Sydney Ross, or Sydney Henderson Ross as he was baptised, had the honour of being our first ever goalkeeper – or ‘custodian’ – as the goalies were known back in the 1890s. The other feature he is remembered by is the serious injury he obtained in the 2nd round match of the ‘Lancashire Cup’ on Saturday against Bootle at Hawthorne Road on March 11, 1893, when he broke his leg.
Liverpool Mercury wrote after the match: “Immediately upon restarting a long kick by Arridge caused Ross to handle. Not to be denied, however, the home forwards, who were conspicuous for rare dash, swooped down upon the Liverpool defence, and after the visiting custodian had partially cleared a shot from McLafferty, he was unfortunately injured, and Gallacher had no difficulty in adding a second point for Bootle.”
Ross had up until that day been a safe goalkeeper for Liverpool. He was part of one of the best defences in English football that season, for, in front of him played such experienced players as Andrew Hannah and Duncan McLean. If one of them had a bad match the two others stepped up and saved either the situation, or the match.
Finding a description of Ross has not been easy, but reading the match reports of the matches he played he was portrayed as a steady goalkeeper. He seemed to be a little bit shaky on dead-ball situations like corners and free-kicks, but made his strength in agility and communication with his full-backs.
From newspaper reports his injury seemed to have been very serious. He was an inmate at Stanley Hospital until Friday, March 24 – and the local papers wrote that it was feared “he would never play again.”
Ross was born in Edinburgh on June 8, 1869. Around 1890 he was found to be playing for a Scottish team called Cambuslang. Cambuslang is a suburban town on the south eastern outskirts of Glasgow.
Cambuslang Football Club was one of the founding members of the Scottish League in 1890, but after just two seasons the club finished bottom, and they did not seek re-election after the 1891/1892 season.
He obtained county honours while with Cambuslang. He was elected to represent a ‘Glasgow Select XI’ in their Inter-City match vs. Edinburgh Select XI on November 14, 1891.
During his last season with Cambuslang he was selected to represent the ‘Scottish League XI’ in an Inter-League match against Scottish Alliance XI. A few weeks after the 1891-92 season closed Ross signed on for the newly founded Liverpool Football Club.
He was presented as the new goalkeeper by W.E. Barclay on June 30 – 1892 in the secretary’s letter to the editor of the local sports paper “Field Sport”. Described with experience from the inter-league match between Scottish League v Scottish Alliance.
Ross var part of the first consignment of players that arrived in Liverpool on Friday, July 29 – 1892. ‘Scottish Sport’ reported: “The first consignment for the Liverpool club, which consisted of 8 players, arrived Friday evening, and the men found what was called a “thick” tea awaiting them at the Lathom Hotel. They appear to be a lively lot of players.”
The Lathom Hotel was in Houghton Street, close to Lime-street Station, and must have acted as a temporary base until the players found living quarters closer to Anfield. I also know from numerous newspaper articles that football clubs visiting Liverpool to play matches often checked in (or, put in at) the Lathom Hotel for the duration of their stay.
On Monday, August 16, 1892, Liverpool F.C. held an open practice session free for spectators to watch from the stands, and the “Liverpool Mercury” noted that: “Ross, who is of average height, repelled a number of determined onslaughts in smart style, and twice ran out and effected clever saves whilst surrounded by opposing forwards.”
Two weeks later the “Field Sport” presented the Liverpool squad ahead of the new season. According to them Ross was something special “the position of goal-keeper is perfectly safe in the hands of Sydney Ross. His display in the practice matches stamps him as one of the finest custodians who ever appeared in a team.”
When the 1892/1893 football season closed on May 1, 1893 Liverpool decided not to re-sign Ross for another season. Most likely reason for not re-signing him was the serious leg injury.
In early summer 1893 Ross returned to Scotland and Cambuslang, though he did not play much during the 1893-1894 season. In May, 1894, he signed for Third Lanark, and he stayed four seasons with the 3rd. Towards the end of May, 1898 he signed on for Clyde. Clyde at the same time also signed another former Liverpool-goalkeeper in the person of Willie Donnelly.
He later played for Ayr Parkhouse, and when he migrated to Australia in the summer of 1910 the Evening Telegraph wrote: “Sydney Ross, of Ayr Parkhouse, and who latterly played at goal for Third Lanark some years ago, sails at an early date for Australia. Old ‘Warriors’ of Cathkin wish for a safe voyage and good luck.”
Through searches on google I found out that he passed away in South Brisbane (Queensland), Australia, on February 4, 1924.
Kjell Hanssen, Farnborough, UK, December 3 – 2014.