Open letters to famous footballers: John Macdonald (Liverpool F.C.)


March 14 , 1910
“Sharp to any advantages, he’s swift to make ‘em his.”
(Two Noble Kinsmen),

Dear Jack, – You have had a somewhat varied experience in football since first began to give way to the fascinating pursuit, but” forward” has always been your motto, as well as your position.

Whether you are proud of the distinction or not, you are a “Fifer” by birth. East Wemyss was the district of your first attempt to sing, and at “Five-teen” you attempted solos amongst the juveniles of the Wemyss Harp. Later you fell into the Vale of Wemyss, and helped, a an extreme right winger, to lift three cups for your new associates, and also assisted your native county in matches against Glasgow and Perthshire.

Your next move was to Raith Rovers, a member of the Scottish Second League, and as they were particularly unhappy in their extreme left, you obliged by seizing upon that position and making it your own. Those were great days with the Rovers, for during your sojourn the club captured the Scottish Qualifying Cup, and only consented to withdraw from the competition proper in the fourth round under pressure exerted by the “Hearts.”

Leaving Fifeshire for Ibrox, your first spell of misfortune befell. Thrown about from one position to another, and your playing career interrupted by illness, you never really settled down with the Rangers of Glasgow, although you passed two and a half years as a member of that organisation.

Last season Liverpool were placed in an awkward predicament, John Cox had so long occupied the left winger’s position with honour and distinction, that the Anfielders without Cox seemed like unto jam-roll without the necessary preserve. But as youth does not stay with us for ever and a day, Cox decided to relinquish his connection with First League football, and Tom Watson carried his chubby countenance away to unearth a successor.

Knowing Scotland as well as the country “kens” him, he renewed his wanderings in the Land o’ Cakes, and found you.

Your form in the trial games proved that the Liverpool scout had followed another trail with unerring instinct and accuracy, and scored another capture above the average. To fill Jack Cox’s shoes is no easy task; but you have accomplished the feat to the entire satisfaction of colleagues, employers, and spectators.

In your first season in English football you have gained an enviable reputation, and if one is to judge of your future upon what we have already seen, then there is no saying what honours may not fall to you.

Of useful build, standing about 69 inches, and leaving the imprint of your foot upon the turf as a result of nearly twelve stones pressure, you are trim and active in the field. You can fairly put the ground behind you when indulging in a flying scud alongside the whitewash of the touch-line – and that is a frequent occurrence – whilst your capacity for middling the ball is a positive delight to centre forwards and inside colleagues.

You may have some equals in this respect, but few superiors. Of course, you are well provided for by the generous Ronald Orr, who sees that you lack for nothing in the way of opportunities to demonstrate your abilities, but then, it is the privilege of a winger to have most of his chances served up by his colleagues. The satisfaction to your colleague lies in the fact that you waste very little, and return the compliment in front of goal, for them to take most of the glory in the actual scoring department.

When “pricking” you for treatment in this column, I anticipated that you would be selected for trial amongst the Anglo-Scots, and sure enough the opportunity to show the “homesters” how you have progressed in England is to be given you. William the Bard has a few words on the subject of tide and flood in the affairs of men. Fortune favours the valiant, and I hope you will appreciate the possibilities and go for them hammer and tings – the possibilities I mean, not your opponents.

You will have serious opposition for the left-winger’s role, as Templeton appears to have returned to form and favour, whilst Robertson is not to be lightly discarded on general form. All the more honour to your “bonnet” if you succeed in ousting the possessed of the necessary capabilities to win the coveted honour of representing your country against England.

There is a popular impression abroad that the Scot cares for nothing but “bawbees” and the “wee drappie” – possibly because the possession of the former is a means to the latter, but in football circles he covets his international “bonnet,” and especially against England.

The “wee drappie” reminds me of two incidents. The first was a meeting between two great friends – Scots and workmen. The following shirt, but eloquent, conversation ensued: –
“Hullo, Jack!” said number one.
“I haven’t seen you for over a fortnight. Where have you been?
“Oh, nowhere in particular,” replied number two, “but you seem I’ve turned teetotal.”

The second anecdote refers to a Cockney tourist, who arrived, on a hot summer’s day, at an out-of-the-way place in Scotland, which possessed a solitary public-house. On being asked what he would desire in the matter of refreshment, he gave his order to the landlady, whilst tending his cycle, and as a sort of apparent afterthought he added, “Before sitting down to eat, I could do with a pint of ile.” The landlady appeared to think the matter over, then answered, “What kind would you like, sir? We are out of machine, but would paraffin do?”

The last occasion I recited this story was to a Scottie, who remarked, by way of comment, “Serves the Londoner recht! Why ded he no’ speak the King’s Ingleesh , the dizzie body, or ask for something worth the drunken, then he’d got the real Hielan’ whusky.”

Liverpool were in sorry condition last season, but this year they have been figuring prominently amongst the best League clubs in the country. Indeed, at one time the championship of the First Division looked like going to Anfield. The improvement in the ranks as been solely due to one or two importations, and amongst the new arrivals no one occupies a more prominent position than yourself.

It would, certainly, be interesting to know just how much is due to you for the change in the team’s fortune. I suppose this will always remain a matter of conjecture, but, in any case, there can be no denying the high character of your displays on behalf of your new employers.

As you are still gifted with youth, you should go on improving, if you are fortunate enough to escape footballer’s “knee” or “ankle” troubles, and generally avoid accidents of all descriptions. Therefore, if you are not viewed with kindly eyes by your countrymen’s selectors this season, perseverance should undoubtedly bring the honour to you which you are now competent to possess.

That you may eventually succeed in this direction, as in others of a legitimate nature, is the wish of POLYHEMUS.
(Source: Athletic News: March 14, 1910; via http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) © 2018 Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited

John Macdonald, Liverpool F.C.
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