Gary Moore (1945-2021)

Gary Moore, a member of the 1974/75 promotion side that also reached the last four of the League Cup, has sadly passed away at the age of 76. In two seasons at Sealand Road Gary made 43 league appearances and scored four goals but will best be remembered for scoring the second equaliser in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final against Aston Villa that finished 2-2.

Gary Moore

Born in Sedgefield, Gary started his career as an apprentice at Sunderland, where he became an England youth international, and signed professional terms at Roker Park in 1962. A move to Grimsby Town followed in 1967 but his best years came at Southend United where he scored an impressive 55 goals in 188 appearances. Most notably he scored seven goals in two FA Cup ties against King’s Lynn and Brentwood in the 1969/70 season.

The blond-haired striker had a loan spell at Colchester before Ken Roberts brought him to Chester for £10,000 in August 1974. Gary made his debut as a replacement in defence for the injured Trevor Storton in a 3-0 win over Hartlepool but found first team opportunities limited by the form of lethal striking partnership Derek Draper and John James and was mainly used as a substitute. Nevertheless he made significant goal contributions, coming off the bench to head the only goal of the game at Swansea and scoring twice in a superb 4-1 win over promotion rivals Lincoln City. Those two strikes proved crucial as Chester pipped the Imps to the fourth promotion spot by the slimmest goal average margin. 

n the League Cup run of 1974/75 Gary was used as a substitute against Blackpool and in the first leg of the semi-final against Aston Villa. It was in the latter game, in front of a packed Sealand Road End, that the burly forward replaced John James with 20 minutes to go and in the 80th minute turned home a Derek Draper cross from close range to keep alive Chester’s Wembley dream. He kept his place in the starting eleven for the 2nd leg as the Seals were narrowly beaten 3-2. 

Gary Moore (left) celebrates with Terry Owen and Norman Whitehead after the 1st leg of the League Cup semi-final against Aston Villa

Opportunities continued to be limited in 1975/76 and at the end of the campaign he signed for Swansea City but injury forced him into retirement in 1978. Gary continued to be involved in football and was a coach at Blyth Spartans before becoming manager of Northern League sides Consett and Crook Town. He was later a scout for Aston Villa and England under his old Grimsby colleague Graham Taylor. Away from football Gary worked as a sales rep in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

Sealand Road Re-creation

A few weeks ago I published a post displaying pictures of the Sealand Road model created by Derek Astbury. Derek is the son of former player Tommy Astbury, who played 303 league games for the clubs in the 1940s and 1950s. He has now re-created a selection of pictures taken from his late father’s collection, the Chester City Images of Sport book and the Chester Football History Facebook page.

Andy Higgins (1960-2021)

Former Chester City player Andy Higgins has passed away in Australia at the age of 61. A versatile player he featured in both attack and defence in his 19 Football League appearances for the club.

Andy Higgins

Born in Bolsover Andy represented his native Derbyshire at both under 15 and under 19 level and after leaving school accepted an apprenticeship at Chesterfield. He made just one appearance for the Spireites, against Mansfield Town, in the final game of the 1978/79 season. Following his release by Chesterfield in 1980 he was snapped up by John McGrath, who was then manager at Port Vale, and made 14 league appearances over the following two seasons. 

In 1982 Andy dropped into the Northern Premier League and signed for King’s Lynn but after only a handful of appearances he moved on to Hartlepool United. His stay in the north east proved to be brief and by November he had returned to King’s Lynn. Deployed as a striker his goalscoring exploits attracted Rochdale for whom he signed non-contract terms in March 1983. At Spotland he became a regular at centre half until a foot injury, in January 1984, sidelined him for the remainder of the campaign.

In Summer 1984 Andy was reunited with John McGrath who had been appointed manager at Sealand Road at the start of the year. Chester had finished bottom of Division Four in 1983/84 and they again failed to find any consistency at the start of the following campaign. With McGrath struggling to find the right blend from a host of new signings Andy was asked to perform in a variety of roles and after making his debut as a centre forward in the opening game against Scunthorpe he had a run of games at the centre of the defence before returning to the forward line in November. Andy’s only goal came in a 5-1 defeat at Stockport which marked the end of the road for McGrath. His final appearance came as a substitute against Peterborough on New Year’s Day 1985 and after being released by Chester he emigrated to South Africa where he represented Hellenic. Andy later moved to Australia where he passed away following a heart attack.

Dennis Keating (1940-2021)

Dennis Keating, who made a single Football League appearance for the club against Bradford City in the 1962/63 season, sadly passed away earlier this month. A tricky winger he retired from football at an early age to join a religious order and was well known in later years for his work as a priest in the Catholic parishes of St Columba and St Theresa.

Born in Cork, Dennis initially joined Chester as a part-time professional in June 1962 after graduating from Manchester University. While at university he had played for the Varsity team and was a member of the English Athletic Union side that played against Wales. He also represented Saltney Juniors and Bill Lambton signed him as an inside right after he had impressed in trial games played at the Stadium. 

After initially playing for the A team Dennis graduated to the reserves in the Cheshire County League in September. After sparkling performances on the left wing for the reserves, in particular against Bangor City where he gave former Chester full back Bill Souter a torrid afternoon, he was given the opportunity to play against Blackburn Rovers in the Lancashire Cup. Forming a youthful left wing partnership with hat-trick hero Alan Pritchard he set up the first goal in a 3-2 victory and both players were promoted to first team action against Bradford City. Once again Dennis impressed with the Cheshire Observer reporting: 

Keating certainly has got plenty of heart, and though he was bumped in occasions, he kept coming back for more, and while he is doing the job like he will be difficult to displace.”

He kept his place for the home FA Cup tie against Tranmere Rovers the following week but with left wing partner Pritchard dropped in favour of the more experienced Bill Myerscough he struggled to make an impression as Chester fell to a 2-0 defeat. Only two weeks later Dennis was transferred to Wellington Town saying that, as a teacher, he thought that non-league football would suit him better. A quiet and studious individual at Sealand Road he was not your typical 1960s footballer and in turning to a life of religion he found his true calling. 

Sealand Road Model

Derek Astbury, the son of former Chester player Tommy Astbury, has used lockdown to construct a superb model of the old Sealand Road stadium based on how the ground looked when his father was playing for the club in the 1940s and 1950s. Measuring 6ft by 4ft it took six months to build and it is hoped that it can be shown at the Deva Stadium some time in the future. I would urge anyone to go and see it if the opportunity arises.

Derek explains how he tackled the project:

“I retired just before the first lockdown and during the early months did what most people were doing i.e sort out family photos/ tidy the attic etc. While doing this I came across some old subbuteo equipment and after watching a YouTube programme I discovered there was an internet community of 50-60 year olds revisiting the game.

I decided to buy some players online to paint myself and found that there were some in vintage style kits and the idea was born. I would paint Chester FC from the time that my dad played together with other teams he played against. I thought I could then display them with a programme of the match for example Bolton Wanderers for his testimonial, Hull City (Raich Carter) and Stoke City (Stanley Matthews).

Then I moved on to the Stadium itself which I started to construct on January 21st using 3mm plastic sheet that was destined for the skips where I used to work. I have been building on and off since then on the occasions it has been warm enough in my garage to let my fingers work.

I have had the Images of Sport Book for many years and most of my reference has come from that as well as the Chester Football History Facebook page and my dad’s scrapbooks and photos. I did start to look at photos differently ie not at the subject but at the background details to see what the stands looked like and what adverts were on display. Most of the photographs are taken inside the ground so getting the outside details was quite a struggle. Even people who had been to the ground many times didn’t know what the other side of the Kop looked like.

Some things came as a surprise to me during the build research. One was the office building between the Main Stand and the Barn at the Sealand Road End. Another was the fact that the Popular Side was wider at the Kop end. I only realised this when I saw an aerial shot and had to start again on this stand. I also decided that I had to include the lamppost in front of the plaque on the front wall. Other problems for me were that the photos of the era were in black and white so I had to do some further research on colours (or guess!). The VP Wine advert on the Popular side just looks maroon to me.

It was also important to me that the game of subbuteo still remained playable and the stands were not too big to reach over. This means there are not the correct amount of seats in the stands or steps on the terraces so I couldn’t fill them with the 20,000 spectators that saw the Chelsea FA Cup game. From the positive comments I have received so far I think I have managed to capture the essence of the Sealand Road Stadium.