It’s been too long a wait since the Southampton game – in truth we football supporters have little patience anyway. We are always looking forward. In June when the fixtures come out the potential end of season points tally are already being totted up – “Ah Hull away in December, 3 points there will set us up nicely for the very tricky Spurs game coming up, and we have a great run-in and should win the last six”. I do it every season.
After winning our first three games this campaign, I was told that we should be winning the next six as they were all very winnable. That would have been 27 points on the board after 9 games! It would have been very nice indeed. Of course it wasn’t to be. It’s impossible to predict the twists and turns throughout a 38 game season, but even the most optimistic red would not have dreamt how close this side are to the summit of the table when pouring over the fixture list last June. It’s just great to be even looking ahead to what are vital games in the race for top honours and we are well and truly part of it.
Going to print we don’t know the outcome of the Man United game but no matter what the result the redmen will still be in a strong position to return to Europe’s top table once again next season. This coming week we face two teams in a relegation battle and another with their eyes still firmly fixed on a top 4 finish. Cardiff are fighting for their lives and after looking like their appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjær was going to be a mistake on the tanned ones part, the victory over the already doomed Fulham may well have kick-started their fight for survival and the game against Cardiff is unlikely to be done and dusted before the end of the first half as it was last December at Anfield. But it’s certainly a game we should be winning.
Sunderland have been involved in a cup final and a cup semi-final in the last few weeks and won neither of them. The semi-final defeat at Hull bared no resemblance to their decent performance in the League Cup final reverse to Man City. They won’t have Fabio Borini available for selection at Anfield of course, the Italian has had a productive loan spell in the North-East and should report back to pre-season training at Melwood with renewed hope that he has a future at the club. Speaking of Sunderland, I had the pleasure of meeting Eric Doig recently. Eric is the grandson of the famous Sunderland and Liverpool goalkeeper, Ned Doig. Born in Arbroath Ned was actually on the books of the club when they beat Bon Accord 36-0 in the Scottish cup, and to this day is still the clubs most capped international with two caps for Scotland. Moving to Sunderland via Blackburn, Ned made his name under the guidance of Tom Watson at Sunderland, winning an incredible four league titles before joining Watson at Anfield and winning a second division title. Buried in an unmarked grave Eric finally erected a headstone in honour of his grandfather last December, situated just a few feet away from his manager Tom Watson.
The home game against Tottenham Hotspurs will bring the month to an end and a victory here would surely see us create a big enough gap between ourselves and the North Londoners. It’s been a strange few months for Tim Sherwood. Winning at Old Trafford and impressive victories at Newcastle and qualifying for the last 16 of the Europa League. On the other hand, they can ship goals at an alarming rate as we reds know only too well. But what we will know by the end of this month is whether us reds can still dream of league glory – Over to you lads.
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) You 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.”
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?
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.