31 Dec 2017 in General News
By Brian Bennett
Tributes have poured in following the death of a much-loved and well respected non league football manager in the region. Tom ‘Chick’ Charlton – who was boss at Ashington during their time at Portland Park and later at Morpeth Town - passed away a couple of days before Christmas.
Ironically Ashington and Morpeth played each other on Boxing Day at Woodhorn Lane where a minutes silence in memory of Mr Charlton was impeccably observed.
In his first spell at the old Portland Park ground, Charlton was assistant manager to Cec Irwin - then the roles were reversed when the pair returned to the club and Mr Charlton’s finest hour came at the end of the 1979-80 season when he steered the Colliers to a 4-2 victory after extra time against Heaton Stannington in the final of the Northumberland Senior Cup following a replay at North Shields’ old Appleby Park ground.
The first match had finished goalless at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park ground and ‘The Stan’ were only minutes away from lifting the trophy in the rematch as they led 2-1 when Colliers striker Brian Pringle netted an equaliser. On that memorable night, Ashington’s other goals came from Ian ‘Archie’ Mutrie who notched a brace and Stephen Redhead.
Cec Irwin led the tributes to Charlton when he said: “It all started when the late Eric Nichol, who was chairman at Ashington asked if I could take over as manager. Alan Richardson, ‘Chick’ and myself combined as the management team and ‘Chick’ brought some good players to the club. In that first season we were top of the Northern League until Christmas. ‘Chick’ was a great character and football was the biggest thing in his life because he talked about it all the time. Alan and myself are so glad that we saw him a week before he died. He will be a big miss.”
Artie Lumsdon – a member of the cup winning side in 1980 said: “’I was with Whitley Bay but Chick’ chased me to sign for Ashington. I went up there [Ashington] and really enjoyed my football - it was second to none. We would train until 10pm then some of the lads were going preparing for a shift down the pit at 12 midnight. On other occasions I would travel up in the snow and we’d have some great sessions. There was a great team spirit in the camp and I spent the happiest times of my career playing under ‘Chick’ and Cec Irwin. ‘Chick’ was a motivator but could take a joke and fire it back at you! He could have a serious head on but at the same time he was having a laugh – that was his sense of humour.”
Jimmy Harmison said: “I played junior then senior football under ‘Chick’ at Lynemouth Juniors and Ashington respectively. ‘Chick’ was like a big daddy especially in junior football because he would treat you as one of his own. As a manager he was very good and very knowledgeable – he knew the game inside out. He also knew when to be nice and when to be hard. He will be missed by a lot of people and his passing is very sad.”
Davy Matthews said: “I knew ‘Chick’ for over 30 years and although I had a lengthy spell at Ashington, I only played under him at Morpeth. He lived for football and also gave service to Stobswood and Newbiggin. He even managed Sunday football clubs including Lynemouth where he enjoyed a highly successful 21 year period, Ashington RAOB and the last outfit where he assisted was at Ashington Colliers with David Brown. He worked as an on-setter at Ellington Colliery and even took a team from the colliery to the National five a side championships at Keele University in Nottingham - where they won it. He always had a good team and everybody wanted to play for him including great players like, Jimmy Harmison, Ian Mutrie and Artie Lumsdon. He had a short spell as manager at Morpeth in 1986 – but Ashington was his first love. If there was any game on the TV, ‘Chick’ would watch it. He will be sadly missed and I hope he gets a good send off.”
David Brown who was in the Ashington side of 1978-79 under Charlton and Irwin when they finished third in the Northern League and were only five points adrift of winning the title said: “Cec and ‘Chick’ worked well as a team and were great motivators. I enjoyed my time playing under ‘Chick’ and when he went to Alnwick, I and a few others followed him. His passing is so sad.”
Ken Beattie said: “’Chick’ was a gentleman and a typical football man. He put such a lot into the game and we at Morpeth had a lot of affinity with him because he was such a character and motivator. I remember in my under 18 days when I turned out for Ashington Juniors and ‘Chick’ was manager of Lynemouth Juniors and the players he had – including Jimmy Harmison, Colin Ayre, Ray Ayre, the late Rocky Stone - were really superb. He had a cracking side and in those days under 18’s football was very powerful.”
In 2007, Charlton was honoured for 35 years in local football management at a special Sportsman’s Dinner staged by Ashington Colliers and he spoke at the time of his only regret being that the game had changed. He listed Ashington’s 2-1 away win at Nuneaton in the FA Trophy in 1979 and the Senior Cup triumph in 1980 as his highlights.
A funeral service for Tom ‘Chick’ Charlton is being held at the Ashington Parish Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Tuesday January 9 at 12.45pm where anyone is welcome to attend. Afterwards, refreshments will be served at Ashington Football Club, Woodhorn Lane.