SPORTING hero Wilf Hall, from a Haydock side-street, stepped out to become a sensational goalkeeping star.

And yet, initially, he was only pressed into donning the keeper's jersey when helping, as a teenaged kit-boy with a local amateur team.

He seized his chance, performed brilliantly and at 17 was head-hunted by Stoke City, then in the English premier league.

Later he was transferred for a then whacking fee of £4,250 to first-division Ipswich in 1958 -the fee allowing Stoke to re-buy their legendary favourite, Stan Matthews, the wizard of dribble.

Later, Wilf who has died from cancer at the age of 72, played for Ipswich for five years, but then broke his shoulder in four places and was advised by the doctors never to play football again.

But after a short retirement he kicked against the medical advice and started playing for the Macclesfield club. It lasted for an incredible 14 seasons.

Wilf was brought up at the old Twenty-eight Row' (Haydock Lane) but eventually adopted Macclesfield as his hometown.

His old soccer mate, Eric Bond, well remembers Wilf of the heroic, no-nonsense style and his mop of thick black hair.

Wilf began his career as kit-boy with a local junior team, says Eric, before seizing his chance as stand-in keeper in the talented open-age side. Soon the town's major club, Haydock C&B, stalwarts of the Liverpool County Combination, were after his signature.

Wilf made further progress when semi-pro club, Earlestown FC, of the Lancashire Combination, then grabbed him. Bigger fish joined in, and Wilf was signed by Stoke City. Next stop, Ipswich, with wages leaping from £7 to £80 a week.

Then that multiple shoulder injury, followed by the persuasion of Frank Bowyer (they played together in the same Stoke City side) to become the side's emergency goalkeeper.

"The emergency lasted for another 14 years," says Eric Bond.

And Wilf still holds the Cheshire record for the fewest conceded goals in a season -31 goals in 42 matches.

He won every medal there was to win, while Macclesfield were then in the Non League. Wilf went back as trainer, then as groundsman and finally as a director.

"Wilf's love affair with Macclesfield Town never ended," says Eric, "but his worn-out hips, a legacy of his long spell as goalkeeper, sadly did."

Wilf leaves a wife, Kathleen, daughter Jayne, son Robert and grandson Timothy whom he loved to watch in his boyhood days.

The funeral was on Monday and a minute's silence, in his memory, was planned before a Macclesfield home fixture.