Saturday, May 21 – 1921
The debt I owe to Sam Hardy,
and how I displaced him in the Liverpool team
By Kenneth Campbell.
“Kenneth Campbell, the famous goalkeeper for Partick Thistle and Scotland, begin here the story of his wonderful football career. In the very front rank among professional players, Campbell, although still quite a young man, yet has had great experience in the highest class of football. Joining Liverpool when a lad, as understudy to the renowned Sam Hardy, the prince of English goalkeepers. Kennet by brilliant exposition, ultimately succeeded in displacing Hardy, who was transferred to Aston Villa. For several seasons the young and clever Scot was the idol of the Liverpool crowd, and one of the stalwarts of a notable team. A year ago he was chosen to guard Scotia’s goal against England, and shortly afterwards he joined Partick Thistle. This season Campbell has played brilliantly for his club, and against Wales and Ireland.”
Right here let me say I have fixed up to play at Firhill next season. The reasons for delay in signing I may relate later on, but I might just mention there was no great difference between myself and the Partick Thistle Directors.
I wanted some concessions which they could not agree to at first, but eventually we came to terms satisfactory to both. I am delighted that I will again figure in the Thistle team.
Now, let me continue my narrative.
When Bob Pursell (Robert Pursell) and I arrived at Liverpool we were in a very raw state. But for the guidance of Donald Mackinlay we would have fared very badly I am afraid.
It makes me laugh now to think of all the little things that worried us. When we went shopping it was a case of “You ask, Bob.” “No, you ask, Kenny, they’ll understand you better.”
I feel sure the shop attendants had many a quiet smile at us.
However, that’s by-the bye. We soon got other things to worry us. As I told you, there was the investigation into my signing for Liverpool, which came to nothing.
The next thing was that the signing of Pursell was brought before the notice of the English Association. So far as I can recollect, Queens’ Park reported that their player had been approached illegally.
Bob, I may tell you, was positively innocent on the affair, but it was a great source of worry for him. He and I spent many sleepless nights talking things over.
There must have been some ground for the Queen’s Park complaint, for one of the Liverpool Directors was suspended for two years for his share in the transaction, and the club was fined £200.
These little things smoothed over, we got settled down to the commencement of our adventure into a professional football career.
At Anfield Road I found myself amongst quite a number of Scots. In addition to the players I have already mentioned there were Ronald Orr, who had arrived from Newcastle; Jock McDonald (John Macdonald), a brother to Davie McDonald (David Macdonald), the Dundee player; and Sam Gilligan, the Dundonian.
Of the latter I have the pleasantest recollections, and if I can remember some of the “doings” of this irrepressible Dundee man, I’ll tell then as I go along – it’s wonderful how details escape you just when you want to set them down.
Anyhow, we were a pretty happy family. For a start I was a little overawed at my surroundings. Those of my readers who have gone from junior ranks into senior can well understand how I felt when I first entered the pavilion at Anfield.
But I was soon at ease, and entered on my duties as goalkeeper to the “Reds’” reserve team, playing in the Central League.
Strange to say, it was some time before I saw Sam Hardy, the man whom fate had destined I was to succeed. It was like this. Sam lived at Chesterfield, in Derbyshire, and as this town was a long way off from Liverpool, the international goalkeeper only travelled west when Liverpool played at home.
And, of course, when the first time were at home the reserves were playing away.
I was very anxious to see Hardy, and it was a delight to me when, there being a week-day match between Liverpool and Bolton Wanderers at Bolton, our Directors took the whole of the reserve eleven to the Lancashire town to see the match.
It was my first experience of real Lancashire at Burnden Park, and I have never forgotten it. I had heard the Bolton team being called the “Trotters,” and I was not long in getting to know why.
Everything being strange to me, I took special note of the crowd, and it was with no inconsiderable amusement that I watched a fellow parading amongst the spectators with a pail. Into this pail he would dip, bring out something which he would split with a knife and spread with mustard, after which he handed he handed it over to a purchaser, who gnawed at it with evident relish. I discovered that the succulent repast was a pig’s foot – “trotters!”
Introduced to Hardy.
Of course, I was introduced to Sam Hardy. He greeted me very kindly, like the splendid fellow he is. “Glad to meet you, young ‘un,’ he said: “hop you like Liverpool, and I wish you all success.”
I was proud to meet the man I had heard so much about, and there should be no need to tell you that it was on him I focused my eyes during the whole of that game at Bolton.
What a great player he is, was my impression. I watched him carefully, and am not ashamed to own that I learned thoroughly one or two things which have been helpful to me in my career.
I noticed, for instance, that there was no gallery play with Sam. He had an unerring eye, and if a ball was going past the upright he made no wild grab at nothing. He simply stood still and watched it go by with the tail of his optic. The same when a high ball came in. Sam didn’t make a jump upwards and catch the bar, as is the fashion of many goalkeepers. An upward glance told him the flight of the ball, and he stood as unconcerned as though the ball had been in midfield. To me his intuition seemed extraordinary. He seemed to place himself right in the spot where a shot was to come in, and by so doing was able to clear his lines with the least possible fuss.
Frankly, my ideas of goalkeeping underwent a change, and, although I had a fairly respectable reputation as a ‘keeper at that time, my own feelings were that I was but a tyro.
And right here just let me say that I was indebted to Sam for many valuable tips during his term at Anfield while I was there.
My first big game.
For almost two seasons I played reserve to Sam Hardy, and, but for a slight difference between Sam and the club, I might have been in the reserves during the whole of my connection with Liverpool. Once when the Chesterfield man had an injured hand I got a chance of playing in the first team. That was against Blackburn Rovers. As was only natural, I felt a bit overawed with my position. As I stepped out on the field I had a sort of a sinking feeling somewhere in the region of my stomach, and where I knew the faces of the crowd should be I could only see one great blur.
I think I was impressed with the names of the men in the opposition team. I had heard of the doings of Blackburn, and names such as Latheron, Chapman, and Crompton were big things to me.
Out I went, however, determined to do my best, and during the few minutes’ kicking in before the start I regained my composure somewhat. You can scarcely imagine the relief I felt when some of our boys said as we trooped out, “Come on, Kenny, and we’ll give you a few hot ones to hold.” Just a few shots sent in, and I got my hands to them, and felt all right.
I just forgot how that game ended, but I know that I got credit for a great save which was entirely undeserved. I had been getting very little to do for some time, when a breakaway let the Rovers’ forwards within reach of me: Chapman sent in shot from pretty close range, and more by instinct than anything else, I raised my hands. The balls struck them, and I grabbed it, and cleared. The crowd cheered, and I was O.K. after that. My confidence was restored, and I made no mistakes for the rest of the game.
Sam Hardy tells me off.
At least, so I thought until after the match, when Hardy came up to congratulate me on my play. I thought it the best compliment I could have paid to me when the great goalie offered me words of praise. And I knew he meant it. Sam was sincere.
But after he had patted me on the back with one hand, he gave me a “skelp in the lug,” with the other, so to speak. “Kenny, my boy,” he said, “you’ve got a mighty bad habit of running out of your goal. You’ll never be a great goalkeeper if you don’t discard that habit. I don’t say never do it, but when a ‘keeper makes up his mind to leave his goal he must be sure he is to get the ball. Remember it’s a gambler’s chance you take when you are out. You are risking all, and if you are not sure of getting the ball, don’t come out.”
He apologised for speaking to me like this, but I can tell you I have good reason to be thankful for that advice, which ever since I have tried to act upon.
During these two seasons in the reserves I was quite happy to understudy the “Reds’” goalkeeper, and it came as a bit of a shock when Sam parted with the club.
As I have indicated, Sam lived at Chesterfield, a town in the north of Derbyshire, and a good bit away from Liverpool. Well, the club wanted Sam to come to Liverpool for his training, and this he refused to do. Matter got a bit strained, and ultimately he and Harrop (Jim Harrop) were transferred to Aston Villa. To Liverpool people there was a bit of a mystery about this, for rumour had it that a very small transfer fee was paid over for the two players.
In view of the fact that Hardy represented his country many times after going to the Birmingham club and still retains his place in the Villa team, it does seem strange, even yet, that he was allowed to leave Anfield. His waygoing, however, gave me another step up the ladder, and needless to say, I was delighted at the opportunity given me, for I had fairly settled down to Liverpool life.
Next week I’ll tell you of a strange rumour about a deal between Everton and Liverpool in which I figured.
(The Weekly News, 21-05-1921)