A handwritten entry in the Leicester Fosse Directors’ Minutes book on 3 February, 1909 records that: ‘It was decided that the sum of £300 should be offered for the transfer A. Aitken from Middlesbrough’. This entry heralded the arrival at Filbert Street of one of the biggest names in Edwardian football.
This was a remarkable coup for Leicester Fosse who were badly struggling in their first and only season in the old First Division.
Three days earlier, Leicester Fosse had been defeated 6-2 by a Middlesbrough side whose centre-forward was Alf Common, the game’s first £1,000 player. Their player-manager was Andy Aitken. The deal to bring Aitken to Filbert Street was quickly concluded after the game and he made his Leicester debut at centre-half in Fosse’s next game, which was at Anfield.
Ayr-born Aitken had made his name as captain of Newcastle United. Nicknamed ‘Daddler’ he helped the Magpies to promotion to the top-flight in 1898. He became captain a year later and led his team to their first league title in 1905 and to the 1905 and 1906 FA Cup Finals.
Leicester Fosse 1910/11
The Leicester Fosse side, including Aitken, which finished fifth in the Second Division in 1909/10.
By the time he left Newcastle United to become Middlesbrough’s player-manager in November 1906, he had played 349 games for the Tyneside club and had been capped by Scotland on eight occasions. The authoritative ‘Book of Football’ published in 1906 described him as, ‘a player of first class and one of the very best’.
Despite being a veteran about to celebrate his 32nd birthday when he arrived at Filbert Street, his reward for impressive performances in his new club’s unsuccessful fight against relegation was to be appointed player-manager at the end of the season.
For the next two years he was such a key player in Leicester Fosse’s Second Division side that he became the Club’s first ever Scotland international when he won three more caps for his home country, the last just days before his 34th birthday in April 1911 when he captained his country in a 1-1 draw against England at Goodison Park.
A few weeks later, Aitken returned to Scotland to play for Dundee. He was badly missed at Filbert Street, where he was remembered as a player of real quality who played ‘the pacing game almost to perfection’, who ‘seldom wasted a ball’ and who ‘invariably subordinated force to science’.
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