It was an extremely sad day last Monday when news came that ex Atherton Collieries secretary and North West Counties Football League official Alan Farnworth had passed away. Having said that it was no real surprise to his friends as severe health problems over a number of years had gradually reduced his quality of life. Inspite of that his courage shined through every time I visited him in hospital he was still as feisty as ever and didn’t suffer fools gladly.
Born and bred in Farnworth, birthplace of ex England star Alan Ball, he was very proud of his roots, playing football himself and was a big supporter of Bolton Wanderers.
Prior to joining the Colls Alan was involved at NWCFL outfit Bolton St Thomas’s who unfortunately folded when their ground was seized to build houses on. Colls committee man Steve Payne knew Alan and they met up at a Bolton Hospital Cup game, Colls against Ramsbottom United. Christine Howell was Colls secretary but she was having difficulty with work commitments and Alan took over the role. It didn’t take him long to integrate into the club and his commitment and diligence to the job made him a real asset. It was a blow when left the club in 1993 to move onto the NWCFL committee exclusively and he immediately settled to his new tasks. He was just as committed to the league as he had been at Colls and he settled into the position of Ground Grader extraordinaire. Rumour has it that he was once contacted by the Northern league to sort out their grading issues but travel would have been a problem. Somebody once said to me that Colls had favouritism concerning our grading but that was further from the truth than you can image. He was stricter with us because he didn’t want to tarnish his reputation. Just last week I visited him in hospital and he said there was a possibility that we might get promoted this season, he then started to go on about jobs that needed doing in preparation. Once a ground grader always a ground grader! His partnership with his great friend Dave (Tommo) Tomlinson as Chairman and Vice Chairman was a major factor in the NWCFL becoming an elite league nationally. Alan’s health problems eventually meant that he couldn’t attend league meetings as much as he would have liked and a couple of years ago he left the Vice Chairman and head of discipline roles. However Dave still rang him every day to discuss league business and rightly so.
Alan certainly let you know when he wasn’t happy with you. A few weeks ago we played Cammell Laird at home and there were a number of league officials
present. As the final whistle sounded I went on the pitch to sort some divots out. I never thought of phoning him, thinking that one of the committee would do the job. Hours later he phoned me saying that he didn’t know any scores. I apologised explaining my motives, but he would have none of it. He would never have blamed a league committee man. His commitment to non league soccer was highlighted last Saturday. At 9am I got a text off him saying that at 2.46am he had had a heart attack. He was being moved to the coronary care unit and he would try to phone me later, but he was very poorly. I texted him back wishing a quick recovery. In the afternoon we played away at Widnes with a 2pm kick off. Five minutes after the game had finished he texted me wanting to know the score. What a man in the middle of such trauma – he was brave as a lion. He was also proud of the way the club were performing this season.
On behalf of everybody involved in the club I would like to pass on pour sincere condolences to his daughter Bev and family, with the knowledge that he was held in such high regard at Alder House and the non league world.
In recent years when Alan wasn’t in hospital he watched the majority of his football at Alder House. He parked his car at the side of Emma’s teabar and held court. That part of the ground will forever be known as Farny’s Corner.
By Frank Anderson