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Connell, 1939: Bobby Walker

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-04-11 14:22:55

Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
— R. M. Connell | 28/01/1939 —

"No man can hope to excel at games unless he has perfect body balance," said George Duncan, to his friend Dr. M'Ewan. "I don't care whether you take golf, cricket, boxing, or football, it makes no difference. The athlete so equipped will always be in the forefront."
Son of an eminent surgeon, a professor in Glasgow University, Dr. M'Ewan and the famous Aberdeen golfer, dearly loved to ventilate their opinions when they met a the Fulham F.C. headquarters in the years of the Great War.
I was resident in London then, and Phil Kelso and I would often be drawn into the discussion as one or other appealed support in an argument provoked by their favourite theme.
"George has the right end of the stick," Phil would chip in, with the sole object of prolonging the duel between two sportsmen whose analysis of the merits of boxing champions and style in boxing held Phil and I enthralled. No less entertaining were their views on football celebrities.
George Duncan always cited Bobby Walker as the perfect model of body balance. Those who can link past and present outstanding soccer personalities, and are qualified to judge. I am convinced, will be in agreement in awarding pride of place to Bobby Walker as the most brilliant inside right of all time.
The golfer who amazed the gallery with his fireworks, on the links, is still a close student of football, and his opinions concerning the greatest of all Heart of Midlothian players have not changed.
Of Bobby Walker, R. S. M'Coll, of Queen's Park, a centre-forward comparable with the great one of soccer, remarked after the rout of England's brilliant team at Celtic Park in 1900, that the idol of Tynecastle was "the most wonderful forward he had ever played with." That match was Bobby's debut against the Saxons, and he was still wearing Scotland's colours against England thirteen years later for the eleventh time in a career of brilliant service to his only senior club, and to his country. Altogether, he collected 44 caps, and only Alan Morton equalled his appearances against England.
Let's quote some other authorities on the genius of Walker. Naively put was Jacky Robertson's testimony when he peerless Bobby was nearing the end of his career. "There never was the like of him. He has eight feet when he walks into you, and you always go for the wrong pair." He was as big a puzzle to his opponents and almost as difficult to stop when nearing the end of his playing days as in his first season with the Hearts. A striking tribute from a man who captained International teams, and had played for Everton, Southampton and Rangers.
A Celtic half-back making a first appearance against Bobby Walker at Parkhead, turned to his captain, Jamie Hay, for advice. "Keep your eye on the ball. It's your only chance. If you try to follow Bobby, he'll have you as dizzy as a duck."
"It was my misfortune never to have seen Walker play. I have heard the leaders of football throughout England say that Bobby Walker was the ideal forward, and there was no one in England at any period 'quite so good" — so said the late Herbert Chapman.
There was something in Bobby's personality and skill as a footballer that the others seemed to lack. He stood 5ft. 8ins. and at 11st. 8lbs. was physically as near the perfect model footballer as ever played.
Years ago, I wrote that the spell of Bobby Walker's genius with a ball at his feet fascinated all who saw him play. He was masterful in dibbling, swerving and feinting, and a master of the unexpected goal.
Sometimes he would meander through a defence, with the ball and make a goal appear ever so easily taken — it was a flash of genius. At other times, he would fire a goal from long range to confound experts. Goalkeepers feared his approach.
Strong of body, he could resist and give a heavy body charge without losing balance. As fair a player as the game ever produced, he rarely spoke on the field, unless when imparting friendly advice to a young player.
I saw Ernest Needham of Sheffield, a wing half comparable with George Brown, give up Bobby as a bad job when he was opposed to him in International games in 1901 — one an Inter-League at Ibrox and the other the classic struggle at the Crystal Palace. The pair had never come together before. Needham did not get a kick at the ball, as the saying goes, in the first match. In the other, Needham took the outside man and left the sturdy Corinthian, W. J. Oakley, to look after Bobby Walker invited the challenge of Oakley, and just when the stalwart back believed he had his man in the tackle, Bobby had whisked the ball clear to John Campbell of Celtic.
But enough! Neither England's best back of the period nor Scotland's Jock Drummond ever learned the secret of how to stop Bobby.