5 Stars

Alex Raisbeck’s unique life story: The last part: 17


July 10, 1915
Conversation in train which led
To my becoming manager of Hamilton Academicals

By Alex Raisbeck.
When I commenced season 1913-14 I had little idea that within the short space of twelve months I would finish one career and enter upon a fresh one. Yet this was what happened, and no one was more surprised than myself.

Before I have the Partick secretary a sample of my penmanship for the fifth time I had come to do definite conclusion that I was to give up the game at the close of that season. The thought was ever in my mind that I had had a long enough innings, and that it was about time I had laid aside for ever the football togs. But, mark you, I was playing almost as well as ever, although my speed was not what it once was.
In fact, at the present moment I feel as fit as ever I was, and could go on to the field and take part in a hard ninety minutes’ football.

Dundee was my unlucky club. During my five seasons with Partick I received many disappointments when opposed to the Jute men. I believe I was only once on the winning side against Dundee, and we met on well over a dozen occasions.
It was while playing Dundee in the League that I received the injury which finished my career as a player. It didn’t look as if it would turn out to be serious, but it is often the simple-looking injuries which cause so much trouble.

Thought little of it at the time.
I thought little of the knock I received on the hench-bone, although I was pained for the moment. I was not forced to leave the field, and felt no ill effects until I was in the dressing-room at the finish. I was no satisfied that all was well, and asked the club doctor to examine me. He told me that the injury was only slight, but it might develop into appendicitis.

I wasn’t barred from playing. I think I took part in half-a-dozen games before I was forced to give up the game for the time being and undergo an operation.

While I was playing I felt like the worse, although at times I suffered much pain, especially on the days following a match. I could walk about and run a little, but when I made an effort to reach anything with my leg a big lump would appear on the injured limb, only to disappear when I took matters easy.

I grew a big uneasy at this swelling, and was far from satisfied that I was doing the right thing in playing. As I was living out of Glasgow it was not always convenient for me to see the club doctor, so he advised me to consult my own physician in Larkhall – I was advised by him to consult a professor.

When I called on the professor he told me that I might play for twenty years without doing myself any injury, but if I received a knock on the injured part it might prove dangerous. He advised me to undergo an operation, and I wasted little time after receiving his advice. It was afternoon when I called at his consulting rooms, and I was in bed in McAlpine’s Home in Glasgow that same evening by eight o’clock, after making the journey to Larkhall.

Strangest Christmas I ever spent.
I was operated on the following morning, which happened to be Christmas Day. It was certainly the strangest Christmas I have ever spent. It was a wise course I was advised to take, for my health has improved ever so much since.

While I was in the nursing home I received my benefit. The date was settled when I signed on at the beginning of the season, and although most of the arrangements were made, the Partick management did a lot to made the benefit a success in my absence. The side which opposed the Thistle was a sponsored one, and as this entailed a good deal work for the Firhill management deserve every credit, for they spared no effort and saw that everything was up to concert pitch.

Although the weather was anything but favourable – the ground was covered with snow – I had every reason to feel proud at the manner in which the football public turned out.
I was afterwards told that the game was a particularly interesting one. The select team was: – Jimmy Bronwlie, Tom and Alex McGregor, Jimmy Gordon, W. Allan, and Johnny May, J. Paterson, Alex Bennett, Jack Parkinson (of my old club, Liverpool), Jimmy Croal and Bobby McNeil. Jimmy Quinn and Jimmy Stark walked the line.

It was very good of the players and officials of the other clubs to do so much for me without receiving a halfpenny for their trouble. My old friend the late Tom Watson, came from Liverpool at his own expense along with “Parky,” and before the match paid me a visit at the nursing home. Their presence did much to cheer me up. Old Tom was just the sort to put new life into anyone who was the least bit depressed.

Good and true football friends.
It was not until I was in the nursing home that I fully realised how many good and true football friends I had. I did not get much chance to feel lonely, for I had visitors almost every day of the week.

I played very little after my operation. The games I did take part in were only friendlies. I was hardly robust enough to take part in the more strenuous League games, and I don’t suppose the Thistle officials cared to risk me.

Before the season ended I had fully made up my mind to quit the game, but I had little idea of what I was to do next. They say that all good comes to those who wait, but I had little or no waiting. Before the last day of the season I found myself in a new role, and it was indeed a stroke of luck that I came to secure what was to be my future occupation.

As most of you will know, I live at Larkhall, and while with the Thistle I made the journey to Glasgow every morning. Quite a number of officials and players used to travel in the same train, and it was on a very rare occasion that I had to make the journey alone. A frequent traveller was a Hamilton official. About the end of March, 1914, I met this official in the train, and in the course of our conversation – we always talked of football affairs – he mentioned to me that the Accies had decided to have a paid secretary and manager.

“Hoo Dae Ye Think I wad Dae?”
After talking about the new position, I remarked more in a joke than anything else, “Hood ae ye think I wid dae?”
“Man, Alick,” said the Hamilton official, “I believe you would be the man for us. Why do you not send in your application?”
I thought the matter over after leaving my friend, and decided to have a “shot,” at the Hamilton managership. I did not see any harm in making application, although I must admit I had little hopes of proving successful.

However, I was; and I cannot say I have any regrets. The Hamilton officials did everything to assist me in my new work. Previous to this I thought I knew everything about football, but it was not until I had got properly set agoing in the managerial line that I learned that I only knew one side of football.

When a player I would have taken a lot of convincing that there was so much hard graft attached to the managing of a club.

I was very enthusiastic in my new work. Matters went well with me. I always had a sneaking regard for the Accies. It was the club nearest to my native heath, and this made me strive all the harder to be a success.

My first month as a manager was mostly taken up in spotting likely talent among the juniors. I was quite charmed with the class of juniors I watched, and could have got quite a decent eleven from the junior ranks.

Both turned out trump cards.
I was quite satisfied with those I secured. Both Millar and Christie, whom I “snapped” from local clubs, have turned out trump cards. Christie was not a regular member of Larkhall Thistle when we secured his signature, but we saw something in the lad, and did not put off time in fixing him. It is wonderful what good training will do to develop a young lad.

I have been very comfortable since I took up my new position. I have since seen the other side of football. I have seen something which I thought little about or cared less about when a player. I’m liking the work A1, and if I’m half as successful in my new venture as I was as a player, there will be no one better pleased than Alick Raisbeck.
(The Sunday Post: July 10, 1915)

alex-raisbeck-acca

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