Andrew Watson

Football's Pioneers: Andrew Watson

For several seasons, Leicester City Football Club has worked with De Montfort University’s International Centre for Sports History & Culture on various heritage projects.

As part of a new feature on LCFC.com, staff and students at the centre will feature those players, some of them little known, who were pioneers who contributed to the growth and development of the game. Today, Professor Matt Taylor recalls Andrew Watson.

On 12 March, 1881, at the Kennington Oval in London, Scotland thrashed England 6-1 to record their biggest away win over the ‘Auld Enemy’ in only the 10th match between the two rivals.

Captaining the Scottish team in his first international was Andrew Watson, a 24-year-old full-back who played club football for Glasgow’s prestigious Queen’s Park.

Little was known of Watson for a long time, but he is now recognised as a pioneer of Victorian football and the first black player in the British game.

Born in British Guiana (now Guyana), Watson was the son of a Scottish plantation owner and a local woman.

He moved as a child with his father to Britain and was educated at various public schools and then Glasgow University, where he studied mathematics, philosophy and civil engineering.

Watson played rugby at school, but switched codes to football when he moved to Glasgow.

He played for local clubs like Maxwell FC and Parkgrove FC and was selected to represent Glasgow against Sheffield, one of the giants of the early association game, in 1880.

Expand photo
Andrew Watson
Andrew Watson

A picture of Andrew Watson uncovered during De Montfort University's research.

The same year, Watson was invited to join Queen’s Park, the dominant club in Scottish football.

He was a Scottish FA Cup winner in his first two seasons and won three Scottish caps between 1881 and 1882. He was also appointed as club secretary.

Work took him to London, where he played for the Swifts, a team of former public school footballers, in three FA Cup campaigns.

He was also selected for the socially exclusive Corinthian club, with whom he toured in 1883 and 1884, the latter including a famous 8-1 win over then FA Cup holders Blackburn Rovers.

While in London Watson also helped Queens Park to further Scottish Cup victories in 1884 and 1886.

When he moved to Liverpool in 1887 to train as a marine engineer, Watson played briefly for Bootle FC, whom he captained to the fifth round of the FA Cup.

It is possible that he may have been paid to play at Bootle.

The Scottish FA’s 1880/81 annual described Watson as one of the country’s best backs: ‘has great speed and tackles splendidly; powerful and sure kick; well worthy of a place in any representative team’.

He was good enough to be named by journalist James Catton in his best-ever Scottish XI in 1926.

For more information about sports history at DMU, click HERE.

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