Liverpool And The Roaring ’20s: An Extract From ‘The Red Journey: An Oral History Of Liverpool Football Club’

The Red Journey

THE Red Journey tells the story of Liverpool Football Club’s 125 years through the voices of the people who made it one of the most revered clubs in football.

Curated by MARK PLATT, the book offers an insight into the story of Liverpool FC, featuring more than 100 interviews with players, managers and other significant figures in the club’s history.

The following extract looks back at Liverpool in the 1920s-30s, featuring stories from the stars of the time…

Anfield’s Star Men Of The 1920s

Elisha Scott: I was lucky in the fact that the club had such great players on their books when I joined them. I was singularly lucky that they had such great backs. Tommy Lucas, Ephraim Longworth and Donald Mackinlay are, in my opinion, three of the greatest backs I have ever had the pleasure of playing behind. They saved me a number of times, and it was seldom that the opposition were allowed to walk the ball in. Lucas had perhaps the best tackle of them all. He could leap several feet into the air. His heading away of dangerous centres was one of the main features of his play. Mackinlay playing right on top of his own half back, seldom allowed situations to develop before he would nip things in the bud. His terrific drives were known not only to Anfield fans but habitues of all the leading football arenas. At forcing a game which was apparently lost and turning it in Liverpool’s favour, no man succeeded more often than Donald Mackinlay. He was a good captain and under his leadership the club did exceptionally well. He rarely allowed the players to indulge in the slightest finesse.

Donald Mackinlay: In my day I had full control on the field and if there was any decision on changing of positions, I took it. I told my players: “If I have to say anything to you, answer me back and don’t start sulking.”

Elisha Scott: Longworth, “Daddy” as he was known to the younger folk at the club at Anfield, may have been the greatest of the three. When I came to Liverpool, Longworth was established. The cry from behind the goal was “Longworth again”. He had once more saved the Liverpool citadel. Longworth was the sheet anchor of the side. Anticipation and the power of his tackles were his best cards. By clever positional play, Longworth could bamboozle an opponent into giving him the ball without a tackle even being required.

Elisha Scott: In front of the backs we had men like John Bamber, Jock McNab, Walter Wadsworth and Tom Bromilow. No quarter was asked or given in this department. Dourness personified, with Bromilow adding the necessary daintiness and class. I have seen these half backs play some terrific games, especially away from home when they held up and thwarted some of the most brilliant forward lines in the land. As a sheer stopper, I have never seen anything approaching Wadsworth. Too little of the credit for the Championships is laid at his door. He certainly was robust, I’ll admit, but nothing more. I have seen him fling himself 10 yards over the ground to stop forwards applying the crusher.

Donald Mackinlay: I remember one match in the early ‘20s when Wadsworth injured a leg and I saw blood coming out of his boot. I told him to get some attention to it and his reply was, “Who’s blood is it, yours or mine?” and went on playing. I think the game was tougher in my day.

LFC1920s

Elisha Scott: Bromilow excelled, of course, in all parts of the game and was far from finished when he retired. In fact, I can recall but one occasion. His corner kicks were the acme of perfection and his cooperation with that famous left wing pair, Chambers and Hopkins, was a joy. Bromilow had a knack of going into the centre of the field and then swinging the ball out to the left again, having drawn the defence sadly out of position. This move worked time after time. Yes, he was a great half back.

George Patterson: His signature was obtained in the strangest manner. He came to the ground in uniform during the war and asked for a game. I asked George Fleming, who was in charge of the second team then, how he was fixed and he said he could do with another player. Bromilow played at outside right and was an instant success. When the war ended he signed as a professional. Eventually he took his place in the first team when Bill Lacey was playing an international match for Ireland. I should think that it is one of the luckiest signings I have made.

Elisha Scott: Our best forward line was Lacey, Dick Forshaw, Dick Johnson, Harry Chambers and Fred Hopkin. The combination of Lacey centres and Chambers’ heads resulted in dozens of goals. Lacey, to my mind, revolutionised wing play. He was so slow that to get down to the corner flag, he would have to beat the same man at least three times. To counteract this he introduced the idea of the forward centre. That is he would place the ball into the goalmouth from well down the wing thereby cutting out all the wing play. Lacey rarely wasted a ball, and his corners invariably landed on the head of Chambers. They had a very business-like arrangement these two. Lacey would sweep the ball over from the corner flag with his left foot and Chambers, who had taken up a position on the edge of the penalty area, would rush in and crash it home with his head piece at an unstoppable speed. Yes, Chambers must go down to posterity as the greatest inside left Liverpool has produced. Many things about him were outstanding, his burly figure on the field – Liverpool were never the same team when he wasn’t playing his bustling style, he simply glided the ball past the half back as if he didn’t exist. He had a knack of getting his body in between his opponent and the ball, thereby, making it difficult to tackle him successfully. Finally, he possessed a wonderful shot with either foot. The swerve he imparted leaving many a goalkeeper helpless.

Donald Mackinlay: We were playing at home and Chambers, who lived in Hartnup Street, which is just behind Anfield, had not turned up when we were ready to go out. A deputy was getting stripped when Harry walked in. I asked him where he had been and without a smile, he answered: “Sorry, my taxi broke down.”

Elisha Scott: Hopkin, I am convinced, became a Liverpool player as a result of a brilliant display for Manchester United against us in a cup tie. Polly, as we called him, was a great character. One time he scored a goal and the stand went on fire. We advised him not to score any more. Forshaw and Johnson completed a great side. By watching these players, I could tell after the first few minutes, what kind of an afternoon we were going to have. The first move of the individual was sufficient indication.

Elisha Scott: Gradually, that wonderful 11 broke up. Lacey, Chambers, McNab, Wadsworth, were the first to leave. Forshaw went to Everton, and poor Johnson, had in the meantime, passed on. At last only Lucas, Hopkin and I remained. Tommy was transferred to Clapton, leaving Polly and yours truly to keep the fort. Now we are all of the past, such is the way of things.

“Lisha” King Of The Kop

ElishaScott

Elisha Scott: My friends behind the goal were particularly generous to me. And to them, it may have appeared strange that I rarely recognised the crowd, or saluted them in the slightest manner, neither before nor during a game. Well, the explanation is simple. From the beginning of the game to the end of it, I was continuously in a state of nervous excitement. This tension lasted the whole of the 90 minutes and I could rarely get myself to relax to the slightest degree, whatever the state of the game: I was on tenterhooks. Hence it was that I never suffered the slightest distraction during the course of a match. My whole attention was concentrated on the play. The crowd was never part of my reckoning. I may have appeared to observers absolutely calm, cool and collected, but I can assure you that inwardly there burned always great anxiety to do the right thing at the right time. I dreaded making a mistake, and could rarely understand why others made them. For weeks on end, I prided myself on keeping my goal intact. I had a distinct disinclination to retrieving the ball from the back of the net.

Donald Mackinlay: A wonderful goalkeeper, the best I have seen. I put him above Sam Hardy. When Jimmy Jackson first played for us I told him Elisha would probably have a few words to say to him during games. “Don’t take too much notice of him though, he doesn’t mean it”, I said. Jimmy replied, “He won’t say anything to me”. “Won’t he? He says them to me and I’m the captain.”

Elisha Scott: Any ball in the six-yard area was my bird and it should be for every goalkeeper. If he thinks a full back or another defender is in the way, tell’em to get to blazes out of it. I did.

Donald Mackinlay: Elisha made his mistakes, like all of us. One I recollect was in a cup match at Newcastle when the only goal bounced in over his arm, but he was the man for me.

Elisha Scott: I remember it. It was a freak goal. Someone headed in from about 18 yards out and the ball bounced six yards from me, hit a hole in the ground and shot into the top corner. Funniest thing I have ever seen. It looked that simple that naturally I got the blame. The poor goalkeeper always gets blame, but the only simple thing about it that it made me look a bit simple.

Donald Mackinlay: Another great thing about Elisha was that if he thought he had made a mistake he admitted it. In one match against Tottenham, Arthur Grimsdell hit a freekick which went into the net like a bullet. Elisha said, “I should have stopped it”. All I could say was, “It would have broken you into little bits if it had hit you.”

Upstaging Dixie

LFCvEFC1932

Everton v Liverpool, Goodison Park, FA Cup third round, January 9, 1932

Tom (Tiny) Bradshaw: It is usually difficult to remember individual matches, but one can’t forget a Liverpool v Everton cup tie. Everton were then doing very well and scoring a bundle of goals every week in the First Division. We expected to be flattened out and Everton started well when Dixie Dean, whom I had the responsibility of watching, put them in the lead.

Jimmy McDougall: At that time Everton were going great guns, scoring seven and eight goals a match, and our policy was to stop their gallop, but lo and behold Dean had the ball in our net in a matter of seconds. It certainly looked as though our policy was going to be torn to rags and tatters.

Tom (Tiny) Bradshaw: We eventually settled down and our outside left, Gordon Gunson, made it 1-1 at the interval.

Jimmy McDougall: If I remember rightly, Gunson scored our first goal with his right foot, which was something of a feat because Gordon’s right foot was alleged to be a “swinger”. With his left he could hit a tremendous shot, but I don’t recall him ever scoring another goal with his right.

Tom (Tiny) Bradshaw: There was naturally a very tense atmosphere as we struggled for the lead and there was tremendous enthusiasm among the Liverpool supporters when Gordon Hodgson headed the winner home from a cross from the left.

LFCvEFC1932-2

Jimmy McDougall: It was a hard game, not a great game, just a typical cup tie – backwards and forwards. I cannot remember any highlights in connection with the game but I do remember that Jackson was one of the outstanding players in our side.

Tom (Tiny) Bradshaw: After that both goals had narrow escapes, but we hung on to our lead to the end.

Jimmy McDougall: Dean was right at the peak of his form, but we managed to hold the scoring machine to that goal. In fact, Everton had a great side out so it was very pleasant to put a stop to their triumphal march.

Tom (Tiny) Bradshaw: There was talk at the time of Elisha Scott going to Everton but he was 100 per cent Liverpool. He was the most excited man in the dressing room at the end, and one of my memories is of Elisha throwing his boots up to the ceiling in sheer joy.

Nivvy Makes His Mark

BerryNieuwenhuys

Liverpool v Everton, Anfield
, Football League Division One, September 30, 1933

Berry Nieuwenhuys: Never before had I seen such a vast crowd, such brilliant football, or such clean football, and it was the thrill of my life when I managed to score the first goal. The point which struck me most was the cleanliness of the game. When we were leaving for England we were told that the game here was rough and dirty. Well, I can assure you that this match was 100 per cent cleaner than anything I have seen in Africa. I did not see one real foul in the entire 90 minutes. I confess I was rather staggered by the size of the crowd at the start but I did my best to forget they were there. That was hard in view of the continuous roar of voices. Still you could play in front of a crowd like that for years. They are such sportsmen. I thank them for the encouragement they gave me and also for the wonderful reception I was accorded when I left the field. I don’t mind confessing it touched me.

Scott’s Fond Farewell

May 2, 1934

Elisha Scott: My final parting with Liverpool was one of the biggest breaks in my life, my broadcast to the spectators on that last fateful evening was a nightmare. While I was trying to say a few words into the microphone, the memories of the years crowded before me. My coming to Liverpool as a boy and all my varied experience covering those eventful 22 years, the famous players against whom I had striven so often, the glorious moments in cup and league, and the sorrow of leaving those faithful followers, who had stood by me through thick and thin. All these things swam before my eyes. I was tongue tied, and scarcely able to utter a syllable.

Mark Platt’s “Red Journey: An Oral History of Liverpool Football Club”, published by deCoubertin, is available here

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One Comment

  1. For modern supporters of LFC who obviously could not have seen the great Elisha Scott play, it is a treat to read the description of how he felt before and during a game and of his teammates in his own words.

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