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Balla Memorial Game


Mike Ballantyne - A Short Tribute


Michael Ballantyne, 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 there.


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.




Mike Ballantyne  - 1960 to 2006 – The Memorial Game


SATURDAY 18th MARCH - A great time!


As 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.


On 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 Mike Ballantyne. The match between the Holker Shield winners select & a Barrow AFC / Holker Select, had been organised by Paul Slater, Jimmy Capstick 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 6 o’clock the crowd & players stood in silence for a minute, then, with George Martin in the middle, the game kicked off. The Barrow side, including FA Trophy captain Glen Skivington, legendary No 9 Colin Cowperthwaite, Jimmy Capstick & Neil Doherty 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 Gary Moffat 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 Neil McLaughlin & John Halligan. 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 Mike Ballantyne, the best amateur footballer from the North West.

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