final, putting the ghosts of the previous season’s heartache to bed.

But, for that attachment with the supporters, Ayre is unrivalled.

Rest in peace Billy and Cyril, you will never be forgotten.