ALEX JACKSON, Wembley Wizard

AJThe title “Wembley Wizards” has resonated in football since Scotland defeated England 5 - 1 in March 1928. Scotland's greatest hero that rainy day was Alex Jackson, Scotland's tallest forward at a towering 5 ft 7 inches, who played at outside right. Before the match Scotland were given no chance by the pundits, but on the park they ran England ragged, with Alex Jackson becoming the hero of the day by scoring a hat-trick.

Alexander Skinner Jackson was born in Renton in May 1905, and grew up there, going to Renton school. He played his early football with Renton Victoria, before being transferred to Dumbarton in 1922 for the princely sum of a new ball. He went to join his brother, Wattie, playing in America with Bethlehem Steel for a year, 1923-4. However, they were both homesick there and in 1924 the pair signed for Aberdeen for less than £1,000 for both of them. While this was a lot more than a new football, it was also a lot less than what was to come for Alex.

He played only one season at Aberdeen, 1924 –25, but that was enough to see him picked for Scotland at the age of 19. He went on to get 3 caps for Scotland while at Aberdeen, in the British Home Countries Championship, between February and April 1925. His flamboyant, skilful style of wing play also earned him the nickname The Gay Cavalier, in the days when gay had no sexual connotation. Huddersfield Town, which was the top team in England at the time, had now spotted him.

Huddersfield was in the middle of winning the English League One Championship three times in succession when Alex joined them. His transfer fee from Aberdeen to Huddersfield of £5,000 in 1925 was a record for both clubs. In the season 1925-26, he helped Huddersfield retain the League Championship, and they were runners up in the two seasons after that. Jackson also played in two English Cup finals for Huddersfield in 1928 and 1930, but was on the losing side on both occasions.

It was while playing for Huddersfield that Alex won the rest of his Scottish caps - 14 - between October 1925 - May 1930. This included the 1926 Wembley game, when he scored the winning goal against the Auld Enemy. Perhaps the pundits should have paid more attention to that earlier portent of Jackson's performance in that stadium.

In 1930 Chelsea had decided to buy their way to success - then as now, perhaps. They had already landed the prolific Scottish centre forward, Hughie Gallagher, and in September 1930 they signed Alex Jackson for £8,500. Things did not turn out well for Jackson at Chelsea for a number of reasons. First of all he suffered a series of injuries, secondly, it was an unhappy and undisciplined (not Jackson) dressing room and morale was poor, and thirdly, though this was well beyond Chelsea's control, the SFA was in one of its periodic phases of crass stupidity. In this case they had decided no Anglos would be selected for Scotland.

In 1932, into this unsettled atmosphere surrounding Jackson came a French team, Nimes, who made Jackson a very lucrative offer. Jackson, who certainly knew his own worth (like all Rantonians), threatened to accept it unless Chelsea broke the wage cap in operation at the time. In those days, of course, the clubs, as opposed to the players, held all the cards never mind the aces. Chelsea refused and banished Jackson from the first class game. This in spite of the fact that in just over two seasons he had played 78 games for Chelsea and scored 31 goals.

Those who think that players now have too much power might like to ponder Chelsea's treatment of the leading Wembley Wizard, and one of the best players of his day. No other club, nor the SFA made any attempt to sort the matter out. The rest of Jackson's career in England was spent with luminaries such as Margate and Aston Nationals. In 1933 he went to France, which was the 1930's equivalent of to-day playing out your retirement in the USA - lucrative and in very congenial surroundings. He played for Nice and then Le Touquet. However, these were Jackson's prime years, he was only 28-29, not his retirement.

The loss was arguably greater for Scotland than it was for Chelsea. Their idiotic policy of selecting only Scottish based players meant that he had not played at all for Scotland while at Chelsea, and he was never to do so again. But consider his Scottish record - played 17, won 15, drew 1, lost 1 - an 88% win rate. That, plus his Wembley hat-trick which Scottish football has dined out on ever since, should have ensured his return to the Scottish fold, no matter what the FA thought. But no, the SFA passed by on the other side of the street, to their discredit to this day.

Alex Jackson was killed in Egypt in a road accident in November 1946 aged 41, while serving in the British Army. Although he has a number of nieces and nephews and their families still living in Renton and the Vale, Jackson has virtually disappeared from view nowadays. In the last few years a street in the New Cordale was named after him, another example of the Cordale Housing Association knowing how to do the right thing, but nothing else. The same is true in Scottish football. This seems very strange, not to say unjust. Perhaps his early death in a far away land immediately after the war had something to do with it. Whatever the cause, it's time for an Alex Jackson revival.

Link to Guardian Article on Alex Jackson published 16 November 2014.

This is a rare video of Alex Jackson and his family.


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