Holker Old Boys Association Football Club - a real grass roots football club
Balla Memorial Game
MikeBallantyne - A Short Tribute
MichaelBallantyne, probably the best amateur footballer to play in the North West of England in modern times, an exaggeration? Or
the thoughts of those who played with or against him?
Mike Ballantyne died in
Queensland, Australia at the to young age of 45, thousands of miles away from those who had grown up with him & those
that probably knew him best.
Mike was a fabulous
sports man, he played everything well, one of those blessed with natural talent, he was a great cricketer for Roose, he could
hit a golf ball & was excellent at Tennis, but it was on the football pitch that he really excelled, whether playing on
a Sunday morning or on a Saturday afternoon for his belovered Holker,. We all remember the marauding midfield star with his
‘strawberry’ blond hair, (never ginger to Mike), his physical statue, but mostly his none stop approach and shear ability.
He was a big lad
with pace, excellent control, good tackler, great vision and scored goals, he should have been a professional, but that was
not Mike, he enjoyed more than just the 90
minutes of a Saturday and Sunday, he also lived for the enjoyment of the social life that surrounded the sport. Mike was your lovable character, oh true, he had his moments, like everybody,
but nothing other than over exuberance, no malice. He lived his youth to the full, always smiling, always singing, always
He was never happier
than when he was with ‘the Lads’ at Holker, and especially the nights in 1989 & 1991 after Mike had lifted the Lancashire Amateur Shield on the two occasions Holker
won the competition. Mike was ‘Man of the Match’ both times; he was unstoppable on the pitch and celebrating afterwards,
with ‘Balla’ singing Elvis with his trusty side kick Pete McKenna on the back of the bus home and in the Clubhouse
when we got back.
We all have memories
of Mike, most of them personal, most of them
still discussed over the odd pint on a Saturday tea time at Holker, all of them fond, because that was the type of lad he
was. We all knew he had his troubles over the past few years, we would ask his Dad, Jimmy, how he was doing, when we saw him
at Holker or the cricket, we always get a ‘fine’ off Jim, with pride in his voice.
To hear the news
hit us all hard, we all loved Mike, all had
a soft spot for him & all just wished we could have helped a little more. He was, after all, our Captain, our team mate,
our best player, but most of all, our friend. His friends will remember that grin, that laugh, his love of all things Elvis,
but mostly Mike.
You can almost see him
know, in heaven, hunting Elvis out…………………………..
Yes, to us who played
with him & against him, he was without any doubt, the best amateur footballer to play in the North West of England in
modern times and also our friend.
- 1960 to 2006 – The Memorial Game
SATURDAY 18th MARCH - A great
a tribute to Mike his mates arranged to play a Memorial game at Holker Old Boys, Rakesmoor Lane on Saturday 18th March, kicking off after the First Team game that
day. The following is a report on the day.
a bitterly cold Saturday night, a crowd in the region of 200 hardy soles, watched some of the biggest names in Barrow’s
80’s & 90’s footballing scene, play an entertaining game in the memory of MikeBallantyne. The match between the Holker Shield winners select & a Barrow AFC /
Holker Select, had been organised by PaulSlater, JimmyCapstick and a group of Mike’s friends
to raise funds to go into a trust for Mike’s daughter,
Ruby. The event raised in excess of £2,000 & all those involved should be proud of that.
At the crowd & players stood in silence for a minute, then, with GeorgeMartin in the middle, the game kicked off. The Barrow side, including FA Trophy captain GlenSkivington, legendary No 9 Colin Cowperthwaite, JimmyCapstick & NeilDoherty
started the strongest. However it was not long before Holker started to pass the ball around. Those ‘anoraks’
in the crowd spotted that neither side were using the number ‘7 shirts’, a mark of respect to Mike.
The game was fast flowing (well
for a game where the average age would be 40'ish) with a few choice tackles being made, with Mike’s midfield partners
of Pete McKenna & Lee Bowan right in the thick of things.. The crowd were kept entertained through out with Holker keeper
Steve Slater making some impressive saves from the Barrow forwards, including a full length save to turn a shot around his
right hand post. Holker started to exert the advantage of the Rakesmoor ‘slope’ and two goals before half time
from Garry Moffat & Dave Conlin give them the edge.
The second half was equally entertaining
and with Barrow starting to use the slope they managed to pull a goal back when a sublime chip from Colin Woodburn gave
Holker Chairman, Steve Livingstone, little chance. Holker responded in typical fashion with GaryMoffat using his pace to create room and slot home. As time run out Barrow throw everything at Holker
&, with Cowperthwaite using his experience to create space, Woodburn used the room to bring Barrow back
into the game. The 3-2 score-line was of little importance to those lads who had not played for the past few years, but the
enjoyment of playing again in the memory of Mike is something that they’ll never forget.
In the Holker Clubhouse afterwards
memorabilia was auctioned and an ‘Elvis night’ was put on by NeilMcLaughlin & JohnHalligan. The climax of the celebration of Mike’s life was the
Elvis sing song as the 130 in the club joined Mike’s parents & family in a couple
of Mike’s favourite numbers.
There was no better way to celebrate
Mike's life than a game of football at Rakesmoor (with Holker winning), a
full bar in the club house, and an Elvis sing song involving Mike’s
mates. On a night like this it makes you proud not only to be part of Mike’s club, but also part of his friends. Mike’s parents, Jimmy
& Margaret thanked everybody involved, but in all honesty we really wanted to thank them
for allowing us all to have the pleasure of knowing & playing with MikeBallantyne, the best amateur footballer from the North West.