Livingstone: Both Ends of All the Roads

George Turner Livingstone

Born: 5 May 1876
Birthplace: Dumbarton, Scotland
Height: 5' 10"
Weight: 11st 6lbs / 12 st

Dumbarton-born Livingstone started out with local sides Sinclair Swifts and Artizan Thistle before joining Parkhead FC. Over his career, he proved to be an adaptable player, at home as an inside-forward on either side of the field and also at right-half. From Parkhead he moved on to Dumbarton in 1895 and then to Hearts the following year.

He played for Hearts for four seasons, making 27 starts in all in competitive games (21 in the league and 6 in the Scottish Cup). His goal scoring seems to have been fairly prolific, with 30 goals in competitive games and a fair few more in friendlies, including four goals in one game, a 6-2 victory over Leith Athletic At the end of that season, Hearts were champions, but with only three league appearances, there was no medal for Livingstone. In 1898-99, he made more appearances, but Hearts were only runners-up, to a Rangers team that didn't drop a point all season. In April 1900, Livingstone played his last game for Hearts. 27 games  - 30 goals?

From Hearts he "crossed the Border". Hearts received a fee of £175 when he moved on to become a regular at Sunderland as they rebuilt the “Team of All the Talents” which had won the championship three times in the club's first decade. Prior to the start of the 1900-01 season, players such as Jimmy Millar and Livingstone (described as an "excellent acquisition" at the club's AGM) were bought to spice up the attack, along with defender Jim Watson, who would help the team only concede 26 goals in 34 league games. But if Roker Park was a fortress, the team were not as good on their travels and drew a lot of games. A home defeat against Liverpool in the run in ultimately cost Sunderland the title and they finished 2nd despite beating Newcastle 2-0 on the final day of the season. Livingstone was their top scorer with 11 league goals.

After that solitary season, Livingstone moved on to Celtic in 1901, where he played in the losing Scottish Cup Final side of 1902 before being transferred to Liverpool a week later on 30 May 1902.

He scored on his debut for Liverpool on the opening day of the season, 6 September 1902, in a 5-2 win against Blackburn Rovers. However, he only stayed at Anfield for the one season, playing 32 times and scoring three more goals. He also played in one cup match, a first round defeat at Manchester United in February 1903. George was said to have been a joker in the dressing room, but it isn’t clear if this had anything to do with the speed with which he changed from club to club (three clubs in three seasons at this point). At the end of the season, he moved to Manchester City, where he first linked up with the "Welsh Wizard", Billy Meredith.

Around the time he arrived at City the Athletic News said of him, “George Livingstone disdains style. He is all utility and a resolute thrusting forward who not only creates openings for Meredith but opens out the game by playing passes to the other wing …. He makes himself the hub of the game when he is on the ball.”

A report from the Bolton Evening News, Monday November 10, 1903, shows that press interest in football players’ off the field activities is not an entirely modern phenomenon. “Sam Frost, George Livingstone and John M'Mahon, three members of the Manchester City football team, were each fined five shillings and costs at the Manchester City Police Court this morning for behaving in a disorderly manner in Oxford Road last night. The evidence of police constables was to the effect that defendants were shouting and jostling passers-by. Frost explained to the Magistrates that it was "only a bit of fun." The Chairman, Mr W. J. Crossley, pointed out that it was at the expense of the public.”

In 1904, the City team reached their first FA Cup final, against Bolton Wanderers, at Crystal Palace.

The 1904 Cup Final

Saturday April 23rd 1904 dawned with a downpour and the prospects for a traditional sunny day for the final looked bleak but by the time the bulk of the fans arrived to do the early morning tours of London, the sun had burst through for an excellent spring day. The crowd was thought to be disappointing as fans found the cost of travel to London from the North West too much, but it’s estimated that 16.000 arrived by football specials during the night and eventually 61,000 did make the journey. It was a novelty for the two teams , as Bolton’s only previous final was held in Liverpool while Manchester City had never been beyond round two prior to this famous run. The players were also new to the occasion as, for the first time since the first ever final, none of the twenty-two players had previously played in the showpiece event of the season.

There was heartbreak for Bolton’s left half Boyd who failed a fitness test and was ruled out but things were even more dramatic in the Manchester dressing room where Doc Holmes threw a tantrum on being told that his place in the team was going to the amateur Sam Ashworth. Holmes threw his boots through a window.


Manchester City : Jack Hillman; John Mcmahon, Herbert Burgess; Sammy Frost, Tom Hynds, Sam Ashworth; Billy Meredith (Captain), George Livingstone, Billy Gillespie, Sandy Turnbull, Frank Booth

Bolton Wanderers : D Davies; W Brown, R Struthers; Robert Clifford, S Greenhalgh, A Freebairn; D Stokes, Sam Marsh, W Yenson, W White. R Taylor

The teams came out with City wearing royal blue as opposed to their customary sky blue to avoid a clash with Bolton’s white shirts in the sunshine.

The winning (and only) goal of the game from Meredith was included in the PFA 100 goals to celebrate their centary (No.42) and described thus : "At the end of 20 minutes, George Livingstone, the City inside left, sent a long swinging pass out to the right where Meredith was lurking. There was a pause, as Bolton appeared to think the Welsh Wizard was offside but Meredith wasn't waiting to find out. A report of the day described the score thus 'Full back Struthers was left and Meredith forged ahead and scored practically without opposition. With only keeper Davis to beat, the deed was done quietly but effectively.' "

Later, Meredith was quite clear, “What was the secret of success of the Manchester City team? In my opinion the fact that the club put aside the rule that no player should receive more than £4 a week. From 1902 I had been paid £6 a week and Livingstone was paid ten shillings more than that in wages.” So Livingstone must have been some player, to be worth ten shillings more than the great Billy Meredith.

Later career

Livingstone was with City for over three seasons - a long time for him - before signing for Rangers in January 1907, in the great sell-off of the City team which followed their financial scandals. At the same time, of course, Meredith crossed town, together with Bannister and Turnbull, to play their parts in the first, great United team.

After two years at Ibrox, in January 1909, it was on to Manchester United for Livingstone as well, to rejoin Meredith and his other ex-City team-mates, and it was here he spent the remainder of his playing career.

His debut for United came on 23 January 1909 at Bank Street against his old club City, when Livingstone scored twice in United’s 3-1 victory. He played 11 league games, that season, scoring one more goal, and in two cup games. After that first season, most of Livingstone’s appearances were at half-back, rather than inside forward, which may partly account for the scarcity of goals.

The following season he played 16 league matches, without scoring. In the United championship season of 1910-11, Livingstone played 10 league games, again without a goal. These days, that would qualify him for a medal, but it wasn’t the case then and after that season, his appearances for United were no more than occasional.

In 1911-12, he played only once; in 1912-13, he played 2 games, scoring his last United goal against West Brom; in his final season 1913-14, he played 3 league matches and one in the cup, retiring in 1914 shortly before his 38th birthday. In all, he played 46 games for United, scoring the 4 goals.

Perhaps, George was unlucky, given the teams he played for, not to have accumulated more medals. Hearts won the title in 1896-97 and United won the League in 1910-11 but it seems he didn't play enough games to qualify for a medal in either season. And oddly enough the Old Firm teams won nothing during George's time with them.

His solitary FA Cup winner's medal with City seems scant reward for a player who served with the giants of Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester as well as with Hearts and Sunderland, when those clubs were successful.

So, for years George Livingstone's "international debut" was ignored and not shown in any official records. However, in 2000, following a debate with the recently-formed International Federation of Football History and Statistics, FIFA decided to acknowledge the official international status of the match, 98 years after it was played.

The IFFHS stated: "If a full international - for whatever reasons - was interrupted it will be registered as an official full international. No national football association [has] the right to liquidate such full internationals (category 'A') and to consider [them] as non-existent.... Under these circumstances the match of April 5th, 1902 between Scotland and England is registered as an official full international."

It is unclear, however, whether any other historical body, or either football association has followed that lead.

Livingstone was also unfortunate to receive just two official caps for Scotland - against England in 1906 (on 7 April Scotland won 2-1 at Hampden ) whilst he was playing for City, and against Wales the following year (4 March 07 , when Wales won 1-0) after he had moved to Rangers.

After retiring from playing, George set up a plumbing and gas-fitting business but he didn't sever his connections with the game. Following a brief spell as Dumbarton manager at the end of World War One he took up the Trainer's role with Rangers from 1920-27 then performed a similar task at Bradford City 1928-35.

George Livingstone died in January 1950, aged 73.

Copyright -

Sources :

Football Wizard, The Story of Billy Meredith, John Harding

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