Having left the M6 and driven through Lancaster en route to Christie Park one couldn’t help but be surprised by a huge banner, strewn from lampost to lampost across a busy roundabout on the approaching outskirts of the town. The sign advertising the game read: Morecambe v Chester City. Saturday 13th October, 3.00pm Christie Park. One could be excused for thinking this Nationwide Conference football match was the biggest event in the seaside resort that weekend. It certainly was for the 303 travelling supporters who made the journey into deepest Lancashire. They were sent home with smiles on their faces for the second time in a week as our amazing immediate change in fortune continued. I was standing outside the dressing rooms, waiting for Caretaker Boss Steve Mungall whilst across the way the first face to appear out of the home team door was that of our former player, Chris Lightfoot. Despite him being forced out of the game through injury earlier that week, the expression on his rather red face said it all. Morecambe were taken by surprise. “The lads have just had a grilling”, he said.
Lightfoot, who still lives in Runcorn was once very highly rated at the Deva Stadium but now he finds himself at Christie Park just happy to be playing football for the seasiders. “It’s all right here at Morecambe, it’s only part time but there’s a good team spirit about the place. It’s just nice to be back playing, I didn’t play much last season at Crewe and it’s much nicer being on the pitch than on the bench. ” Despite his tender age of 31, Lighty believes all his intensive football training has damaged his body. “I’ve got a bit of a thigh strain at the moment, but I hope to be fit for the next game. Although I’m only 31, in the last few years I’ve had a bad time with injuries. The hard times have done me good really. I train twice a week now. I think my body has taken a bit too much of a battering training every day.”
But a young Chris always seemed destined to play football from an early age to continue a family tradition. He was born into a family of footballers who truly loved to get down to business on the pitch. “It was a family thing for me. My dad played and my grandad played. We’re a family of footballers! I started at school and then joined Chester City when I was fourteen. When I left school I joined them as an apprentice. I stayed there for twelve years. I left to go to Wigan Athletic with Graham Barrow for six months. Graham got the sack then I moved to Crewe Alex. I stayed there for six years and now I’ve come here.”
Lightfoot is a man who has seen it all with Chester City, from Sealand Road, playing in exile at Macclesfield, to the joys of promotion at the Deva Stadium. Lightfoot, whose career has been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, recalls plenty of fond memories. “Ah, loads of fond memories at Chester. They were a great set of lads every season, different lads come and went but we always had a great team spirit with Harry McNally. I’ve some stories about Harry McNally but you couldn’t write them anyway!” But after some persuasion, Lighty continued: “Oh, this is the best one! One day we were turned over, I can’t remember who buy but the groundsman had filled the bath up at Sealand Road. Instead of putting cold water in, he put hot water in. And Harry, he jumps in the bath, burnt himself and come out screaming and shouting at us with a pair of red feet. He had scalded his feet. And that’s just one of the ones you could print! ”
And as Chris confirms, McNally wasn’t the only character to grace the club. “Over the years there’s been loads. I used to travel in with Eddie Bishop from Runcorn too, oh god he was always up to something, but you couldn’t print them stories! And when you put Billy Stewart and Gary Bennett together nobody could stop them.” But amidst all the humour, as for many a footballer, Chris recalls one of his greatest memories, the first goal he scored for Chester City. “The year we went up always sticks in my memory, but I always remember my first goal at Sealand Road against Notts County. We drew three all. I think it was only my second or third game for Chester.”
Lightfoot continued: “The biggest high point though must be the year we got promoted. At the end of the season it all went a bit pear shaped. Graham Wilks wouldn’t give Graham Barrow any money to keep the lads together that had done well. In the end Graham resigned and the players followed. Mike Pejic and Kevin Ratcliffe came in and to be fair to them, they were given no money and I think we were down before Christmas. So there’s a few disappointments as well, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself, made some good friends and I’ve seen a few of them today that I haven’t seen for a few years. It’s always nice to see familiar faces.”