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Gallacher, 1929: How Alex James learned his football

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-02-02 03:13:08

Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
Hughie Gallacher | 08/09/1929 —

When I was a wee fellow at Bellshill Academy, Glasgow, a schoolmate of mine was another wee fellow. His name was Alec James.
We often sat at the same desk, we looked over one another's shoulders. We spent our leisure time together, and we played football together.
We have been known to dribble a tiny ball from the school-gate to our homes.
There was a school team formed, and our teacher, having witnessed our keenness for a ball made certain that we were included in the side. Alec and myself included in the side. Alec and myself played in our first "big" match together — it was against a neighbouring school.
I was at inside left — the only time I have ever played in that position. In fact, I have seldom appeared as inside right — last Saturday made the fifth occasion for Newcastle.
Alec James played at inside right, a position he often filled when playing as a junior, though, of course, he has made his name famous as the result of his play in the inside left position.
In our second school game I went to the centre-forward position, which I preferred even then. Alec James remained at inside right. They say those two wee lads were worth watching in those days, and they say, too, that we wanted the game to go on long after the teacher had blown the final whistle.
Alec would say to me in those schoolboy days: "Hughie, I mean to be a player some day," and I used to reply, "And me too, Alec."
We used to be on the look out for "tips."
Guess where we went Saturday afternoons? Glasgow Celtic's ground; we kept our pennies for the match.
Who did we watch? Why, Patsy Gallagher!
We got many lessons from Patsy. Alec used to watch every movement. Those swerves, those ee-like raids, those rasping shots and that clever positional play. What lessons!
"Hughie," said Alec to me one Saturday evening. "I am learning every time I watch Patsy."
Really, I did not think that Alec James required much tuition in those days — not even as a wee laddie. If ever a boy had football written "all over him," as they say, that boy was James.
A slip of a lad, yes, but what craft, what a head for the game, what a pair of feet and what pluck.
Schooldays over, Alec was sought after by various junior clubs, and he landed with that famous Glasgow junior club Ashfield, where, prior to the days of the present Intermediate business, talent "spotters" from all parts of the football world assembled, watching, and often signing.
James simply could not help drawing the eyes of the critics upon him. His smallness of stature and his dazzling play immediately attracted attention.
'Tis said that some of those who watched Alec, in the hope of making him their player, shook their heads a little doubtfully and said: "Wish he would grow a bit; clever enough. Best I've seen, but very small."
Wee Alec James never bothered about his lack of inches. He revelled in meeting the bigger fellows. Each match he played in the improved — not in actual knowledge of the game, because I am certain the art he possesses is inborn — but in the manner in which he varied his methods.
Alec once said to a friend of mine: "I never try to play the same type of game. All games differ. You must suit yourself to the run of play, the conditions and the form of your opponents."
One day when James was proving to be the most discussed junior in Glasgow, a representative of Raith Rovers came on the scene.
He travelled from the east side of Scotland to see James, and when he went back to Kirkcaldy he was glowing in his report.
All the world knows that James went to the Fife Club. James soon established himself, and he helped to form a forward line which comprised such a fine players as the Duncans, of Leicester City, Jennings, of Leeds United, and Archibald, of Stoke.
James polished that natural art of his, and wherever he went in Scotland his football created a great impression.
Some called him "wee wizard of Scotland."
Not only did James prove a great adept in the art of drawing the defenders and slipping the ball to an unmarked comrade, but he also showed a remarkable readiness to seize upon a quickly returned ball, of which he would often make most unexpected use, and frequently finish off with a brilliant shot.
There's not much of Alec physically, but what strength in those feet, and what a natural sense of direction he posseses! Alec developed a really cute way of calling to his comrades — sometimes just a clap of the hands; sometimes the words "Over here," or "In front," or "Watch your back" — all done and said in flash, and all in the best interests of team combination.
Alec had an early developed confidence in his work. He is not dismayed if things are going against him. He does not let a big task upset his plan of campaign, which, as I pointed out, he is always ready to vary according to circumstances and conditions.
I really believe that Alec James likes an uphill task. The more difficult the task, the more he enjoys the game, because in his great enthusiasm for the game he knows that he must draw upon the devious wiles which he has practised, developed, and cultivated since those schoolboy days of ours.
James is the happy possessor of a wonderful football brain box. He can be an individualist and he can be a part of the team.
Alec doesn't want personal glory. He enjoys being a good footballer, but what he wants, like the rest of us, is success for the side.
Remember there was a furore of excitement when this talented little brother Scot of mine went to Preston. At Deepdale he was an idol. It was seldom I had the opportunity of seeing Alec, of course.
National days came along. Let me see. I shared with my old school pal a great football day at Wembley at England's expense.
Alec was an idol at Preston, so he will be at Highbury. It's inevitable. Here's to Alec James!