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20 Mar 2022 : In Memory of Peter Eales

Runcorn football is mourning one of its biggest characters after the death of Peter Eales.

Peter was an outstanding and larger than life goalkeeper, who ultimately turned from villain to hero in the eyes of Linnets supporters.

He was the veteran custodian in Runcorn AFC's 1980-81 Northern Premier League treble season, having so often been the Canal Street club's nemesis over a long and distinguised semi-professional career.

To say Peter was a shock Runcorn acquisition would be a major understatement; the announcement of his signing was a jaw-dropper.

But manager John Williams's confidence in him would be more than justified.

Peter rolled back the years with some accomplished performances - and a fair few remarkable saves along the way - as the Linnets memorably marched to a second NPL title, the competition in those days comprising just the one division.

Runcorn conceded only 22 times in 42 league games with three defeats, 'Ealesy' keeping goal for the majority of these matches, with Ian Holbrook occasionally deputising.

Not content with this, Runcorn lifted the NPL Challenge Cup for a second successive season thanks to a thrilling 4-3 defeat of Marine at Manchester City's then home, Maine Road - although Holbrook was in goal for this tie.

The NPL Challenge Shield, for which Linnets had qualified as the League Cup holders, was also added to the trophy cabinet.

Eales's heroics for the Linnets were a far cry from his earlier reputation as the goalkeeper Runcorn fans "loved to hate".

He had most notably held the Linnets at bay with Altrincham, in the second of Runcorn's three FA Trophy semi-final defeats in the 1970s.

An enduring memory of that tie was the sight of 'Ealesy' dribbling down the touchline in the goalless first leg of a tense affair at Moss Lane.

The only score of the contest came in the Canal Street return, courtesy of, as fate would have it, ex-Linnets favourite Malcolm Bailey.

The 80-81 season proved to be Peter's swansong in terms of regular action for Runcorn.

He was succeeded as No1 by Brian Parker, signed from Yeovil Town, for their successful 1981-82 entry into the Alliance Premier League.

Peter made six appearances as Runcorn took the higher (and highest non-league) division by storm to be crowned champions.

Peter's subequent 'retirement' after a spell at Macclesfield Town, waa intermittently broken by the odd emergency comeback.

A single appearance in 1984-85 and nine more in 1985-86 took Peter's appearance total for Runcorn in England semi-pro's top flight - under its various early guises of APL, Gola League and Vauxhall Conference - to 16.

In 1986, he had a place on the Wembley bench as a member of the Linnets' coaching staff.

The opposition, ironically, was from Altrincham, who again prevailed 1-0 in Runcorn's long-awaited first FA Trophy final.

Stories of Peter's antics on and off the field are as legendary as his playing achievements.

There are tales of him taking the pitch at Canal Street as a visiting 'keeper carrying a handbag and in his later Runcorn days being summoned from the bar at the Wilson's Hotel to deputise - after regular keeper Ray McBride had taken ill before kick-off.

Prior to arriving at Alty and later Runcorn, Peter had not only performed with distinction but in his unique style. He also served Wigan Athletic, South Liverpool and Bangor City.

His manager at Runcorn once said that "he (Eales) continues to do a Pat Jennings", comparing the ageing shotstopper's resurgence with that of the evergreen Tottenham goalkeeper's career-extending spell at Arsenal.

Peter's eccentricity and brilliance might just as easily have likened him to Liverpool's Bruce Grobbelaar.

But one thing is for sure - North West non-league football in general, and Runcorn in particular, are unlikely to see his like again.

RIP 'Ealesy'.

Recent Headlines

21 May : Tribute to the late Arthur Easton, Linnets Trust member and fan

18 May : Reflections of "Spenny" - prize-winning volunteer

17 May : More managerial farewells as assistant Colin Woodthorpe heads for Chester

17 May : Dave Jones resigns from Trust Board of Runcorn Linnets

14 May : Ryan Brooke stars at emotional presentation night for Runcorn Linnets

12 May : Manager Calum McIntyre leaves Runcorn Linnets to take charge at Chester

07 May : Awards Night tickets on sale

01 May : Memories of a fantastic season after Play-off Final loss

29 Apr : Play-off Final - matchday arrangements

29 Apr : NPL West Division Play-off Final is a sell-out

28 Apr : Our initial online Play-off Final allocation has sold out

28 Apr : Play-off Final is now all-ticket - purchase tickets here

27 Apr : Runcorn Linnets power into home play-off final

19 Apr : Pay as You Like for Saturday's home game against Colne

19 Apr : Club statement regarding Leek Town game

18 Apr : Runcorn Linnets secure play-off spot

14 Apr : Ron Corn's Easter parade brings early holiday cheer

27 Mar : Paul Eastup will be back as club secretary from next season

24 Mar : Josh Christian vacates kit manager role to concentrate on Linnets in the Community

22 Mar : Non League Day

20 Mar : In Memory of Peter Eales

12 Mar : Date set for delayed Annual General Meeting

22 Feb : Board Role Changes

11 Feb : The Goalkeeper Situation

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