Wembley memories for Mossley Recollections 40 years on

THEY say memories fade with the passage of time but that is not the case for John Fitton, Mossley’s last line of defence in their Wembley appearance of 1980.

Four decades on and the recollections of the Lilywhites’ FA Trophy final against Dagenham are just as vivid as on the day for the 69-year-old from Royton.

And John puts that down to the advice from former Skelmersdale team-mate Tony Webber, who had previously played at Wembley for Morecambe.

“I asked Tony what to do and he told me to remember every minute and not to look ahead. That stuck in my mind,” he said.

They were halcyon days for Mossley who in those days were one of the top non-league teams of that era.

Five days before the trophy final, John recalls the Lilywhites retaining their Northern Premier League title following a goalless draw at Kendal side Netherfield.

Mossley would have become founder members of the National League, which was made up of the top teams in the NPL and Southern League but for their Seel Park ground not meeting requirements.

Two days after clinching the title, Mossley began their final build up when they travelled to their base near Watford.

They trained on the Thursday and Friday on public playing fields opposite the hotel, changing at the hotel where comedian Jim Davidson was also staying.

John, a retired teacher, room shared with centre half John Salter and recalled team-mate, the late Vinny Garmory, being the prankster.“Vinny was the clown and he let me in on a secret that he would call our room purporting to being Alan Thompson, a sports reporter on the nationals, and conducted an interview which had me creased with laughter,” he said.

John was pleased with his performance, even though Mossley lost 2-1 in front of an army of 10,000 fans.

He said: “Fortunately it was one of my better games. If I have played to that standard all the time, maybe I would have played at a higher level.

“Everything went right – I made a couple of early saves and took some crosses which wasn’t a brilliant part of my game.”

Mossley lost to goals from George Duck and Chris Maycock and, sandwiched in-between was an equaliser from Ian Smith.

“I still recall their winner, a looping header near the end, and thinking I had been beaten by a couple of birds,” mused John.

After the game the players, wife and girlfriends returned to the hotel for dinner with speeches and presentations before returning home on Sunday and an open top bus parade around the town.

Granada Television made a special programme ‘Mossley Goes To Wembley’ on the Monday which is now available in three parts on YouTube.

John described playing at Wembley – only showpiece games took place there 40 years ago – as the highlight of his career.

He added the only thing that comes near to it was making his first-team debut for Oldham Athletic, the team he had supported from being a boy, as an 18-year-old amateur.

John, whose parents had a farm in Middleton, played senior football aged 14 for Chadderton’s fourth team and he recalled barely being able to reach the crossbar.

He was spotted by Latics playing for a successful Middleton Boys who beat Liverpool en route to the Lancashire schools’ final.

John played his first A team game for Latics aged 15 and made his first-team debut in September 1969 in a 1-1 draw at Crewe with England World Cup winner Ray Wilson a team-mate.

He made his first home appearance one week later in a 1-1 draw against Darlington and the following midweek played in a 3-2 home defeat by Wrexham.

John began studying at Alsager College for his teaching qualification at that time returning to play for the reserves in the North West Floodlit League.

The college insisted students played for their team and did not take kindly to John choosing Latics over them. For his final two years at Alsager, John had to turn out for the college team in the Mid Cheshire League.

After qualifying as a teacher, John remained on Latics’ books and had one year on loan at Skelmersdale who were managed by former Boundary Park player Alan Spence.

He was released and had six weeks in the reserves at Rochdale but they did not have to funds to sign him.

However, Dale manager Walter Joyce contacted Bob Murphy who signed him for Mossley, where he was first choice goalkeeper for seven seasons making 349 appearances, a club record for a goalkeeper.

He won two NPL titles and was runner-up once as well as winning the NPL Cup and appearing at Wembley.

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