5 Stars

Alex Raisbeck’s Unique Life Story: Part 4


April 10, 1915
Alick Raisbeck’s Perpetual Dread.
The narrowest escape I have ever had.
Alex Raisbeck tells of exciting incident in his Hibernian career.
His little son nearly makes him miss a home match.

It is the ambition of every footballer to represent his country. It is the crowning recognition of his season’s work. I don’t know whether you have thought about it, but there is a distinct difference between club and International matches. In club matches you may get through a power of work, thanks to an understanding with your club-mates though long study of their individual ways, but in representative matches there is more left to the individual, and mistakes more easily seen. Thus it is that you get a chance to shine and make a reputation for yourself, which is reflected when it comes to fixing up for the following season.

Alex Raisbeck (from Jim Donnelly’s collection).

Quite a lot of people erroneously assume that prior to “the big match” there is a kind of round-table conference, a definite plan of campaign, but there is no such thing. You may make a casual remark to your partner, but there is nothing in the nature of a pre-arranged understanding. You have simply to work out your ow salvation. There is an element in these big matches. Take, for instance, the case of Jimmy Watson, who, after putting up a great game, made a little slip which gave England the victory.

All his good work went for nothing, and he got all the blame from the critics. Jimmy always felt very sore over that incident. I was always very lucky, and that day at Hampden, which is frequently referred to, I could do nothing wrong. Everything seemed to come off. I recall the opening incident of the game. Little Geordie Stewart, then with the Hibs, had a magnificent run down the field, and he sent across a ball which skimmed the crossbar and went behind. “Hard line, George,” somebody shouted. I overheard the remark. “Bad play,” I commented. “We’ll never get goals with the ball continually behind. Keep it in front.”

Geordie told me afterwards that it was the finest hint he ever got, and he acted upon it with what skill we all know he had, especially when he was with Manchester City, where he was idolised by the crowd.

I used to like the Internationals if for no other reason that they provided you with the opportunity of meeting friends whom you seldom met altogether. Some rare incidents could be related of these events, but I have such a bad memory for these little things which help so much to embellish a story. I recall one rather amusing incident associated with an Irish trip.

Big Bill Foulke was the central figure. He was a very bad sailor, and put in a rather miserable night. When the vessel came alongside the quay Bill strode up to the steward and remarked.

“Here, you had better take the return half of my ticket.
“But you’ll require it for the return journey,” put in the steward.
“Take it,” persisted Bill.
“I’ll walk across the Channel, even if it takes me up to the chin.”
When you realise Foulkes’ giant bulk the humour of the remark can be better appreciated.

Bill Foulke, the big goalkeeper.

It may strike you as being peculiar, but nevertheless it is a fact that I was, and am still, always in dread of losing the train when you going from home.

When I was at Liverpool we players used to meet at the Sandon Hotel, and then travel by omnibus to the station. I remember one narrow escape. We were playing at Sheffield, and we were due to leave our place at 8.30. As the train for Sheffield was at 9, you can imagine how I felt when I wakened from my slumbers and found it was 8.15. You talk about quick-change artistes! They were never in it on the display I gave that morning. I tried to gulp down my breakfast, but burned my throat with the hot tea, and, while I was laying in what packing there was time for me to demolish, I could hear the rumbling of a charabanc, then a chorus of voices; a second later the sleepy refrain, “It’s far ower early in the mornin’ for tae wauken me.” It was the Liverpool players, who, instead of going to the station, had come to waken me.

I don’t want to, but I’ll have to confess that I’m very lazy in the morning.

Towards the end of the season 1907-08 I very nearly missed a home match. The kick-off was at 3.30. We had just got over the household, young Raisbeck had been playing with the clock. He had turned the hands back an hour, and, thinking I had plenty of time to have a quiet nap after dinner, I lay down on the couch. I soon fell into a deep sleep, and in the midst of my slumber there was a sharp knock at the door. It was a friend who had called to go the match.

“You are early,” remarked Mrs. Raisbeck.
“Early,” he remarked in a tone of surprise, “the kick-off is within half-an-hour’s time.”

If the Germans invaded my house tomorrow I could not spring with greater alacrity from my couch than I did that day. I was in time, but had my friend not called, I should have been snoozing away for half-an-hour or more after the game had begun.

I had another escape of a more serious nature than the two I have related.

It was while I was with Edinburgh Hibs. The Scottish cup-ties were in full swing, and we had gone to Aberdour for special training, as was not unusual when we sat down to dinner, a discussion arose in reference to some knotty problem of the game.

On the particular occasion I refer to George Dougal, John Price, and Paddy McColl were at loggerheads on some question, and I was asked to settle the dispute. Unfortunately at that very moment I had taken a spoonful of soup, and in my hurry to deliver judgment I hastily swallowed it with the result that a small bone stuck in my throat.

I was very nearly choked.

Someone ran for a doctor. Every expedient was tried to give me relief, but each was doomed to failure. Paddy Canon, our trainer, kept hitting me on the back, he even dumped my head on the floor, still that bone stuck. I grew black in my face, I suffered excruciating pain. Just as Paddy Canon was going down the stairs to meet the doctor he dealt me a terrible blow between the shoulders, and the bone dislodged itself. I tell you I was glad.

Postcard from around 1903 showing Aberdour.

On one occasion a coloured gent called on me at my house.
“There’s a black man wanting to see you,” said Mrs. Raisbeck.
“A black man? Surely you’re mistaken.” I went to the door.
He claimed kinship right away, reminding me in the course of his appeal for funds that he was a great friend of my brother.

I slipped a shilling or two into his hand, and a few minutes later he was proclaiming to all and sundry that he had received money from A.G. Raisbeck. Next morning I heard that he had been ejected from a neighbouring tavern.

Unfortunately for me, Maurice Parry, our Liverpool humourist, got to hear of the joke, and the first of his remarks was that “he had heard and had seen many funny Scotsmen, but he had never yet seen a “black Scots man.”

Maurice Parry.

Really it is marvellous the tricks some folks will try. I remember when I was at Anfield of an individual who traveled all over the country presenting himself as a brother of James Bradley, our centre forward.

On the strength of this he was signed on by quite a number of country clubs to whom he had offered his services, always, of course, for a consideration. It was rather an ingenious way of raising the wind. No sooner had he signed one “professional” form than he folded his tent like the Arabs, and silently stole away, only to make his appearance at some other quaint hostelry, where he immediately revealed his identity, and commenced to trade upon Bradley’s fame as a centre forward. But the bold youth went on signing forms galore, until truth triumphed and he signed one too many.

But for the sheer coolness commend me to the gentleman who attempted to impersonate Percy Saul, our full back. I cannot remember how it came about, but Percy was residing in Rotherham at the time, and from there a wire was sent in his name to Tom Watson, our secretary. It was in these terms: –

“Tom Watson, secretary, Liverpool F.C., Anfield Park, Liverpool. – Kindly wire me £10; am in difficulties. – Percy Saul.”

Percy Saul.

It was undoubtedly a clever ruse on the part of someone, and might have succeeded had it been tried upon someone less cute than Tom. You want to be up early in the morning if you would get the better of him. Instead of remitting the £10 as he might have done had circumstances been different, he wired Percy at his home address, and the answering telegram was to the effect that he had sent no such request, and that he was in no difficulties whatever.
(Source: The Weekly News: April 10, 1915)

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

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