Tonight, Prescot Cables and Ashton Town meet in the Liverpool Senior Cup for the first time in seven years. That game ended in victory for Cables, who went on to win the tournament at the end of the 2016-17 season. The photo of the Pesky Bulls captain, James McCulloch, hoisting the magnificent trophy is possibly the most iconic image of the club’s recent history, so it’s fitting that McCulloch is likely to play for the visitors this evening. The word ‘legend’ is often overused, especially in football, but is certainly appropriate when considering his contribution to the club.
James McCulloch made his debut for Cables on 28th October 2008, in a 2-2 draw at Matlock Town in the Northern Premier League, Premier Division. It was a difficult time; the club’s ground had been sold to developers by a former Chairman and Prescot had lost nine out of the 14 League matches played before the trip to Derbyshire. Cables would be relegated in last place at the season’s end, 13 points adrift of second-bottom Leigh Genesis and twenty points short of safety. That’s not to say that the campaign wasn’t without highlights; McCulloch scored his first goals for Prescot in a ‘Boxing Day Massacre’ at Marine, finding the net twice in a 6-3 win. In total, ‘Kirk’ (a nickname bestowed thanks to a youthful resemblance to a Coronation Street character), made 30 appearances in the 2008-09 season, scoring five goals.
So began a relationship between player and club which lasted 13 years. McCulloch was at the club during the chaotic 2011-12 season, during which Cables had five different managers. By the end of the following season, Kirk had racked up 100 appearances in the starting eleven as he established himself as a First Team regular.
By 2016, McCulloch was the Club Captain and played for Prescot against tonight’s visitors in the First Round of the Liverpool Senior Cup, a match Cables won 9-0. Emphatic wins over AFC Liverpool and Bootle set up a memorable night here at the Joseph Russell Stadium, in which Prescot defeated Southport 2-0 to claim the County Cup for the first time. Kirk played in every round, scoring against AFC Liverpool. What’s more, he played in 51 out of 52 First Team matches during that campaign.
The following season saw the skipper make a further 46 appearances, taking his career total to more than 300. However, work commitments prevented McCulloch from playing in the 2018 Liverpool Senior Cup Final, in which Cables won 4-0 at Marine. It was left to Lloyd Dean to lift the trophy on that night, but Kirk was back in the side for the last League match and the play-offs, scoring in the semi-final against Trafford. The following season, 2018-19, saw McCulloch play 44 times for the Pesky Bulls as Cables narrowly missed out on the play-offs and were beaten on penalties in the Liverpool Senior Cup Final – their fourth consecutive appearance in the showpiece match.
McCulloch remained a virtual ever-present during the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season, playing in 37 out of the 38 matches Cables completed and started in all twelve of the matches Prescot played in the abandoned 2020-21 campaign. It was the arrival of Craig Davies as Manager that was to spell a shift in the relationship between Kirk and the club.
McCulloch – a firm fans’ favourite by this point – started five of the first six competitive matches played by Cables in 2021-22, but was then dropped for Prescot’s first League win of the season, at home to Ramsbottom United. The following week, for an FA Cup tie at home to Whitby Town, the club captain was again among the substitutes but played three quarters of the game after replacing the injured Martyn Jackson. The game was lost 3-0, McCulloch was booked and left the club after 430 appearances in which he scored 24 times.
To the dismay of many Prescotians, McCulloch then signed for Widnes, who were managed by former Cables player David Dempsey, who had also applied for the Manager’s job when Davies was appointed. Ironically, when the two clubs met here at the Joseph Russell Stadium on 12th October 2021, Craig Davies had been replaced by Kevin Lynch, for whom the match was his first game in charge. The atmosphere that night was toxic and certainly not helped by Dempsey cavorting down the touchline when Widnes scored what proved to be the only goal of a dour game.
It would be a shame if that match proved to be James McCulloch’s valedictory performance on the Hope Street pitch. In this day and age, a player staying with one club for as long as Kirk did with us is almost as rare as a hen’s tooth and, whatever happened two years ago, he deserves the respect and appreciation of all Cables supporters. If he plays for Ashton Town tonight, let’s give him a warm welcome.