Morecambe Football Club icon Charlie Lea dies, aged 70

Charlie Lea.
Charlie Lea.

Tributes have been paid after the death of a much-loved Morecambe FC legend.

Charlie Lea, a crowd favourite at Christie Park during the 1960s and ‘70s, passed away on Wednesday.

Shrimps fans would sing ‘Cha-cha-cha-cha Charlie Lea, the best footballer you’ll ever see’ as Charlie dazzled opponents with his trickery on the wing.

Glen Cooper, former editor of The Visitor, said Charlie was “a footballing legend, fabulous company and a genuinely lovely, smiley man”.

A statement on the Morecambe FC club website said: “The club is saddened to hear about the death of former player Charlie Lea.

“Charlie was one of the most popular players ever to turn out for Morecambe after signing from Preston in 1966.

“He went on to make nearly 300 appearances for the Shrimps after being signed by player-manager Ken Waterhouse.

“He was a regular in the side for the next six seasons and an integral member of the Lancashire Combination League winning sides in 1966-67 and 1967-68.

“His last game for Morecambe came on January 13, 1973 when he came on as a substitute in a 2-1 home defeat by Macclesfield Town. He left the club to join Lancaster City.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”

Charlie was born in Preston, the son of a mill-woman and a black US serviceman who went back home, leaving his British family, when Charlie was about four.

Charlie started playing for Preston North End when he was 15, making numerous appearances for the Reserves in the Central League, before moving to the Shrimps in 1966.

As a black player in British football in the 1960s, Charlie was a trailblazer and was known for his exceptional dribbling and ball control.

He said his greatest achievement was when Morecambe beat Burnley to win the Lancashire Senior Cup, the first non-league side to do so.

He played in the same side as other club legends such as Don Cubbage, Keith Borrowdale and Gerry Irving.

His only regret was he was released by Morecambe before they travelled to Wembley for the 1974 FA Trophy win against Dartford.

He carried on for a few months for Lancaster City reserves before hanging up his boots for good.

After retiring from football, Charlie remained in Morecambe in his terraced house on Croft Street.

He worked at Heysham Power Stations and became a regular at Smokeys when it was the Ex-Servicemen’s Club.

He could often be seen socialising in the town’s pubs having a joke and a chat with friends and other local people.

Charlie, 70, had a daughter named Sharon, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

The Shrimps’ General Manager Mark Dixon said: “He was ground-breaking in his time and everyone was scared of him when he got the ball.

“He was a gentleman, a real football man and loved Morecambe.

“You talked about Morecambe or Morecambe Football Club and his face lit up.

“We’re really sad to hear of the news as a football club and legend is used too lightly these days and although I didn’t have the opportunity to see him play, there’s some very good judges of football who say he was an absolute wizard.

“That is probably Charlie Lea in a nutshell.”

Mr Dixon said the club would sit down and discuss how best to pay tribute to Charlie.

His funeral will be held at Lancaster and Morecambe Crematorium on Friday, July 3 at 11.45am. Afterwards there will be refreshments at Smokey O’Connors pub on Morecambe Street.