ON APRIL 8, 1957, Wes Maughan should have been at his desk in the accounts department of J.S. White’s shipyard in Cowes.

In fact, he was heading north to Old Trafford with Southampton Youth to take on the might of Sir Matt Busby’s youngsters in the second leg of the FA Youth Cup semi-final.

They had lost the first leg at the Dell, but made history by winning 3-2 in front of a 17,000 crowd to become the first team to beat the Manchester United babes in this competition in 43 games.

Wes scored two of them.

Despite losing 7-5 on aggregate against a side comprising David Gaskell, Alex Dawson and Ken Morgans, the Saints youngsters reached new heights, with a team that included Terry Paine and John Sydenham.

At that time, Southampton were a Third Division club.

After his brilliant display at Old Trafford, Wes was offered professional terms at the Dell, which he put on hold for a while.

That chance in the Saints youth team had arisen around a year earlier at Westwood Park, Cowes.

The Isle of Wight FA Youth played the Southampton FA Youth in the semi-final of the Hampshire Youth Inter-Association Cup.

Saints boss, Ted Bates, had slipped into the ground to eye the potential of the Southampton-based footballers.

It was not a good day for them ­— the talented Island side won 6-1 and Wes scored four of them.

At the time, Wes was playing for Cowes, after being spotted scoring so many goals for Cowes Secondary and then JS White’s FC, for whom he’d scored over 100 goals in one season.

He was lightning quick and skilful and was the scourge of local defenders.

No wonder Ted quickly contacted the Cowes secretary.

Wes, whose parents owned a corner shop in Belle Vue Road, Cowes, was brought up in a very Christian Salvation Army family.

He was a regular in their brass band ­— but not on Saturday afternoons.

He was a role model for many youngsters and also inspired budding young local musicians like Maurice Keat.

When he was offered full professional terms with Southampton, Wes decided he would firstly become a semi-professional and continue his qualifications as an accountant.

He worked at White’s in the day and trained at night, and began in the Hampshire League with Saints A.

“I was always concerned about the timing of going fully professional,” said Wes.

“If I had gone earlier, would I have done more at a higher level? To me it was important that I achieved my accountancy qualifications.”

During his three full-time seasons at the Dell, Wes had real problems breaking into an outstanding forward line for a Third Division side.

It comprised Terry Paine, George O’Brien, Derek Reeves, Tommy Mulgrew and John Sydenham.

He got opportunities through injuries, which weren’t as frequent as today.

In 101 reserve games he hit 47 goals.

His first goal in the Football League had been against Sheffield United.

Wes was a gentleman on and off the field.

Some thought he was too nice to be a professional footballer. In fact, Ted Bates did try and rough him up a bit.

In the end, he decided he wanted regular first team football.

If there had been subs in those days he could have proved such a match winner with his pace, skill and work rate.

Reading came in for him ­— he’d made his Football League debut against them, and he was sold for £6,000, which was good money back in 1962.

Their manager was Harry Johnston, who played 331 games for Blackpool.

In his home debut for Reading Wes hit a hat-trick against West Ham, whose team included Bobby Moore, in a friendly.

The perfect start.

Then tragedy struck when after 16 first team games, he suffered a serious groin injury and was out for six months.

That eventually led to an exit from Elm Park and his hopes of a long run in first team soccer.

He said: “There had been some good times at Reading and one in particular.

“Jackie Milburn had been my schoolboy hero and I had his pictures all around my bedroom walls.

“He was the coach at Reading and I learned a lot from him, especially about movement.”

Several league clubs were interested in signing Wes but he decided to transition to Southern League football, which in those days was the standard of today’s National League.

That led to another 12 seasons in football.

When he joined Chelmsford they were full time professionals and had regular gates of 4,000.

He became an instant hero and was averaging 30 to 40 goals a season.

During his non-league days he also played for Cambridge United, Brentwood Town and Bexley United.

For the last eight years of his career he went semi-pro.

Then his accounting skills enabled him to earn two wage packets.

He was better off than playing Football League football.

He was employed in the accounts department of the American business giants, Du Pont.

His flair for the commerce world quickly led him to their burgeoning computer department and then he joined the jet-set for meetings in Europe and America.

It proved that staying at JS White’s to obtain his accountancy qualifications had been a shrewd decision.

He worked in Italy for four years and watched some AC Milan Sunday games.

When he returned to England he became a Saints season ticket holder.

Wes shook his family and friends by getting married in 1997.

Many of us thought he was a confirmed bachelor.

Through his life-long association with the Salvation Army he met Cath and inherited three boys ­— all Spurs fans.

They now know the story off by heart of the day their step-dad hit a hat-trick against Tottenham Hotspur Youth, when they won 6-0 in that same cup run that took them to Old Trafford.

The Island is still a favourite place for Wes and soon, when the lockdown is over, he hopes to return with copies of his new book, Soccer, Saints and Salvation.