Joe Marston was a footballing pioneer, the first Australian to feature in an FA Cup final and one of the most revered players in the history of Preston North End. The tough and tireless centre-half starred at Deepdale throughout the first half of the 1950s, excelling as the Lancastrians lifted the Second Division title in 1951, then finished title runners-up to Arsenal in 1952-53, missing out by around a 10th of a goal under the archaic system which differentiated between teams on the same number of points.
He defied convention to be picked for the Football League – traditionally the England side under another banner and only rarely augmented by foreigners – in March 1955, when he scored an own goal in a 3-2 defeat by the Scottish League at Hampden Park.
A paintbrush-maker and volunteer lifeguard, he was playing for Leichhardt Annandale in New South Wales after the war when he was spotted by a Deepdale scout. Preston paid £665 to bring Marston, accompanied by his wife Edith, to England for a trial in 1949 and they signed him in February 1950. Profiting from regular stopper Harry Mattinson’s broken leg in January 1951, the newcomer shone during the remainder of that promotion campaign and played nearly 200 successive games.
In 1954 he was a linchpin alongside the illustrious likes of star English winger Tom Finney and Scottish wing-half Tommy Docherty as Preston conceded a late goal to lose the FA Cup final 3-2 to West Bromwich Albion.
Thereafter Marston was eyed covetously by Arsenal but in the summer of 1955 he dismayed his Deepdale admirers by announcing that he was homesick and wanted to go home. The club wanted to hang on to him, the fans campaigned to keep him and the Lord Mayor of Preston started a fund to persuade him to stay, but he was not for turning and rejoined Annandale.
Made captain of Australia a week after touching down, he went on to win 37 full caps and thrive for APIA Leichhardt, who named a stand after him. Later he coached successfully for his country, for New South Wales and for four clubs. Preston fans demonstrated long memories in voting him fourth in a poll to determine North End’s greatest player, the award to the top performer in the National League Soccer Final was named after him and in 1980 he was awarded the MBE.
James Edward Marston, footballer: born Sydney 7 January 1926; MBE; married Edith; died New South Wales 29 November 2015.Reuse content