Showing posts with label Alex Stark. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alex Stark. Show all posts

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Alex Stark?

This very morning I got an e-mail from Gavin Bertram from New Zealand about a photo he had found in New Zealand which might be from the marriage of Falkirk's very own legend Alex Stark.

Now some provisos, The person who played for Falkirk FC may not have been the only Alex Stark in Christchurch, New Zealand at this point and I have no pictures of Alex Stark so cannot compare this picture with anything else.

All this understood, this might be the first time for more than a Century that Falkirk fans can look upon possibly their best ever players and perhaps know who it is.

From the [Chrischurch] Weekly Press - January 1899.


I really hope this is the great Alex Stark [formerly of Kerse Lane, Falkirk]

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Alex Stark


Alex "Buttons" Stark was probably Falkirk FC's and certainly my favourite player in those years before the club joined the League. Sandy, as he was sometimes known, was a born and bred Falkirk Bairn, his Family home being on Kerse Lane backing on to Bell's Meadow, the family running a dairy business.

Apart from being registered as a scholar in the 1881 census I have never discovered what Alex did in the real world, but it is highly likely that he helped in the family business. the earliest he shows up in the extant match reports was during the 1884/85 season when it was mentionied he scored in the 2nd XI's 7-2 win against Tayavalla 2nd XI in the New Year's matches. Throughout the random reserve matches that the Falkirk Herald noted he had scored some 6 goals in four matches for the reserves all at Inside-Right to Alex Rule's outside-Right, and it was this form that must have prompted the committee to include him in an end of season friendly against Rangers Swifts, taking his, soon to be default position, at Outside-Right.

The Following season he started back in the reserves, but it was not long until he was brought into the 1st XI for his first senior match, a Scottish Cup Second round tie against local minnows Laurieston FC at Zetland Park. Falkirk won by 3-1 allowing the still young Alex to play in the next round against what was then still the most prestigeous opponents in the land: the Spiders [Queen's Park FC]. As was expected Falkirk got thumped, but Alex showed what was to come over the next decade by scoring twice in Falkirk's 3-8 defeat at the hands of the grand old team.

Forming a highly effective right-wing partnership with Thomas McDonald [AKA Tommy Donnelly], everything was set in motion. alex stayed at Outside-Right for the next decade [only occassionally switching to the other flank or Inside-Right when needed]. He quickly became a fan's favourite [I would say he became a legend, but that he is largely forgotten today], and it was a regular argument between FFC & ESFC fans as to whether he or Lawrence McLachlan were the best player in the county.

Of course, he was always highly in demand, for guest appearances for benefit matches by other other clubs and by various XI's, but also from other more predatory clubs wishing his services on a more permanent basis.

Therefore the Falkirk fans were crestfallen when it came to light that he had signed professional terms with Bolton Wanderers in 1889. Yet at the start of the following season, he was still there at Outside-Right for his hometown club. It is difficult from this distance in time to glean what exactly happened. Perhaps he just changed his mind, perhaps he didn't like Bolton! At the time Scotland had not yet recognised professionalism, so his professionalism down south would have barred him from Scottish football, but due to the little fact that he never turned out for Bolton Wanderers therefore never recieved any money, in Scottish Football he was not a pro, so could still play. the only ramification of his folly being that London Casuals refused to play against Falkirk with Alex in the side when they visited in a holiday fixture that year.

Alex came close to national recognition when he was chosen to play in the international trials, but Glasgow bias ruled as much then as it does now, and he was overlooked. Yet at the time there was an intermediate level for footballers to demonstrate their skills. Between club & country there were still Inter-County Matches and for a fair while a Stirlingshire XI was not a Stirlingshire XI without Stark, McLachlan & Inch [another legend of the 'shire].

During his last season with the club [and his last season in Scotland], Alx spent a fair chunk of the season guesting with Queen's Park, but as he had already played in the Cup for Falkirk he could only play in friendlies for them.

But in the end, he was a young man with a limited future in a game which paid little and offered next to no security, worse still he was only the third oldest son in the family, so had little chance of taking over the family business. So it was in 1895 he announced his emigration to New Zealand to go into business in a meat-packing factory with his uncle William [a former Stirling County batsman who had emigrated some years earlier].


And there the trail ought to have gone cold .... were it not for google! For, playing about on the internet a while ago, to my surprise my Alex Stark+New Zealand+Football searches brought one or two interesting results. It seems [confirmed by NZ Soccer's Historian] that Alex got involved in his new country's football scene, becoming the president of the Canterbury FA and Vice-President of the NZ FA, crowning this with an appearance in New Zealand's first ever representative XI in 1904 -alas, it was against a touring New south Wales XI so FIFA denied it international status.

A strange thing is that for all that is known about Alex, I have yet to find a definitive likeness of him: there was reported in the Falkirk Herald that his image was in "one of the evening papers in 1887", but I have yet to track it down; also I have a photocopy of an article about Falkirk FC which has a photo which purports to include Alex, but the contrast has reduced the entire team to a single amorphous blob, but there must be one out there ... even if only in New Zealand.

I do now!!!!


Alexander 'Buttons' Stark

b 11th April 1869, Falkirk, Stirlingshire
d c1935, New Zealand

Debut – Thursday June 3rd 1886 v Rangers Swifts (H) Friendly

Positions – Outside-Right, Outside-Left, Inside-Right, Inside-Left

Representative Honours – Stirlingshire v Forfarshire 1886/87, 1887/88, 1888/89, 1889/90, 1890/91, 1891/92, 1892/93, v Renfrewshire 1886/87, v
Linlithgowshire 1887/88, 1888/89, v Fife 1890/91, 1891/92, 1893/94.

Club 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 Infirmary Shield W 1891/92, 1892/93, 1893/94, RU 1889/90, 1890/91

Scottish Cup Matches /Goals [24/13]
Minor League Matches/Goals [53/20]
Minor Cup Matches/Goals [60/24]
Other Matches/Goals [152/57]

Hat-Tricks – 6 [Scottish Cup [1] Scottish Federation [1] Stirlingshire Cup [1] Other [3]]

Known Career – Falkirk [1885/86-1894/95], Queen's Park [1894/95], Canterbury (NZ)

Played for Falkirk Swifts v Redding Athletic, Friendly at Redding, 18th May 1887
Played for Falkirk Swifts v Carron Athletic, Friendly at Inns Pk, Carron, 8th June 1887
Played for Falkirk District XI v East Stirlingshire , Benefit Match at Merchiston Pk, Bainsford, 17th April 1888
Played for Falkirk District XI v Ibroxonians, Benefit Match at Brockville Pk, Falkirk, 11th June 1889
Played for King's Park v Corinthians, Friendly at Stirling, 31st December 1889
Played for Falkirk District XI v Glasgow Corinthians, Benefit Match at Camelon, 17th May 1890
Played for King's Park v Hurlford, Friendly at Stirling, 1st January 1891
Played for King's Park v London Casuals, Friendly at Stirling, 2nd January 1891
Played for King's Park v Dumbarton, Friendly at Stirling, 3rd January 1891
Played for Falkirk District XI v Grangemouth, Benefit Match at Grangemouth, 28th April 1892
Played for Laurieston v Camelon, Friendly at Laurieston, 11th February 1893
Played for Stirlingshire XI v Grangemouth, Benefit Match at Bainsford, 9th May 1893

Finally - that nickname! I have no idea as to why he was called buttons, not a clue. But I can tell you that the Club Secretary Robert Bishop was moved to write to the Falkirk Herald on several occasions of its use in match reports. Make of that what you will!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Best Falkirk FC XI - pre WWII


I have selected this 'best' Falkirk FC XI because of all the nonsense about modern players. Don't get me wrong, not slagging the current folk, I just prefer to research Falkirk FC pre-WWII.

Obviously I never saw any of these players play, so I am going somewhat on [lies, damned lies &] statistics, but it is much more than that. Match reports & commentary tell you more than just numbers. So partly this will be my perceived knowledge of the warmth felt for players.

This was difficult, I may have got some bits wrong, but since the picture of Falkirk is still incomplete, I too make errors.

Chosen in the 2-3-5 formation which was ever present until the early sixties, I give you.

Goalkeeper – Thomas Ferguson – From Dennyloanhead – still the club's most played player, there is a reason for this

Right-Back – Thomas Scott – From Denny – Second most games for the club; he was solid.

Left-Back – William Leishman – From Camelon – He played 197 games yet never scored, stuck to his job.

Right-Half – Jock Drummond – From Alva – Capped when we were still non-league, sadly spent most of his career with the orange Glaswegian bigots.

Left-Half – William Dougal – From Bonnybridge – Solid, did everything you need from a Left-Half until the money lured him South.

Centre-Half - Thomas Townsley – From California – This was my first problem [John Anderson or Thomas Townsley] but Tom Townsley was more attacking [he played more Central Midfield when Anderson was more a defender].

Inside-Right – Alex Stark – From Falkirk – I chose Alex because he made the club: from 1885 to 1895 he was there, he scored our goals, he is forgotten because professionals were more important.

Inside-Left – Robert Keyes – From Bellshill – 188 goals for the club, nothing extra is needed.

Outside-Right – John Simpson – Born in Pendleton, Lancs, but brought up in Laurieston from the age of two - From 1908 till 1912 he was the best Outside-Right in the World, for half of that he played for God's only club.

Outside-Left – Kenny Dawson – From Forres – He is GOD

Centre-Forward – Evelyn Morrison – From Wishaw – Holds the record for scoring in the most matches consecutively in the Scottish League [14], still holds the FFC record for most goals in a season [47].


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.


SeasonSCuMinStirLocFriTot
1885/86------
1886/872-12340
1887/882-211015
1888/893---69
1889/904-511424
1890/91--111216
1891/92-8-2414
1892/931313513
1893/9415-1613
1894/95-32-16
Total1319141161118


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.