October 23, 1929
In 1919 football recommenced after being stopped by the war. But in my opinion there was a far more important happening in the football world. The Irish selectors found a young broth of a boy playing goalie for Liverpool and decided that no other should represent them in the Victory ‘National against Scotland.
That same broth of a boy was Elisha Scott, and never will I forget the day I learned that the Emerald Isle was requiring the services of myself.
I was playing, as I say, with the Liverpool club, and when the manager came to me one morning and told me that I was wanted bu the Old Country to play against the Scots, at Ibrox Park, I wagged my head very wisely and said, “The other leg is better far, for pulling, it’s got bells on.”
It took the manager half an hour of powerful argument and much waving of official notes before I could believe that such great honor had come to the same boy.
The journey to Scotland took, I believe about eight hours, but Elisha Scott thought it was a hundred hours. The nearer I got to Glasgow the further I wished I was away. I was as nervous as a sheep on the way to the butcher, and felt very much like the sheep would.
The first of that game was too rapid for me. I stopped one or two easy pots and began to feel like a goalie at last. Then some spalpeen ousted the rules inside the area and Andy Wilson, the Scots centre came up to take the free pot.
I believe he scored. I don’t know. The referee said so, the crowd said so, and next day’s paper said so, and therefore he must have done. But I never saw that ball go past.
Soon after that the lads took the ball to the Scots and gave them a spot of running to do. Billy Halligan, the Hull City laddie, gave the ball a thundering kick, and I had the pleasant sensation of seeing ‘my Scots’ counterpart fish the ball from the where all good shots go to.
Hurrah, I thought. One’ each, and they don’t come through here while there’s a breath in my body. They didn’t either, for although they scored another goal I had no breath in my body when they did it. Donaldson, the outside-right, who used to play with Bolton Wanderers, sent in a centre. It was rising quickly and the wind was bringing it in. With that touch of Irish which makes the whole world grin, I dashed out of the citadel and grabbed the ball.
A flashing thought of congratulation struck me just a split second before a flashing body hit me in the ribs and I sat upside the net with the ball in my lap. The second goal was also the property of Andy Wilson.
It was a very subdued Elisha Scott that returned to Liverpool that day, and I felt sure that never again would I play for my country. You can judge my surprise therefore when I was told that I had to play in the return match at Windsor Park, Belfast – these were Victory Internationals, you understand.
The crowd at Belfast was after my own heart, and the good old brogue came kindly back to my ears. The cheers which rent the air when “we” took the field were as sweet music.
I remember very distinctly a remark made to me by a bonny boy from the hills. The boy was dressed up in traditional Irish costume. His cheeks were somewhat rosy, more by acquaintance with the potsheen than with fresh air, and in his hand e wore, or grew, as we say, a shillelagh.
This potent weapon he handed down to me with a profound observation: “If they git so close to be lolke danger give ‘em a kiss wi’ the ould magic wand and they’ll trouble divil agin.”
I was tempted to slip the easy stick up my jersey, but refs are sometimes rather finicky.
The game which ensued was more to the liking of the crowd than it was to me. No goals passed me, but that was not my fault. I never had a shot that was worth speaking about, and Brownlie in the Scots enclosure had a similar easy time. There was one blight on that game. David Rollo, our Linfield back (later with Blackburn Rovers) missed a penalty and broke my heart.
Since that day I have played in many international encounters and enjoyed every one. Sometimes we lost, sometimes we won, but I was never so nervous again. On looking back I think of how I felt on that first day, and for that reason I can never chip a lad who is out on his first big game.
Of all the games I have played in, the one I enjoyed most was the one against Scotland in the early months of 1926. And the funny part of it was that we were whacked by the Caledonians four goals to nary a one. The reason I enjoyed myself is the reason the Irish are always up to the neck in trouble. It was a fight!
Our team was very weak. Rollo, McConnell, O’Brien and Irvine were not out that day, for their clubs would not stand for them leaving. The Scots had the finest team they ever had. The forward line was enough to frighten me home, and had it been my first game I would have done that same thing.
Hughie Gallacher was in the centre, with McInally and McLean of the Celtic on the left, and Alec Jackson and Andy Cunningham on the other side of him. Every one of those lads could shoot a goal when they got a chance, and they certainly knew how to get chances.
The first goal of the match was from the foot of Hughie, and he left me no chance at all. But it was his fourth shot, and the other boys had been having a shot or two apiece. I didn’t feel happy when Hughie beat me, but I knew it would happen sooner or later, and I bore no grudge.
The second goal was scored by Andy Cunningham, and the shot went so hard that I met it on the way out. It was then half-time, and as I walked up the gangway the irish lads came to me in a mass and ordered me to put a horseshoe in my glove. But it wouldn’t fit, and I had to leave it in the dressing-room. That’s why we lost.
It was in this game that Hughie Gallacher scored the finest goal I have ever had the honor of failing to stop. He got the ball with his back to me, and I was ready for, and anticipated his pass to Cunningham who was coming in. But the Newcastle boy just swung round and sent in the mother and father of a Mills bomb. I jumped up to beat it out but missed.
The time will surely come when I have to stop playing the game, but never will I forget the cold sickly feeling in the pit of the stomach when Hughie slapped in the fourth of the game. It was a deadly fast daisycutter, and all the “Scotts” in the world could not have scotched the Scot’s shot. Which sounds rather involved, but the truth will stand.
(Manitoba Free Press, Winnipeg, Canada, 23-10-1929)