From footlights to floodlights Lancashire comic Eric Morecambe liked nothing more than spending his spare time watching the beautiful game.
Morecambe Football Club was the funnyman’s hometown team and Christie Park, the club’s old stadium, was visible from his childhood house on Christie Avenue.
He regularly supported the team from the terraces as a boy growing up in the resort and 50 years ago this month he became president of Morecambe FC. Former Morecambe Visitor editor Mike Whalley remembers the effect his appointment had on the city.
He said: “When the news came out there was a lot of excitement in the town at the thought of the great Eric Morecambe working at the club. The club saw him as a very prestigious coup due to his stature. It was a bit of a figurehead role but he took the job very seriously, lending his name to campaigns and going to matches as often as he could.”
Eric took the role because he was an avid football fan but according to Eric the entertainer he could have had a completely different career.
Son Gary once said: “Dad was a very good footballer himself and had a trial with a major club, I think it was Blackpool. He was a left winger and had a very powerful left foot, I know that. We used to play in the back garden and he was always Pele or Bobby Charlton.”
Eric’s own father George Bartholomew and brother Frank loved the game and they played for Morecambe Victoria, the predecessor of Morecambe FC.
Speaking to the Morecambe Visitor in 2007, Eric’s nephew Michael Threlfall revealed Eric still visited the club during the height of his successful showbiz career. He said: “He used to come and watch Morecambe, even when he was famous. He would stand and watch with his coat collar pulled up around his face and he would say to me: ‘Now let me watch the game, Michael, don’t go telling your mates that I’m here!’”
However, after moving to a family home in Harpenden, in Hertfordshire, the comedian found himself a long way from Christie Park and to satisfy his love for football began to take Gary to Kenilworth Road to watch Luton Town. Despite becoming a fan of the Hatters, Eric still had a strong connection with his hometown club and he would always still look out for Morecambe’s results.
He was later elected to the board at Luton Town and became a director in 1970. He resigned in 1975 to became their vice president but by that stage still he travelled to most of their games.
Since his death in 1984 both towns have paid tribute to the legendary comedian. At Luton Town a club lounge is named after him while the Eric Morecambe statue was unveiled in Morecambe in 1999 while the Shrimps have a large photo of the star in the Globe Bar inside their Globe Arena home.
When Morecambe and Luton met in 2014 they competed for the inaugural Eric Morecambe Trophy, a miniature version of the statue. Morecambe won the game 3-0 but Luton are the current holders of the trophy after beating the Shrimps last season.