5 Stars

Alex Raisbeck’s Unique Life Story: Part 6


April 24, 1915
Best International side Scotland ever turned out.
Lord Rosebery’s tribute to the players.
The one ground Alick Raisbeck disliked.

I have already told you about my first International game for Scotland in 1896. My next honour fell in 1900, and it was in that game I made my first acquaintance with Gilbert Oswald Smith, the famous Corinthian.

Although this great player did not score that day, neither did he shine in any way, I do not flatter myself that it was through my efforts that this came about. The game was played at Parkhead that year and I dare say there were never such an exhibition of forward play as was shown by our forwards that day. The line was Jack Bell, Robert Walker, Robert McColl, John Campbell, and Alex Smith, a quintette of artistes if ever there was one and not one scintillating star among them, if I may say so, for they payed combination to a nicety. Hence the reason for the non-success of the English forwards and my comparatively easy time against the great G.O.

Our forwards were never off the ball, and so, hard pressed were the English halves at keeping back the tide they had no chance of helping their own men in front.

I said there were no individual “stars” that day, but on second thoughts I think I’ll have to withdraw that and mention Bobbie McColl’s name here.

It was Bobbie’s day.
He scored two of the four goals if I remember correctly – we won 4-1 by the bye, and had poor William Oakley, wondering all the time, Jack Robinson, the Southampton man, was in goal, and I remember an incident at one of the goals, the third I think.
The ball was swung across from our win, and Robinson ran out to fist it. At the same time Oakley jumped to head the ball, and he received the Southampton’s man punch. Down went Oakley like a log, and the ball went into the net. It was certainly hard luck, but it helps to show how hard pressed were the Englishmen.

I have no hesitation in saying that it was the best team Scotland ever had on the field, and I naturally was elated at being one of the eleven on this my second occasion out for my country. Here just let me say that I have to thank Hugh Wilson, I believe for my position.

Maybe I’m mistaken, but I think that at the time I write of Secretary Tom Watson, of Liverpool, and Mr. McGregor had the choosing of the Anglo-Scots team, and it was natural, I suppose, that Mr. Watson would want to see one of his own lads getting honoured. Anyhow, I appeared in that Anglo-Scots match, and a “teuch” time I had. When I mention that the “stuff” I had against me was composed of Alex “Sandy” McMahon, Robert McColl and John Walker you will understand that I ad not picnic that afternoon. To my dismay, half way through the game our right half showed signs of distress, and I thought were to be “up the pole.” However I got in touch with Hugh, who was on my other side, and gave the hint of our position. “Dinna be feart, Sandy,” said Hugh; “I’m here, so you’re a’ richt.” And, by George, Hugh did play a binder. He put new life into me, and the result was my play seemed to impress all the more. I was in the team anyhow.

I thought I was greatly honoured that Mr. Tom Watson, to Parkhead, but since then I have come to see through these little managerial attentions. No doubt Tom came to see me safe home again without my ear being “tickled” with the honey words of the agent, but at the time I was guileless enough to take it as a personal compliment.

I have mentioned the forwards in this game, and now let me give the defence. These were Henry Rennie, Nicol Smith and Jock Drummond; Neil Gibson, myself, and Jacky Robertson. Harry Rennie, I remember nicknamed us the “lightest” defence he had ever played behind. And was right for the whole five of us were of the limblocked order, but we were good enough for our job that day.

You will be thinking I’m romancing too much about the brilliancy of our play, and will ask why it was that we allowed the English team to get a goal. Well, it was “Bloomer” goal, and that ought to be enough. Those of you who have seen Steve will know that birdlike sweep of his, the poise, the swift shot, and the net bulging at the back of the goalkeeper.

It was a slight slip on the part of Drummond that let Bloomer in, and he scored just as he did the following year at the Palace, and again at Parkhead in 1904. At the Palace Andrew Aitken, who got his place on account of a bereavement keeping Gibson out, was passing the ball back for safety but he reckoned without Bloomer, and at Parkhead a “burnt ball” of Watson gave the inside man his chance.

I don’t know of any player that had the same penchant for goals of this description. It was Bloomer’s forte, and it would be interesting to know how many crowds he has thrilled by his volcanic movements. And poor Steve lingers today in a German concentration camp. Well, I’m betting he’s biting his fingers at that, and he’ll be letting off steam in some direction at his position.

I have heard a lot of arguing about it, but it is my belief that we wore on the occasion of that match the colours of Lord Rosebery for the first time. I have not yet got anyone to give me proof to the contrary anyway.

Anyhow we were heartily congratulated by Lord Rosebery that day. He came into the pavilion at the end of the match and said he had never seen his colours more to the fore than on that occasion, and that he was highly pleased with the team, every one of them. Which to us was high praise indeed.

Now let me switch on to something else.

With regard to the Liverpool team a rather strange thing happened. After our most successful season we entered on the following season in full expectation of sweeping the boards. But we didn’t. Not ‘arf. It took us all our time to escape the bottom of the League. We lost eight League games right off the reel. There was some chaffing at Anfield I can tell you! Every week we thought we are going to get the “sack” but we got through all right.

The strange thing about it was that we fielded practically the same team as ran into the Cup semi-final and were runners-up in the League. There was one change only. We lost Geordie Allan, who died during the summer months, and Sam Raybould came to us from New Brighton Tower, a team in the Second Division then. But everything went against us and we had an uphill fight to avoid relegation.

The following season we won the League for the first time.

That was the way with Liverpool. We always were very good and near the top position or we were very bad and had to struggle to keep our place. We steered no middle course at Anfield. You will perhaps have noticed that, in England, anyway, there lots of ups and downs in the game. The team you hail as champions the one day, you are wondering if they are to keep a place the next, so to speak.

In all my eleven years with the “Reds” we were always fighting – fighting to land the top place or fighting to get away from the bottom. And I enjoyed it. It’s the salt of life to have something to play for, and it’s a good job that even the best team cannot command success, no matter how much they deserve it.

One of my greatest pals while I was at Anfield was Maurice Parry, who came from Brighton and Hove. Morris and I struck up an acquaintanceship which still lasts, and I have just received a letter from him in which he states he has every prospect of receiving a lieutenancy in the Shropshire Yeomanry.

Do you know, I think Morris was the most harshly-treated player I ever “struck” – “struck” in this instance being used in the American sense, for to think of it otherwise would be ridiculous in the case of us two.

Whether it was the healthy, lengthy limbs of Parry that was responsible I do not know, but he came in for some very bad treatment from referees, players, and spectators alike.

Yet he was one of the most gentlemanly fellows ever I met.

Fate deals unkindly with some folks. I remember in my youth I was playing in one of the local matches against a forward of no mean calibre. Whenever he came near me I fancied I saw him “girnin’ his teeth at me, and I stood well back, as it were.
“What are you feared at?” shouted our skipper.
“I’m not going up against a wild man that shows his teeth every time he comes up,” said I.
“Awa’ ye haver,” was his reply, “the fella canna’ help it, he’s got a short upper lip!”

I’, not given to likes and dislikes, but there was one “dislike” I had all the time I played in England. I simply hated playing on the Notts County ground. There was a strange thing for you. And it was a nice ground too. Beautifully situated and good turf, and all that, yet, I never liked it. There’s no accounting for it, but we very seldom won there. Yet just across the road so to speak, where Nottingham Forest played, I felt quite comfortable. Players are supposed to be able to play their best anywhere and I supposed they do but there are few who have not their “bad” grounds.

Where I liked best to play was against the “knuts,” who at that time were Aston Villa and Everton. My, we did like to play at Goodison. They were rivals, if you like.

If you will pardon me going a little bit back into history I might as well tell you how this great rivalry arose. Away back fully twenty years, a gentleman, John Houlding by name, and a thorough good sport, bought a piece of ground at Anfield. He furnished it, got together a team of players and gave them the name of Everton. For a year or two all went well and he had gathered round him a good team and a working committee. As things flourished this committee wanted them to flourish still more and they wanted, among other things, to sit rent free at Anfield. There was a split and the old team was shifted to Goodison, which is only separated from Anfield by Stanley Park, a beautiful public park.

In course of time the new club, Liverpool was floated and the rivalry commenced, which has not abated to this day. The battle of the “Reds” and “Blues” goes on as it did twenty years ago. The gentleman I have just named, Mr. John Houlding, rose from being a dairyman to be lord Mayor of Liverpool.

I have taken up all my space this week with historical features and have no room for other things which crowd on me as I write. I would just like to add my word now of tribute to Alex Smith on his retiral from a game he so nobly adorned. There have been no other Alec Smith in the past, and I think I am safe in saying there will be no Alec Smiths in the future.
(Source: The Weekly News: April 24, 1915)

XX

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