|John [Jack] Ackerlay by Alex Service |
John Ackerlay, from the Broughton Moor area of Cumberland was one of two brothers who signed for the Saints at the same time and featured in the pre-season practice matches at Knowsley Road. The St. Helens Newspaper tells the story: “The most satisfactory feature of the practice was the successful debut of two brothers named Ackerley [sic], of Brookland Rovers, who were making a trial appearance. One is an outside half-back and the other a forward and it may be said right away that in these two lads the Saints have two of the most promising players ever connected with the club….the display of Jack Ackerley, the half-back, was marked by coolness and cleverness and there is reason to believe that he can improve on this”. Apparently, he was a good tackler, too. After all, it was reported that he was also a champion wrestler in the Cumberland county area. As for brother Joe, a forward, he also had a good game and the pair of them were duly signed on by the club.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, things did not work out as planned for the brothers. Joe did not feature in the seniors; Jack became one of an exclusive band of players to have made just one appearance for the First Team. He played at Naughton Park, Widnes on 7th October 1911, when he stood in at right centre for Jimmy Greenwood. This was the result of an injury crisis, as Jack was normally a half-back. Legendary winger Jimmy Flanagan was outside him. Saints lost the game 11-14. The St. Helens Newspaper explained the situation thus: “It was a sore disappointment to the thousands of Saints supporters when they found out Greenwood had not quite recovered from his accident and was unable to assist his team. In the difficulty the committee brought in Ackerley who has been playing a smart game at stand-off half for the Second Team”.
The local press were quite encouraged by Jack’s performance: “I confess that I was fearful of the consequence of Greenwood’s absence, but Ackerley, in a new position for him, came through the ordeal manfully and if he did nothing brilliant, he was always there when wanted, while his tackling was of the best”. And that was it. We are unable to ascertain how long Jack or Joe remained at Knowsley Road, albeit in the A Team. We assume that they returned to Cumberland. Records suggest that Jack passed away in Cockermouth in 1961. If anyone has any further information about this player, especially an image, we would like to hear from you.And that was it. We are unable to ascertain how long Jack or Joe remained at Knowsley Road, albeit in the A Team. We assume that the brothers returned to Cumberland for Jack can be seen in the 1939 Census as residing in Southerfield, Broughton Moor. Broughton Moor is a splendid community between Maryport and Cockermouth. Jack died in Cockermouth in May 1961 at the age of 69.