Quite possibly the greatest goalkeeper in Liverpool's history, the Ulsterman's Anfield career spanned an astonishing 22 years from his arrival in 1912 until he left in 1934. Had World War I not taken away four years of his professional career, Elisha Scott would undoubtedly have made many more than the 468 first-team appearances for his one and only English club.
Elisha wanted to follow in the footsteps of his elder brother, Irish international goalkeeper Billy, who had just finished his eight-year career at Everton. He arranged a trial for Elisha at Everton who didn't sign him on account of his small stature. Blues' loss was Reds' gain and Billy recommended his baby brother to Liverpool. In fact Billy Scott featured for Liverpool in the wartime 1918/19 season and was a reserve for half of the 1919/20 season.
Elisha started playing youth football for Belfast's Boys' Brigade in 1909, as a striker. The reason he became a goalkeeper was because of an arguement with one of his teammates at the time. In a match he told his goalkeeper off: "What's the use of us scoring goals against the other team and you're letting them in, my granny could be a better goalie than you!" The next match Elisha was wondering what the team were laughing about until he looked up at the board that had the names and playing positions, it read: Goalkeeper.. Elisha Scott's Granny.. It was said after that Elisha decided to become a goalkeeper. The Lloyds Weekly news reported on 25 August 1912 that "much interest has been created by the announcement that Liverpool will to-morrow in a trial match play a new goalkeeper named Elisha Scott, who hails from Belfast, and is only eighteen years old [he was in fact nineteen]. He is said to be one of the best young goalkeepers in Ireland." Following his trial Elisha signed for Liverpool on 1 September 1912 at 10 am on a Sunday morning in the Liverpool office. His last club, Broadway United, which didn't own Scott as such did complain to Liverpool for not receiving a penny and later Liverpool agreed to a small donation towards their pitch. The Ulsterman fractured his wrist early on but finally made his debut for Liverpool on 1 January 1913 in a goalless draw against Newcastle at St James' Park and the Liverpool Echo gave him a good review: "Hats off to Scott, Liverpool's youthful guardian. His debut was brilliant and a pleasing augury." Newcastle were so impressed with Scott that they made an offer of £1,000 for his services. Ten months passed before the twenty-year-old got a second chance between the sticks when Liverpool faced Bolton. The Echo was again impressed: "Campbell's excellence has kept Scott back from senior football, but today Scott made his first appearance at Anfield for the first team, and was accorded a hearty welcome. Very much like Hardy in appearance and in his method of clearing Elisha Scott is described by one critic as 'more promising at his age than even Hardy was', high praise."
Sam Hardy was Liverpool's main 'keeper from 1905 to 1912 but the current number one was 20-year-old Kenneth Campbell. Scott displaced him for the last 23 first division fixtures of the 1914/15 season. Campbell was still between the posts immediately after the war as Scott was recuperating following an operation for varicocele, an enlarged testicular vein that could cause infertility. Scott returned to his old position at the end of March and within a week Campbell was transferred to Partick Thistle. 'Lisha was named in the team for the opening game of the 1920/21 season, a position he held on to for many a season after that. Scott only missed three League matches when the League Championship was won in 1922 and was one of three "ever-presents" when the title was retained a year later. When Scott was approaching his mid 30's South African Arthur Riley was given more playing time and having made only one appearance in four months Liverpool offered £9,000 and Scott in exchange for Preston North End's inside forward Alex James as the 1928/29 season drew to a close. The Liverpool legend would have departed but James rejected the proposal due to his wage demands. Everton had already had one offer for Scott in 1928 rejected but when they came back in January 1930 Liverpool were ready to let him go and secretly accepted a £5,000 bid from the Blues. The deal was thankfully called off when Scott received an ankle injury. Thirty-seven-year-old Scott eventually reclaimed his place in the team in March 1931 and was a regular in the side for the next two years.
Although relatively small for a goalkeeper, 5 ft. 91/2 ins. (175 cm.) Elisha's agility and courage were never in question, nor was his loyalty to the club he served so well for so long. His age and Riley's form restricted him to just ten first division appearances in his final season on Merseyside, 1933/34. He was transfer listed in April 1934, available for £250, causing great outrage among the fans. Everton were finally going to land their man as Liverpool's Board had agreed to the sale and Elisha was willing to leave to play regularly. Liverpool fans launched a newspaper campaign, flooding the local paper with letters of protest as the following published on 24 April 1934: "To think, the one and only Elisha should have to submit to the indignity of a transfer is unthinkable, especially as it is being proved week in and week out where the weakness is. He is the world's best. The 'owld man' could do for me if he came out and played in goal on crutches. The fans' reaction changed the club's mind. Such was the aura that surrounded him that the club took the unusual step of allowing Elisha to address the home crowd before the final home match at Anfield against Chelsea: "We have always been the best of friends and shall always remain so. I have finished with English association football. Last, but not least, my friends of the Kop. I cannot thank them sufficiently. They have inspired me. God bless you all." The Liverpool Echo bade Liverpool’s talisman farewell: "Invariably his work has been that of a master – a master of divination and anticipation, amounting to little less than positive genius. Intuition some people would call it; doublesight or perceptive powers we prefer to say; and all due to an instanter reasoning out of “where“ the opposition intended to plant that ball. And so it just “happened” that Scott got there first. That’s all."
No one was on par with Elisha - here with teammates Alan Scott and James Jackson
Elisha returned to his homeland to join Belfast Celtic as their player-manager, leaving behind an army of admirers and a host of wonderful memories. He was first capped at full international level by Northern Ireland shortly after the end of the war and remarkably enough was still selected to represent his country two years after he left Liverpool, by which time he was over forty years old! Mackinlay could vouch for that Elisha had not forgotten anything even at that age. "Look at Elisha. I saw him play in goal for the Irish League against the English League when he must have been 44. He played a blinder and when his team won, looked as though he could have jumped over the crossbar." Elisha played his final game for Belfast Celtic in 1936 in his forty-third year. Elisha is Belfast Celtic's most influential manager, guiding the club through a trophy-laden period collecting ten Irish League titles from 1936-1942, 1944, 1947 and 1948, six Irish Cups, three City Cups, eight Gold Cups and five County Antrim Shields. Sectarian crowd trouble led to Celtic withdrawing from the Irish league in 1949 as the club felt it couldn’t protect their players and supporters from further violence.
In 1939 a survey was conducted among Liverpool supporters to name the greatest player Liverpool FC had ever had in their ranks. Elisha Scott’s popularity was such that he topped this prestigious list.
"Elisha was the greatest I've ever seen. You can have Swift, Trautmann, Banks, Wilson. You can have them all. I'll take Elisha Scott." - Dixie Dean.