July 1, 1930
Picture to yourself John Hill, the Newcastle United an one-time Plymouth Argyle centre-half-back, but imagine him to be two or three inches smaller, an there you have a conception of William Cockburn, the new pivot of Swindon Town, in action in the field.
There may be another slight difference in the sense that Cockburn, if anything, is more strongly built than the international, but the resemblance has often been commented upon.
Sandy-haired and the picture of an athlete, Cockburn is as strong as an ox, and although, early in his career, he was regarded as just a bustler who sought to gain his ends by sheer force he developed shrewd constructive play so markedly that to-day he is an eminently serviceable pivot, quick and neat in his footwork, powerful in the tackle, and a man who makes good use of his head.
Cockburn has been described as a Scot, but as a fact he was born at Craghead in county Durham, and although he is just 30 years of age, with something like nine years of League football behind him, he is very far from having entered the declining stage.
His parents took him from Craghead when he was just a toddler, the family settling in the South Shields district, and it was here that Cockburn was brought up and where he played his first football with a local schoolboy team. Although he stood out among his fellows, his career in the game was interrupted when he became a miner at St. Hilary’s Colliery, South Shields, for war had broken out, and there was little serious organised football until the time came for him to enter the Army.
Out in France he figured at inside left with his battalion team, that of the 9th Yorkshire Light Infantry, and also appeared in two games of the 50th Territorial Division, but it was after his return home on New Year’s Day in 1919 that his football career may be said to have really begun to earnest. He quickly became attached to Rosehill Villa, a Northern Amateur League club, and although he appeared in two matches with Wallsend Park Villa in the North-Eastern League that was the extent of his experience before Stockport County induced him to undergo a month’s trial in the second half of season 1920-21.
For the remainder of that season and the whole of the next he played in the Lancashire Combination and the Cheshire County League, but from the time that he first appeared in League football, which was against West Ham United in September, 1922, his advancement was rapid.
Cockburn was largely responsible for Stockport securing their largest number of points on record as a Second Division club, and after the offer of a huge fee by Middlesbrough had been rejected it was not altogether surprising when he was transferred to Liverpool in exchange for a four-figure sum on 27 May, 1924.
It was against Bury in September of the same year that he made his bow to First Division football, and his intelligent purveying and grim determination in tackling were outstanding points about his work.
He remained on Merseyside for four seasons, and Liverpool probably would not have parted with him but for a dispute which arose over the question of a benefit. It was in early August, 1928, that he came south and joined Queen’s Park Rangers, so that he arrives at Swindon as a fully-matured pivot whose strength in defence makes him a valuable third back in these days of the W formation.
(Swindon Advertiser and North Wilts Chronicle, 01-07-1930)