In the firing line – Alf West


Saturday, March 18 – 1905
It is a pleasing task that falls to our lot this week in presenting a short sketch of one of the most popular players in the Liverpool team. His rapid rise from second-rate football to the ranks of the highest in the country, coupled with the unfortunate accident which befell him last summer, caused him to loom prominently before the public gaze.

International honours were predicted for him by keen judges, at an early date, and now that he is thoroughly sound again, it is more than likely that these prophecies will have been fulfilled ere another season elapses. He is young, and can afford to wait a little longer.

Alfred West was born at Nottingham in December 1882 (note, he was born Dec. 1881), and his first appearance in a football team occurred while at School. In the semi-final of a shield competition amongst the elementary schools of the lace capital he played full back, and figured on the losing side.

The following year his school team won every match they played, including the of the same shield tourney. West was also selected to represent the Nottingham boys against Sheffield at Bulwell that season.

After leaving school he participated in little football, and he was nearly 16 years of age when he became connected with Notts Jardine. He remained with this club for three seasons and gained much distinction.

In his first season only friendly games were indulged in, but the next year the Notts and District League was formed, and the Jardine’s made a fair show in the competition. West was selected at right full back in the “Rest” team to oppose the league champions, and was awarded a cap as a memento of the occasion.

Twelve months later the Jardine’s won the championship, medals being awarded the members of the team, and the club also reached the final of the Notts Junior Cup, but they were beaten by Kimberley St. John’s. Nevertheless medals to the runners-up formed a sort of solatium for their disappointment.

West found himself able to assist Radford Congregational, in the Radford and District League the same season, and his team won the championship, which brought more medals, &c., to our subject.

In addition he captained the Notts and District eleven in the local Charity Cup competition, and helped to defeat Radford and District in the semi-final, and Notts Alliance in the final, so that he experienced a full season’s football, and could show tangible results of his skill at the finish.

He left Nottingham and joined Ilkeston four years ago, where he experienced a campaign in the Midland League. Barnsley were the champions that year, and West captained the “Rest of the League” against the Tykes at the end of the season.

One result of this was, that at the commencement of the following year, he was seen in the Barnsley ranks, and played Second League football for them during one winter, and two months of the next.

On October 31st, 1903, he played a superb game against Woolwich Arsenal at Barnley, and the crowd carried him shoulder high from the ground at the conclusion of the match, which ended in defeat for the Southerners by 2-1.

At this time Liverpool were in sore straits for a capable full back, and they came to terms with the Yorkshire club for West’s transfer. The following Saturday, November 7th, he made his first appearance at Anfield against Notts County, and played right back, his partner being Hoare. At Bramall-lane on the 14th he was placed at left back with Raisbeck on the right, and continued thus until December 19th, when he was transferred to the other wing at Bury. This position he occupied for the remainder of that season, and on April 16th, against Bury, scored his first goal for Liverpool, this coming from a penalty kick.

As is well-known, Liverpool went into the Second Division, but looked hopefully forward to brighter days, when a serious accident happened to West, and placed the Anfielders in a quandary as regards their rear division.

West had been training for a 120 yards handicap, and finished his preparation with a week at Lytham. Everything was complete, and he, accompanied by his trainer, went to take his final spin, before leaving for Keswick, where he was due to run the following day.

Not having had much practice at starting with the pistol, it was decided to adopt this method. Whilst the trainer was handling the weapon, it accidently went off, and West received a bullet under his right shoulder.

He walked away some 200 yards, and then, staggering, fell into his trainer’s arms. Fortunately the bullet did not penetrate the lungs, but spent travelling along the outside of the ribs to the front part of the chest.

It was a moot point whether he would be able to play football this season, but he rapidly recovered under the treatment of Liverpool specialist, and turned out for the Reserves on November 5th, at Anfield, against Earlestown.

On December 24th he appeared in the League ranks again, at Clayton, and has maintained his place since. Gradually his speed has returned, and now he is almost as fast as he was prior to his accident.

Sprinting occupies his attention in the summer, and he is more than average performer over distances ranging from 80 to 120 yards. At Sheffield and Beeston he has participated in half a dozen handicap finals, and last year won a 120 yds. Handicap at Barnsley.

West is an ideal full back, reliable in tackling, accurate in his return, and always cool and collected under the severest pressure. His methods are such as commend themselves to all who desire to see football played with a maximum of skill and a minimum of physical force.

West does not rely upon the latter quality, he calmly awaits the oncoming forward and judges the precise moment for intervention with admirable facility. As a type of defender he contrasts strongly with his partner Dunlop, but a combination of the two styles appears to us to be the most effective possible for a line of defenders.

West stands 5ft. 8in., and weighs 11st. 3lbs., and he has only to continue in his present form to secure the highest possible honours of the football world.
(EFC and LFC Match Programme, March 18 – 1905)

Alf West

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