Tag Archives: Alex Raisbeck


On 6th May 1915 Tom Watson, Liverpool FC’s manager of 19 years who had guided the club to two league championships and an FA Cup final, died after a short illness.

Watson had already won three championships with Sunderland when he was appointed in 1896. He made some important changes to the way the club was run, including the introduction of red shirts to replace the blue and white quarters.  From his home in nearby St Domingo Vale, he oversaw a more than satisfactory first season, with the Reds finishing fifth in the table, having been promoted the season before.

Tom watson

After slipping back to ninth Watson made a bold transfer market move in 1898, paying Hibernian £350 for centre half Alex Raisbeck who had been on loan at Stoke. The centre half was a commanding figure on the field and almost helped the side to a first league title, only for the Reds to crash 5-0 on the last day of the season to Aston Villa, who became champions instead.

Two years later Liverpool did become champions for the first time, a John Walker goal confirming their supremity in the last game of the season away to West Bromwich Albion. On arrival back at Central Station a band welcomed them by playing The Conquering Hero but fans who turned out to greet the squad didn’t risk carrying Watson’s rotund figure on their shoulders in the same way they did with the players.

Just three years later the Reds were relegated but Watson took them straight back up to the top flight, then Liverpool became the first club to win the league immediately after promotion. Such a feat looked very unlikely in the autumn when they suffered five defeats in their first eight games. Watson though replaced veteran keeper Ned Doig with Sam Hardy, and his presence helped steady the defensive ship,  an eleven game unbeaten run taking them to the top of the table at Christmas.

The title was secured with a game to spare on Easter Monday. 1,000 fans travelled on a special train to Bolton knowing a win would be enough but although the Reds lost 3-2 they were given a helping hand by Watson’s old club Sunderland, who beat nearest challengers Preston 2-0. By now Watson was living even nearer to the ground in Anfield Road in a house that was demolished when the Kemlyn Road stand was extended in the early 1990s.

In 1910 Watson took Liverpool FC on their first tour outside the British Isles when they visited Denmark and Sweden. There were no journalists accompanying them and people at home had to rely on letters and telegraphs sent by Watson for news. In addition to describing the style and standard of play, he wrote how the players had gone on the ale with Manchester City’s touring squad and that he enjoyed seeing ladies at games wearing summer dresses.

In 1914, after guiding the Reds to their first FA Cup final where they lost 1-0 to Burnley, Watson took the players to Scandinavia again but this time he left it to midfielder Tom Fairfoul to write the letters home. These included tales of Watson getting pissed with them and singing, and the squad being met by a crowd of 5,000 wellwishers at Stockholm station.

War broke out a few days before the start of the next season and there was controversy about organised football competition continuing.  Watson was fierce about criticism though, emphasising that the players had army training, recruitment agents were at games and attendance was good for the morale of wounded soldiers. By the end of the season though it did look almost certain that there would be no resumption of the Football League until hostilities were over. He didn’t know it at the time, but Watson’s last act as Liverpool manager was to hand Everton the title, courtesy of the Reds beating second placed Oldham 2-0 at Boundary Park.

The Oldham game took place on 24th April but just a week later he was battling pleurisy and pneumonia at his home, which was now on Priory Road. There was a brief improvement but by 6th May things weren’t looking good. Bee’s update in the Liverpool Echo of that afternoon said that he had spent a bad night. Later editions of the paper then brought the terrible news that he had died and realistically there had never been any hope for him as his constitution was so weak.

Watson was just 56 years old, leaving a wife and two sons. His funeral at Anfield Cemetery took place the following Monday and was attended by representatives of a number of English and Scottish clubs. Today his grave there remains unmarked although funding seems to have been agreed between Watson’s descendants, Liverpool and Sunderland, so that issue should hopefully be resolved soon.

Liverpool Draw Record Crowd to Hull

The match between Hull City and Liverpool on 1st December 2013 is only the 20th time the two clubs have met in competitive games and friendlies.  Games in Hull have generally taken place at Boothferry Park and more recently the KC Stadium, but the very first meeting between the sides in 1905 attracted a record football crowd to The Boulevard.

Promotion chasing Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat to Everton in an FA Cup 1st round replay left them with a free Saturday on 18th February. They agreed to take part in a friendly fixture with Hull City, who had only been formed in June the previous year and were still not members of any league.

There was a lot of excitement amongst football fans in a city dominated by rugby league, with the Hull Daily Mail commenting on 9th February that ‘supporters at Hull cannot help but rejoice in their misfortune’  when it was confirmed Liverpool’s cup exit meant they were coming to The Boulevard. The paper also wrote that there would be five internationals in the Liverpool team, one of whom Alex Raisbeck was the brother of City’s half back Andrew. He had been at Liverpool with his brother between 1901 and 1904, but never featured for the 1st team.

On Thursday 16th February the Hull Daily Mail predicted that the game would be witnessed by a record crowd for association football, and praised the board of the club for their enterprise. The paper wrote that as the season had progressed followers of Hull FC had began to accept that there was room for two types of football in the city providing it was of sufficient quality, concluding that ‘the general public cares not one joy whether one club or another provides the good football.’

The Liverpool team were described as a ‘combination of star performers as has never been seen in Hull before.’ Many pass holders who could have got in for nothing also indicated they were willing to still pay the 6d admission in recognition of the efforts in bringing such a star studded line up to the city.

Hull Daily Mail 16th February 1905
From the Hull Daily Mail 16th February 1905

The gates opened early for the 3.15pm kick off and a crowd of 8,000 attended, he highest to watch Hull City at The Boulevard to date. Liverpool’s secretary-manager Tom Watson watched from the stands, sat amongst a number of directors and shareholders of the rugby league club who expressed their approval of the entertainment on offer. The paper described how Liverpool’s forwards ‘weaved their way through by masterly dribbling which was invigorating to watch.’ They also claimed the Reds would more than hold their own against half the teams from the 1st Division.

The match may have been a friendly but Reds half back and captain Alex Raisbeck was in fine form, breaking up nearly every opposition attack and distributing the ball forward. This led to Hull trying their luck down the flanks, where their pacey wingers caused the Liverpool full backs numerous problems Ned Doig in goal was tested on a number of occasions.

Liverpool’s superiority showed though and they ran out 6-2 winners. Jack Parkinson scored a hat trick and Raisbeck got a goal himself with a shot from near the halfway line. The home side certainly hadn’t disgraced themselves though and Watson told those around him that he thought they would be worthy applicants should they try to gain admission to the Football League.

That evening, both sets of players watched Beauty and the Beast at the Alexandra Theatre. The following day Liverpool’s players headed for Hornsea, where they stayed for six nights to prepare for the following Saturday’s crucial league game at Grimsby.

The Reds beat Grimsby 1-0 and in the summer Hull City’s application to join the Football League was accepted. They wouldn’t be facing Liverpool though, as they won promotion to the top flight and it would not be until 1954-55 that the two sides met in a league fixture.

In 2008, Hull finally lost its status as the biggest city in England that had never had a top flight club. However the dominance of the oval ball there can still be seen today with the name Hull FC referring to a rugby league club, with Hull City having had to distinguish itself by having ‘association football club’ in its name. In 2013 that has changed though with owner Assem Allam removing that phrase completely and re-registering the club as ‘Hull City Tigers.’

The Boulevard in 2009 (Paul Glazzard)