Alex Raisbeck’s Unique Life Story: Part 8

May 8, 1915
A tiff Alick Raisbeck had with John “Sailor” Hunter.
The most graceful footballer I’ve ever seen.
About the never-to-be-forgotten ‘National at Ibrox.

If there is one thing more than another which I regret not having done while connected with football as a player it is that I neglected to keep a record of notable games, dates, and incidents which have happened from time to time during my career. Apart from the fact that they would come in handy at a time like this, every footballer should keep a diary.

If my advice is worth anything to the player who wishes to read about his own deeds and those of his club-mates in later years, I would advise him to take a note of everything which is likely to prove useful to him in his after-life. It would not entail much labour, and I’m certain what trouble it did entail would be worth it in the end.

If I had my football career to live over again I would make this one of my first duties. And I’m not the first who has expressed such a wish after casting aside the football mantle.

The reason for these advisory remarks will be apparent. I was never blessed with what I would call a good memory. I think it was in 1902, the year after Liverpool carried off the championship after a remarkable game with West Bromwich, that there were so many notable changes in the personnel of the “Reds.” I lost the two my best pals Tom Robertson and John Walker.

Tommy was a very versatile player. He could play in almost any position in the forward line, and with much credit to himself, too. He came to Liverpool as an outside left, but by the time he left Anfield he had made the outside position on the right his own. Tommy went to Dundee, and rendered good services to the Tayside club. At that time Dundee had quite a capable side, and, to my mind, occupied a higher position among the “heed yins” than they do today. I regretted Tommy’s departure, as we had been such good friends during our stay on Merseyside.

Ugly rumours.
We also lost another Robertson, and strange to say, his Christian name was also Thomas. To distinguish between the two we called one of them Tommy and the other Tom. Tom went to to Brighton and Hove. A right good back was Tom, and much of Liverpool’s success in winning the championship was due to a splendid defence, of which Tom was a unit.

Rab Howell also left Anfield for fresh pasture. He joined the “invincibles” at Preston. The departure of this quartette – Tommy Robertson, Johnny Walker, Tom Robertson and Rab Howell – did not go down well with the Liverpool enthusiasts. All four had taken part in the majority of the League games, and had not a little say in the League flag coming to Anfield the previous season.

There were many rumours going round at all was not well in the Anfield camp, but I can, as I did at the time, give these rumours a flat denial. We were a very happy crowd; indeed, one of the best. I am sure a player would have had long way to go to find a club which treated its players better and with so much respect as did Liverpool.

The officials of the club treated the players as gentlemen and the players in turn showed their appreciation by being thorough good sports and always out to give their best in the interests of the club.

I cannot speak to highly of the treatment meted out to players of the Liverpool club, and if ever I hear of a Liverpool player having a grievance against any of the officials I will think twice before I come to a decision.

Most graceful player I’ve seen.
I’m getting off the beaten track. I was referring to the waygoing of the Robertsons & co. We got several new players, but several of our reserves were at that time showing form which entitled them to a place in the first eleven. John “Sailor” Hunter was one of them. Johnny had been showing good form with the reserves, and could not possibly be kept out of the League eleven. He did not meet with a deal of success at first, but later he came into his own and made a great name for himself, not only with Liverpool, but with Dundee. He assisted the latter to win the Scottish Cup.

Peter Kyle was another who got a move up the ladder of fame. Peter is a brother of Archie Kyle, of the Accies (Hamilton Accademicals). My great pal, Maurice Parry, also found a regular berth. He came instead of 5 feet 2 Howell.

One of the new players secured was Arthur Goddard, from Stockport County. From the first day I clapped eyes on Goddard I made him out to be a great lad, although he was but a slip of a lad the day he left his home in Stockport. Goddard was the finest and most graceful runner it has been my lot to see. He could cover the ground, too, and in his prime I would have backed him against most players.

Liverpool got a rare bargain in Goddard. The transfer-fee, if my memory serves me right, wasn’t a stiff one, although at the time transfer-fees were not what they are today. I have played on almost every ground of importance in England and Scotland, and against all sorts and sizes of players, but I have yet to see a more graceful player on the ball than Arthur Goddard. It was a treat to see him cover the ground with such a free-and-easy movement. He wasn’t an artist like Robert Walker, of course; but there was a “something” in Goddard’s play which appealed to everyone who watched him on the ball.

Arthur is, or was until last season, still footing it at Swansea, and it is my wish that he may go footing it for a number of years, for football will be all the poorer without such a stylish player.

The “ups and downs” of English football.
There is a mighty difference between football in Scotland and football in England. In Scotland there is not the same equality among the clubs. They are either consistently good or consistently bad. Take Celtic, for instance, how many years is it since they finished lower than third from the top? I wouldn’t care to answer this question off hand.

How different it is in England. The clubs there are more equally matched, and it isn’t an uncommon thing for a side to be at the top one season, and struggling to avoid being relegated the next. This was the case with Liverpool the year after they won the championship. There were a few changes in the side certainly, but I question very much if it was weakened, good as the players who left were. These “ups and downs” do the game a deal of good, and much of the great enthusiasm which Englishmen show for football is due to the great uncertainty of results.

It was a narrow squeak in 1902 for Liverpool not being relegated after being top dog only the season before. As it were, they only managed to retain their place in the First Division that season by the skin of their teeth.

A tiff with “Sailor” Hunter.
I met “Sailor” Hunter the other day, and he brought to my mind an incident which happened during our rojourn at Anfield. The incident amused us both, although at the time it only was a laughing matter for one and that one wasn’t the “Sailor.” Johnny and I were bed-mates; in fact, from the day he arrived at Anfield an acquaintanceship struck up which I am pleased to say lasts to this very day. We were rarely ever seen apart; if Johnny was there you could always count on me not being far off.

We came to the ground in the morning together, went home for dinner together; in fact, we were always together. The incident I’m referring to happened one day on our way home to dinner after having put in a forenoon’s training. I had always been in the habit of chaffing Johnny, and he took it all in good part. No matter what he said or did I had something to add. Usually the laugh was on my side.

However, I “ran up against it” this particular day I refer to. I don’t know whether I was more severe with my chaff than I usually was, or whether the “Sailor” was not in his usual cheery mood that day. The players had been debating on some subject in the dressing-rooms, and Johnny, of course, and had his say in the matter. I made a joke on his prowess as a “speaker,” thinking, of course, that he would take it with his usual good humour. But he wouldn’t have my joke. Without giving me any warning he got hold of the lapel of my coat while we were walking up the street.

“Look here, ye big blighter,” he said with an angry look on his face, “if I was as big as you or thought I stood half a chance I would be into you.”
At first I thought the “Sailor” was joking, but I found out later that he was serious, and I believe he would have “been into me,” as Johnny was inclined to be hasty. However, he cooled down just as quickly as he flared up, and by the time we reached our “digs” we were as great friends as ever, and I believe I was chaffing him just as much as ever. Perhaps that was a way I had of showing my regard for a good friend.

A never-to-be-forgotten International.
“I don’t think I shall ever forget season 1901-02. Apart from the fact that Liverpool had shown such a poor return, this was the season of the ever-memorable international game at Ibrox when part of the terracing gave way. Some twenty people were killed while hundreds were injured. I was one of the Scottish team and the pathetic scenes I witnessed that April afternoon will never go out of my memory.

Prior to the match I remember remarking to Ned Doig how beautiful Ibrox looked. I had never seen the Copland Road ground look better. What a change came over it, however, and also the faces of the spectators surrounding the playing area. I shall never forget the sight after the terracing gave way. I must admit that I never actually saw the smash take place. It so happened that the play was very keen, many exciting incidents cropped up in the first minutes of the game. This put the huge crowd in good spirits.

Afterwards it was all explained to me. Robert Templeton was on the ball and previous to this had given the spectators the impression that they were to see Bobby at his best. You know what that means. In his best form there are few better artistes than Templeton.

Bobby was off on one of his bewildering runs. The crowd at the far end of Ibrox enclosure were on tiptoe to see what would come out of his run. Then came the smash. Few of the players knew what had really happened. In fact, someone actually suggested to me that the crowd had broken in as they were scaling the railings at the far end as fast as they could.”

Players’ clothing requisitioned.
When we saw the ambulance men at work we knew that something serious had happened. We were told to retire to the dressing-rooms. I shall never forget the scenes inside. Dead bodies and groaning men were lying on the seats where only a short time ago the Scottish players had stripped. Even some of the players’ clothing was requisitioned for bandages.

Play was resumed after the wounded had been cared for, but you can easily understand how the players felt after witnessing such pathetic scenes. They could not be expected to play their best. Many thought that play should not have been resumed but I think the S.F.A. officials did the right thing, as they feared there might have been a panic if the game was not resumed.

The game went its full distance but none of the players were sorry when the final whistle went as they were all heartily sick and none more so than Alick Raisbeck.
(Source: The Weekly News: May 8, 1915)


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