Date: 21st October 2022
Andrew Watson: Scotland’s First Black Footballer
As it is currently Black History Month, we at the SFSA wanted to honour one of the most significant figures in Scottish football history, Scotland’s first ever black footballer Andrew Watson. With this piece, we hope that fans can learn more about Watson himself, and about the history of Black Footballers in Scottish football.
140 years ago, the name Andrew Watson would be a familiar and revered one for all Scottish football fans. Watson was one of the best known and most influential footballers of his day, captaining Scotland and leading his team to monumental victories over England and Wales. Andrew was also player and secretary of the biggest club in Britain, Queen’s Park, a team that achieved two Scottish Cup wins.
Andrew was born in Georgetown in Demerara, the capital of British Guyana, to a wealthy Scottish sugar plantation owner. He had a sister called Annetta, with whom at age 5 or 6, alongside their father set on a voyage across the Atlantic, searching for a new life in Britain.
After arriving in Britain, Andrew attended schools in Staffordshire, Yorkshire and Wimbledon where he was first exposed to football. In 1869, Watson’s father died, leaving a large estate shared between Watson, then aged 13, and his sister Annetta (a small amount was also left to their mother in Guyana). This allowed Watson to be financially independent for life and meant he could wholly focus on football.
At the age of 19, Watson enrolled at the University of Glasgow to study engineering, natural philosophy and mathematics, however he did not finish his studies and in 1877 set up a wholesale warehouse business. From the mid-1870s onwards, Watson combined his dry goods business with a glittering football career. In 1874 he signed for the Glasgow-based Maxwell before moving to the Govan-based Parkgrove FC where he was also match secretary. Watson acquired a reputation as one of the most stylish, pacey and composed full backs in the Scottish game. Watson was not only the first person of colour to play football in Britain, but also to hold an administrative role within a British team.
1880 saw Watson invited to join the leading Scottish club of the era – Queen’s Park, where he also fulfilled the role of match secretary. His success in the Scottish game brought Watson to the attention of leading figures in English football and a move to English football followed, initially with the Slough-based Swifts FC.
After Watson’s wife sadly died in late 1882, Andrew divided his time between Glasgow and London, playing for Queen’s Park, Swifts and touring with the Corinthians. As he no longer resided full time in Scotland, he was not eligible to play for the international side again, curtailing what would have likely been a lengthy and successful international career. Nevertheless, Andrew Watson won further Scottish cups with Queen’s Park in 1886 and 1887.
After his second marriage, Watson moved to Liverpool and went on to play for Bootle FC. Bootle paid wages to some of their players and whilst there is no evidence that Watson received financial compensation from the team, it is possible that he may have been the world’s first Black professional footballer.
Watson achieved a remarkable amount in the 1880’s, including being the first black captain of an international team, the first player of colour to win a major footballing competition and the first black player to appear in the English FA Cup. The list of footballing ‘firsts’ makes Andrew Watson one of the most significant figures, not only in the Scottish game, but in world football. A status that was acknowledged by the Scottish Football Association when they inducted him into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
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