Tribute to footballer Ron Mitchell

Playing for Morecambe in 1955 Ray Charnley leaps for a high cross watched by Ron.
Playing for Morecambe in 1955 Ray Charnley leaps for a high cross watched by Ron.

Ron Mitchell, the life in pictures of a sporting gentleman who passed away last week after a ten-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Ron Mitchell was born in Lancaster and played football for Greaves School, Lancaster Technical School and Red Rose Boys Club.

Benefit game for five players with Tom Finney and Albery Modley.

Benefit game for five players with Tom Finney and Albery Modley.

He then played at Preston North End in the club’s “A” and “B” teams with Ray Charnley, Jack Holmes, Pete Hudson and Conroy Cullen.

I remember Ron as a polished, cultured full back when he played at Morecambe and maybe that was because in his early days he played at inside forward.

Sixty years ago, full backs were usually well built, tough tackling men who handed out heavy punishment to their opponents but Ron Mitchell was nothing like that, he was an immaculate football player who could play any position.

He then played at Preston North End in the club’s “A” and “B” teams.

Morecambe Reserves in 1961 with captain Ron Mitchell centre front row and local lad Alec Bell featured as goalkeeper.

Morecambe Reserves in 1961 with captain Ron Mitchell centre front row and local lad Alec Bell featured as goalkeeper.

After being released, both he and Ray Charnley signed with Bolton-le-Sands and it was not long before they found themselves at Christie Park playing for Morecambe in the Lancashire Combination.

Apparently Ray Charnley was sold to Morecambe for £15 and Ron went for less than that. It may have been the transfer bargain of the century pulled off by Morecambe chairman Bob Raby.

The chance to play in a higher grade of football came when Leeds United signed Ron for £1,000 with a proviso that a further cheque for the same amount would follow providing he had played six games for the Elland Road club.

In the event Ron played five and maybe money was tight at Leeds and they were wary of letting him play the sixth game and therefore triggering another payment so Ron returned to Christie Park and a highly successful career with Morecambe.

Morecambe, double winners in 1963 with Ron 5 th from the left on the back row. Lancashire Combination champions as well as winners of the Junior Cup.

Morecambe, double winners in 1963 with Ron 5 th from the left on the back row. Lancashire Combination champions as well as winners of the Junior Cup.

Ron told me that when he was at Leeds United Jack Charlton could never remember anyone’s name so he called everybody by the same name, possibly “Norman” but at this point my memory fails me.

I wonder if this memory lapse affected Jack throughout his career in management when he was in charge at Sheffield Wednesday, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United and the Republic of Ireland.

Sister paper the Lancaster Guardian reported on January 23, 1959: “Ron Mitchell’s debut for Leeds United was at home to Preston North End on January 17, 1959 in front of 22,043 spectators in a game that ended in defeat 1-3.

“It was one of the few division one league games to be played under Arctic conditions.

Lancaster Schoolboys 1949, Ron 2 nd from the right on the front row inevitably next to Ray Charnley

Lancaster Schoolboys 1949, Ron 2 nd from the right on the front row inevitably next to Ray Charnley

“Mitchell, whose home is in Lancaster, was making his first appearance in the senior side after several satisfactory games with the Yorkshire club’s reserve team in the Central League.

“Ron could not have had a more testing baptism on a skating rink of a pitch and his display impressed several leading national sportswriters who commended him for a ‘promising’ start.

“If he makes another five first team appearances Morecambe Football Club will benefit by an extra £1,000 under the transfer agreement for this resourceful 23-year-old defender, who like his former colleague Ray Charnley was a product of Greaves Secondary Modern School in Lancaster.

“He and Ray, now fast making a reputation as a forceful leader of Blackpool’s attack, threw in their lot as juniors with Preston North End but because they couldn’t get regular games with the Deepdale club’s junior teams they both joined Bolton-le-Sands in the North Lancs League.

“It was while playing with that club that they were signed by Bob Raby, a Morecambe FC director. After Ron’s fine display against them on Saturday the Deepdale club must have had considerable food for thought.”

It was not all football though as in May 1965 Ron married Christine Longworth at the Central Methodist Church, Morecambe.

Preston North End A or B team, Ron is 3 rd from the left on the back row.

Preston North End A or B team, Ron is 3 rd from the left on the back row.

Christine’s friend, Janet Bottomley, was chief bridesmaid and two of her nieces, eight-year-old Shirley Retallick and six-year-old Gillian Retallick were small bridesmaids.

Alan Mitchell, Ron’s brother, was best man and the ceremony was officiated by Reverend A Dean. The reception was held at the Headway Hotel, Morecambe, and the happy couple left for a honeymoon touring Wales.

Ron passed away peacefully at the age of 81 at Hillcroft Nursing home on January 23 aged 81. He was a beloved husband of Christine, much loved father of Julia and Linzi, father-in-law of Jim and Nick and very dear grandad of Ethan, Joely, Isaac, Lily and Katie. His funeral will take place at the Lancaster and Morecambe Crematorium on Friday, February 3 at 11am.

Leeds United 1958-59. Back Row: Ron Mitchell, Jack Charlton, Ted Burgin, Grenville Hair, Alan Shackleton, Eric Kerfoot. Front Row: Billy Humphries, Chris Crowe, Don Revie, Wilbur Cush, Jackie Overfield.

Leeds United 1958-59. Back Row: Ron Mitchell, Jack Charlton, Ted Burgin, Grenville Hair, Alan Shackleton, Eric Kerfoot. Front Row: Billy Humphries, Chris Crowe, Don Revie, Wilbur Cush, Jackie Overfield.