Legends countdown hits the 70s!

By David Watters

The EVO-STIK League's countdown of top one hundred players before the greatest player of all time is crowned during Saturday night's end of season awards has hit the seventies!

After thousands of votes and nominations from fans, clubs and members of the media for the Northern Premier League's legends over the course of the historic 50th anniversary 2017-18 season, the winner and the stars in second and third place will be named at Blackpool's Hilton Hotel after the countdown kicked off at 7pm on Monday night.

Ten more NPL stars of the last five decades from 80 to 71 are revealed tonight on the competition's officail website and social media channels with the rest to come in descending order at 7pm every night this week before the top 40 are named on Saturday in the run-up to the annual party for more than 400 guests on the Fylde coast.

Giant screens at the event, as well as the competition's social media channels broadcasting the celebrations live, will reveal the top seven players live on the night while clubs and players collect their accolades before EVO-STIK League chairman Mark Harris brings the week long countdown to a climax with the top three and a salute to all the legends.

Number 80 Wayne Benn

Number 80 Wayne Benn

Launched last September, the online poll to choose the top 100 players to feature in a specially commissioned book charting the NPL's proud history since 1968 captured the public’s imagination within hours of opening with more than 2,000 players nominated and thousands of votes subsequently cast.

NPL50 Top 100 Players
80 to 71 ...

80 Wayne Benn
Benn kicked off his career at Bradford City before signing for local rivals Bradford Park Avenue in 1995 and going on to make more than 400 appearances for the club while being named ‘Player of the Season’ on several occasions. He briefly played on loan at Halifax Town before returning to Avenue in September 1996 and was ‘Player of the Season’ in 1998-99. Left on a permanent basis in January 2004 to sign for Frickley Athletic and then Emley before moving to Ossett Town. Benn’s touchline career started as manager of South Kirkby Colliery in July 2010 having previously worked as the assistant manager at Guiseley and Bradford Park Avenue. He went on to guide Hemsworth Miners Welfare in the Northern Counties East Football League before taking over at Goole in the NPL.

79 Chris Howarth
Howarth was known to have played for Harrogate Railway, Frickley Athletic, Wakefield & Emley, Garforth Town and Bradford Park Avenue. A plasterer by trade and now 34, Chris won promotion to the NPL with Harrogate Railway in 2006. A player with a wealth of experience and eye for goal that won him a 'golden boot' at Wakefield & Emley, his other career highlights include reaching the Fourth and Final Qualifying Round of the FA Cup with Bradford Park Avenue in 2013 after scoring a last minute winner against Penrith.

Number 79 Chris Howarth

Number 79 Chris Howarth

78 Chris Slater
A central defender, Slater joined Chasetown in 2003-04 from Wolverhampton Wanderers and was a part of Chasetown’s FA Cup successes in 2005-06 and 2007-08 which prompted Port Vale to sign him. He made 13 appearances for the Valiants before re-signing doe Chasetown and becoming the first Scholars star to be nominated in the EVO-STIK League Division One South 'Team of the Year'. The club’s former skipper made his 500th appearance during 2014-15 season and became the club’s all-time record appearance holder before leaving in 2016. Was number two at Walsall Wood last season after teaming up with former Scholars team-mate Gary Birch in May 2017 following his appointment to manage the Oak Park outfit.

77 Tom Fenoughty
One three footballing brothers at Chesterfield, the Gladiators legend was signed by Sheffield United from Sheffield FC in 1964. After 49 appearances and four goals, he moved on to Chesterfield in 1969 where he made a further 101 appearances and scored 15 more times. As a graduate of Manchester University in 1972, he retired from the full-time game and returned to his career as a pharmaceutical chemist, opting to play part-time for Matlock Town. The move didn't hold him back. During five years as a player he scored one of the club’s goals in their 4-0 1975 FA Trophy victory over Scarborough at Wembley before going to take the helm at Causeway Lane for four years.

76 Jack Duggan
A powerful, strong central defender who signed for Stourbridge from Rushall Olympic for a fee in July 2016, Duggan was brought up in Blackpool. Commanding in the air and a threat at set-pieces, he kicked off his career with Fleetwood Town, rising through the ranks during loan spells with Lancaster City and Chester before being released by the Cod Army in the spring of 2012. Duggan went on to join Kendal Town in July 2012 before following boss Lee Ashcroft to Northwich Victoria in December 2012. Signed for Rushall in the summer of 2013 where he was soon impressing again at the heart of defence.

75 Brian Fidler
Fidler played for a host of clubs including Heanor Town, Macclesfield Town, Rotherham, Gainsborough Trinity, Worksop Town, Stafford Rangers and Boston United. A player with an outstanding personality, he was nicknamed ‘Mr Showman’ by opponents as he liked to celebrate his goals with a lap of honour! Said to be one of the most gifted players in the NPL, one of his most important goals for Macclesfield Town came in the 1970 FA Trophy Final at Wembley in their 2-0 victory over Telford United. He was top-scorer on three occasions, 1966-67, 1967-68 and in 1970-71 when he scored 39 goals in all competitions. Fidler is still the third highest goalscorer for the Silkmen behind Steve Burr and Harold Kelly. A member of the NPL's 'Champions Teams' of 1968-69 and 1969-70, he also collected two Cheshire Senior Cup winners' medals in 1969 and 1971 before leaving in 1972 for Stafford Rangers and later Boston United.

Number 78 Chris Slater

Number 78 Chris Slater

74 Howard Wilkinson
Now 74, former Boston United, Brighton & Hove Albion, Hallam, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday player Wilkinson remains the last English manager to win the top-flight in England with Leeds United. A former England caretaker manager on two occasions, he helped lead Boston United to back-to-back NPL titles as a winger in 1972–73 and 1973–74 before managing the Pilgrims as player-boss and lifting the NPL Challenge Cup and Challenge Shield in 1976. Enticed away from Boston to join Mossley as player-manager in December 1976, he helped the Lilywhites climb the NPL table to finish to a ninth-placed finish after 19 successive unbeaten games. His side also won the Manchester Senior Cup with Wilkinson making 30 appearances.

73 Eammon O’Keefe
O’Keefe turned out for a long list of clubs at home and abroad including Stalybridge Celtic, Plymouth Argyle, Hyde United, Al-Hilal, Mossley, Everton, Wigan Athletic, Port Vale, Blackpool, Cork City, St Patricks Athletic, Chester City and Bangor City.The Republic of Ireland international played as a teenager for Stalybridge Celtic before a spell with Plymouth Argyle. He didn't make the Plymouth side but went instead to play for top Saudi Arabian Club Al Hilal before returning to Manchester disillusioned and signing for Mossley in December 1976 under Howard Wilkinson as a left full-back. Upon Bob Murphy's return to Seel Park as manager a year later, O'Keefe moved into an attacking midfield position and it was one he relished. His pace, power and eye for goal saw him help Mossley to an NPL league and cup double in 1978-79 as well as earning him a call-up to England’s semi-pro side. He played against Scotland and Holland in a 1979 tournament and scored the winning goal against Holland in the final before switching allegiance to the Republic of Ireland, a decision which later led to him being banned by FIFA from all international football for breaking rules on playing for two nations! O’Keefe was inducted into Blackpool’s Hall of Fame in 2006.

72 David Merris
Merris was a member of the youth system of hometown club Rotherham United before joining Guiseley in 1998. The defender, who also turned out for York, moved to Harrogate Town in September 1999 and won the NPL First Division title in season 2001-02. In total, he made 148 appearances and scored 11 goals for Harrogate Town. After joining Ossett Town in 2014 as a player coach, the 37-year-old was appointed player-assistant manager before moving on to Scarborough Athletic in 2016.

71 Simon Bishop
Middlesborough-born and originally an intern at Newcastle United, the keeper started out at Northallerton and Whitby before a move to Dunston FB and then Barrow in 2000 where he made more than 200 appearances in two stints and won countless playing honours including the supporters’, players’, website's and national supporters club’s 'Player of the Year' accolades in his final season. After moving on to Spennymoor, he was thrown in at the deep end on his arrival at Stalybridge in 2007, stepping straight into the starting eleven against Worcester.

Number 77 Tom Fenoughty

Number 77 Tom Fenoughty

Main image courtesy of Rob Lock

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Number 76 Jack Duggan

Number 76 Jack Duggan

Number 75 Brian Fidler

Number 75 Brian Fidler

Number 74 Howard Wilkinson

Number 73 Eamonn O'Keefe

Number 72 Dave Merris

Number 71 Simon Bishop

Where next?

Dabbers are second to suffer raid Nantwich Town are set to launch an emergency fundraising appeal after becoming the second EVO-STIK League club to be raided by thieves and vandals.
League statement: points deduction The Football Association has deducted 12 points from Rushall Olympic's record last season and imposed a fine of £100 for playing an ineligible player in the EVO-STIK League.

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