Watson's Story

Andrew Watson (1856-1921)

Born in Demerara, British Guyana, Andrew Watson was the son of a Scottish clerk and joint plantation owner, and a free woman of colour. He was brought to England as a young child and provided for by his wealthy father, receiving a first-class education, and becoming an English gentleman. Moving to Glasgow to enter University, he discovered football and dropped out after only a few weeks, choosing to become a footballer.

Seemingly unfamiliar with football, having played rugby at school, in Glasgow he would be schooled by the most advanced practitioners of the association game. Investing his own money in the Parkgrove Football Club, his talent developed rapidly, he would be elected club captain and club secretary. With Parkgrove, he became the first man of colour to take on the role of a football administrator, a position he would also hold at Queen’s Park. When Parkgrove collapsed, he joined one of the best clubs in the world at that time, Queen’s Park.

With the ‘Spiders’, Watson became the first man of colour to win trophies in football, and he lifted the Scottish Association Cup three times and the Glasgow Charity Cup four times. He once went a whole season without losing a game. Before he was selected to play for the National team, he represented Glasgow in the prestigious intercity fixtures with Sheffield.

(c) Scottish Football Museum

Finally selected to play for Scotland, his first game was against England at the Oval in London in 1881. As captain, he led the Scottish team and inflicted the worst ever defeat of the English on home soil, by 6 goals to 1. A few days later, he played against Wales, winning 5-1. The following year, he played for Scotland for the third time, thumping the English again, by 5 goals to 1. Watson would be the first man of colour to play international football. He would be the first man of colour to play for and captain Scotland and a British team.

But at the height of his Scottish football career, he unexpectedly moved to London to become a civil servant. Befriended by E.C. Bambridge, the leading English goalscorer, Watson would assist with the foundation of a new amateur outfit called the Corinthian Football Club, and with Bambridge’s team, the Swifts.

(c) Corinthian-Casuals Football Club

Unfortunately, around the time the Corinthians were to play their first game, Watson’s young wife became ill and died. Consequently, Watson’s plans were disrupted, and his debut for Corinthian was delayed. But he would become the first Scot and the first man of colour to play for and captain the Corinthian team.

With the Swifts, Watson became the first man of colour to play in the F.A.Cup when Swifts faced the indomitable Upton Park club, forcing a replay and eventually winning 3-2. In the next round, they met the Cup holders, Old Etonians, with the famous Lord Kinnaird in their ranks and lost 2-0.

The very next day, Watson became the first man of colour to officiate in the F.A. Cup when he acted as a linesman for the 4th Round game between Old Carthusians and the Royal Engineers.

Having taken part in an unspectacular first Corinthian tour in 1883, he joined up with them the following year on a Northern tour with N.L. ‘Pa’ Jackson taking charge for the first time. The first game was against the reigning and future F.A. Cup winners, Blackburn Rovers, a team packed with professional footballers.

Corinthian was not expected to do well. However, playing sensational football, the amateurs defeated the Cup holders by eight goals to one, one of the worst defeats ever suffered by the Lancashire club.

Watson had played for Corinthian in their first-ever meeting with the ‘invincible’ Preston North End, losing three-one. But in the next meeting, Corinthian would beat the professionals by three goals to two, another outstanding achievement for the unpaid amateurs. However, this would prove to be Watson’s last game for Corinthian.

He played for Corinthian fourteen times, and will forever be associated with the club that influenced the development and popularity of the game globally. His record was moderate: seven wins, six losses and one draw. But for the loss of his wife, he would have played several more matches, including Corinthians first ever game in October 1882.

As a ‘Scotch Professor’, Andrew Watson played alongside many English footballers who would go on to represent the English national team. By sharing his football knowledge and experience, he encouraged the game of football to evolve from a public-school pastime to a national obsession. Watson’s introduction of Scottish footballing innovations would influence the Corinthian style and this would be shared in the years to come, with teams from all corners of the globe.

But as the game he helped change grew and conquered the world, Watson’s achievements were forgotten. The name of Andrew Watson appeared in the history books and but the fact he was a man of colour was forgotten for over 100 years. Only recently rediscovered, he has finally been restored to the story of the game, not only as a footballer, a Corinthian, a gentleman and amateur but also as a leader, a pioneer, an innovator and a sporting and cultural icon.