Behind the Scenes at the Football Museum

Sammy Thomson born Lugar 14th Feb 1862

Sammy Thomson was born in Lugar. 14th February 1862 He played for Lugar Boswell, Rangers, Preston North End, Wolves, Everton, Accrington and Scotland. He was yet another itinerant football artiste, but a level up from the likes of Abe Hartley of Southampton.

Thomson had been an Invincible in 1889 with PNE. After a year at Rangers, who must have ‘enjoyed’ his actual two months with them, he then turned up at Preston, as a professional. He had retired at Accrington 1892 - just before the SFA allowed professionalism and Anglo-Scots. He was capped twice, in 1884. This was against Ireland and Wales, the two weaker teams - where 2nd strings were played.

Only Arnott and John Forbes had played in the Ireland and England games. Four players from the England game played against Ireland. The tradition would seem to have been to allow fringe players their chance against Ireland and Wales. At the time, those two nations were finding their feet. What was the point of Scotland getting double figures against them, when they had helped both, start their national teams? Good for the stats but a crusher for getting people interested in football, instead of rugby.

So what? Sammy Thomson and John Auld, played for Lugar Boswell in the 1880s. Auld was also capped whilst at 3rd Lanark. Astounding that a place that is so small, provided two men, during the time when Scotland invented the world game.

Scotch Professor - a Definition

A few years ago, I had a major disagreement with Llew Walker: one of the historians of Corinthian FC of London. Not about the Club, but about what he had said, with reference to Andrew Watson. Andrew Watson is one of the greatest Scotch Professors of all time.

In the blurb at the back of his book on Watson, Llew made reference to the ‘Scottish’ Professor. I was unused to it, except as a form of abuse. I had seen it once, with the word ‘Professor’ in inverted commas. The reader would know that the writer was not in agreement with the word, as it had been applied to Scottish players. The writer was severely against the players in this group and the culture they brought to English football.

The topic came up again in September 2022, when I noticed the term Scotch Professor being applied to the Scotland players of the Ukraine and Ireland games. They had done exceedingly well, in their Nations League matches. They are now rightly to be lauded to the skies. They have made an entire nation walk out, with a spring in their step.

But that does not make them Scotch Professors. Not even metaphorically. Maybe in the future, but that is for others to decide, a few decades from now.

I could call it the ‘Hall of Fame Effect’. Just before I left the Scottish Football Museum, I was working on the criteria for a HoF. In many ways, it was my template for the Scotch Professor, except you had to have featured in the game, in Scotland. It would have meant that the nominees would have been weighted to those who had had an international influence on the game.

This was quickly changed after my departure. Why? There was a need for players who would sell tickets to a HoF Dinner. Dead Scotch Professors don’t do that. Which is why there is no Alexander Watson Hutton, no John Harley, no Archie McLean, no Robert Gardner, no Jimmy Cowan, no John Madden, no John Tait Robertson, no William McGregor.

Many of the people in the HoF seem chosen for their fame: a criterion which is a very flighty friend. Maybe they were right. A money-making night, needed a famous ex-footballer for the PR photo shoot. Fine. That is why I continued with my then, one-man proclamation of the Scotch Professor. The ones who founded modern world football.

I had looked at the first Halls of Fame, in America. I tried to steer away from the pitfalls that they had experienced. Choosing nominees who, later, were shown to have serious character deficiencies like racism, violence, poor playing attitude or using PED. Issues that might not have been issues, at the time. Issues that might not have been observable, at the time. Issues that some people might still say should not exclude a nominee.

What could they do? No nominees, until they had been retired for a number of years. Difficult for managers and coaches, but easier for players. A thorough examination of a person, in the way that the Vatican’s post of Devil’s Advocate was created. The DA had to find reasons, why a candidate should not be made a Catholic Saint. The person tasked with the job was not anti the candidate. They just needed to make sure, on behalf of the Church, that they were not canonising an unworthy individual. By the way - the person could have been holy and devout: just not Saint material.

For each sport, the criteria for their HoF were their responsibility. They related to the way in which a player could show their importance. In statistics heavy sports, like Baseball and Gridiron, this is easier than the more fluid and creative Scottish Combination Game.

What were my criteria? In many ways, it came down to one word: Influence.

The Scottish Combination game was the worldwide winner, in the battle of the codes. Scotch Professors travelled across the world, taking the concept of the passing game with them. A concept, England and its FA had rejected. A concept which which they claimed as their own, from the 1880s, onwards. Watch and see how 30th November 2022 is presented. The 150th Anniversary of the day Scotland introduced the world game to an uncomprehending England.

I struggled with the idea of encompassing people who were not great players, but had had an extraordinary effect. I very much doubt that Thomas Donohoe from Busby was a great player. It does not matter. He taught the Scottish Combination Game to the people of Bangu and co-founded a multi-racial club. Archie McLean of Johnstone FC had done the same in Sao Paulo, with the Scottish Wanderers. John Harley: a Springburn railway worker from Cathcart, entirely changed the football of the entire Uruguayan nation. Alexander Watson Hutton: a teacher from the Gorbals, brought the modern Scottish game to Argentina.

Over the years, I revised my terms, to allow for the inclusion of these men. Men whose influence was more than players with a bucket load of medals. Medals mean nothing, on their own. I will continue to revise, because a theory is never finished.

Like moths to a flame, we can approach the truth, but it burns us with its untouchable logic.

The Scotch Professor is unknown, in reality. They have received almost no publicity because we are under the malign influence of an anglocentric media. This is why we must know how to use the tools at our disposal. Words have power, when used consistently.

We must protect the Scotch Professors we have uncovered and publicise them. We must know why we have named them so. We must be able to defend Watson and Campbell, Gardner and McColl. Those two words carry the intelligence and culture of an entire nation. We must use those words sparingly and wisely - or not at all.

All comments happily accepted. I will never be content with the theories I have established. Help me make them more efficient.

Football's Black Pioneers

Football’s Black Pioneers is a slightly misnamed publication. The tweet of 4th July gave the game away. They ‘pulled together’ a timeline of important events in black football history. Note - not English football history. Black football history.

Guess what? The timeline starts 30th October 1886 with Arthur Wharton’s debut for Preston North End. No harm to Arthur, but his influence on world football is slight, to say the least.

Now: you might say that the book is for and about football. However, that would not allow the Timeline celebrating 5th Dec 1931 and the debut of Eddie Parris for Wales.

You know where this is leading. Yet again, we watch how Anglocentric historians twist themselves like a barley sugar, so that they do not mention the most influential black footballer of all time:
Andrew Watson.

By 30th October 1886, Watson had achieved the following milestones:

  1. 1876 Played for Maxwell FC.
  2. 1877 Played for Parkgrove FC.
  3. 1880 Played for Glasgow v Sheffield.
  4. 1880 Moved to played for Queen’s Park FC.
  5. 1881 November Secretary of Queen’s Park FC.
  6. 1881 12th March makes international debut for Scotland.
  7. 1881 Wins Scottish Cup with QPFC.
  8. 1882 Wins Scottish Cup with QPFC.
  9. 1884 Plays for Corinthian FC.
  10. 1886 Wins Scottish Cup with QPFC.

When looking at the ’Timeline’, I noticed another
blog post. It asked, rhetorically, if the 1908 Spurs v Bradford City game was the first time two black players had appeared on the same pitch. It turns out that - no - the records are a little dodgy. Walter Tull played for Spurs but Willie Clarke was not in the Bradford City squad, that day.

Let me help: Parkgrove FC 1877-78 Robert Walker and Andrew Watson turned out for the same side.

To turn history into a lie does not require anyone to utter a lie. It merely requires the careful ignoring of facts harmful to one’s own argument.

I don’t know if it is deliberate, but the title of the blog is annoyingly imprecise. ‘When was the first time two black players appeared on the same pitch?’ This would suggest that the parameters have been side widely. However, the criteria change to ‘professional football’ at the end of the first paragraph.

Yes, I am touchy about this. When I released the truth that Andrew Watson was the first black player in the world, I was ignored by the English press, with the honourable exception of the ‘Independent’. A London-based BBC documentary on black players was produced. It ignored Andrew Watson. The reason given? It was only for professional footballers. Given our knowledge at the time, it meant that the only black player in Britain who fell foul of this ‘rule’ was the Scotch Professor Andrew Watson.

My cynicism chip burnt out, long ago. If we had known then, about Bootle’s payments to Andrew Watson in 1887, I am sure another ‘rule’ would have been created. I don’t know: only one player with the same initials can be featured in the programme.

Thank Spiders I did not have the opportunity to do a TV programme about football’s creation before 1990 and my crucial visit to the Queen’s Park FC. I would probably have died of embarrassment long before 2022.

Meeting the Gub

You might think that there is no link here, but life is strange and I got to meet the Govanhill Gub (and his dad). I was going on my merry way, doing a bit of the old curating, when someone pointed out that I was the subject of a post on Follow Follow. You young pups who think made-up nonsense only started on social media in recent years - you don’t know you’re born.

It seems that I had been running round the Museum wearing my ‘Celtic 6 Rangers 2’ t-shirt (‘The Cry was No Defenders’). Some people do like jumping to conclusions. With a name like Gerard O’Brien, you don’t need to make too wild a guess, as to my footballing allegiances. I could only be more of an emerald stereotype, if I changed my name to Balaclava Armalite O’Fenian.

The allegation had supposedly come from a piece in Follow Follow. I laughed - for a little bit. It had the potential for getting dangerous. The object of their anger was actually in a case about modern fans - with other memorabilia - like a t-shirt ‘The Future’s Bright - the Future’s Orange’ and a ‘Tartan Army’ shirt.

Screenshot 2022-01-08 at 15.59.38

The idea that the Director of a national museum would take something out of a case and dance around, wearing it, was clearly not beyond the fevered imagination of some people. An immediate sacking would have been called for - due to gross indiscipline. As a trained curator, people used laugh when I took out my white gloves, to handle some family heirloom that had been pawed for a century. Jeezo - I start hyperventilating when I see an old shirt pressed into a picture frame. A few complaints about me, came in - all from Cumbernauld. I don’t know either...

Still - this small outbreak of mentalness had to be nipped in the bud. I found out Mark Dingwall’s email address. Via Mark, I got the Gub into the Museum, for a chat. His dad came along, too. He was one of the Rangers fans, who was old enough to remember when Rangers called Celtic ‘huns’. He was quite put out, that the boot was then on the other foot. It’s a funny old game, Tim.

The Gub wrote a piece in the FF magazine. It was quite even handed, whilst explaining that he and I would disagree on most topics. That is fine. In real life, he was not all like the person who could call me a reptile. Hey - we all have times when we use hyperbole. I tell kids that if they don’t do my homework, I’ll have them tied to a lamp post in George Square, so that totey weans can poke them with sticks and make unkind remarks about their hairstyles. That has no effect, either.

At least I was able to right a wrong. My antagonists were known and I could talk it out. It transpired that my antagonists were actually not really different from me. Sound and fury... When the Gub met me, he will have been smart enough to realise that I was just a guy who loved football as much as he did. I just worshipped, at a different shrine. I realise that this could be false memory syndrome, but I am sure the Gub wrote a warning piece in FF about the unknown origin of Murray’s money. The idea that Rangers’ seeming financial dominance over Celtic might not be a good thing. Mid 1990s?

I realise that problem solving with social media is no longer possible, in the same way. It is why I studiously stick to 19
th century football, on my Twitter account. I suppose you can get raging about my comments on the offside law or Charles Alcock (Liar Extraordinaire). If so, you have problems, that no meeting with me, will ever amend.

NB: I have misplaced the two relevant copies of FF. If anyone can help me out with an image, for my archives, I would be much obliged.

Jim Farry 1st Meeting

My first meeting with Jim Farry, was in the company of Ernie Walker. One was outgoing Secretary of the SFA. One was incoming. The stability of the job meant that I was chatting to only the fourth and fifth holders of the post, since JK McDowall, in 1882. He is the man I regard as the first ‘professional’ secretary.

This would be in the summer of 1990. I had come up to Scotland, again, to discuss the work I had been doing. Ernie was still in the Secretary’s chair, but he was moving on to FIFA. He was leaving Jim Farry with the task of steering football through, what would be, a challenging decade. Jim had been the League’s youngest secretary. The SFL operated out of offices, round the corner from Blythswood Square.

I recall my first meeting with Jim Farry as SFA Secretary, in 1992. I told him how I would approach the issues of a) finding a site for the Museum; b) finding the money for a Museum; c) finding the content; d) working out how to build the idea of a proper national football museum. He listened intently and basically allowed me to get on with it.

In this respect, I felt like a chaplain in the army. I was in the SFA camp - but not part of it. I took my instructions from a higher power. The SFA staff were keen to help me, but I had no rank within their organisation. A unique situation for a unique project.

Coming from teaching, it was also disconcerting to find that someone assumed you were competent - and proceeded from there. As a teacher, I was used to people assuming I was responsible for everything from the hole in the ozone layer to the disappearance of dogs’ white jobbies.

Jim Farry’s name normally proves very strong emotions: mostly of a negative nature. He appears generally in sentences including the word ‘Cadete’. If he did knowingly hold up Cadete’s registration, then he did not tell me.

I would sometimes call in, to see him, at the end of the day. Sat at his impressive double-sided desk, we would talk about footballing issues. The room was extremely large and had a big bay window, which looked to the south. It allowed him to walk and talk. High in his stone redoubt, Jim Farry governed Scottish Football in a personal manner. If anything, he was equally sceptical of all clubs and their attempts to influence the way football ran.

Farry tried to be even handed, even though his initial decisions might not have seemed that way. Football people knew that a decision might not play out for decades. This was a fact which was both useful and terrible.

His way of talking, in interviews, was deliberately long-winded and byzantine. This was purely to make everyone think he was a windbag who knew nothing. And do not go for the ‘humble secretary’ gambit, either. He was sharp and on the ball at all times.

The SFA was a strange beast. Its way of working had been laid down in the decade after 1873 - a time when everyone played the game, for the game’s sake. 1893 and Scottish Professionalism smashed that culture into pieces - yet the SFA continued on its increasingly archaic way.

How did the SFA continue? Through the big character of the Secretary, who increasingly ran the game in an authoritarian manner. Understandable. As clubs became professional and latterly, limited companies, they operated to the rules of capitalism. Their shareholders were king. Imagine trying to run a membership organisation, where any decision had to be scrutinised to see if it benefitted [fill in name of evil club down the road, run by scoundrels, who existed only to cheat you out of what was rightfully yours].

Jim Farry had one particular way of working. If an opinionated, free-thinking, club representative; somehow managed to make it onto a committee, he used his trump card. As Secretary, he would schedule meetings at different times, in the knowledge that said member would have to send his apologies, at least once. Then, when said member brought up an issue at the following meeting, the bold Jim could say that it had been debated in detail and, by implication, the annoying rep. was not sufficiently informed to comment.

One time, when we were having an evening chat, he got animated on the subject of the ‘big’ clubs wanting to break away, to form a Premier League. As I walked out the door, he said that he would put Stenhousemuir into the European Cup. Many people did not realise that the entrants were recommended by the national association. Everyone knew that an SPL would harm many clubs - and so it proved.

The strong secretary was a good answer to a bad problem. A problem, which should have been solved, in the 1900s. The situation continued until the Cadete issue gave certain people the chance to remove Jim Farry and replace the all-powerful secretary with a method of governance, which gave clubs the power they craved.

I respected Jim Farry and he, me. We had similar outlooks on football. The Cadete incident is proof that clever people sometimes do inexplicable things, that even they might have struggled to explain.

Giving History a Sporting Chance