Pool memory match 1967: Big Alan the scoring hero

Alan Skirton.
Alan Skirton.
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When the topic of this week’s memory match was revealed to Jimmy Armfield, the power-of-recall from the former Blackpool and England skipper was instantaneous.

“That was Alan Skirton’s match – he was unstoppable that day.”

Armfield’s memories of that victory the best part of half-a-century ago tally with contemporary reports.

Of Skirton’s virtuoso display that afternoon at Ashton Gate, The Gazette’s Phil McEntee wrote: “The big fellow proved what a match-winner he can be.

“His speed, strength and shooting power helped flatten a Bristol City side whose immediate future looks decidedly bleak.”

Skirton scored two goals that day, with Gerry Ingram also bagging a brace for the Seasiders.

Armfield, who also played that afternoon in 1967, said: “Alan was unusually tall for a winger, but very powerful and a good runner.

“He came from Arsenal, which might surprise people nowadays and he did very well for us – he offered our team something totally different and he was very difficult to play against.

“In the dressing-room, he was good fun and always seemed to have a smile on his face.

“He was born in that part of the world, so he would have been keen to do well in front of the Bristol crowd, and he certainly did that afternoon.

“We had power and pace on one wing with Alan Skirton and skill on the other (with Graham Oates).”

Skirton must have defied the odds to carve out a successful career in football, given that he suffered from tuberculosis as a youth.

That is serious enough for anyone, let alone an athlete – for instance, it put paid to the football career of Malcolm Allison, who became a noted coach after being forced to stop playing.

Skirton was a big hero at Blackpool and will still be fondly remembered by supporters of a certain age.

However, he gave an interview to the official Arsenal website a couple of years ago to the effect that he regretted leaving Arsenal for Bloomfield Road, claiming the argument with the Gunners was over a sum of around £300.

On the decision to leave Arsenal, Skirton said in that interview: “It’s the biggest mistake I’ve made in my life.

“I had felt very let down by Billy Wright, who seemed to be stalling on giving me a rise, having said he would sort it out.

“I got the hump and foolishly wanted away.

“I never saw eye-to-eye with Billy so there was some friction between us. Everything changed when Bertie Mee took over, but I’d already set the wheels of change in motion and played only two games under his management.

“I left for Blackpool and really want to kick myself.”

Skirton did move for Blackpool and scored on his debut – against of all people, Arsenal!

The Bristol City versus Blackpool clash, recorded highlights of which appeared on Match Of The Day that evening as the programme dipped into the old Second Division, saw Ingram put the Seasiders in front on 25 minutes before Johnny Quigley levelled for the home side two minutes later.

Skirton restored the visitors’ lead four minutes before half-time and the score remained at 2-1 before a flurry of late goals – Ingram (86 minutes) Skirton (87) and City’s Jantzen Derrick (89)

The Gazette match report revealed Skirton had been taken off the transfer-list a few weeks’ previously, after discussions with the manager at the time Stan Mortensen.

McEntee wrote: “The Arsenal winger, who was once on Bristol’s books as an amateur and left them to join Bath City, scored two goals, helped make another and came close to getting a third with the best non-scoring(!) shot of the match, which produced the best save of the game from the otherwise shaky goalkeeper (Mike) Gibson.

“His second goal – Blackpool’s fourth – was a brilliantly-taken effort, when in the 87th minute he ran about 30 yards, slipped the ball past the advancing ‘keeper, ran round the other side and tapped the ball into the empty net.”

Skirton had been at Blackpool for 12 months prior to that afternoon when his marauding, full-blooded style tore the heart out of Bristol City, having signed for a £65,000 fee.

In 1968, he was transferred to the side that he had so tormented – Bristol City – for £15,000.

After his playing days came to a close, Skirton worked as commercial manager for Bath City and Yeovil Town.

Final score: Bristol City 2 Blackpool 4, September 16, 1967

Pool team: Taylor, Armfield, Mowbray, Milne, James, McPhee, Skirton, Craven, Ingram, Green, Oates. Substitute: Charnley. Attendance: 13,193.