Congratulations George Haigh , County Legend- 100 Today!

It is with immense pride that we salute this morning a true County Legend.
County's oldest surviving former player George Haigh is 100 years old today, and on behalf of County supporters everywhere we wish George the happiest of happy birthdays!

County Historian Marcus Heap attended George`s early birthday party on Saturday, and we are immensely indebted to him for this glorious account of the man and the day.

Another 100 years with this wonderful man please 

by Marcus Heap.

In the late 1990’s, whilst researching former County players, I was working my way through the Stockport phone directory.  I came across the name “G.Haigh” in Marple and wondered if this might be the George Haigh who had played for County nearly 60 years before. It was a long shot, but to a historian this was a normal occurrence – to find these people you simply have to write lots of letters and make lots of calls with the hope that every once in a while you will find the needle in the haystack.

So I picked up the phone and called. I had long since learnt that my joy on finding a former player would be more than matched by the astonishment of the person receiving the call. 
After 60 years, completely out of the blue, you suddenly find a total stranger asking you if you are someone who has played for Stockport County. Well, to my joy the voice on the end of the call confirmed that I had found George Haigh. Since he had left Edgeley Park in 1939, no one had asked George about his career at Edgeley Park and he immediately invited me to come to his house and to have chat.
Some weeks later, with some trepidation and excitement, Ian Watts and I knocked on the door of a house in Marple. We had no idea what this man would be like, would he remember anything about his time at County, would his age have robbed him of his memories? Well we were not to be disappointed. From the first moment of meeting George it was clear this was very special man.  
As a historian my first priority was what he could tell me about the Club, the players he played with and all of the other facts that he could share with me. Even in the late 90’s there were only a handful of former players alive from before World War 2. To my amazement not only could George talk with clarity about this time but as a local boy he had infact played at Edgeley Park in the Stockport Schools Final in 1929. He could describe in detail the changing rooms from the stand that perished in the fire of 1935. As someone who had been at County since he was 17 he had played in the A, B and Reserve teams. He had attended games (most notably the famous 1935  FA Cup 5th round tie v West Bromwich at Edgeley Park  and the Championship winning game against Lincoln in 1937). The man was unique.
We took as much information as we could, we thanked George and his wife Ruth and we asked if we could keep in touch. We hoped we might get a chance to get him back to Edgeley Park for a game and then we left.
In the following year fate then intervened. George’s wife Ruth sadly passed away and I returned to live in the UK. With a job in the South East, I relocated to Hampshire and George moved to Oxfordshire to be closer to his daughter. Suddenly my travels up the M40 meant that I could drop in for a chat and a cup of tea with George. In doing so, I got to know a wonderful man, passionate about his sport, wise and insightful in his advice and surrounded by a great family. Every time we met George would tell me something new about his time at County that hadn’t mentioned before. A story about a player, an overnight away trip or an illicit visit to the greyhounds with his colleagues. Priceless stories that only he could tell.
With this came the opportunity to take George to games and so we would follow County at Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford United. 

George watching County at Milton Keynes

 We even went to meet Billy Bocking’s widow, then in her 80’s, George and she knew each other in the 1930’s. George was one of the County players who went to their wedding on a Saturday morning before the groom and his team mates returned to Edgeley Park for a League fixture later that afternoon!
We returned to Edgeley Park once or twice a season with the two most notable occasions being George being guest of honour on New Year’s Day 2002, as County officially started their celebration of 100 years at Edgeley Park. The second occasion was the inaugural SCAN presentation evening when we were all able to witness George being presented with his certificate by County youngest ever player Paul Turnball.

Paul Turnbull presenting to George.

We will not have the pleasure of ever presenting a lower numbered certificate in person to a County player. 

In 2008, George and his family came en masse to support County as they finally tried to lay their Wembley voodoo to rest. There was great celebration as County put Rochdale to the sword and it was wonderful to be with George watching two of his former clubs play more than 60 years after he had appeared for them.
As we all have, in recent years George has watched with sadness the demise of County’s League status. Whilst George has become more frail we have continued to attend games and his local club Brackley Town have become wonderful hosts to George on the occasions County have visited. 

George at Brackley v County 2015.

George remains as passionate as ever, he looks out for the results (bemoaning the fact that we are harder to find on the vidiprinter!) and keeps a keen interest on the goings on at Edgeley Park.
In March 2015, it was wonderful to see George watching County at Brackley, chatting to many of the County fans and he even got a touch of the ball as  he sat in Main Stand.
Today marks the wonderful occasion of his 100th birthday. Over the last 15 years I have had the pleasure to gain George as a friend, to put alongside the incredible fact that he is a historians dream. County are so lucky to have him in our family. Our oldest ever player, the oldest professional footballer alive and he is still watching County play.  Every day in his presence is a joy. At his birthday party on Saturday our conversation covered everything from Walter Lumby (a County player from the 30’s) to George asking me about the whereabouts of the player he met on a visit to Edgeley Park  in 2008 (he had to remind me it was Leon McSweeney!). Sitting with George as he opened all of the wonderful cards he had received from County fans was both a joyous and proud moment. It was special and it encapsulated everything that is great about the County family.

George & just some of the cards from County supporters.
 I hope we will all have many more days with George, this special Stockport man - kicked in training by Alf Lythgoe, advised by a senor pro to have sex every Friday night before a game, our first ever centurion,  the last surviving member of the mass trespass of Kinder Scout and a true gentleman.
 George  was full of questions late in the day.......when are the fixtures out ...... which game will be our next at Edgeley Park?
George.....  I’ll pick you up at 11.00, I’ll provide the transport you just provide the stories. Remind me again….what colour was our away kit in 1938?


Editors Note.

George`s big day, coincides with the birthday of another  County Historian Ian Watts who was born exactly 53 years ago today.

Ian will be celebrating in the Florist from about 6, tonight ( Monday 29th June,  )and as  tribute to George, will undergo a George Haigh tradition namely that of  indulging in his favourite pre-match tonic. 

George told Ian, on one of his visits - when sat in the Florist - that he enjoyed a pint of Guinness with a schooner of port in it!

If you fancy joining Ian in a  toast to George , you will be most welcome, to join him.


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