Great Harwood Legends

John Eastham

John Eastham was not only a loyal servant to Great Harwood Town FC, he was one of the finest strikers to play for the club since the days of Douglas, Vernon and Co. in the 1970’s.

Standing 6’1” and weighing in at just over 13 stones, John has the perfect build for a centre forward. He lives in Blackburn with his girlfriend J.B. who recently opened her own hairdressing salon. John himself works in the building trade. His favourite football team is Blackburn Rovers and his top players of all time are George Best and Zinedine Zidane. His finest moment came at Old Trafford in 1991 when he competed in the Bobby Charlton Football Skills Final, and not surprisingly, Old Trafford is the best ground that he’s played on. His biggest disappointment was not winning that competition.

***

Hobbies outside football include stocks and shares, computing, golf and running and he’s competed in several London marathons.

Particular ‘likes’ are Abersoch beach, which he describes as a ‘gorgeous two mile stretch of the North Wales coastline that has escaped commercialism’.

Dislikes are monetary taxation, red tape, bureaucracy and filling in forms.

Despite his undoubted skill, which should have been displayed at a far higher level than NWCFL, ‘Eastie’ resisted the advances of many envious clubs to stick with the Robins till the very end. How apt that he should score a fabulous goal in our last ever game.

John signed for Harwood in 2002 and immediately became a fans’ favourite with his 100% commitment, skill and goal scoring prowess. His first goal for Harwood came at Crook Town in an FA Cup replay and it proved to be vital as the Robins gained a 1-1 draw before taking the tie 7-6 on penalties.

***

Over the years he became the club’s most prolific striker since the days of Pete Smith and Paul Baker a decade earlier during Harwood’s halcyon period.

But for two dreadful injuries, he could in fact have become the club’s record scorer although even so, he hit a total of 54 goals during his four years here. He scored 45 NWCFL goals, two in the FA Cup, two in the FA Vase, two in the Marsden Trophy, two in the Division Two Trophy and one in the League Challenge Cup. He hit just the one hat-trick, in the 5-3 home win against Stone Dominoes at the beginning of December 2004. Season 2002/03 saw Eastie knock in a total of 24 goals to take the ‘leading scorer’ crown.

***

The following season saw much of the same with 6 strikes in the first month but the last of those, against Cheadle Town at the Showground, proved to be the last one of the season as Eastie suffered a bad knee injury after an accidental collision with the visiting goalkeeper. Harwood had fought back from a two-goal deficit with Eastie scoring the equaliser. Manager John Hughes said: “We managed to snatch a point after dominating much of the game but my main concern is really the extent of John’s injury.

***

He’s a key player for us and I just hope it isn’t as bad as we fear it is.”

It was almost a year before he scored again and how the Robins missed him as promotion appeared to have passed them by. Nevertheless we managed to go up via the ‘back door’ but to compete in the higher division, we would need a fully fit John Eastham firing on all cylinders.

***

The opening day of the 2004/05 campaign saw a hungry Eastie score against visitors Curzon Ashton whilst helping his side to an emphatic 3-0 win. He hit two more at Congleton before another brace against New Mills eased us into the next round of the FA Vase. His next goal took almost a month to arrive but it proved to be purely academic as we lost 4-1at 2 nd Division Nelson in the Marsden Trophy. With the Robins struggling at the foot of the 1 st Division, the team finally hit top form, inspired by our excellent centre forward. High-flying St. Helens were fortunate to leave the Showground with a 3-3 draw after being outplayed for the majority of the game. Stone Dominoes were then hammered 5-3 but a series of poor results saw us unable to get out of the bottom two. A crunch game in January against our fellow relegation strugglers Formby gave Eastie his next goal but although we dropped two points after a 2-2 draw, the club suffered a desperate blow as our leading scorer broke his arm in what was once again an accidental collision. With Eastie in obvious pain, the referee decided to play on for some time before allowing the physio onto the pitch!

Things just got worse and worse for the Robins as later the same evening there was the infamous arson attack on the adjoining ‘alleged’ drugs den known as Monroes .

***

Once again the injury prematurely ended the season for John and there’s no doubt that it was a deciding factor in our relegation in May. It was September before the Harwood faithful were treated to the silky skills of John Eastham again and he was soon off the mark delighting the huge following at Oldham Town where the Robins won 2-1 in the FA Cup. From then on it was goals all the way and a remarkable record of 9 wins in a row when he scored. That run of victories saw Eastie hit 11 goals and a further 5 helped us to 6 th place, sadly not enough to see us go up.

***

John Eastham’s four years at the club could have seen him leave for ‘greener pastures’ at any time but he stayed loyal to the Robins and left the small band of supporters with great memories. He scored more spectacular goals than Bobby Charlton and the dozen or so supporters who travelled to all Harwood games will be able to cherish those memories for the rest of their lives.

***

Not surprisingly, a host of clubs clambered for John’s signature after the demise of Harwood at the end of the season and although FC United expressed an interest, nothing ever came of that. Radcliffe Borough seemed to be in the driving seat but with work commitments taking precedence, he ended up playing once again for former manager John Hughes who had taken over at highly ambitious Whinney Hill.

John Eastham

Great Harwood ‘legend’

Back to Top of Page

   
Go to the Harwood Home Page Go to the Harwood Home Page Contacts Page Take a look at our souvenirs
©2009 J Fenton