Alan Mitchell, prolific striker, by Terry Ainsworth, sponsored by Vincenzo’s coffee shop
Under the pale yellow glint of a Nun Street gas lamp standard around 1920, on any Tuesday night, could have be seen an earnest little group of men engaged on serious business.
Across the way a band of anxious young men kicked their heels.
Suddenly the meeting under the lamp would disperse and the two groups would combine to learn the constitution of Dry Dock United’s team for the following Saturday’s game.
This epitomised the spirit which had animated through the years all those who had been connected with one of the oldest and one of the most distinguished clubs in membership of the North Lancashire and District Football League.
The club was formed shortly after the Armistice of 1918 by keen young Ex-Servicemen.
Friendly games were played on Cook’s Field, now the site of the Ridge Estate.
In the following season they crossed over the canal and played on one of five pitches on the Bulk Road enclosure which is now Newton Estate.
Here they had as neighbours such well-known clubs as P.S.A., Lancaster Discharged, Wesley Amateurs, Skerton Athletic and Freehold Athletic.
Since season 1924-25 the “Dockers” have played their home games on the Far Moor.
The streets known as “Dry Dock” were named after the Graving Dock on the Lancaster Canal and were built on a piece of land originally known as “Nun’s Fields”.
Nun Street, Mill Street, Garnett Street and Wolseley Street were conceived in the late 1870s and built over a period of years.
There have been many outstanding players for the “Dockers” since they were founded but I will now look at one from the 1950s, Alan Mitchell, who broke the club’s individual scoring record in 1951-52 which had stood at 41 for many years.
By February 1952 Alan had notched 50 goals and his scoring feats were enough to win the Division I title for Dry Dock over an outstanding Bentham United by two points.
At this time Dry Dock still had 12 games to play and my best estimate is that Alan ended the season with the grand total of 62 goals, a record that still stands more than 60 years later.
His outstanding play also helped Dry Dock reach the semi-final of the Lancashire Junior Shield only to lose at home to Coppull in a replay by 2-4 with Alan and Jimmy Britton scoring the goals.
As a small boy at Scotforth Junior School he played at left half and helped his side to achieve runners-up status twice in the William Smith Festival Competition on the Giant Axe on memorable Easter Mondays.
After a short spell at Greaves he entered the Lancaster Technical College and began his career as a centre forward.
After World War Two he began his association with Dry Dock shortly before he was called up for National Service in 1947 and was keen to return to the Far Moor club after completing his service two years later.
Following this highly successful season Alan joined the Metropolitan Police and was promoted to sergeant in 1957 but by season 1960-61 he was back in Lancaster aiding the “love” of his football life, the “Dockers”.
It didn’t take Alan long to confirm his return when he scored in a 5-3 win at Galgate and at home in a 3-2 victory over the Lads Club in the first two games of the season.
With George Millings occupying the centre forward spot Alan seamlessly slipped into the inside left position and became provider as well as marksman in a season where the “Dockers” also picked up the Memorial Challenge Cup by beating Storeys 3-2.
They were crowned champions on goal average, no goal difference in those days, from Caton United and Lancaster Lads Club Old Boys as can be seen from the abridged table.
Alan could be described as a “typical” centre forward with a strong powerful physique and a shot like a cannonball who terrorised opposition defenders.
Ray Briggs played in the same team and recalls, “Alan was the finest centre forward I ever played with and had unbelievable power in his legs. In a game on Ryelands Park he picked up a ball in his own half and unleashed a shot that flew into the net like a bullet, over 50 yards.”
* More of Terry Ainsworth’s football nostalgia can be found at www.soccernostalgia.co.uk