Tom Morrison

Name: Tom Morrison
Date of Birth: 21/01/1904
Place of Birth: Glasgow, Scotland
Nationality: Scottish
Position: Right Half
Signed: 02/09/1924 from Troon
Debut: 06/09/1924 v Dundee H (2-1 win)
Final Match: 28/01/1928 v Hamilton A (2-1 win)
Departed: 09/02/1928 to Liverpool (£4,100)
Apps: 149
Goals: 12
Honours: 1926 Scottish Cup

1 Scotland Cap,
12 unofficial Scotland Caps, 5 goals
Record Transfer Fee Received

The story of Tom Morrison centred around his undoubted fantastic football ability, but off the field of play the wing half was something of an enigma and his life includes a great deal of mystery including at least two instances of him going missing for several months and a period of crime.

Thomas Kelly Morrison to give him his full name, is reported to have been born in the coal mining village of Coylton in Ayrshire and although he undoubtedly lived here later in his life, having scoured the national databases it is likely the wing half’s actual birthplace is Glasgow on the 21st January 1904, and his family relocated to Ayrshire after this.

After playing with Troon Juniors, Saints manager John Cochrane signed Morrison in September 1924 and the 20-year-old would be next great wing/centre half to appear for the club following on from Edward McBain, Robert Robertson and more recently Charlie Pringle. Over the next year or so, Cochrane would add Alan Gebbie and John Millar to his half back line, and this would become one of the finest midfield structures in the history of the club.

The young wing half was used sparingly by Cochrane at first, but the following season Morrison’s potential began to show as Saints made a stunning start to the season losing just once in the opening fourteen matches and topping the division until Christmas. During this outstanding beginning to the campaign Morrison scored his first goal for the club when he hit the winner at Brockville on the 22nd August 1925 to secure a 1-0 victory over Falkirk.

Saints of course would win the Scottish Cup at the end of this season, but the great cup run almost ended at the second-round stage with Morrison centre of the drama when during a howling winters day at second tier Arbroath in February 1926, he missed a second half penalty which resulted in the Red Lichties hitting the inside of Saints post only seconds later during a counter attack. Fortunately, no damage was done, and the match finished 0-0 with the wing half influential in the replay at Love Street a few days later when a 3-0 win was recorded.

This was the closest Saints came to being eliminated during this historic cup achievement and on the 10th April 1926 the impressive half back line of Miller, Gebbie and young Morrison were instrumental once mire as Celtic were beaten 2-0 by a superb St Mirren performance and at the age of just twenty two Morrison was a cup winner, which at the time was higher profile than even winning the league.

The following season was another historic one for Morrison as his form for Saints improved even further when he grabbed seven goals from his wing half position meaning the international selection committee were looking at him very closely. In March 1927 he was called up to the national team for the crucial Home Championship match at Hampden against England on the 2nd April 1927, and in front of the second largest ever recorded crowd for a football match anywhere in the world at the time of 111,214, Morrison made his Scotland debut in a 2-1 defeat to the Auld Enemy.

The following month, the SFA had organised a lengthy summer tour of Canada with the Scotland squad and Morrison was once more selected, appearing in twelve games between the 26th of May and 15th July 1927 and scoring on five occasions. However, these matches were against regional select sides and classed as ‘unofficial’ therefore Morrison does not have a legitimate claim to be both Saints all-time top cap holder and goal scorer, despite pulling on the national strip on thirteen occasions and scoring five times. Officially Morrison has only one cap!

The rise of Morrison continued unabated in 1927/28, and once more he was a key figure in Saints challenging at the top of the division, scoring three times although he would sometimes drop to defence during this period. English heavyweights Liverpool had seen enough of the brilliant twenty-four-year-old however, and in February 1928 they secured the signature of Morrison by spending a whopping £4,100 take him south, the biggest transfer fee ever received by the club by quite a distance and one record that would stand for eighteen years.

Morrison was a regular at Anfield for many years, playing over 200 times for the English giants but his career appeared to derail in 1934, and on August 22nd he was suspended without pay by the club for a breach of discipline, the first sign that something was not all well with the wing half.

A few months later, Morrison was back playing regularly for Liverpool but following a match at Huddersfield on the 11th November 1934, he was taken ill shortly after his return to Merseyside and rushed to a nursing home (before the formation of the NHS) where he was operated on for appendicitis. Thankfully, the operation was a success but the following month the half back indicated he was ready to quit football at the end of the season aged just thirty and take a coaching role abroad, preferably in the Canary Islands.

This move did not transpire, but with Morrison idle as he was recovering from the operation, he appears to have gone off the rails and Liverpool suspended him twice for fourteen days without pay in early 1935, with the first time being after his failure to turn up for a reserve fixture on the 9th February during his rehabilitation. By then Morrison had taken the decision to travel to London and watch Sunderland take on Spurs at White Hart Lane the previous day, with the Black Cats of course managed by his former mentor and Saints boss John Cochrane. Liverpool then added a second suspension without pay when Morrison failed to show up for training following this initial 14-day period.

In fact, Morrison had failed to return home completely from this visit to the English capital in early February, and by the 4th of March real concern was growing for the wellbeing of the Scottish international with his wife concerned that he had suffered memory loss or physical reaction during his recovery from the appendix operation. Mrs Morrison had even travelled to London to search the Euston area where he was last spotted but had failed to find any trace of her husband.

It is of course unfathomable this could happen today to a Scottish international playing for Liverpool, but the Anfield side showed little sympathy and reported Morrison to the FA on the 13th March, with still no word on the safety of the wing half. Whatever happened remains a mystery, but Morrison finally did return home in mid-April, and immediately placed on the transfer list by Liverpool. Unsurprisingly, nobody decided to take a chance of the AWOL wing half and Morrison remained out of favour with the Reds until his old mentor John Cochrane came calling in November 1935 and brought him to Sunderland.

Morrison went straight into the first team at Roker Park and was a pivotal part of Sunderland going onto the win the English top-flight that season which makes what happens next even stranger. During pre-season, Morrison once more disappeared from home which was now in the North East of England, but this time there was no trace of him in the months that followed.

Whatever was happening with Morrison’s personal life or mental health is unknown, but seven months later in December 1936 he was recognised in Cambridge and arrested as he was wanted by magistrates in Sunderland for the crime of absconding from his wife and leaving the state (Public Assistance Committee) to support his children.

At court, it transpired that Morrison had travelled to Cambridgeshire during the summer of 1936 under the name ‘Jack Anderson’ and was picking fruit to make money. He had approached local football side Gamlingay for a trial, who unknown to them were evaluating a Scottish Internationalist who only one month prior to this had won an English Championship medal!

Again, this would be ridiculous in modern times, but with no TV and the press publishing very few pictures of footballers, not many would have known a player outside the town or city he played in other than megastars of the era such as Stanley Mathews. Unsurprisingly, the amateur side were extremely impressed with the seemingly unknown Scotsman and promoted him immediately to the first team where he stayed for four months before being apprehended by the authorities.

The charges against Morrison were withdrawn by the judge as the player agreed to pay his wife for back paid and ongoing support as well as repay the money used by the state to support his family during this absconded period and finally also the fees for the court case costs, which was all possible due to the £49 owed to him by Sunderland.

Unfortunately, this was not the last time Morrison would be in court over the next few years, and following his release by Sunderland in 1937, the wing half returned to Scotland in the summer signing for Ayr United in June where he now lived in the village of Coylton. Before his career at Somerset could even take off however, Morrison was at Kilmarnock Sherriff Court on burglary charges in August of that year.

The Scottish International pleaded guilty to two charges of theft by housebreaking and another of attempted housebreaking in various cottages throughout Ayrshire during the summer after Morrison had posed as the nephew of a proprietor and salesman. It appears Morrison had taken to drink also and having missed the start of pre-season with Ayr United as he was in jail pending this court case, the club had suspended Morrison without pay for 14 days. The judge ordered the former Saints man to pay a fine of £10 or face jail for sixty further days.

It is unknown what happened immediately following this but considering Ayr United cancelled his contract shortly afterwards, clearly the board of directors at Somerset Park were not impressed with their star players behaviour.

Morrison next surfaced in Ireland in 1939, playing for Drumcondra FC, and once again he was in court but this time acting against his own club! The wing half had suffered a career ending injury playing for the Dublin club against Bray Unknows at Tolka Park a few months beforehand, and it was decided by the Drumcondra board that Morrison would receive no further wages from his employer.

On this occasion, Morrison could leave the court with his head held high however as the judge awarded in his favour, and Drumcondra would need to pay the former Saints man 30 shillings per week until he was able to work again. With that news, Morrison appears to have disappeared completely from all records, however on 20th January 1983 a Thomas Kelly Morrison died in Newcastle aged eighty-two, which fits the details of the Saints legend and is also close to Sunderland where he is known to lived for a period, therefore there is a good chance this is our man.

The story of Tom Morrison is shrouded in mystery. It is easy speculate that he fell out with his wife and ran from his responsibilities finding comfort in only alcohol, however as little attention would have been paid to his mental wellbeing in the 1930’s, it would be extremely harsh to be judgemental about his conduct.

What is evident however without doubt that Tom Morrison was a brilliant footballer; capped by Scotland, won the Scottish Cup with Saints, the top division in England with Sunderland, and transferred for a huge amount to Liverpool making Saints a small fortune in the process. He was an integral part of Saints success during the 1920’s and should be remembered for this as much as his off-field story.

Willie Kelly

William Kelly was born in 1915 in Maryhill in the west of Glasgow and the tough reputation of the area back then perhaps forged the footballing character of the young centre back that moved from his local club to Saints in 1934.

Very quickly Kelly became known as an uncompromising and extremely tough player, who not many forwards got the better of in Scotland and was mentioned on multiple occasions in the media as suitable candidate for the national squad, where he was a ‘reserve’ on a number of occasions, which today would equate to a squad player as only 11 players were called up at this time.

Kelly was uncomplicated in what he done on the football park, and was described by one hack as a “…..strong, forcing player. Not a stylist, but highly effective…..” a fact that the Paisley support enjoyed, and the Glaswegian was very much a fans favourite due to his no-nonsense approach on the park.

After five years at Saints it looked as though a big transfer to England was in the making however after the club reluctantly agreed to sell their star defender to raise income, but the bid from Middlesbrough of just under £2,000 was ceremoniously rejected by Saints who wanted four times that.

Later in the year as war broke out Kelly joined the RAF and that move to England never transpired, but other than playing for the RAF Select which often looked like an international side so strong was it, Kelly didn’t guest for anyone else during this period and often played for Saints when he returned on leave to Scotland, resulting in him playing in the famous 1943 Summer Cup win and picking up a winners medal.

On the 19th of August 1944, Kelly was sent off following an incident at Love Street during a 1-0 defeat to Rangers, and following a disciplinary hearing the following month was banned from all of football until March 6th 1945, a full six months without playing, which seems incredibly hash!

This disciplinary hearing appeared to hasten his departure from the club though and after 274 appearances and eighteen goals; Kelly was sold to Dundee United in August 1945 in a record deal for the Tannadice side which held great excitement for the second division club in anticipation of such a well know player appearing for the Terrors.

The centre back didn’t spend long in Dundee however as he failed to settle, and after only twenty appearances was transfer listed at his own request and subsequently sold to Morton in January 1946. Before the year was out however Kelly was back in front of the SFA after being ordered off against Clyde in November of that year, and sensationally on the 4th December 1946 the defender was suspended “sine die” and his career effectively over despite the football authorities overturning this in 1950, but by this point Kelly was 35 years old and had not played for four years making the decision completely futile.

Willie Kelly may not have been the artistic flamboyant type usually found as a hero by football supporters, but he had a tenacity and will to win that every side needs and qualities that through the ages have always been respected by the St Mirren support. Kelly had an iron man, indestructable image and he appeared late in his life in the 1991 Marching In video where he recalled the 1943 Summer Cup victory.

In 2005, Willie Kelly passed away aged 91 years of age and is buried beside his wife Jeanie and daughter Ellen at the St Kentigem Cemetry in Glasgow.

John Cochrane

Appointed: July 1916 from Johnstone FC
Departed: April 1928 to Sunderland
No of matches managed: 460
Wins: 200
Draws: 106
Losses: 190

– 1919 Victory Cup Winner
– 1922 Barcelona Cup winner
– 1926 Scottish Cup Winner
– 8 top half of the league finishes
– 5 top six finishes in the top league
– Longest serving manager in clubs’ history
– Signed the entire 1926 Cup winning side

John Cochrane is one of only two men to appear in this book who never played for the club (the other being fellow manager John McCartney) and his twelve year spell as manager is the longest in the history of St Mirren, but arguably also the most successful of anyone before or after.

Back in 1916 when Cochrane was hired to be manager of Saints, the concept of appointing ex-players to the position as happens now was an alien one as most part time clubs wanted someone who was a secretary first and then picked the team second, therefore skills we would expect today in a manager such as coaching, tactical ability and good recruitment weren’t necessarily the first attributes looked for by a hiring club who really wanted an accomplished administrator with a bit of authority thrown in for good measure.

That is probably how the post was sold to Cochrane, but in 1937 when looking back at his time as Saints manager he admitted to being “manager, gateman and groundsman” as well as doing his main job which he bluntly described as “trying to raise good footballers in order to sell them and thus keep the wolf from the club’s door”.

Despite having no real background in the game other than being secretary of Johnstone FC, Cochrane was given the job as club manager in July 1916 after Hugh Law had resigned, becoming the fourth manager in Saints history and the third who had been secretary elsewhere immediately beforehand.

Cochrane was born in Paisley in 1877, and lived in the affluent Carriagehill Drive in the south of the town, with his father Hugh who was a factory owner employing almost one hundred people, and mother Jessie. John was the second youngest of five children, and his two Aunts’ also lived in the large property with his parents. It is unlikely Cochrane experienced the widespread poverty prevalent in Paisley during his upbringing, and his education allowed him to become a draughtsman. However, it was football that was the real passion of Cochrane and he got involved with Johnstone FC, laying the foundation for his move to Saints.

In truth, Cochrane inherited a club going in the wrong direction at Saints, with two bottom position finishes in the previous five campaigns resulting in only a league vote saving St Mirren from a first ever relegation on both occasions.

Not helping Cochrane was WWI taking place as he took over management of the side, with several players deployed in the army including first choice goalkeeper and star player Willie O’Hagan, the prolific John Clark as well as the talented inside forward James Brannick who sadly wouldn’t return from the frontline. It is difficult to comprehend today what it would be like managing a dressing room or any workplace where young men would announce with no notice they would be leaving immediately to fight in a war and then weeks or months later you receive a telegram informing of their death.

That is the reality of what Cochrane juggled in his first few years at the club and even during a period where the expectation was that death should be shrugged off; Cochrane had to maintain morale in a dressing room where young men were coping with the passing of not only teammates but also brothers, uncles and friends as the slaughter in Europe continued unabated for four dreadful years.

The goalkeeping issue with O’Hagan away in Greece fighting was made plain to Cochrane in his first match in charge when Saints were trounced 5-1 at home to Celtic on the opening day of the 1916/17 season, but this was to prove no more than a blip as Saints finished seventh out of twenty top flight clubs in Cochrane’s maiden season, a position that would have better had Saints won any of their last seven matches.

Cochrane would guide his team to 11th and 10th in the next couple of seasons as the conflict in Europe finally ended, and with the Scottish Cup postponed during the war years the 1919 Victory Cup presented the senior clubs in Scotland their first chance of grabbing a national cup trophy since the 1914 Scottish Cup final.

This would see the competition start and finish between the 1st of March and 26th April 1919 as all five rounds were scheduled during this period, and helped by the return of Willie O’Hagan from the war effort, Saints progressed through the first round at the second attempt, a 1-0 win at Boghead courtesy of a Frank Hodges goal, a player still officially ‘guesting’ from Birmingham City as he hadn’t yet been demobilised and was stationed in Scotland.

Clyde were then defeated 3-2 at Love Street 10 days later thanks to winger Jamie Thomson and a double from John Clark; the centre forward returning to Saints only a few days beforehand  after being top scorer in the 1914/15 season and guesting for clubs in Ireland as he was stationed here during the uprising. These were the first of eight Clark would score in as many matches in the remainder of the season, and was a player hugely missed by the club.

Clark and O’Hagan played massive parts in the cup run, but the star of the tournament was Jamie Thomson, signed by Cochrane from Manchester United in 1918 and would spend almost the entirety of Cochrane’s Saints career beside him, and the winger was the deciding factor in both the quarter final win over Celtic and the semi-final one over Hibernian, before Saints thrashed Hearts 3-0 in the final to land what in every sense is a major honour, but the official record books say otherwise.

With the influential Jock Marshall sold to Middlesbrough soon after, Cochrane then had to be content with twelfth place from twenty two clubs the following season, but with Love Street being revamped this one of many sales to fund this project that hit the playing squad hard and 1920/21 saw Saints finish bottom of the pile again in the first division and only spared relegation for a third time in ten years by a league vote.

The board acted however to this catastrophe, and late in that season the Saints manager bought Dunky Walker from second bottom Dumbarton for a club record fee of £1,100 in what would prove one of the finest signings in Saints history (see the Dunky Walker section). The goals of Walker were the catalyst for nine straight seasons of Saints finishing in the top half of the table, with seven of them coming under Cochrane.

Recruitment seemed to be where Cochrane excelled as manager of Saints. When Walker was sold to Nottingham Forest in 1923, Cochrane signed Davie McCrae from obscurity to replace him, who went on to score 251 goals for Saints. With Willie O’Hagan falling out with the club in 1921, Cochrane replaced him with the forgotten but supremely talented Jock Bradford, a masterstroke in the same mould as Jock Stein taking the veteran keeper Ronnie Simpson to Celtic some forty years later.

Alan Gebbie, Andrew Findlay, Willie McDonald, Bobby Rankin and Jimmy Howieson would also all sign for Saints under Cochrane, who despite being an administrator had a quite uncanny eye for a footballer, in particular a goal scorer but the key to his success was longevity both from himself in the management position and within the team, where a number of players stayed at the club for close to a decade forming tremendous fighting spirit within the dressing room.

This was typified during the 1925/26 season when Cochrane led Saints to their first official major honour when the Scottish Cup was won, defeating Rangers in the semi-final and Celtic in the final. In addition to this Saints had beaten Airdrie in the quarter final, which may seem like no great achievement now, but the Diamonds had been league runners up for three successive seasons in the lead up to this season and again would finish up in second place in May 1926. They were without doubt one of the finest teams of the time, and Cochrane had negotiated past the best three sides in the country on route to glory.

Non-league Mid Annan, Arbroath (after a replay) and Partick Thistle had also been defeated on progress to this historic moment, and during a period where Cochrane’s ability to spot great attacking players is well documented, the team only conceded one goal in their seven Scottish Cups tie that season. Tactically, Cochrane had the ability many ‘proper football’ men could only dream of.

The foundation for the cup win was laid in the years leading up to this by Cochrane, with the team finishing sixth for three consecutive seasons and leading the division until Christmas 1925 that season, but ultimately settling for fourth place. The eleven players starting in the cup final were all signed by the manager and they peaked this memorable season, probably the greatest individual campaign in the history of the club.

The club had such a strong reputation back then that legendary Welsh international Billy Meredith, who was considered the first superstar of football, invited Saints to play Wales in his benefit match at Anfield in late 1925, an incredible honour for the club and proof that the more recent inclination of almost everyone in the media ignoring clubs in Scotland outside a select few is not how it was done in the previous one hundred years.

Saints were chosen for this match due to their outstanding form that season, but also as their 1922 Barcelona Cup triumph at the Les Cortes had enhanced the reputation of the club significantly, with the Spanish tour finely planned and executed by Cochrane who realised the benefit of spreading the name of the club beyond Scotland. Only the late 1970’s and 1980’s come close to this level of on-field success, and this was started by another football pioneer, Alex Ferguson.

Saints would finish tenth and fifth in the next two seasons, but perhaps believing his great side had peaked, Cochrane left Saints on the 5th May 1928 for Sunderland where he stabilised the almost perennially relegation threatened Wearsiders before winning the league in 1935/36, and adding the FA Cup and Charity Shield in 1937. He remains a legend in Sunderland, and like Saints is considered their greatest ever manager.

After eleven years in charge, Cochrane stepped down from his Sunderland post on the 31st March 1939 and but for a brief 13 day spell at Reading a few months later retired from football as World War II broke out, but John Cochrane had bridged the gap between both wars by becoming a history maker in both Scotland and England, securing immortality at two clubs in the process.