Watson and Doig – Recognition at long last?

When ‘Honest’ John McKenna started the search for a manager that could land Liverpool the first division title, he only had one man in mind, the best in the business. That man was Tom Watson the Sunderland manager. Newcastle born Watson was the leading light in the game at the time, having led Sunderland to three league titles. It was to be an inspired move.

Watson’s first game in charge was also the first game in which Liverpool FC wore their famous red shirts. Progress was swift and after a near miss in 1899, the reds finally claimed their first of 18 league titles when they pipped Watson’s old club Sunderland by two points in 1901. After the reds shock relegation in 1904, the club bounced back to win the second division title at the first attempt, and duly delivered the first division title for the second time the following season (1906) thus becoming the first club to win the second division and first division titles in successive seasons.

So Liverpool FC’s longest serving manager Tom Watson had the distinction of winning the first division title with two different clubs. Three league titles with Sunderland and two with Liverpool. He was also the first Liverpool manager to lead the club to an FA Cup final, sadly the reds succumbed to the challenge of Burnley at the Crystal Palace venue. Watson was also responsible for the signatures of Liverpool legends such as Elisha Scott, Alex Raisbeck and Liverpool’s oldest ever player Ned Doig. Tom Watson’s achievements at Liverpool were set to continue as he reached his 19th year in charge of the Anfield outfit. Sadly it wasn’t to be, Watson died on 6th May 1915 at the age of just 56.

The turnout at his funeral demonstrated the popularity of the man; Doig and Raisbeck were amongst the pallbearers as Watson was laid to rest at Anfield Cemetery. The Liverpool Echo reported: ‘The number of wreaths, including tributes from the Liverpool and Everton clubs, was more than one hundred, and represented all the leading football associations.’ It was a fitting farewell to a Liverpool FC and football legend.

Tom Watson (left) TomwatsonYou would like to think that the man who delivered our first league title would have a fitting final resting place. A place of pilgrimage for all Liverpool FC fans to pay their respects to the great man. After all, the grave is a stone’s throw away from Anfield. Sadly this is not the case. Tom Watson rests in Anfield Cemetery, but sadly, it’s in an unmarked grave. Not only that, only a few feet from Watson’s grave lies Ned Doig, Watson’s goalkeeper at Sunderland and Liverpool, also in an unmarked grave. It’s not sure if the unmarked status of the graves was always the case, but it’s quite possible that the graves would have been forgotten in time if it wasn’t for the persistence of Steve Bainbridge, a local researcher, and Ned Doigs grandson, Eric Doig, who assisted Steve in discovering the plots in 2010.

Commenting in an article on www.clickliverpool.com  by Richard Buxton in 2010, Eric Doig said; “Tom was Liverpool’s first successful manager, leading his sides to two first division and one second division championship. He has been buried for nearly 95 years unrecognised in an unmarked grave in Anfield Cemetery.”

Speaking about his grandfather Ned, Eric continued; “My grandfather Ted Doig also lies in an unmarked grave a few yards from his manager and mentor Watson. It is sad that neither of them have headstones, and we cannot be sure whether they ever did, but it would be fitting for the last resting places of two great men to properly identified be marked with suitable memorials.” neddoig1

In the same article Peter Lupson the football historian and author of the excellent ‘Across the Park’ and ‘Thank God for Football’ said: “It is sad that the graves of Tom Watson and Ned Doig are unmarked. They were two very great figures in the early years. Now that they have been traced, it is clearly important that their final resting places are honoured and given the recognition they deserve. “It would be excellent if the graves can be fitted with headstones worthy of their contribution to the history of Liverpool FC.”

Recently I received an article from Kjell Hanssens excellent website detailing the Liverpool Echo’s coverage of Tom Watson’s funeral in 1915. Underneath the report, an updated picture of Watsons grave shocked me. There it was, a stick in the ground with a piece of cardboard attached stating: “Tom Watson – LFC Manager 1896-1915. Died May 6th 1915 Aged 56. A puff of wind and it would be blown over, unmarked once more. It made me wonder what had happened in the two years since the graves were uncovered, was there any movement since?

watson-grave(1)

Tom Watson deserves better

So just two weeks ago I got in touch with the ever helpful Peter Lupson. Peter informed me that Eric Doig and Tom Watson’s grandson had met at the recent Stoke City game at Anfield. One email later to Eric and the good news is that the wheels seem to have been set in motion. Eric informed me that Watson’s great-grandson Gerald Jensen had travelled all the way from Detroit for the Stoke game and that both men had a positive meeting with Liverpool’s Managing Director Ian Ayre. It will come as no surprise that plans came to an abrupt halt in the reign of the ‘cowboy’s’ Hicks and Gillett.

Thankfully we are in a new era now, and judging by the recent Anfield stadium announcement, it’s one that wants to recognise the great history of our club. Great news, but Eric informs me it won’t be a quick solution as issues such as whether the plots are public or privately owned will affect matters and this takes time. But it’s a start. Eric is keen for this story to be told to as many reds as possible so that they are aware of the situation surrounding two of the clubs great servants, so that someday very soon we may be able to read all about Tom Watson and Ned Doigs achievements on their very own headstones in Anfield Cemetery.

Since this article was first published in RAOTL last season – Eric Doig was delighted to inform me that the grave of Ned Doig now has a headstone. But as yet, despite the club having the information over the wording and costs, Tom Watsons resting place remains unmarked.

Thanks to www.lfchistory.net , www.clickliverpool.com , http://kjellhanssen.com

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3 Comments on “Watson and Doig – Recognition at long last?”

  1. I know there have been contact between Sunderland and Liverpool recently. So let us hope it will soon happen. I expect William Barclay (secretary 1892-95) will get a headstone in October.

  2. Jonny Stokkeland says:

    I was told last week that only some small paperwork left before Watson will get his headstone.


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