September 2, 1899
There were but few playing days in last season when the defence of the Liverpool team was anything worse than the best in England. Collectively it was solid, substantial, powerful, while individually its members were, each man in his place, masters of their work, and a little more.
It was a fast defence, and clever. The halves and backs so nicely divided their work that to circumvent ordinary attacks was not difficult. A good understanding between the two lines admits of every man’s shining in his particular provided, of course, that he be good enough to do so.
Circumstances, therefor, were specially favourable to Billy Dunlop in his making the great display that he did during the season. In spite of that, however, I think that last season he would have “starred” under the most adverse condition. A modest unassuming young fellow, he set no store by his work, at a time when all the football world was filled with the sound of his praises, but argued that he was not better than in preceding seasons, only shining with the team.
In that he was undoubtedly wrong, but while it is true that previously Liverpool had never had so great a side, it cannot be forgotten that Dunlop’s play was a very material factor in what was the side’s greatness. Had he been in less brilliant form, the team had lacked one of its greatest strengths; and he had to be as clever as he was for Liverpool to be all that they were. He may do as well this year, but it is unlikely that he will do better. He has but to reproduce the form of 1898-9 to be again the best left back in Britain.
Dunlop is admirably constituted for full back play. Strongly, athletically built, he has speed, strength, and agility well combined, and possessing a cool head, a good eye, and judgment insusceptible to excitement, he plays a man or a wing or a whole bundle of forwards with quiet confidence and placid consciousness of his own ability to do what he wants with the ball, or, at least, prevent his opponents effecting their purposes therewith.
Although he learned the rudiments of the game at Hurlford, where he was born, nearly 25 years ago, it may fairly be said that it was at Kilmarnock that he schooled in the higher art of his calling. For with the club with which were cradled John Goodall and Sandy Higgins, he was engaged for one or two seasons, prior to his joining Paisley Abercorn, and coming to Liverpool in the 1893-4 season.
He has played regularly with the Anfield first eleven since he first came down, and has proved the best back the club has ever had. So highly are his services esteemed by his directors that he is to have a benefit on September 24 – an honour such as goes not often fall to so you a man. In spite of his consistently good play, he has not won great distinction outside his own club. He has a City v County cap for a match played before he came to England; and was invited to play for the Anglo-Scots trial match last season. He was prevented from doing so, owing to his club being fast-locked in close struggle with Sheffield United in the Cup semi-final.
He would scarcely have got his place in the Scottish eleven, I fear, for though he is an incomparably better back than David Storrier, the Celt was always a certainty for that position last year.
The Liverpudlian is an observant man, and has plenty of interesting opinions as to his fellows and their play. Billy Bassett he sets above all men in present day football as the pleasantest, most scrupulously fair man to play against. Charles Athersmith is his choice for best outside right, while he unhesitating nominates Bennett, of Sheffield United, for second call.
Athersmith and Jack Devey are, on their day, the best wing he has faced, and Devey is his ideal captain. Of him Dunlop reports, “Not only is he the best coach I have seen, but the best coax. He is, in this latter respect, even better than Ernest Needham.” For Steve Bloomer’s play he has an intense admiration, but opines that the international gives too great freedom to the pepper in his nature, and loses his temper to the detriment of his game.
Comparing the football played in the English League today with that in Scotland, Dunlop agrees with all other judges that our game is much faster, and that here a man must sprint, not walk through games. He adds that physical force is less conspicuous in English football than in that played across the Tweed.
He assured me that his damaged leg is now quite sound again, and in that connection commented upon the folly of which too many players are guilty in neglecting hurts that they sustain in play. Many a good man has finished his connection with the game untimely owing to such short-sighted neglect.
Dunlop, like the rest of his team, is very hopeful as to the prospects of the club for the present season, and, while deeply regretting the absence of unfortunate George Allan, who, it is feared, is affected by consumption, believes that in Peter Kyle as good a substitute as could be had is with them.
(Lancashire Evening Post: September 2, 1899, by ‘Abaris’)