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Marston’s Lilywhites legend lives on

by John Davidson on Dec 19, 2012

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Local legends don’t come much bigger in our game than James Edward Marston. Known as Joe, Marston captained and coached the Socceroos, as well has having a 15-year coaching career in the NSW State League. He has an MBE, an Australian Sports Medal and his own Australia Post stamp, while the award for the A-League grand final man of the match is named after him. In July he was selected as a member of Australia’s Greatest Ever Football Team. But he is best known as being one of the early pioneers of Australian football, paving the way for other Australians playing abroad. The Leichhardt-Annandale and Socceroo defender moved to England in 1950 to join Preston North End, one of the UK’s biggest clubs at the time.

Marston’s five years in Lancashire were a roaring success. He made 185 appearances for Preston and was the first Australian to play in an FA Cup final, which he did in the 1954 loss to West Bromwich Albion. Marston was highly regarded at Deepdale, playing alongside the likes of Tom Finney and Tommy Docherty, and was selected for a Football League XI to play against the Scottish Football League representative side. He eventually returned to Australia in 1956 because of homesickness, but received a roaring farewell at Preston. The centre-half is still regarded as one of the legends of the club and was voted by fans as the Lilywhites fourth greatest player ever, no mean feat considering the kind of stars that have played for Preston in the past 132 years.

Marston’s playing career in the north-west of England might have ended more than 50 years ago but his legacy remains large at Preston, according to Bailey Wright, a 20-year old defender from Victoria currently playing for the club. “You get to hear fans all the time… they always ask you ‘do you know who he is?’,” Wright says. “Of course you do, you hear about him all the time.”

“He’s an obvious legend of the club. The club’s got a lot of legends and by the sounds of it he was up there with him. Obviously, a centre-half as well, so it would be nice to follow his footsteps. I’d love to be able to play in an FA Cup final with the club, definitely. And being an Aussie as well, yeah, it’s nice.”

Wright joined Preston as a 16-year old and has come through the club’s youth and reserves ranks to become a first-team player. He has made more than 20 senior appearances for Preston so far and his preferred position is centre-back, just like Marston.

VIEW JOHN DAVIDSON’S EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH BAILEY WRIGHT

While the historic club is currently in League One, it has loftier ambitions. Preston spent the decade of 2000-2010 in the Championship, but it was relegated in the 2010-2011 season and has found promotion back up hard to secure. Wright, a former Australian Under-17 representative, is not the only Aussie currently on the books at Preston. Shane Candsell-Sherriff, a 30-year old from Sydney, joined the Whites in May from Shrewsbury Town. Cansdell-Sherriff has had a storied career since his NSWIS days, from stints at Leeds United and Denmark’s AGF Aarhus to Tranmere Rovers and Shrewsbury. Like Wright and Marston, Cansdell-Sherriff is also a central defender who has been deployed at fullback.

In some games this season Wright and Cansdell-Sherriff have appeared together in the Preston backline. “It’s nice to have another Aussie here,” Wright says. “It’s just the little things that we can have a little bit of banter about. He’s a good lad. We’ve played together a few times. It’s been good to play alongside him.”

Joe Marston, now 86 years old, lives on the Central Coast but still loves his beloved Preston. His place among the greats of Australian football, and in Preston North End folklore, is secured. There are few people in our sport more decent and more humble than Joe Martson. A true gentleman, he remains an inspiration for the hundreds of Aussie footballers plying their trade around the world. It’s because of the efforts of men like Marston that so many Australians today, Wright and Cansdell-Sherriff included, can chase their footballing dreams abroad.