A reminiscence of Mr. Abraham Coates

Saturday, March 7 – 1925
By Victor Hall

There is a pleasant remembrance among football enthusiasts of today when they survey the good work done for local football by the men who guided the destinies of Everton and Liverpool years ago when both clubs were in their tender youth.

Some day we may recall with passing wonder the strange anxieties that witnessed the separate launchings of both clubs. The jealousies, the brickerings, even the bitterness that was engendered on one side, or on both. And yet time is a wonderful healer, and those live yet that, working once in opposite camps, have since come to know one another better, and knowing, have learned with pleasure that earlier estimates of character were misjudged or hastily formed.

They have learned that the once bitter opponents was only a strong partisan, and that the best and passion of the argument has but hid or dimmed a kindly nature, and the beneath the angry air there beat an honest heart. Sportsmanship is a great leveller of class. It brings together the broadcloth and the corduroy, the clerical collar and the muffler, the ultra-Radical and the stoutest of Tories. So may it always be.

We would recall some of those giants of sportsmanship who in the past helped to mould the fortunes of both Everton, and Liverpool. Foremost them, at least in point of years, one recalls, the charming personality of the late Mr. A.T. Coates, one of the first directors of the present Everton club, and previously a committeeman of the club before they left Anfield for Goodison Park.

Charming is truly the best way to describe the personality of the popular old clubman. His venerable grey beard, his invariable top hat, and a courtly old-world grace that distinguished him in any company, will be at once recall by all who ever came in contact with him.

When in good health he never missed a match, and at all times his heart and soul were in the fortunes of the club, and more particularly in the care and comfort of the players themselves. He was never so happy as when among them. In their recreation or in their amusement no member of the board was more welcome than Mr. Coates, and if success came it did not spoil his interest in them.

More potent in his influence with them, however, was the kindly way in which, when fortune was fickle, he still stood by “the boys.” He was not a fair-weather friend of the players. He did not desert them, or avoid their company when defeat or ill-fortune came along. Nor did he show pique or coolness with a player who had “gone off” his form. That is the testing time with every player, when he picks out real friends from the sham.

No one knows than the player himself when he is having his bad time. He does not-need the jeers of an ill-informed crowd to remind him that he is “of.” He knows it better than they; sometimes, too, he knows why he is “off.” And they do not……Yet they jeer.

He may have illness or worry, or any of the hundred things that come to trouble every man who works for his bread, and still must work, but what a difference when one can work without worry or without the constant pull at the heart-strings that mental on bodily worry may bring.

That is where Abraham T. Coates won the hearts of most players with whom he came in contact. He had a wonderful depth of sincerity and sympathy in his soul, and if he could not praise at least he did not blame. He understood.

In return the players gave him their confidence and their respect. They came to him with their troubles and with their anxieties, and like an old confessor he heard them through to the end, and if their views needed expression at the board meeting, he was the champion to state their case, and in most cases he was an eloquent pleader, and one might add a successful one generally.

With his fellow directors, too, Mr. Coates held a warm corner in their esteem. He was so genuinely sincere and earnest in every duty to him that he disarmed criticism. Whether on the ground Committee or in matters of finance, his time and his brilliant intellect and energies were always at the club’s disposal.

Towards the end of his career, advancing age prevented him making the long and frequent journeys in football matters he had done in earlier years, but to the very end his interest and activities would have shamed many a younger man.

With visiting committees too, he was extremely popular. Extremely fastidious in his own entertainment, his heath requiring constant care, he was always welcome and genial speaker at inner-club gatherings where he readily wit and sparkling humour were invariably the hit of the evening.

One little story he used to enjoy telling against himself. After a match one day the team were returning to Liverpool by train, and in the saloon carriage, after the tea baskets had been disposed of, he was illustrating a point in offside position with a number of matches to represent players. Round him were gathered the team and some fellow directors and of course, the pressman.

From the “offside” illustration. Mr. Coates progressed with his matchsticks to illustrate according to his ideas, the most successful way to carry the ball forward into a good scoring position for any match.

Illustrating his points, he moved each of his forwards, and half-backs, one by one, forward on the table of play. “Here you see the centre half passes to the outside-right, who is uncovered, he passes forward and round his man, recovers, and gives to his inside forward; the inside forward instantly swings it over to the outside left, who running up, draws the defence out to him. He is speedy and gets well down to the corner flag then he whips it across where there is his centre and the inside right waiting to score.”

Quite simple you see, according to my plan,” and Mr. Coates puts down his last match. “Wait a bit, Mr. Coates” blurred out one of the players – and he was an international many times over for Scotland; –

“What the – is the other team doing all this time?”
And Mr. Coates had forgotten that!
(Liverpool Football Echo, 07-03-1925)

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