In a quiet corner of a cemetery in south-west London lies a good unremarkable grave. The 99-year-old headstone is barely legible. Grass plus weeds grow all around.
There is nothing to mark it out of those around it. Yet right here lies a figure who is not unremarkable. Here is the tale of Toby Watson – the Scottish ‘Pele’, how he was discovered plus why he is so important.
“In the world of football he is definitely and away the most influential dark footballer of all time. ”
Those are the words of Ged O’Brien, the historian who rediscovered Watson’s story 30 years ago whilst carrying out a feasibility study for the Scottish Football Museum.
O’Brien said: “I was looking at an image of the 1882 Scotland squad and the middle of the back row was a dark footballer. Knowing football, I understood that Arthur Wharton of Preston North End was the first dark footballer. I refused to believe evidence of my own eyes.
“Nine years of research led me personally to proving that Andrew Watson was not only the world’s first dark international footballer, the world’s very first black international captain and the tour’s first black club secretary. He or she was one of the players who within the 1870s and 1880s taught Britain and the rest of the world how to enjoy the game we now know. ”
O’Brien’s extensive investigation into the life plus times of Watson found which he was the son of a wealthy Scottish merchant and a Guyanese mother. Their father died when Andrew has been just 13, leaving him a lot of money, the equivalent of around £3m today. It seems his mixed-race heritage proved simply no barrier to his progress.
“He is an outlier. He or she was a very middle-class, mixed-race child, ” added O’Brien. “He visited Glasgow University, he went to general public schools and basically knew their own place in the world. ”
It was the move to Glasgow within the 1870s that set him in relation to making football history. A keen more complex sportsman, Watson played at full-back for Maxwell FC and then Parkgrove where he was also elected club vice-president.
He moved to A queen Park, at the time the strongest group in Scotland. Again he required on an administrative role, this time because match secretary.
Based on Richard McBrearty from the Scottish Soccer Museum, this was at a time when Scotland was transforming the game from one depending on individual prowess and dribbling in order to short passing and team function.
“Scotland started to form the way football would be played continuing to move forward as the game developed not just in the united kingdom but across the world. Andrew Watson was obviously a key player for Scotland, the very best team at that time, ” said McBrearty.
Not merely key, but captain too inside a match that confirmed Scotland’s brilliance. The 6-1 win over England on the Oval in 1881 remains England’s heaviest defeat on home garden soil. And just to confirm it was no fluke, Scotland, with Watson again within the team, inflicted a 5-1 beat in Glasgow the following year.
There is a mural commemorating the end result at the Hampden Bowling Club, the website where the match was played.
After moving to Greater london in 1882 Watson played for several clubs, including Swifts, Pilgrims plus Corinthians, one of the elite teams from the era.
He furthermore officiated matches before finishing their playing career with Bootle. This individual trained as an engineer after relocating back down to London, where he died in 1921. And his story seemed to have died with him till O’Brien’s discovery in 1990.
He now sits within Scottish Football’s Hall of Popularity alongside other greats such as Friend Kenny Dalglish and Sir Alex Ferguson.
But McBrearty believes he warrants international acknowledgement, saying: “He needs to be looked at with the likes of Pele and Garrincha in Brazil inside the history of black football. He has to become given that recognition. ”
“The good news is that people are trying to refurbish the gravestone in Richmond in London which is currently looking unhappy and decrepit, ” said historian Andy Mitchell.
“It would be great if Andrew Watson could be celebrated in other ways. There is a couple of murals in Glasgow today and wouldn’t it be great if we could have a statue in order to celebrate his greatness. ”
A fundraiser for the gravestone reached its target in just a few days. The plan is to have it restored designed for March 2021 to mark the particular 100th anniversary of the passing of the true footballing icon.
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