Book Review: A Straggling Life – Andrew Watson

A Straggling Life – Andrew Watson by Llew Walker

Andrew Watson is a Scottish sporting icon but one who history seemed to forget about as time passed. It was only in the last two decades that we starting to find more info regarding this historic figure.

Glasgow’s Southside now has two memorials that include his portrait and we now also have this wonderful book!

Andrew Watson was a black footballer who played in both Scotland and England during the 1870s and 1880s. Along the way he’d make a lot of firsts like becoming the first black international player, first black football administrator and Scotland’s first black captain.

He played for Queen’s Park, at a time when The Spiders were quite probably the best football club in the world.

Llew Walker does a superb job trying to give us as much about Andrew Watson’s life as possible, not an easy task hence why we went so long without hearing Watson’s story.

Walker has been meticulous in gathering as much information as possible. It’s not just a football history book: we learn about Britain’s class structure, public schooling, the history of plantation owners and their links to the slave trade.

Watson’s relationship with his father and his own children remains a mystery throughout but they all seemed distant, which allows for speculation.

We also learn that the Scottish press and the Scottish footballing public seemed to really admire Andrew Watson and take him to their hearts. He would be regularly praised in newspaper articles, which Walker constantly references.

I love the fact that teams used to hold sports days and players up and down the country would compete in various athletic events. Watson was always a keen participant.

Back in the day footballers seemed to play for various teams whilst the authorities were still trying to figure out all the rules. Watson seemed to jump around a lot, showing his passion for the game. He would even travel between London and Glasgow to play for different teams during the same month. It shows us that he must’ve been extremely fit during his peak. Llew also must have been very disciplined in his research as he managed to plot ‘Andy’s’ nomadic career. The player made 300 appearances in 13 year period.

The author is also fantastic in describing the early beginnings of football and what it was like during this era. He makes the formations, the events and styles of play accessible to the modern football fan.

This is a fantastic resource detailing the life of a man that really helped shape the game along with his contemporaries.

As Scotland head towards Euro 2020, I urge every Tartan Army foot-soldier to buy this book and learn about a Scottish Professor!

But it is also a worthy read for any reader interested in history, especially footballing history.

Currently Available At Waterstones

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