Just once in a while you come across something so important that relates to the history of Liverpool Football Club that it makes your heart race. You can't expect every Red to be as thrilled so all you can do is emphasize its importance. A first-hand account of Liverpool FC's daily life in the club's second decade virtually did not exist and neither a direct quote from the club's first superstar; "the silent man of football"- one Alexander Galloway Raisbeck.
When searching through the British Newspaper archive in January 2013 I discovered a small announcement in the Dundee Courier on 19 March 1915 of a series of articles by "Alick Raisbeck" that were to be published in the Weekly News. This amounted to gold dust in my estimation and certainly to other Reds who are interested in the formative years of our club and the life of this man, whom I rate so highly that I believe he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Elisha Scott, Billy Liddell, Kenny Dalglish and Steven Gerrard
as the outstanding figure at the club in his era.
Liverpool were relegated in the 1903-04 season which in turn prevented Raisbeck from leaving Liverpool as planned as he didn't want to leave a club in crisis. The Reds won the second division right away and didn't stop there!
"Liverpool’s relegation did not better matters and during season 1904-05 it was decided to form the club into a limited company. A meeting was called and circulars were sent out to various businessmen asking them to take shares in the company. At the time this meeting was held we were in special training in the Midlands. Old Tom was with us. The fact that the club was being formed into a limited company was not known to the players. In fact it was a funny way it all came out. The players were in the billiard room of the hotel we were staying at. Tom Watson came in and planked himself down beside us. After talking on different topics Tom pulls out his watch and passes the remark that the meeting would soon be commencing. “What meeting?” I queried. “Don’t you know, Alick?” he said. “Why, a meeting is being held tonight in Liverpool to form the club into a limited company.” “This is the first I have heard about it. If I had known I would have taken some shares,” I said. “Would you?” asked Tom. “Aye, and I believe some of the other players would have taken shares.”
SHARES GO LIKE WILDFIRE WITH PLAYERS TAKING PART
Meanwhile Tom’s brain was working. He thought for a second and then asked me to see the boys and ascertain how many of them would take shares and what quantity. I did so and ten out of the fifteen players who were in special training said they would take shares. When I told this to Tom he wasted no time. He dashed off to the Post Office and wired to the Directors at their meeting place that ten of the players were willing to take shares ranging from twenty to sixty. The wire was welcomed in Liverpool as the meeting prior to the arrival of the telegram was going none too well. The fact that so many players had the interests of the club at heart acted like a tonic and in no time all the shares were taken out."
RAISBECK FURIOUS WITH THE LIVERPOOL BOARD
"My best season with the Reds was undoubtedly 1905-06. We won the Liverpool Cup, League Championship and London Charity Shield, while we were only beaten by our near and dear neighbours, Everton, in the semi-final of the English Cup. The Cup tie took place on the Ashton Lower Grounds, now the Villa Park. It was a very unfortunate day for Liverpool. Prior to the match we were in special training at Southport and, along with the officials, made the journey direct to Birmingham on the day of the match.
When we were in special training it was usual for the officials to pick the team prior to the kick-off. The officials had had little to worry about as we had been particularly lucky in the matter of injuries to players. It never rains but it pours. Cox and Raybould were both laid low on the eve of our Cup tie with Everton and although there was some hope of Sam being fit, there was absolutely no chance of Cox turning out.
Error of judgement which cost us Cup tie
During the journey to Birmingham the Directors had a meeting in one of the compartment of the saloon we were travelling in. Chairman Berry [image left] asked me that I should come in and voice my opinion on the selecting of the team.
When it was put to me I suggested that it would be best to see Raybould and ask him if he felt sound enough to take part in such an important match. I saw Sam and was informed that he was fit. I told the officials what Raybould had said and it was decided there and then to play him and put a reserve by the name of Carlin in Cox’s place. This only meant one change.
Nothing more was done until we got to the ground. Some of the players … I don’t know their names to this day - went to the officials and said that they were risking a lot in playing Raybould. They made suggestions to them what to do and who to play and, unknown to me, these suggestions were adopted.
You can imagine my surprise when I learned that Raybould [image right] had to stand down. It amounted to this, that whereas one change was necessary they were making three, which did not augur well for the chances of Liverpool. Hewitt, who had been our centre forward all season and had been a frequent scorer, was played at outside left, which, as you will admit, reduced his effectiveness.
As events turned out our forwards were all out of tune and they did little that was right. We lost, but I still feel it was an error of judgement which deprived Liverpool of competing in the final of 1906. Only the other day when I was in Liverpool visiting some of my old acquaintances this game was the subject of the conversation and for the first time I heard the official view upon it. When the players went to the officials about the playing of Raybould the Directors were led to understand that I knew everything about it and that I was in agreement with their views. They seemed much surprised when I told them that this was information to me. Isn’t it funny how some things leak out?"
LEAGUE AND CUP COME TO LIVERPOOL
"Everton beat Newcastle so the League Championship and the Cup both came to Liverpool the same season. Our winning the Championship was greatly minimised by Everton’s carrying off the Cup. As you know, a greater interest is taken in the Cup in England than in League doings. In fact, one would scarcely have known in Liverpool that we had won the League. Merseyside people went absolutely mad over the Cup coming to Liverpool for the first time.
Our feat was not allowed to go unnoticed by the Directors of the club. Of course, we received the usual bonuses which are part and parcel of the winning a League Championship. We also came in for a few words of praise individually, which is always very acceptable from a player’s point of view. There is nothing like an encouraging word to get the best out of a player. Many players do not give of their best, not because they are not anxious, but because they are not “nursed” enough.
The Liverpool Directors could not be placed under this category. They were toffs, every man-jack of them. They made themselves intimate with the players and during my eleven years at Anfield I do not think I heard an ill word spoken by a player in regard to any official. This was as it should be but I’m rather afraid that it cannot be said of all clubs. And more’s the pity. Familiarity breeds contempt but in football it breeds success."
The champions with the giant Sheriff of London trophy!
Next week: Liverpool are rewarded with an exotic trip to the French capital. Many years of football are starting to take their toll.on Alick.
Written by Arnie ([email protected]
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