Jack Anderton

John "Jack" Anderton. Unknown today but was a superstar in Wigan during the 1880s and early 1890s. He was everything a rugby player should be: athletic, powerful, skilled, fast and a great sense of humour.

Anderton was born on September 21, 1865. His first dealings with rugby came when he joined the Wigan second team aged 18 years old. The second team at this particular time were a formidable outfit - going undefeated for two seasons. Jack was at the heart of that success and even managed to defeat the Wigan first team during that run, such was their power.

"Jack" made his debut for Wigan aged 19 on 15th November, 1884 in a game against Bradford-in-Clayton, playing in the forward pack. He referred to as "Jack" Anderton Junior, as Wigan at the time had the services of fullback John Anderton (senior) so as to save confusion.

In his first season he played 6 times for Wigan first all in the forward line. Jack was a big lad but couldn't secure a place in the backline, a line which included Jim Slevin, Joe Clegg, Charlie Samuels, Hindley Smith (and others). It was only until the following Season that Jack started to cement a place in the first team. He started the campaign again in the forwards but by December he was playing centre - and scoring. The Wigan team at this period was settling down in terms of team sheets and the clubs first solid backline took shape, that of Anderton, Slevin, Jack Anderton and Samuels (back then they played one fullback and three three-quarter backs).

After a loss to Aspull in the Wigan Charity Cup Final in 1887, Jack left Wigan and joined the powerful Salford club. He was falsely accused of throwing the match so that Aspull could win, and win some bets. There was a small storm in the town regarding this, and it helped Jack move to Salford. Jack was insulted by many for the loss against Aspull due to his poor performance. The truth was some ignorant people betted on the match and when Wigan lost, Jack got the flack.

During his time at Salford he excelled and gained the high honour of being part of the first Anglo-Australian Tour down under, which I shall cover at the end.

Back to Wigan, Jack returned away at Swinton on December 15, 1888. At this time he was just 'helping out' the Wigan club whilst he got his fitness back and played two days later against the famed New Zealand Maoris. He wasn't influential as the New Zealanders knew all about Jack after his exploits during the Anglo-Aus tour during that summer. He finished the 1888-89 season with three appearances, re-appearing against Leigh at the end of April 1889 wearing his Anglo-Australian jersey in a match that was to raise funds for the Wigan Infirmary. I'm sure the crowd would hav been thrilled to see such a sight!

1889-90 was a good one. Jack threw his hat into the Wigan Club and excelled. Wigan were reaching their powerful heights of pre-Northern Union. Jack played a further 37 matches and finally winning his first silverware with Wigan, that being the West Lancashire and Wigan Union Cups.

His partnership with a strengthened backline of Jimmy Halliwell, James Slevin and Dick Seddon was the envy of all Lancashire clubs and could stand up against any club in the country. I will go as far as to argue that this backline would easily sit alongside that of Tuigamala, Connolly, Robinson, Offiah and Leytham, Jenkins, Todd and Miller. They were that good!

Jack was a joker too. It was noted that during a mini tour of Wales at Easter, 1890, Jack along with partner in crime Charlie Samuels did not anyone relax on the long train journeys. Pranking, singing, messing about. He id not bother the captain Jim Slevin, nobody would, but he was such a lively character.

Another Wigan Union Cup medal came to his possession in 1890-91. Once the Great Jim Slevin retired, Jack was named as vice-captain for the 1891-92 season, captaining the side in Dick Seddons absences but after 15 appearances, Jack had moved to Wakefield to join family. He eventually made his way into the great Wakefield Trinity side but did not impress at first, it took a bit of time for him to recover from his poor starts. In fact, at the end of the 1893-94 season, in a game between Wigan and Wakefield Trinity at Prescott Street, Jack Anderton captained Wakefield in front of 5,000. He must have been proud to have one last roll of the dice in Wigan. The crowd certainly enjoyed the occasion.

Wigan never really recovered from his loss, coupled with that of Slevin.

His stats for Wigan read:

Played - 154

Tries - 62

Goals - 108

Drop Goals - 3

Trophies - 3 (x1 West Lancahire Cup; x2 Wigan Union Cups)

Debut - 15th November, 1884 v. Bradford-in-Clayton @ Wigan

Last - 2nd January, 1892 v. Mossley @ Wigan


Firstly, Jack was a Salford player when he toured the Southern Hemisphere. It does not matter to earlyWIGANrugby as the following will give you a sense of how great a player Jack was, and how he was regarded within the town of Wigan.

At the beginning of March, 1888, it was to be known that Jack Anderton would be touring Australia. Some friends of his in Wigan decided that some kind of a souvenir be given to him in recognition of the honour that he had bestowed upon the town by his inclusion in such a football team. A subscription committee was organised, headed by Councillors Blaylock and Millington (part of the Wigan club), Mr. W.S. Rawcliffe and Mr. C.J. Taylor.

A presentation was made to Jack on Monday 7th March at the Wigan clubs headquarters, the Legs of Man Hotel. Jack received a gold watch chain with an appendage bearing the inscription: "Presented to 'Jack' Anderton, from his Wigan friends". The Wigan President Charlie Cronshaw chaired the evening and made the presentation, saying that 'Jack' had learned his football in Wigan, which was his nursery, and it was a great pleasure to him that a club like Salford, which was admittedly the champion club of Lancashire, had taken him within its fold. He thought his sterling merit on every occasion in the past could not have reaped a more fitting testimonial than that he had been chosen to play in the reserve for the Lancashire County against Edinburgh, and under ordinary circumstances they would have seen his name figuring in the county team. (He couldn't displace players such as England International Jim Valentine of course).

Cronshaw hoped that Andertons career in Australia be a successful one, and that he might gain as good a name there as he had done in Lancashire and England. Although he had gone out of Wigan, yet the Wigan Rugby Club had the pleasure of knowing that they had fostered him in his youth, and he hoped that Anderton might carry on the splendid career he seemed to have struck out for himself. Cronshaw said he hoped that Jack had a small token to remind him when he was thousands of miles away of the good fellowship, feeling, and wishes that had always existed between Anderton and his friends gathered together that evening.

In presenting the gold albert, Mr. Cronshaw hoped that Anderton would wear it, and that if it should be his lot to remain out in Australia that it would remind him of his native town. Mr. Cronshaw also presented Jack with a box of cigars from one of his football friends, and trusted that although the cigars would end in smoke, his trip to Australia would not!

The music started to play as Anderton gave thanks.

Of course, Jack was a loss to Salford too, whereby they gave him their own gift before he headed off on the train down South and to his onward journey.

Jack sent a letter to the Athletic News dated 15th March, 1888 whilst on board the S.S. Kaikboura whilst off the coast of Tenerife (graphic)...

A wider glance at that particular Tour can be found elsewhere online so have a look at the following:



Whilst on a New Zealand part of the Tour, a Mr. T. Gregory, a native of Wigan, who was then residing in New Zealand, had the fortune to meet Jack and the touring party. In a letter sent to his sister who lived in Aspull, Mr. Gregory said "I went over to Wellington, on the 11th May, to see the English footballers play on the 12th, as I saw by the telegrams that nine of them came from Lancashire, including one from Wigan. I can hardly tell you how I felt to see someone from my native place. As it happened twelve of them were stopping at the same hotel that I did in Wellington, and the Wiganer was one of them, named Anderton. He gave me his card, which I enclose, We had a hearty shake of hands, and he told me all the news about Wigan. He knew scores of people that I did. I was glad I went over to Wellington, and when the footballers return to England I wish you to call and see him, and ask him about me going fifty miles across Cook's Straits just to have a chat about home with them."

Wasn't life much simpler back then eh?

The following is of an interview Jack gave once he returned from the Tour (I'm not typing it out) from the Athletic News November, 1888:


It's nice to know that a Wiganer was part of Rugby history in a small part, despite being a Salford player at the time. But this next part shows you the reader that these men, not just Jack, are worthy of being remembered today.

Monday 12th November, 1888 "Crossbar", Wigan Observer:

A reception worthy of a king was given to Jack Anderton on his return from abroad on Monday night. As a member of the English team of footballers, Anderton has gained distinction while o'er the water, and his numerous friends in Wigan, who have read every scrap of information about his footballing out there, have been pleased to note how popular Jack was wherever he went. The good ship, Kaikouri, which conveyed the team from England on March 10, brought the players to Plymouth on Sunday morning, and on the following night Anderton landed at Wigan hale and hearty and looking a lot benefited by the trip.

There was a great crowd at the station to welcome him back, and all sorts of plans were adopted to get on the platform. Who was that who "showed his hand" by asking for tickets for Ince? Aye, and who was that silvery voiced gentleman who surprised the (Preston) North End footballers suddenly opening the door of their saloon carriage and commanding them to put Jack forth, when he was in another part of the train?

When Jack was found he was besieged with welcomes, and the scene testified how popular Anderton is with his townsmen. If he would play for Wigan again, how the people would love him!

Jack arrived back into Wigan around half past nine in the evening in pouring rain yet the crowds still massed at the main London and North Western train station to greet him. His appearance had leaked during the day, it must have been like knowing that The Beatles were arriving in town such was the hype. As the train steamed into the station a vigorous cheer was rained, and on Anderton being seen standing at one of the carriage windows there was an immediate rush in that direction and the hand shaking was most enthusiastic. It was with some difficulty that he could get clear of the platform, an attempt was made for him to be put onto the shoulders of several of the more enthusiastic of supporters of his was made. Luckily he resisted and took a cab home down Standishgate. On his way up Wallgate, Anderton wa repeatedly applauded..

Jack needs to be remembered. He really was a Superstar footballer.

Jack (far right, stood, arms folded) alongside his Touring party.