Andrew Watson (footballer)

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Andrew Watson
Andrew Watson Footballer.jpg
Watson (top centre, 1882 photograph)
Personal information
Date of birth (1856-05-24)24 May 1856
Place of birth Demerara, British Guiana
Date of death 8 March 1921(1921-03-08) (aged 64)
Place of death London, England
Height 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
Playing position Full back
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
? Maxwell F.C.
1874–1880 Parkgrove F.C.
1880–1882 Queen's Park[1] 0 (0)
1882–1884 Swifts
1884–1885 Corinthians
1885–1887 Queen's Park[1] 0
1887-1892 Bootle
National team
1881–1882 Scotland 3 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Andrew Watson (24 May 1856 – 8 March 1921) is widely considered to be the world's first black association footballer to play at international level.[2][3][4] He was capped three times for Scotland between 1881 and 1882. Although Arthur Wharton is commonly thought to be Britain's first black player, Watson's career predates him by over a decade.

Early life and education[edit]

Andrew Watson was born 24 May 1856 and was the son of a wealthy Scottish sugar planter Peter Miller Watson, (the son of James Watson, of Crantit, Orkney, Scotland) and a local British Guianese woman named Hannah Rose.[5] He was educated at King's College School, in Wimbledon, London, where records show he excelled at sports including football. He later studied natural philosophy, mathematics and engineering at the University of Glasgow when he was 19, where his love of football blossomed. He played in the full back position, on either the right or the left flank.

Football career[edit]

At club level[edit]

After first playing for Maxwell Football Club (F.C.) in 1876 he signed for local side Parkgrove F.C., where he was additionally their match secretary,[2] making him the first black administrator in football.[4] On 14 April 1880, he was selected to represent Glasgow against Sheffield—Glasgow won 1–0 at Bramall Lane. After marrying in Glasgow, he soon signed for Queen's Park F.C. – then Britain's largest football team – and later became their secretary. He led the team to several Scottish Cup wins, thus becoming the first black player to win a major competition.[4]

In 1882, he was the first black player to play in the English Cup when he turned out for Swifts.[2] In 1883, he was the first foreign player to be invited to join the leading amateur club in England, the Corinthians. During his time there, this included an 8–1 victory against Blackburn Rovers, who were at that time the English Cup holders.[6]

Watson's entry in the Scottish Football Association Annual of 1880–81 reads as follows:

"Watson, Andrew: One of the very best backs we have; since joining Queen's Park has made rapid strides to the front as a player; has great speed and tackles splendidly; powerful and sure kick; well worthy of a place in any representative team."

The colour of his skin was of no significance to his peers, and there is no historical record of racism on the part of the Scottish Football Association.[7] One match report is more interested in Watson's unusual brown boots rather than the customary black boots of that time.[7] As written in the minutes, before one match where Watson was injured and unable to play, an SFA vice-president said if Watson had been fit he would have happily drugged a fellow Scottish international to give Watson his place.[citation needed]

Watson signed for Liverpool club Bootle in 1887.[5] Bootle offered wages and signing fees to a number of players, but it is unknown whether Watson was paid.[5] If he was, this would predate the professional career of Arthur Wharton, who is generally considered to be the first black footballer to play professionally.[5]

At international level[edit]

Watson won three international caps for Scotland.[3] His first cap came for Scotland v. England on 12 March 1881, in which he captained the side;[8] Scotland won 6 – 1. A few days later Scotland played Wales where they won 5 – 1. Watson's last cap came on Scottish soil against England on 11 March 1882. This was a 5 – 1 victory again to Scotland.[9] Watson moved to London in the summer of 1882, which effectively ended his international career as the SFA only picked players based in Scotland at this time.[5]

Later life and tributes[edit]

In November 1877 he married Jessie Nimmo Armour – their son, Rupert Andrew, was born the following year and a daughter, Agnes Maude, in 1880.[5] Watson moved to London with his family in the summer of 1882 for work reasons.[5] Jessie died in the autumn of 1882 and their two children returned to Glasgow to live with their grandparents.[5]

Watson himself later returned to Glasgow and married for a second time, to Eliza Kate Tyler, in February 1887.[5] Later that year he moved to Liverpool, where he worked on ships and sat exams to qualify as an engineer.[5] Watson and Eliza had two children, named Henry and Phyllis.[5] It was thought that Watson emigrated to Australia and had died in Sydney, but in fact he retired to London and died of pneumonia at 88 Forest Road, Kew, on 8 March 1921.[5] He is buried in Richmond Cemetery.[10]

In 1926 the sportswriter "Tityrus" (the pseudonym of J.A.H. Catton, editor of the Athletic News) named Andrew Watson as left back in his all-time Scotland team – a remarkable endorsement of the talent of a footballer who had played at such an early date, from a man who had watched almost every England-Scotland international over the preceding 50 years.[11]


  1. ^ a b The Scottish Football League did not commence until the 1890–91 season.
  2. ^ a b c "First Black footballer, Andrew Watson, inspired British soccer in 1870s". Black History Month. 
  3. ^ a b "Andrew Watson". 100 Great Black Britons. 
  4. ^ a b c "Andrew Watson". Football Unites, Racism Divides. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Mitchell, Andy (20 March 2013). "First black footballer: Watson story takes twist". The Scotsman (Johnston Publishing). Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  6. ^ Cavallini, Rob (2007). Play Up Corinth: A History of the Corinthian Football Club. Tempus Publishing. pp. 13–14,230,278. ISBN 0-7524-4479-4. 
  7. ^ a b Brown, Paul. The Unofficial Football World Championships. North Shields: Tonto Press. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-9552183-1-6. 
  8. ^ The Times, 14 March 1881, p.6, col C.
  9. ^ "Andrew Watson – Scotland". 
  10. ^ "Andrew Watson: a gravestone that deserves more". 
  11. ^ Catton, J.A.H. ("Tityrus") (2006 reprint of 1926 original). The Story of Association Football. Cleethorpes: Soccer Books. ISBN 1-86223-119-2.

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