Monday, 29 November 2010

Falkirk FC - 100 Club - John Simpson

John Simpson is quite simply the best player that ever played for Falkirk Football Club. Now that is a big statement to make given the calibre of players who have donned the Falkirk dark blue over the years, even though I never saw him play [obviously]. John, or Jock, Simpson comes from a footballing family, his uncle Harry had turned out for Grahamston, East Stirlingshire on the left wing and represented Stirlingshire several times, his cousin also John played for Stenhousemuir, and John's son Peter played for King's Park and St Johnstone. But other sport was also in the family as Harry's Grandson was Bobby Simpson Australia's Test Cricket Captain.

The Simpson family hailed from the Grahamston area of Falkirk, but upon Jock's father [also John] coming of age he moved his new family to Laurieston, but as he worked in an iron works he was always liable to move due of his work, and so in the mid 1880s the family moved down to Pendleton, in Lancashire. A move that was to blight Jock's football career later on as this was also the place of his birth.

Within months the family had returned back over the border to remain in Laurieston, and John to grow up like any bairn. After school, Jock started showing up in the junior columns of the local papers, an exiting young outside right first for Grange Rovers, then for his village side Laurieston Villa. Interest in Jock was growing and although playing a trial for Rangers he was snapped up by Falkirk in early 1905, and turned out for the first eleven in some of the minor competitions that were prevalent at the time.

The following season he burst into the league team and simply never looked back, he was soon regarded as the best winger in Scotland, if not the whole UK, and this is where his place of birth caused a problem. Back when the SFA had only in recent years decided to select Scots who were playing in England, they were still sticking to qualification based upon place of birth [no matter the lineage], and the English FA simply would not countainance selecting a player from a league other than the English, meaning several years of international exclusion. Finally his performances on the field caused one authority to relent and Jock was finally selected to represent the Scottish League against the Southern League in 1910, and it seems his performance did not go unnoticed as he was soon afterwards selected to play for the Stripes against the Whites in an England International trial. Within days of that match huge offers were flooding in from English clubs and before he had a chance to turn out for Falkirk again the club had accepted an offer from Blackburn Rovers of a reported £1850 [plus James Robertson], a record fee for a Scottish Club, and Jock was off to play in England.

During the First World War restrictions on travel meant Jock was to turn out for Falkirk again, but by this time, the treatment meated out to everybody with a bit of pace and skill had taken their toll, his ankles had taken a severe kicking, not just whilst in England it had been a part of his treatment during his first spell at Falkirk. But that touch in front of goal had gone and Jock stuck to the wing as a supplier of chances, only thirteen goals coming in his second spell even though he was a first team regular. After an attempt to resurrect his top-flight career at Blackburn just after the war, Jock gave up the ghost and promptly retired from professional football. Jock returned to Falkirk to run the Horseshoe Inn on Falkirk High Street. He never gave up on football though, and when he got the chance would play for Falkirk Amateurs, winning the Scottish Amateur Cup with them. John turned out for Falkirk one last time in a benefit match against old adversaries East Stirlingshire in 1922, before ending his career with Falkirk Orient in the Falkirk Wednesday League [played on Wednesday afternoons for shopworkers], though little can be said of his career at the Orient as the matches had next to no coverage. Jock remained popular in Falkirk for the rest of his life, living, as he did, in Orchard Street until his demise in 1959. John is interred in Falkirk Cemetary, and although it is a family decision I feel it a shame that it does not mention his Footballing career anywhere on the stone [but I would think that...]


Lea = Scottish League Division 1 & Scottish League [WWI]
SCu = Scottish Cup
Min = Minor Competitions [East of Scotland League, north-Eastern Cup, Dunedin Cup, Dewar shield]
Loc = Local Competitions [Stirlingshire Cup, Stirlingshire Consolation Cup, Falkirk Infirmary Shield]
Oth = Other Matches [Friendlies, Benefits, etc]
Representative Honours – Scottish League v Southern League 1910/11
Club Honours – Scottish League Division 1 RU 1907/08, 1909/10, East of Scotland League W 1904/05, Dewar Shield W 1905/06, Stirlingshire Cup W 1905/06, Stirlingshire Consolation Cup W 1904/05, 1906/07, Falkirk Infirmary Shield W 1904/05, 1905/06, 1906/07, 1907/08, 1908/09, 1916/17
Falkirk FC Leading League Goalscorer 1906/07 [23], 1907/08 [32], 1909/10 [24]
Leading Goalscorer in European League Competitions for 1907/08
Hat-Tricks – 6 [Division 1 [4] Dewar Shield [1] Other [1]]

Monday, 22 November 2010

Alex Jack Cup 2010

This isn't about Falkirk, it is kind of local though, anyway, yesterday my old University [Stirling] thumped some team called Lothian Thistle 8-0 in the Final of the Alex Jack Cup at the Falkirk Stadium.
To be honest I'm slightly ignorant of modern non-league football so I have no idea what the Alex Jack Cup is, but good on them. The sad thing to me is that they are part of the East of Scotland FA meaning that they can't enter the Stirlingshire Cup, one of these days there will be a Central FA and it will run a league, and the Uni can play in it's rightful place [and hopefully thrash the binos once or twice].
Until then ......well done

Update : Since I posted this I have been reliably informed by the Scottish Football Historical Archive that the Alex Jack Cup is a Consolation Cup for those teams in the East of Scotland League not involved in the Scottish Cup. :)

Monday, 15 November 2010

Falkirk FC the first Cup Match

Following on from my earlier post about Falkirk Football Club's first Scottish League match I now bring a few details of Falkirk FC's first ever competitive match. This is a lot more difficult to find player details as there are no League registration records, also this is during the time when the club is just finding it's feet, so some players whilst, no doubt, being enthusiastic, were probably not up to the job [perhaps why they played so few games...]. I fully intend to write a post on Falkirk's first ever match, but it is going to be difficult as i have yet to find a contemporary report [and am losing hope of ever doing so], and have conflicting information from equally valid sources, but I shall prepare something...

Until then, this is Falkirk's first match in the Scottish Cup, the club's first competitive match, played against a long forgotten team from nearby [relatively speaking]. Very few details were given, for example no scorers were named:

William Carmichael
Debut – Saturday September 29th 1878 v Campsie Glen (H) Scottish Cup 1st Round
Position – Goalkeeper
Known Career – Falkirk [1878/79]

D??? McMillan
Debut – Saturday September 29th 1878 v Campsie Glen (H) Scottish Cup 1st Round
Position – Right-Back
Known Career – Falkirk [1878/79]

Robert Service
b 27th March 1857, Closeburn, Dumfriesshire
Debut – Saturday March 23rd 1878 v Grasshoppers (H) Friendly
Position – Left-Back, Left-Half, Forward
Known Career – Falkirk [1877/78-1879/80]

W??? Geddes
Debut – Saturday September 21st 1878 v King's Park (H) Friendly
Position – Right-Half
Known Career – Falkirk [1878/79, 1880/81]

George Richardson
b 9th November 1859, Falkirk, Stirlingshire
Debut – Saturday March 23rd 1878 v Grasshoppers (H) Friendly
Position – Left-Half
Known Career – Falkirk [1877/78-1880/81]
Brother of James Richardson [Falkirk 1878/79-1880/81]
Falkirk Club Secretary [1879/80-1882/83]

James Neil
b 26th October 1854, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire
d 21st October 1888, Carron, Stirlingshire
Debut – Saturday March 23rd 1878 v Grasshoppers (H) Friendly
Position – Outside-Right
Known Career – Falkirk [1877/78-1881/82], East Stirlingshire [1882/83-1884/85]
The first player of many to cross the great Falkirk/East Stirlingshire divide.
As far as I’m aware the first former Falkirk player to pass on.

James Ferguson
Debut – Saturday September 21st 1878 v King's Park (H) Friendly
Position – Inside-Right
Known Career – Falkirk [1878/79]

John Taylor
Debut – Saturday March 23rd 1878 v Grasshoppers (H) Friendly
Position – Centre-Forward
Known Career – Falkirk [1877/78-1878/79]

William Gentleman
b 24th January 1857, Avonbridge, Stirlingshire
Debut – Saturday March 23rd 1878 v Grasshoppers (H) Friendly
Position – Centre-Forward
Known Career – Falkirk [1877/78-1878/79]

Richard Peddie
b c1857, Sunderland, Durham
Debut – Saturday March 23rd 1878 v Grasshoppers (H) Friendly
Position – Inside-Left
Known Career – Falkirk [1877/78-1878/79], Zetland [1882/83]
Brother of William Peddie [Falkirk 1877/78-1878/79]

William Peddie
b c1855, Sunderland, Durham
Debut – Saturday March 23rd 1878 v Grasshoppers (H) Friendly
Position – Outside-Left
Scottish Cup Matches /Goals [1/-]
Known Career – Falkirk [1877/78-1878/79]
Brother of Richard Peddie [Falkirk 1877/78-1878/79]

The match report from the Falkirk Herald of the 5th Oct 1878 was as follows:

"The above tie was played at Randyford on Saturday last, in the presence of a large turn-out of spectators, and resulted in a win for the Falkirk team two goals to none. The home team having won the toss, kicked off at 3:45, the forwards at once taking up the to their opponents' goal, and smartly passing it through, scoring the first goal one minute after the kick off. During the rest of the game some excellent playing was shown by both sides. A little before time was called the home team showed their superiority by taking the ball up the whole of the field, and by some clever passing, sent it through the goal, thus winning the match by two goals to none. The home team played well together. The following are the players:-
Falkirk - R.Peddie (Captain), W.Peddie, (left); John Taylor, W.Gentleman (centre); James Neill James Ferguson (right); W.Geddes (half back) George Richardson (half back); D.Mcmillan and R.Service (backs); William Carmichael (goal).
Campsie Glen - J.McFarlane (captain), C.Reid (left); A.Stirling, J.Murray (centre); J.McKay, M.Dalton (right); T.Rodger and J.Murray (half backs); T.Reid and G.Gray (backs); W.Brown (goal)."

You clever kids will notice that the score given in the report is different from the official SFA scoreline of 1-0, but as this is the only match report I have ever come across [and the fact I never attended the actual match] I can not say which was the true result of the match, but I am still looking for reports...

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Falkirk FC 100 Club - Alex Stark

One of the things I want to do here, besides pointing out little odds & ends about the history of Falkirk FC, is to give a gentle nudge to Falkirk fans that Falkirk have been about for a long time and that just because nobody alive now remembers players from 100+ years ago doesn't mean they should not be considered Falkirk greats.

To this end I give you Alexander 'Buttons' Stark.

Alex Stark was at one point a Falkirk legend, born in Falkirk [probably at the family home on Kerse Lane] on the 11th of April 1869, he spent nine years on the Falkirk FC right wing [though in emergencies he played in all four other forward positions occasionally]. It would be virtually impossible to give his entire career, there was simply not the mass coverage which exists nowadays, so I can only what I have discovered.

Alex had previously played for no other Junior or Minor club as far as I can find [it must be said that since the Falkirk FC coverage is patchy at this time so Junior football is worse], but this is hardly surprising as he first pops up in a Falkirk shirt on the 3rd of January 1885 scoring for the 2nd XI v Tayavalla 2nd XI [a Tamfourhill team], this before his 16th Birthday so he didn't seem to have any chance to play anything other than school football.

He first appears in a published Falkirk FC first team line-up against Rangers Swifts in an end of season match on the 3rd of June 1886, 52 days after his 17th Birthday and simply never looked back. The following table is as much as I have been able to glean from his career [but remember this probably misses lots of matches where there is so little info that no one will probably ever know what happened]

I have written more about Alex Stark better.


SCu = Scottish Cup [includes Preliminary Rounds]
Min = Minor Leagues [Scottish Federation, Midland League]
Sti = Stirlingshire Cup
Loc = Local Competitions [Falkirk & District Charity Cup, Falkirk Cottage Hospitals Shield]
Fri = Friendlies [includes all matches for Falkirk FC not for a competition, proper]

I will probably never know why he was christened 'buttons' by the Bairns [when I say Bairns I mean those who follow the team sometimes known as the Bairns in the media, whom I call Falkirk FC], but I shall never stop looking [I do know that then secretary Robert Bishop often complained to the Falkirk Herald about it].

His last match for Falkirk was on June 20th 1895 against Camelon in the Final of the Falkirk Cottage Hospitals Shield, Falkirk won 1-0, with Alex on the Right Wing as ever. In his time in the navy blue he scored [that I have found] six hat-tricks: 1 in the Scottish Cup, 1 in the Scottish Federation, 1 in the Stirlingshire Cup and 3 in Friendlies.

Falkirk FC Honours – Midland League W 1894/95, Stirlingshire Cup W 1889/90, 1894/95, RU 1886/87, 1887/88, 1891/92, Falkirk District Charity Cup W 1889/90, 1891/92, 1893/94, RU 1890/91, 1894/95, Falkirk Cottage Hospials Shield W 1891/92, 1892/93, 1893/94, 1894/95, RU 1889/90, 1890/91

During his time at Falkirk he also played some [unknown] matches for Queen's Park during 1894, two matches for Falkirk Swifts [a team for promising local youths], three matches for a Falkirk District XI, Four Matches for King's Park, 1 match for Laurieston, 1 match for a Stirlingshire XI, and 13 matches for Stirlingshire in county matches [county football meant something back then], he also played in an official Scottish FA Trial Match.

In the summer of 1895 Alex left Scotland to go and work in New Zealand with his uncle in the the sheep farming/meat packing industry, but I know that this didn't kill his love for football: long winded e-mails with football historians in NZ have uncovered the fact that he was the President of the Canterbury FA and the Vice President of the New Zealand FA in 1905, leading to his inclusion in NZ's first representative match against a touring New South Wales side in 1904 [no longer counted as official], so he probably had a club [and provincial] career over there too - I'd love details [hint, hint] from anybody who could supply them.

Alex died sometime in 1935 in NZ [sadly the details are unclear to me]

Until then, I say 'Buttons' ought be included in every Falkirk FC greatest ever XI, after all it was not his doing that the majority of the matches he played in were friendlies, as there was nothing else to play in, and he did it all for the love.