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James Armstrong by SHS
On 17th October, 1908, the Saints played Widnes at Knowsley Road and won 11-0 without too much difficulty. Apparently, the crowd was disappointed that star full-back Tom Barton hadn't turned out. He had returned from his working stint as a bricklayer in the United States [where he played soccer] and had been expected to play. New Boy in the St. Helens Newspaper takes up the story: "In his absence, the Saints tried a new man, Armstrong, of Ulverston Hornets, who had given a splendid display for the A Team a week previously. Armstrong is a well-built fellow, aged 26 years and from the way he played against Widnes, the Saints have got hold of a really good player. He fielded safely, and kicked surely if not a great distance, whilst I am told his tackling is simply deadly. He had not much to do in this line on Saturday, but otherwise his exhibition was quite satisfactory. If Barton does turn out, the club has secured a very capable deputy in Armstrong".
Perhaps the last comment was quite pertinent in the long run. Tom Barton did return to the fold and was the automatic choice for the full-back role. Although he was prone to injury at times given his total, fearless commitment to the cause, there would be small windows of opportunity for Armstrong. But not too many!
Things came to a head on Saturday 27th February, when the Saints ventured to Halifax in the first round of the Challenge Cup, not an easy assignment at the best of times. Tom Barton was fit and nailed on at full-back, with Armstrong selected on the wing, with Jimmy Greenwood as his centre. The Saints lost 8-15 on a day of snowstorms in West Yorkshire and New Boy in the St. Helens Newspaper was quite critical of the former Ulverston Hornet: "One little point, however, caused some bitterness among the St. Helens people and that was the formation of the right wing. Armstrong can't be said to be an ideal wingman, and while he defended well many times, he was simply impotent as an attacking threequarter. Facing him was Dai Thomas, probably the fastest man on the wing in the Union and when the Welshman got clear of his opponent, Armstrong had little chance. Then too, the Ulverston player could not get away from Thomas when in possession and more than one chance was barely thrown away".
There is no doubt whatsoever that Dai Thomas was a fabulous player of his day and that players with more experience than Armstrong would have struggled to get anywhere against him. But it was the last time James featured in the seniors for the Saints. In 1939 James was living in Steel Street Ulverston and his occupation was given as a General Labourer. James died in Ulverston in March 1971 at the age of 86.
|Season (Official Matches)||Tries||Goals||DGoals||Matches|
|Season (Other Matches)||Tries||Goals||DGoals||Matches|
|17th Oct 1908||
|24th Oct 1908||
|31st Oct 1908||
|14th Nov 1908||
|21st Nov 1908||
|28th Nov 1908||
|12th Dec 1908||
|19th Dec 1908||
|27th Feb 1909||
|*Unofficial Match. **Non Playing Sub.|
|WINS : 4 | LOSSES : 4 | DRAWS : 1|
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