'Hard as nails' footballer who played for rival clubs in FA Cup dies

Eric Kirk, at 21-years-old, lining out for Gorleston FC in October 1951.

Eric Kirk, at 21-years-old, lining out for Gorleston FC in October 1951. - Credit: Courtesy of Andrew Kirk

He was a local footballing legend who played in FA Cup ties for both Gorleston and Great Yarmouth.

Eric Kirk, who has died after a short illness, was unique on the coast having lined out for both clubs in proper first round ties of the national competition. 

In 1951, he wore the green and white of Gorleston in their three-round contest against Leyton Orient and two years later put on arch-rivals Great Yarmouth Town's amber and black strip in their famous 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace.

A Great Yarmouth Town FC line-up from the 1953/54 season.

A Great Yarmouth Town FC line-up from the 1953/54 season. Eric Kirk is at the back row, standing third from the right. - Credit: Courtesy of Andrew Kirk

Mr Kirk was born in Gorleston in 1930 to Walter and Mildred Kirk. A decade earlier, his father had played for Norwich City FC.

He attended St Mary's Catholic School and Alderman Leach, before leaving school at 14 years old and working on the petrol pumps at a garage in Gorleston.


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At 18, he was called up for national service and in the late 1940s was sent to Malaya where British forces were fighting pro-independence guerillas.

He had started playing football before his stint in the military and on his return home took up his boots again, having signed up for Gorleston FC.

A matchday programme for Gorleston FC's FA Cup first round tie against Leyton Orient in 1951.

A matchday programme for the second leg of Gorleston FC's FA Cup first round tie against Leyton Orient in 1951. - Credit: Courtesy of Andrew Kirk

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It wasn't long before he was playing in the epic tussle with Leyton Orient, which saw scorelines of 2-2 in the first away leg and then a scoreless draw at the Rec, before the London side won 5-4 in the deciding game at the neutral ground of Highbury.

Pink Un November 1953

The Pink Un reports on Great Yarmouth Town FC's famous win over Crystal Palace in a 1953 FA Cup first round tie. - Credit: Submitted

In 1953, he played for the Bloaters when they defeated Crystal Palace 1-0 in the FA Cup first round proper at Wellesley Road, watched by 8,944 fans.

He later moved to Lowestoft FC before finally hanging up his boots in 1963.

Mr Kirk also worked at Hartmanns and then Birdseye.

Meanwhile, in 1951, he married Pamela. After they exchanged vows, the bride joined him on the Gorleston team bus and Mr Kirk played football that afternoon, his new wife watching from the stands.

Pink Un November 21 1953

A report in the Pink Un on November 21, 1953, after Great Yarmouth's victory over Crystal Palace in the FA Cup first round. - Credit: Submitted

In 1985, when Birdseye shut its factory in Yarmouth, he took redundancy.

He went on to run a guesthouse with his wife on St Peter's Road before retiring in 2001.

His son Andrew Kirk said: "I couldn't think of a better dad. He always supported me.

"When he played football he was as hard as nails," he added.

Mr Kirk died on May 21 at Marine Court care home. He was 90 years old.





  

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