5 Stars

Alex Raisbeck’s Unique Life Story: Part 3


April 3, 1915
A penalty I cannot forget.
How Raisbeck dodged the man from Larkhall,
Who said he knew Alick as well as his own brother.
Remarkable game recalled where Billy Hogg was linesman.

The public have no idea how many are the calls made upon the generosity of the average footballer. If he is a shining light the greater the demand upon his suppositions wealth. Some claim acquaintance to whom practical aid is, as a rule, promptly extended, but the greedy outnumber the needy, which makes one so reluctant to respond when appeals are made.

Alex Raisbeck (from Jim Donnelly’s collection).

To succor is not only a desire, but a privilege. The difficulty is to deal considerately and judiciously with the annual swarm of locusts which infest almost every football neighborhood. They call at the field and are probably shoved off with some fairy tale, but these chaps are not easily put about, and when they are balked they double back, as a it were, and get you in some other quarter.

While I was with Liverpool our door bell used to ring – rung by all sorts of football “associates” and the call upon your generosity were numerous and curious. One might be dead broke – and, let me be frank – there were many to whose appeal for help you could not but respond.

There were others, however, vipers, traveling trumpeters with only one story, whose sole mission was to impose upon your generosity. Lots of our lads were “done in” at Anfield.

The very sympathy which the appeals made upon them resulted in their parting with many a bright shilling. I myself was badly “cut,” if you might so put it, by the appellants who strangely enough go to know my home address. Frequently when I was away training these imposters used to call upon Mrs. Raisbeck asking for alms, and of course, she invariably extended a helping hand.

There was one day, however, when I got a good laugh, which was worth all the money I didn’t give. We had just finished our training at Anfield when, on emerging from the park on our way for dinner, we were confronted by an individual who claimed a close acquaintance with myself. Robert Robinson and I, I may say, came out together, and the chap who was down on his luck claimed a local acquaintance with Larkhall and with my brothers.

He knew me “to speak to,” and knew me at Larkhall. He told me, too, he had met me on the occasions when I played International matches, and goodness only knows where else:

“Is Alick Raisbeck in the pavilion?” was how he prefaced his conversation.
“Yes,” I replied. “Would you like to see him?”
You must have a laugh occasionally mustn’t you?
“Very much indeed,” was his reply. “I have tramped all the way from Scotland, and I am in need of a little help.”

I knew right away that he could no more claim acquaintance with me than the wee boy at the corner. He told a weird and wonderful story, however, about all my friends. My brothers, he claimed to know. Many of my most intimate friends in Larkhall he was on “speaking acquaintance” with, and my brothers were this, that, and the other thing.

Alex Raisbeck cartoon-card.

I saw the opportunity for the springing of a joke, and although I am not much inclined that on this occasion I let myself go.

The traveler had just “traveled” from Scotland, footsore and weary. The old tale had been spun.

“Would you know Alick if you saw him?” I asked.
“Know him? I should think I would.”
That was enough to provoke a continuation of the conversation, and I went on: –
“Where did you know him in Scotland?”
“While he was with the Hibs.”

If I had listened a little longer I might have had a better story to tell you, but the man was “naebody that I kent” to “Scotch” it for a word or two.
“Yes,” he continued. “Why, nearly beat a whole English team on his own.”

Hard lines on the other ten fellows, i thought, but the gag was good, and we let his fancy free a little bit more. Robinson, I may say, enjoyed the joke hugely, and he stood by, said no a word, but all the time I knew he was at work with his risible faculties. To be perfectly truthful, it was a bit of a strain upon myself – a man looking for me, I laughing at him, and my pal doing his best to conceal his merriment in smoke.
“Yes,” sad the visitors, “I knew Alick as well as I do my own brother.”
“Well,” I replied. “He is in the pavilion just now, but he will be out shortly.”
How long my “caller” waited I know not, but more than likely he had made good his time when the rest of the fellows came out.

Robert Robinson, Liverpool F.C.

The curious part of the business from my point of view is that these chaps should so arrange their programme as to be able to give you more particulars about yourself and your career than you actually recall to memory at the moment of their visit.

Imposters! I recall the peregrinations of a footballer, I remember a case in Wales, where a “player” actually signed on for three or more clubs, got money down for saying in each case before he was found out to be anything but an “internationalist.”
He told the clubs this and that tale altered his name to suit the environment, was treated by all and sundry, and I don’t think he ever played one match the while he was “resting on his laurels.” Oh, yes you do meet some tough customers.

I met Billy Hogg the other day, and he brought to my mind an incident which seemed even now to amuse him, but which, let me say, was anything but a laughing matter to me at the time when it occurred. I don’t mean that he incident lacked humour, but I was always so deadly serious that Billy’s humour on that particular occasion did not appeal to me.

It was a match between Sunderland and Liverpool, and, owing to the referee’s losing his connection at York he did not put in an appearance at Roker Park.

Neutral Linesmen in England, always of course, and the question arose, who was to blow the whistle?, who was to act as the deputy on the line?

There was a hurried consultation, and ultimately Tom Watson and Councillor Fred Taylor agreed to toss, in their conciliatory effort, as to who should be the neutral linesman. It so happened that Billy Hogg was off with an injured groin, and Councillor Taylor, who elected to view the game from the stand, asked Hogg to take the flag.

Billy Hogg, Sunderland F.C.

It was a remarkable game that; one of the best, and as it turned out to be one of the strangest I ever took part in.
Liverpool could do nothing wrong in the first half. Sunderland floundered about while we gradually took the feet from under them, so to speak. At half-time we were up 4-1. Visions of a great victory were plainly outlined.

Evidently, however, the Sunderland boys must have had a round table conference. They had had a chat among themselves, and when the referee knocked at the dressing-room door, which is a usual thing in England, and shouted “Are you ready, boys?”.

They must have been. The Sunderland boys played like demons. George Holley and Arthur Bridgett went all out, and in a very short time we found ourselves leading by a goal. We got another, however, but Sunderland got another, which meant 5-4.

You can see, with that judgment characteristic of Councillor Taylor why he selected Billy as linesman. He was a linesman and all. There was a touch of the Nelson about him; he was blind in one eye. The battle, however, proved not to be one to those who were battling.

Billy Hogg was on the line!
The game stood 5-4, and the watch, one thought, was ticking nicely, and we thought ourselves certain of reaching the winning post. Then there came the question of a penalty kick. Each side claimed for what they thought was their due, and ultimately the linesman was consulted. He proved to be no other than Billy Hogg.

“You didn’t see anything, Billy?” said the referee, and then walked away, giving no time for the Sunderland linesman to reply. The penalty was awarded. There were only a few minutes to go. Ephraim “Dusty” Rhodes, the full-back took the kick, and the game ended 5-5. It was one of the most remarkable games I ever took part in.

Another match which will live in my memory is the last I played for Liverpool. A great many people accuse us sometimes of disloyalty – I mean in the club sense. In certain cases that may be true. You may meet the player who “doesn’t try a leg,” as the saying goes. To put it in another way, he may decide to play for his papers.

Yes, there is one match I took part in, which, now that I look back upon it, I think of, with pleasure. We – at least seven of the players associated with Liverpool – were not signed, and yet their efforts were such that we kept our place in the First League.

I never played in a match, full back by the way – which gave me greater satisfaction. There was a whistle sounded which was music in my ears.
(Source: The Weekly News: April 3, 1915)

Go to the next article in the Alex Raisbeck Life Story series, or the previous one.

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