Thursday, 11 March 2010
When Glasgow Welcomed An Englishman
For their final Isthmian League game of the 1931-32 season, the Dulwich Hamlet team had to travel to Oxford City without their usual inside right the legendary Edgar Kail. Their star player had a satisfactory excuse; he was on a train to Scotland having been given the great privilege of assisting the famous amateur side Queen’s Park in a charity cup match with Glasgow Rangers. Not that it mattered much, Dulwich had already relinquished any hope of the title; an all too often result of cup success.
A few days earlier a caption in the Wednesday 4th May 1932 edition of the Glasgow Evening Times read:
“Edgar Kail the Dulwich Hamlet and English international forward
comes north of the border to assist Queen’s Park in their
Charity tie with Rangers on Saturday.”
Queen's Park are unique in Scottish football. On two occasions in Victorian times they actually finished runners-up in the FA Cup. And, despite the vast sums of money that permeate football on both sides of the border, Queens Park remain an amateur club until this very day.
Kail's invitation was a sequel to the amateur international match at Hampden Park two months before, when Scottish critics were greatly impressed with his capabilities. He had also shined three weeks earlier in the FA Amateur Cup Final at Upton Park where Marine were hammered 7-1 by the mighty Dulwich, in what was arguably Kail’s greatest ever game.
The maestro duly offered his services to Queen’s Park at the semi-final stage when two players, Bob Gillespie – whom Kail described as “the greatest third back the game had ever known” – and Jimmy Crawford were in Paris with the Scottish national team taking on the French.
Kail thus achieved a unique honour in the football world, becoming the first Englishman* to appear in the black and white hoops of Scotland’s oldest club, for although one other English amateur – the celebrated Vivian J. Woodward – was invited to play for Queens Park many years earlier, he was unable to accept the offer. In his old age Edgar Kail recollected that this distinction was one of the proudest moments of his illustrious career.
The opposition could also boast its own English man, albeit English in name only – centre forward Sam English. This youngster from Ulster had been a sensation in his first season with Rangers scoring a phenomenal amount of league goals in a single season. Remarkably, his Rangers record of 44 strikes remains intact seventy odd years later. Sadly, the same season in which English became a folk hero, he was involved in the death of a player during a match. In the ‘old firm’ derby in September 1931, Celtic’s goalkeeper John Thomson bravely dived headlong at the feet of English, resulting in a terrible collision and the tragic death of the keeper.
The semi final of the Merchants’ Charity Cup paired the finalists from the previous year. Fourteen thousand turned up for the match at Ibrox Park, which was played in odd conditions, the weather changing alternately between spring rain and bright sunshine. A shower of sleet was thrown in for good measure. Kail’s presence at Ibrox aroused a great deal of interest on the terraces and it was expected that he would add guile to the Queen's attack. Maybe that was asking too much.
The bulk of the Scottish Amateurs was always culled from the Hampden Park side, and Kail was very familiar with most of his new team mates, He had often pitted his wits against the auld enemy on England duty, now he was playing alongside them. However, he didn't really fit into the unaccustomed forward line, and though he tried hard, perhaps too hard on occasions, he only came into the game sporadically. When he did receive the ball in the first half he showed some delightful touches and clever close control, sending the ball to Bremner on the wing or low and accurately through the centre. One reporter noted, “Kail has that deft touch so typically English when the ball is in the air. Everyone present was, I am certain, pleased to see a player of Kail's stamp wearing Queen’s Park colours.”
Although Queen’s Park took the lead after nine minutes, the rest of the game was all Rangers. After the break the home side practically took up permanent residence in the Queen's half. The amateurs didn't get their first corner until an hour's football had been played. They eventually lost the match 3-1, (Doc Marshall bagging a hat-trick including two penalties) and were it not for T.G. Smith's performance between the posts the margin would have been a lot greater. Across the Clyde at Parkhead, Celtic were beaten by Third Lanark in the other semi-final. Rangers won the final tie 6-1, the following Saturday at Hampden Park.
Kail returned to East Dulwich having received not a penny for his services (except expenses, perhaps.) Queen’s Park and Dulwich Hamlet were of one accord, dyed-in-the-wool Amateurs. Dulwich were members of the trophyless Isthmian League with its ‘Honor Sufficit’ motto, whilst ‘Ludere causa Ludendi’ was the maxim of the Glasgow club, who played the game for the sake of playing. That appealed immensely to Edgar Kail, who even as a teenager once remarked with some repulsion, “Money for playing football!”
Kail rekindled his acquaintance with his friendly adversaries the following March when England entertained the Scots at Champion Hill in what turned out to be his swansong. He was certainly worthy of double honour, and in his farewell international he had the twofold privilege of performing on his home turf and being given the captaincy of his country. As he led the team out of the tunnel he probably received the most rapturous reception of his entire life.
Postscript: It must also be pointed out that Edgar Kail was a representative for a Scottish distillery company, spending three decades on the road until his retirement on New Year’s Eve (Hogmanay) 1965. His love of Scotland was such that soon afterwards he migrated north of the border with his son Colin, settling in Glasgow, where he died from a stroke in 1976.
* Some reports say Kail was the first Englishmen resident in England.