In the years just after the First War Falkirk looked to expand beyond parrochialism. Before 1914 most players were locals, with other occasional players from all around Scotland. These were supplemented with players who had for some reason or other given up playing down South and returned to the Fatherland. However Falkirk rarely ventured South of Birmingham to look for talent.
Probably Falkirk's first venture into the 'foreign market' did not as well as was hoped, but in the end worked out well enough. In 1920 Falkirk actively recruited the Glentoran Centre-Forward Joe Gowdy. Now it is difficult enough to uncover the details of Falkirk players in Scotland with this distance in time, so Ireland is really hard. But I can take it as read that Joe must have been impressing in the Irish League for Falkirk to try to sign him.
Joe made his debut [no sums were published as to any transfer/signing fee] on the 13th of November 1920 at Centre-Forward in a League match at Partick Thistle, nothing of note was made in the contemporary reports. That season he made 13 appearances with 2 goals all except one at Centre-Forward [the other, a benefit v East Stirlingshire he played Centre-Half when he scored one of his goals, a Penalty] this was not what was hoped for when he was signed.
The next season Joe was tried again at Centre-Forward [with little success] and occasionally at Inside-Right, until eventually, realising the problem Falkirk signed Sydney Puddefoot to try to solve that Centre-Forward problem. However the signing of Sydney Puddefoot seems to have ticked off Joe somewhat, seeing little chance of ousting Puddefoot from the Centre-Forward position, he packed his bags and returned to Glentoran [without, it must be said, Falkirk's permission].
The ensuing communications, demands & threats between Falkirk, Gowdy & Glentoran were coming to nothing, he refused to return, and with a heavy heart, and realising they had little choice eventually decided it would be "prudent" to loan Joe to Queen's Island for the forseeable future. During this period Joe managed to make his way into his national team [though this has always irritated me, his caps are always listed as being a Queen's Island player, when he was not, whereas several players on loan to Falkirk were always listed with the other club, but I digress ...]. I do not know what happened, he stayed in Ireland for the next season, then returned to Falkirk, again as Centre-Forward, with Puddefoot playing out on the Right Wing.
It only lasted for a handful of matches though. Puddefoot returned to Centre-Forward, and instead Gowdy was played at Right-Half, and there he largely stayed for the rest of his Falkirk career, only occasionally assuming the Centre-Forward or Centre-Half spot when Syd Puddefoot or Tom Townsley were not available.
From this distance I can not say whether Falkirk were right. However his scoring record at Centre-Forward is clearly poorer [though with fewer matches] to that of Puddefoot. He seems to have been a competent Centre-Forward but second to Syd [at a time when only one 'striker' was played] and being a competent Half-Back [when there were three] so after his spat just had to fit in.
He continued to play for Falkirk until 1928 when he moved on to East Fife, in between he did rack up more than a hundred league appearances for the club [when a lot less troublesome players did not] so he must have been rated by the management. Sadly the only picture I have traced of him was during his time with Glentoran before he joined Falkirk, as I say, always looking.
For more on his career in Ireland, and a lot of thanks must go to the Northern Irish Football History Blog.
b 7th December 1897, Belfast, Down
Debut – Saturday November 13th 1920 v Partick Thistle (A) Scottish League
Positions – Centre-Forward, Right-Half, Centre-Half
Representative Honours – Ireland v England 1925/26, 1926/27, Scotland 1925/26, 1926/27
Club Honours – Dunedin Cup RU 1926/27, Dewar Shield RU 1926/27, Stirlingshire Cup W 1926/27, Stirlingshire Consolation Cup W 1921/22, Falkirk Infirmary Shield W 1925/26, 1926/27
Scottish League Division 1 Matches/Goals [114/19]
Scottish Cup Matches/Goals [7/2]
Minor Cup Matches/Goals [15/1]
Other Matches/Goals [7/2]
Total Matches/Goals [143/24]
Known Career – Glentoran [1919/20-1920/21], Falkirk [1920/21-1921/22], Glentoran [1922/23], Queen's Island [1922/23-1923/24], Falkirk [1924/25-1927/28], East Fife [1928/29-1931/32]
Height - 5 ft 9 in: Weight 10 st 6 lbs