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13 February 2013

Richard Day looks back on the centre-forward's career

William Baldwin was born in Leigh, January 31 1907 and began his footballing career at local side Abram Wanderers.

The centre-forward joined then Midland League side Scunthorpe & Lindsey United in December 1929 where he was to score 35 goals.

Spells then followed at Chesterfield (May 1930), Barrow (June 1931) and Oldham Athletic (May 1932) although he was principally a reserve player at all three clubs.

Then on 16 June 1933 Southport manager Jimmy Commins, who had been his boss at Barrow, took him to Haig Avenue where he was second highest scorer, 13 goals in 23 league games.

The following summer (July 1934) he moved south and joined Gillingham and he made his debut on the opening day of the season in a 3-1 home victory over Torquay United but he was in and out of the side in the opening months.

On November 17 Bill scored his first goal for the club in a 2-2 draw with Southend United here at Priestfield. It was after this game he remained in the team for the rest of the campaign and ended as top scorer with 14 goals in his 34 league and cup games.

The following season he made another 32 appearances and scored another 14 goals which included a hat-trick in a 4-0 away triumph at Exeter City in an FA Cup First Round tie.

A season at Crewe Alexandra followed but it was after retiring from football that Bill came to national prominence in Crown Green Bowling.

He captained the North Midlands county side for 25 years and won five County crowns.  In 1956 he became the first player from the county to reach the final of the British Crown Green Amateur Bowling Association Merit (All England) but lost 21-14 to Shropshire’s E. Fish at Meole Brace BC in Shrewsbury.

Bill suffered a semi-final defeat on ‘home soil’ as North Midlands staged the 1960 finals at Alfred Herberts BC but then in 1965 he finally became the counties first winner by beating Yorkshire’s G. Matthews 21-19 at Severnside BC again in Shrewsbury.

He died at Gulson Hospital in Coventry on 1st November 1982 a fortnight after collapsing on a bowling green locally.

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