Updated: Feb 18, 2021
Another article on Salah? Not really, but he is again the inspiration. My Dad is of a generation that hates every time the phrase ‘a Premier League record’ is used. It is hard to disagree with that notion, football certainly did not begin with Sky in 1992 and it is very important that we don’t get carried away by comparing Salah to Liverpool players of the last 26 years and instead look at our entire 126-year history.
To clear up any numerical statistics, this article was written after the West Ham win where Salah had just scored his 31st goal in his 37th Liverpool game. The exact same statistics that Luis Suárez managed in the entire 2013-14 campaign which highlights how few games we played that season and how many he missed through suspension. I’m sure everyone has seen every record that Salah breaks each time he scores, Ian Rush’s record tally of 47 goals in 65 games in the 1983-84 season should be Salah’s target and he certainly has the capability of reaching those numbers. Rush’s record will probably only be murmured around Merseyside for now as, according to the media, the only thing that is important is the Premier League. Salah was the fastest player to 20 Premier League goals and that is all that matters to many but on my way back from Porto I came across another interesting statistic.
Mo Salah scored the second goal against Porto with a level of skill and balance we have become accustomed to seeing each game. The goal was his 30th of an unbelievable first season and made him the second-fastest Liverpool player to the total, behind George Allan in 1896. Being a football historian, it always upsets me when I read a name I have never come across before, at a time where many Liverpool fans are considering becoming a Muslim if Salah keeps scoring then maybe Allan’s impact at Anfield should be analysed too.
George ‘Dod’ Allan was the first goal-scoring hero at Anfield and was also the first Liverpool player to be capped by Scotland in April 1897. He was born in Linlithgow in 1875 and following a youth career at Broxburn Shamrock, Allan played professionally for Bo’ness and Leith Athletic before being signed by John McKenna and William Barclay in September 1895. Salah and Suárez may be linked in goal scoring statistics, but controversy is certainly not something they share, Allan appeared to have more in common with Suárez when he first signed for the club.
Allan's transfer to Liverpool was made controversial because he had also signed a contract with St Bernard's in Edinburgh. This was reported to the Scottish FA and it was decided that he was given a seven week ban from football. Once his ban ended he was considered an official Liverpool player on the 30th of November 1895. Prior to any of this controversy, John McKenna had struck lucky in securing Allan’s signature. He had wanted to buy the player, but he was too late as Burnley had agreed a deal to sign Allan. Before everything was finalised Burnley were watching their new striker play in Scotland and he had a terrible game, McKenna was sat with the Burnley representatives and saw this as his opportunity to pounce. McKenna knew they would not want to return to Lancashire with a bad player and the Liverpool manager told them he believed Allan would develop into a talented player. ‘“Would you care, then, to buy his papers?” was Burnley’s desperate response. “I would at a price,” said Brer Rabbit from Liverpool, and with that Liverpool had secured the signing of a remarkable goal scorer.
Allan was described by journalists of the time as ‘a model centre; of fine physique, great speed and no fear’. His 56 goals in 96 games between 1895-1899 only go to confirm this quote. Despite only being 5 ft. 10, Allan knew how to throw his 13-stone weight about and he was a considerable talent. Allan’s debut Anfield season was the 1895-96 campaign where he scored an amazing 25 goals in just 20 league appearances helping the reds secure promotion from Division Two. Liverpool scored 106 goals that season a record amount that has yet to be beaten, in 2013-14 Suárez’s goals helped Liverpool reach a second-best 101 goals, perhaps Salah and the rest of Jürgen’s men can beat this as they need 42 goals from the last 10 league games. Allan’s individual tally would certainly have been larger had it not been for his eight-game suspension at the beginning of the season. The following season was Liverpool’s return to Division One after bouncing straight back from their relegation in 1895, with 17 goals from 34 games Allan was top-goalscorer as Liverpool finished fifth in the First Division. Although this tally was nowhere near as successful as not as impressive as the previous seasons, Allan was the top goalscorer and was establishing himself as a crucial part of the Liverpool team.
Despite his prestige within the squad, Allan moved back to Scotland and helped Celtic win their fourth title in the 1897-98 season. Allan’s goal scoring form had returned as he bagged 15 in 17 Celtic games, this was enough to convince Liverpool that they wanted him back. Despite still holding his registration, Liverpool had to pay £50 to secure the re-signing of Allan and he is part of an esteemed list of players to have left Anfield and later returned, a list that includes other great goalscorers Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler and Rickie Lambert.
Having finished 9th in the one-season hiatus without Allan, his return helped lift Liverpool to second place in the 1898-99 Division One campaign. Despite featuring in 30 of the 34 league games that season, Allan only managed to score 8 goals. His return to the team was certainly a success as it was the best season in Liverpool’s seven-year history and, despite a small goal scoring return, the fact that he featured in so many league games illustrated his importance to the team. That season hosted a game which included an incident with the 6 ft. 4 and 24 stone goalkeeper William ‘Fatty’ Foulke.
In late October 1898, Liverpool were facing Sheffield United at Anfield in front of 10,000 fans. Foulke was in goal for the Blades, a beast of a man and is said to be the original inspiration for the chant “Who ate all the pies?”. Other memorable events from his career included swinging on a crossbar until it snapped, picking up opposing strikers and throwing them into his goal, chasing a referee whilst naked after a game, being the inspiration for ball boys as Chelsea placed two small boys either side of his goal to emphasise his size and then dying from pneumonia after working in a ‘beat the goalie’ attraction in Blackpool. It must also be noted that he did win one Division One title and two FA Cup’s as well as being rewarded with one England cap and was a talented ‘keeper despite the many comical stories and images from his life.
As for the incident with Allan, Sheffield United were the champions and the Liverpool forward was unlike many of his contemporaries as he was not fearful of ‘Fatty’. As Foulke collected the ball, Allan ran in as fast as he could to knock the giant goalie over. Reports at the time said, ‘Allan charged Foulke in the goalmouth, and the big man, losing his temper, seized him by the leg and turned him upside down’. The referee reacted by awarding Liverpool a penalty, Allan was adjudged to have been following in on a shot in the hope of a rebound. Andy McCowie scored the penalty and Allan went on to score the winner as Liverpool completed a comeback to win 2-1. The event became well known and Foulke was asked about it later in his life, ‘You may have heard that there was a very great rivalry between the old Liverpool centre forward Allan and myself … What actually happened on the occasion referred to was that Allan (a big strong chap, mind you) once bore down on me with all his weight when I was saving. I bent forward to protect myself, and Allan, striking my shoulder, flew right over me and fell heavily. He had a shaking up, I admit, but quite the worst thing about the whole business was that the referee gave a penalty against us and it cost Sheffield United the match’.
Away from this famous conflict, Allan’s career was about to reach a surprise and sudden end. Whilst preparing for the 1899-00 season Allan was unable to turn up for training due to illness, Tom Watson the manager of the time was sorry to inform the fans that ‘Diseased lungs are not cured in a day. Allan’s absence is now beginning to be felt, and we are able to estimate him at his worth. Poor old George’. Unfortunately, he did not recover from this illness and was forced to retire from football before the start of the new season and moved back to Scotland. After moving home, his health continued to deteriorate and in October 1899 Allan passed away, aged just 24. On the week of his death the Lancashire Evening News reported, ‘Poor George Allan is dead. The news came like a thunderclap upon his numerous Liverpool friends, and it is difficult even yet to believe that the big, fine fellow is no more. Consumption claimed him as her victim, the poor fellow breathing his last at Elie, in Fifeshire. We who knew him as a friend feel his loss very deeply, and all true lovers of sport will mourn one of the finest fellows who ever toed the leather. He has answered his last earthly roll-call, and the football world has been shorn of one of its grandest ornaments. The Liverpool and Everton clubs sent beautiful wreaths, and Mr. Ramsay, the Liverpool treasurer, represented the club at the funeral’.
This news was a huge shock to everyone connected with Allan and Liverpool. A striker who created a storm in his first season at Anfield and created goal scoring records that still place him amongst some of the most potent finishers in English football history. His reduced goal scoring tally in later seasons may have illustrated that his first season could have been his best. However, seeing as he died of tuberculosis aged just 24 it is fair to assume that this would have affected his game in the final years of his life. Had it not been for such a sudden and severe illness, Allan would have been a legend at Anfield for many years to come. His goal scoring speaks for itself, duels with the giant Foulke illustrate his passion and bravery in football and had it not been for an illness he would be much more remembered in Anfield folklore. Perhaps it is fitting that it is the goal scoring exploits of another man that has brought Allan back into the limelight, he is now receiving the praise he deserves for being one of the most devastating finishers this club has ever seen.
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