After the talk “Football During World War One” in Callendar House on Sunday, one of the audience, Tony Christie, approached Michael White, the Falkirk FC historian, with an amazing piece of the club’s history.
The envelope was addressed to Alexander Christie and was a receipt for a loan of £100- a princely sum in 1922.
The contents of the letter were to be delivered by hand by William Nicol, none other than the legendary Daddy Nicol manager of Falkirk F.C. It was dated March 23rd, 1922.
It read ‘Received from James H Aitken Esq. in Lint Riggs, Falkirk the sum of one hundred pounds Sterling as a loan payment towards the fund being raised in payment of Sydney C. Puddefoot’s transfer fee. The loan to bear interest at the rate of 6% per annum until paid.”
The signature was William Nicol, Secretary Manager.
Tony Christie’s grandfather, who was later to become a trainer and physio at Brockville, was Alex. Christie who was also a prolific runner who ran under the name of Sandy Henderson in those days. He had literally gone knocking on doors to help raise the £100.
Syd Puddefoot had turned out for Falkirk during World War One, when he had been stationed nearby. Little did the Bairns supporters realise that a few years later they would see him back again in Falkirk colours as the subject of a world-breaking transfer record.
He had won war-time caps for England against Scotland on two occasions, as well as one game against Wales.
After the war, he became West Ham’s star forward, netting 29 goals in season 1920/21 and 19 in the following season before a sensational transfer which broke the then world record. Falkirk supporters raised the money themselves by buying bonds and the money was collected by Directors who journeyed South to bring off the most audacious coup imaginable. The then world record fee was broken when a sum of £5,500 was agreed, and allegedly the Falkirk contingent could have gone even higher.
Falkirk fans had raised almost £6,000, such was their determination to bring Syd back to Brockville. He had insisted that his younger brother Len be part of the transfer deal, but Len was only to play one game for the club.
Syd’s first game as a Bairn was a Scottish Cup tie against Bathgate at Creamery Park and The Bairns lost. Carrier pigeons carried news of the shock defeat back to the town. He was however to prove a good investment and he had pace, power and skill in abundance. He also had a fierce some shot and some of his goals were in the exceptional category. He scored 74 goals in his 147 games for Falkirk before being transferred to Blackburn Rovers for a fee of £4,000.
He won an FA Cup winners medal with the Lancashire club in 1928. He scored the opening goal in the first minute of the game when he barged Huddersfield Town keeper Billy Mercer into the net with the ball in the keeper’s hands. His later career saw him return to West Ham but left after two years to coach in Turkey. After spells in charge at Fenerbahce and Galatasary, he returned to England to coach
Northampton Town until war broke out again. His last role in football was scouting for Southend United. He died in October 1972, just short of his 78th birthday.
The letter is a priceless piece of Falkirk F.C. history and it was fascinating to see the proof of the fans’ efforts. We have had several attempts of fans raising funds to help buy players, but none will surely ever eclipse this amazing feat.