|John King by SHS |
When there are two ‘J King’s’ who play for the Saints within a certain time frame, that includes the Second World War, the task of identification can be problematical. We are quite certain, from looking at newspaper reports and Players’ registers that this player originates from Sunbury Street, in Thatto Heath and was a member of the junior team which the club began to provide a much-needed pathway for the seniors during the crisis. There was no A team football then, so the Saints’ plan of having a junior team in the Widnes League was quite a novel one and several notable players came from this route to have successful careers in the professional game.
This player is not to be confused with Jack King, who played for the club before the start of the conflict, also from Thatto Heath, but, in his case, Stafford Road. An early example of John’s entry into senior football is found in the match report for the game at Keighley, on 18th November 1944. Clericus, in the Reporter, wrote: “King and Glover, who played for the juniors the previous week were given their chance. King, at full-back, fielded and kicked well and showed a great improvement on his display at Dewsbury earlier in the season. He was much more confident and is only short of first team experience”. Indeed, it is considered that John did actually make his full competitive debut in that match at Crown Flatt [7th October 1944] when Saints lost 31-2 to an All Star Dewsbury team, managed, of course, by Eddie Waring!
John became a regular member of the senior team from the match against Featherstone Rovers, at Post Office Road on 2nd December 1944, until the end of the campaign. He took a significant part in the game against Wigan at Knowsley Road on Boxing Day 1944 [a positive one, I hasten to add], when there was there was tantamount to a riot and the whole thing had to be abandoned by referee Holbrook. Premier, in the St. Helens Newspaper [29th December 1944] tells the story of King’s try in the match as follows: “King, kicking and following up when, not obstructed had achieved the most sensational success recorded by any St. Helens full-back against Wigan for many years. Though obviously tired by running himself right out, he put in a long kick to Belshaw and again went after the ball. Obstructed at the start, he got round the opposition and suddenly confronted Belshaw, as the latter was leisurely preparing to clear. Normally Belshaw would just have given him a turn of the body, a sidestep, and would have beaten King by ten to fifteen yards with ease. What came over him I cannot guess. Belshaw faced up like any ordinary player to the on-coming King, put in his kick, saw King charge the ball down and didn’t recover from the shock in time to save the situation. King, nearly out on his feet, lumbered a few more yards and went over for a try. Only a young and very enthusiastic lad would have attempted the move that ended in such sensational success”.
Then, the likes of Harry Pimblett and young Joe Ball took up the reins at full-back in 1945-46 and John was transferred to Oldham on 19th November 1945. John’s last match, in fact, was a Lancashire Cup semi-final tie at Central Park against Wigan on 17th October 1945, which the Cherry and Whites won 5-18. Looking at the RL ‘Retain and Transfer’ lists for 1946-47, it is interesting to see J. King [full-back] on the Open to Transfer list from the Oldham club, at a £150 fee. There the story goes cold. John died in St Helens in January 1979, aged 56. If anyone has any further information about this player and an image, we would be glad to hear from you.