Tag Archives: Denmark


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’s match against Brondby on 16th July 2014 sees the squad fly in and out spending very little time in the city. It couldn’t be more different than the club’s visit there in 1910, when they spent the best part of a week in the city, getting drunk with fellow tourists and the opposition on the club’s first foreign tour.

In their eighteen years history to date, Liverpool had never played a game outside the British Isles, although the squad had been rewarded with a holiday in Paris after winning the league in 1906. There had been no title in 1910, but the club decided to break new ground and go abroad, having lagged somewhat behind others in this respect. Neighbours Everton for example hadn’t just been to Europe, they had gone inter-continental having toured South America a year earlier.

Predicting that the tour would be a ‘most enjoyable one’ the Evening Express observed that the Reds players would have to be at their best. They had recently beaten an FA representative side and the paper said they had made great strides in recent years.

The party of nineteen which set off from Central Station at noon on 11th May consisted of fifteen players, manager Tom Watson, trainer Bill McConnell and two directors. No journalists accompanied the team, but Watson promised to telegraph the results and also send letters containing reports of games. They were leaving at a time when the nation was in mourning, King Edward VII having died of bronchitis five days earlier.

tour cartoon express 14th may 1910
Cartoon from the Evening Express

On arrival at Hull the party were met by Mr Langley, manager of Hull City, who saw them off from the quay as they departed on board the Finland Steamship Company’s steamship Polaris. They enjoyed a Finnish dinner but for many that was the last they ate on the crossing, because as soon as they left the Humber the North Sea was being battered by near gale force winds. The crossing was a horrendous one and it took nearly 36 hours to reach the coast of Jutland, some ten more than was scheduled.

After finally reaching Copenhagen on the afternoon of Friday 13th May, the players were allowed to get used to being on dry land again and had two days at leisure. They then set off for Gothenburg in Sweden, where they beat a Stockholm XI 2-0 and Örgryte 3-0. The Reds were due to travel back to Denmark on 19th May, but they ended up staying an extra day in Gothenburg but the scheduled game against a Danish Select XI on the 20th was postponed as a mark of respect to King Edward VII. He had died five days before the Liverpool party set off and there was considerable mourning in Denmark at his death as his wife Alexandra was Danish.

The last day in Sweden was spent on the lash with the Manchester City squad, who arrived there that day for the last leg of a tour that had also taken in Belgium, Germany and Denmark. It was a bleary eyes squad that set off to Copenhagen the following day, where they arrived to find temperatures pushing ninety degrees and were taken on a boat tour of the harbour.

On Sunday 22nd May the Reds took on a Danish FA XI in searing heat. Nobody knows whether it was the heat, hangover or sight of women in the crowd wearing summer dresses that led to the hosts shocking the tourists by winning 3-0, making amends for their 5-2 defeat against City. Watson admitted that they may have taken the opposition too lightly, with him writing in his letter to the Evening Express that ‘their knowledge of the game was an eye opener to all.’

After the game the Johannes Gandil, who represented Denmark at both athletics and football in the Olympics and hosted a dinner for the Liverpool party in 1910Reds party attended a dinner hosted by veteran Danish veteran player Johannes Gandil (left), who had represented his country at the Olympics in both football and athletics. Watson described in a letter how ‘our healths were drunk with the usual “rar, rar, rar”’. The final game of the tour was on Tuesday 24th May when they faced the Danish FA XI again. This time, in far cooler conditions given it was played of an evening, Liverpool won 1-0 in with the scorer’s identity remaining unknown. No more letters were written by Watson, with the following day’s Daily Post and Mercury simply printing in the results section: ‘Liverpool 1 Denmark 0’.

Despite the last match being on the Tuesday, the players were given a few more days in Denmark before beginning their journey home on Friday 27th May, finally arriving back at Liverpool Central station at 7pm on the Sunday evening. The Evening Express reported that the players were in excellent condition and had ‘evidently thoroughly enjoyed themselves’. Scandinavia had obviously made a mark on the party, as they would be back there the next time they were abroad four years later.