Famous old-timers: Fred Geary (Everton F.C. and Liverpool F.C.)

September 20, 1924
Fred Geary – Who gave goalkeepers something to talk about.
“From the succeeding centre Geary scored, giving the goalkeeper no chance to save.”
These lines might almost have been kept in type by the newspapers that reported football matches in the days when Fred Geary was the idol of every follower of League football in England.

It is no part of these recollection to record the rise and progression towards fame of the various players who figure in our gallery of celebrities. Other writers have done that, and the records exist for those who would refresh their members. But in Fred Geary’s case it may be well to record that when he came to Everton from Notts it was with his reputation to make. He had certainly got a remarkable record as a “shot” with the junior Nottingham clubs with whom he had played before coming to Everton, but it was on the old ground of Everton at Anfield Road where Liverpool now play, that the career of the brilliant Nottingham youngster was to bring fame to the Everton club and to himself.

Looking back over the factors that gave Fred Geary his chance, it is not difficult now to apportion the credit. Nature had endowed the brilliant youngster with certain admirable physical gifts, but it was to his own indomitable “will” to attain success, and to his tenacity of purpose and untiring persistence that full credit must be given.

Fred Geary, Everton and Liverpool.
Fred Geary, Everton and Liverpool

Uncommon speed
In all that Fred undertook whether play or work –and professional football even then was work and hard work at that –he was through. He never shirked putting his very best into the day’s work. He had started his football career with one essential asset for a centre forward –speed. By natural gift he added to that and developed a quickness of eye and an instinctive sense of direction in “shooting” that was head and shoulders above that any of his contemporaries could achieve. Possessing then these supreme assets for the successful centre forward, he proceeded to add other attributes that left his position as England’s centre forward unchallenged.

To began with, he had, as stated an uncommon turn of speed and a facility for getting into “pace” instantly; he had a quick eye and an instructive sense of direction. To these, by assiduous practice, from boyhood onward, he added an uncommon knack of taking the ball on the run, or the “bounce” and being able to “shoot” without first “trapping” or steadying the ball, as was generally necessary with his opponents. This distinctive feature of Geary’s play throughout the whole of his professional career never left him, and was the despair of the imitators. He told me once how he had developed this particular grit; the hint may be useful to youngsters of the present day.

During his schooldays, and afterwards, he spent hours a day (think of that you budding centre forwards, who consider an odd kick or two before a match sufficient practice), kicking the ball against a blank brick wall on which he had chalked a full sized goal. He played alone, just kicking the ball into the goal, and catching the rebound from the wall, and kicking it back.

To do this you will realise he had to “skip” as the ball came back from every sort of angle, and with every sort of twist, and spin on it. You may think that was a simple sort of thing, but it taught young Geary to catch thee ball at every distance from goal, and to bang it back without an instant’s pause. He got to know the “look” of the “run” as it came to him, and before he ever knew a billiard ball, or handled a cue, he learned the meaning of “running” side and “drag” and “screw shot” on the larger ball that made his footwork unconsciously skilful, and to his opponents deadly to a degree.

He had then speed, a quick eye, an instinctive sense of direction, and a skill in shooting that was unrivaled, then added to these natural grits he had a forward line whose inside forwards and wing men “fed” him to a nicety and were unselfish to a degree, and a half-back line behind him who knew his pace to a yard. In Johnny Holt he had the best centre half of the day, who could be relied on to give every material support –even to the extent of instantly tackling any opposing player who robbed Geary and immediately robbing them in turn and giving Fred the ball back again to have another try.

As to the individual style of Geary’s play he generally lay well forward in the centre of the field –never “offside” – but ready for the first swinging centre that came in either half-back or forwards. As it came towards him he seemed without a glance mind to know instinctively just where his own forwards where and how the opposing defence were placed, and before the ball touched the ground it was lifted in the required direction for either a colleague to take or for a dash forward “on his won.”

Therein lay another of his gifts. He could get up speed instantly. To say that he was off “like a shot” may be figure of speech, but certainly if Fred wanted to take his own forward pass he was through the backs’ almost as quick as the ball he had passed; and he was instantly careering towards goal with the defence failed out behind, and his own wing men narrowing in for the rebound or the goalkeeper’s “kick out” if the first time shot should miss. That being us to the point where “Geary scored,” as the newspapers used to record it with monotonous regularity.

Fred’s deadly distance was anywhere between tea and twenty yards from goal – and it did not matter which foot he used, nor, did it matter whether the ball was still or flying, nor high up nor low down. If Geary shot, the goalkeeper was lucky or beaten. If he was lucky, he was in the way of the shot, or got in the way of it, but the goalkeeper of those days who stopped or “saved” from Geary, used to go home and talk about it. His shots came in high or low, but they came quick.

Mostly those that scored were in the net before the goalkeeper could reach them; getting a finger tip to them never turned them aside – you had to get both hands or the whole body to turn them aside, and even than the chances were that the ball came instantly back to you from that same deadly shooter, probably this time kicked with the “other” foot just for a change. In his style of play Geary was no sticker for precise rules of deportment.

Very simple
He did not err on the side of hesitancy for instance, if he wanted to dispossess an opposing player! If he wanted to take the ball away from the player of the opposite side, who happened to be using it at the moment, he never asked permission on said “By your lease.” Nor did he adopt the “dervish” methods of Holt and dance round about, and up and down in front of the man who had the ball, with a view of making him dizzy, or forgetful in which direction, up or down the field, he was playing. Fred‘s method of getting the ball were simple and direct.

He violently projected himself through space in the direction of the other player’s body, causing an impact that for the moment removed the other man;s attention from the ball. When the two players had resorted themselves, and “passed the time of day” to each other Edgar Chadwick or Alex Brady had taken the ball and gone on playing with it, and Geary was now running forward to take the expected centre and score “another goal for Everton.” Geary as has been said, was a great favourite with the Everton crowd.

When he married and settled down as a local resident, the Liverpool sporting public took his warmly to their hearts, and with football came equal skill as a billiard player and later, as a bowler. Now there is Fred Geary father and Fred Geary son, who as bowlers, would probably meet and beat any other father and son playing bowlers today. Geary has a circle of friends and admirers today, whose good opinion of him has only been enhanced by the years that have passed, and at the Stanley Arms bowling green, in Kirkdale,

Mr. And Mrs. Fred Geary and Fred Geary Jun., will probably read with surprise this little reminder of a well earned and nobly won player in the gallery of “Famous footballers.”
(Liverpool Echo: September 20, 1924)

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