A Scot named Jack Angus

Written by: TONY ONSLOW.

Jack Angus.
John Angus
A man who scored in the first Football League match between Manchester and Merseyside.

The population of Liverpool were starting to prepare for the festive season when a young man stepped of the train at Tithebarn Railway Station to be greeted by the representatives of Everton Football Club. The weary traveller, who had been offered a trial with the Anfield club, was John William Angus and he had been spotted playing football in his native Scotland.

Angus had been born, December 1 – 1868, in an area of central Glasgow, long since given over to commence, known as Blythswood. He first came to notice when playing for a local junior club, Kelvingrove Athletic, against Queens Park at Hampden Park. The juniors, outclassed, were beaten 7-0. Kelvingrove Athletic was later drawn against 3rd Lanark in the second round of the Scottish Cup where they was beaten by eight goals to nothing. Angus then joined the 3rd Lanark club where his play impressed a local talent scout who covered the area on behalf of Everton.

The Scotsman was given a couple of days to settle in to his new environment before making his Everton debut in a club fixture against Burslam Port Vale. The match took place on what was, at the time, the home ground of the Staffordshire club at Colbridge. Angus, who accompanied George Farmer on the right side of the forward line, helped Everton to record a 2-1 victory. Next Saturday he took part in a reserve team game, at Anfield, against Stoke before being thrown in, at the deep end, against the finest club in England. Jack Angus made his Everton debut, 22nd December 1888, against Preston North End at Deepdale.

The occasion attracted a crowd of around 8000 spectators that included around 700 excursionists who had travelled to the Ribbleside mill town, via Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway network, from Liverpool. Joe Davies, a currant Welsh International, was missing from the Everton line up through illness so Jack Angus replaced him on right side of the Everton forward line.  The home side, throughout the course of the game, proved too strong for the visitors and beat them, quite comfortably, by 3 goals to 0. Jack Angus, who made little impact on his opponents, then returned to Liverpool where he participated in the string of fixtures that had been arranged, by the Everton executive, to keep their supporters entertained during the Christmas Holiday.

The opening game, which took place on Christmas Day, was against an Ulster select X1 who, having travelled by over-night ferry, docked in Liverpool just a few hours before the kick-off that had been arranged for 10:45 am.  Jack Angus was selected to take part in the game. The association game was, in Ireland, still in an early stage of development so the hosts consented to allow their guests to strengthen the side with two experienced Scottish players who were residing on Merseyside. Their names were George Coyne and John Davie and each of them had played two football league matches for Everton.

The gates of the Anfield enclosure were opened early and around 6,000 local fans paid for admission. The game, which turned out to be a most sporting affair, was won, 3-0, by Everton. (Jack Angus did not get on the score sheet.) The gates of the enclosure, when the crowd had dispersed, were then closed and the two teams wiled their way over to the Sandon Hotel where the rules of hospitality were duly observed.  The Ulstermen then set off to compete in the next match of their tour which was to be against Southport Central. They had barely left the premises when the players of Blackburn Park Road arrived to take part in a Lancashire Cup tie.

Jack Angus, “who sat the game out” was one of the several changes made to an Everton side that progressed to the next round of the contest with a 3-1 victory. The game however, played in a downpour, took its toll on the Anfield playing surface and this left the ground staff with just 24 hours to repair it in time for the Boxing Day visit of their deadly rivals from Bootle.  Jack Angus was selected to take part in is encounter.

The two sides had been at Loggerheads for sometime and this festive fixture was to go someway in helping them bury the hatchet. The match caught the imagination of the local football fans and over 16,000 where present when, at 2:50, the two teams entered the enclosure.  Jack Angus, who had never before played in front of such a multitude, would have no doubt been somewhat apprehension as he took up his position on the right of the home forward line. The Anfield pitch was still showing the scars of yesterdays encounter and the overnight rain would only served to make it worse. The players, during the course of game, struggled to keep their feet in the treacherous conditions and the crowd, full of Christmas spirit, roared with laughter at their antics. The heavy ground, which soon resembled a swamp, slowly sapped the energy of both sets of players and game ended in a goalless draw. Jack Angus had an impressive game so he retained his place in the Everton side when they played their next fixture, a Football League match, at Accrington.

The match took place on the home of Accrington Cricket Club which was known as locally as Thornyholme. Jack Angus took up position on the left of the Everton forward line where he partnered Edgar Chadwick. The east Lancashire cotton town was, in terms of population, the smallest among the founder members of the Football League and the crowd who watched the match was described as being “modest in number”. George Farmer, who missed his train, failed to turn up so Everton quickly secured the services of Pickering, a local amateur who played for Bells Temperance.

Everton, who began the game badly, were soon trailing before an equalising goal, scored by Edgar Chadwick, brought them level at the break. Nevertheless, the home side, which proved too strong for the visitors, went on to win the game by 3 goals to 1. It had been another poor performance by an Everton side who returned home to welcome in both the New Year and two visiting sides from Scotland.

Jack Angus missed the first game, against his old club 3rd Lanark, but returned for the game with a Cambuslang side that had, the previous season, been beaten in the Scottish FA Cup final. The game was played on a frost covered pitch that was engulfed in a thick blanket of fog and these factors made it difficult for the 2,500 spectators to follow all the aspects of play. Jack Angus was tried at centre forward but failed, once again, to get on the score sheet. However two first half goals, scored by Edgar Chadwick, were enough to give Everton a 2-1 victory.  The dreadful weather, which continued to affect Merseyside, showed no sign of yielding and but the forthcoming football league, at home to Blackburn Rovers, in jeopardy.

The referee arrived and, having inspected the frozen pitch, did not like what he saw and he made his observations clear to the representatives of both clubs. It was then decided, owing to the conditions, that whatever the result may be, the match was to be deferred a draw and count accordingly. Whether or not the spectators were aware of this arrangement is not abundantly clear but 6,000 of them paid for admission to the Anfield enclosure. Jack Angus, who played on the right wing, took part in the game as Everton, with goal from Bob Watson won 1-0. (The league committee refused to uphold this decision and ordered the match, won by Everton, to be replayed at a later date.)

The weather, meanwhile, had much improved when the next Football League game, against lowly Stoke, took place at Anfield where Jack Angus again took his place on the right of the home forward line. The visitors featured the currant England goalkeeper, Jack Rowley, but he could not prevent his side from sliding to a 2-1 defeat. The two points gained was welcomed by the Anfield faithfully because their next game was to be against the all-conquering, Preston North End.

The Lilywhites, when they arrived in Liverpool, were champions in “all but name” because they had yet to lose a Football League match. The occasion attracted a crowd of 14,000 which was, to date, the largest to watch a Football League match in England. The home side were minus their regular wing half John Weir and his place was taken by Bob Kelso, a Scot who was currently playing his football, on Tyneside, with Newcastle West End. Everton, throughout the first half, matched their distinguished guests and held them until the break. The second half however, belonged to the visitors and goals from Jack Ross and Goodall gave them a 2-0 victory. Jack Angus, it was reported, had “produced some good football” so he retained his place for the clubs next football league match at Wolverhampton. It was however, to be his last.

What went wrong that day has yet to be explained because the local newspapers failed to give a reasonable explanation. The Midland club, who had yet to settle on the Molineux Grounds, played their home matches on an enclosure they had built on Dudley Road. It was of a “basic nature”, with a pronounced slope, that had a small “lean to” that ran along one touchline. There was no pavilion to hand so the players changed at a nearby tavern called “The Fighting Cocks”. John Weir was still hors de combat so his place was taken by Rob Stevenson. He was a Kilmarnock born Scot who, along with Sandy Dick, had previously played for Liverpool Stanley.

Nick Ross lost the toss so Everton began the game, playing against both the strong wind and the slope. The home forwards then laid siege to their opponent’s goal and, when the half time whistle sounded, they led by 4 goals to 0. Everton, during the second half, managed to subdue their opponents but they added a further goal and won the game by 5 goals to 0.

Jack Angus now found himself playing in the Everton second X1 but he did take part in one or two prodigious matches that the club secretary had arranged. He travelled with the Everton party on their inaugural trip to Wearside where he competed against a Sunderland club that was doing all in its power to obtain membership of the Football League. Angus also represented Everton when Newton Heath made their first visit to Anfield and also took part in the game against Scottish Cup holders, and self acclaimed world champions, Renton. Jack Angus, having played five Football League games for Everton, was not retained by the club and left Liverpool during the summer of 1889. The rest of his career however, is subject to debate and has yet to be confirmed.

What is certain however is that Jack Angus, in 1891, moved to Manchester and signed for an Ardwick side that had just become members of the Football Alliance. Next season, along with Bootle, the Manchester club became founder members of the 2nd Division of the Football League. Angus then took part in the first Football League match, to be played in Manchester, and scored as Ardwick beat Bootle by seven goals to nothing. He played seven Football League games for them, scoring 3 times, before transferring his services to Stockport County. Next season, he moved south.

Jack Angus now became one of the first men to be employed, as a professional football player, by the St Mary’s club in Southampton. He made his debut on the 4th of November 1893 in an FA Cup tie, played on the Antelope Ground, against Uxbridge. His new employers were members of The Hampshire FA and it was during a local knockout tournament, against Freemantle, that Angus, following an “over zealous tackle”, became the first player, representing his new club, to be ordered off the field.  Next season Southampton St Marys became members of the Southern League and Angus scored in their inaugural match, played against Chatham Town, on the Antelope Ground.  He made another 15 appearances for the Hampshire club before leaving the area in 1896.  Jack Angus later settled in the Paddington area of London where, it is believed, he spent the rest of his days.

Tony Onslow.

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