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Gallacher, 1930: When Newcastle missed Alex James
Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-02-07 13:57:10
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HOW NEWCASTLE UNITED MISSED JAMES
— Hughie Gallacher | 04/11/1930 —
Football luck is, as every footballer knows, fickle. I have known some of the greatest players who ever kicked a ball over Scottish turf come South and hit a bad patch.
Players speak a language of their own. When you hear a footballer moan the fact that "the ball did not run for me," you are listening to a real confession. Only a footballer knows that the moan means something more than an excuse for weakness.
When I told you last week how I signed for Newcastle, I could not help recalling my farewell to Airdrie.
The last man I spoke to was Alec James. At that time he was playing for Raith Rovers. Alec and I were always great pals. We played in the same school team together, we watched each other's football with more than casual interest. When I met Alec that day I was driving down the main street in a saloon car en route for Newcastle.
"Is it true you are going South, Hughie?" Alec asked.
I told him the whole story of my transfer. "I wish I were going with you," said Alec.
ALEC IN NEWCASTLE.
Arriving in Newcastle I remembered Alec's envious wish. No one knew better than I how well he was playing. Kirkcaldy people swore by him — he was to them what "Patsy" Gallagher was to Celtic and Falkirk crowds. I spoke of him to the Newcastle folk, and told them how much I thought of him.
Transfer fees were not so high then as now. It was my belief that he could be got from Scotland for a sum not far removed from 2,500, not more and, perhaps, less.
Alec James arrived in Newcastle during the close season along with his father-in-law, Dave Willis, and stayed many days in an endeavour to get fixed up at St. James's Park. Indeed, at one period of the negotiations he was practically assured that the spending of part of his vacation in Newcastle was certain to end in his transfer to Newcastle United, but just when he expected this to be accomplished, the whole deal came to an end, and Alec left greatly disappointed.
DIFFERENCE OF £500.
A difference of £500 stood between his club, Raith Rovers, and Newcastle, and this figure was allowed to stand as the barrier to Alec James figuring alongside me in the Newcastle team, because Newcastle were afraid he was too small for English football!
Perhaps they have changed their mind since and will be kicking themselves even now that they failed to seize their opportunity when it came.
What a great chance was lost! The fee asked was £2,500!
Think of it; less than three thousand pounds for the greatest inside forward of the day. Tell this to Arsenal supporters and they will laugh. But it is an actual fact just the same.
"No doubt he is a useful man, Hughie," I was told, "but he is too small."
"He is half a head taller than I am," I retorted though secretly consoling myself with the knowledge that when we played in the school team, I gave him inches and was besides, broader built.
"Nevertheless, he is too small for us," they told me at Gallowgate.
That ended my efforts to bring Alec James to Newcastle, but now when I read of Alec's doing at Highbury and elsewhere I smile and think of the way in which luck can lead the footballer — and even the talent spotter.
Newcastle's loss, or mistake, was Preston North End's gain, for wee Alec went to Deepdale, and later Arsenal paid the Lancashire club nearly £9,000 for him.
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