This August will encompass the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Sam English, still Rangers’ record scorer for goals in a single league season – 44 in 35 games in 1931/32. With that in mind, a group of Rangers fans met and decided that it would be fitting to commemorate this date. There will be a number of events and productions in the coming months which will be advertised as time moves on.
Given that Sammy English only played for Rangers for two seasons, people may ask why we’re choosing to commemorate this particular date. It’s quite simple, really: he set a record over 75 years ago – 3 generations of Rangers fans ago – and it still exists, despite phenomenal strikers like Willie Thornton, Jim Forrest and Ally McCoist all playing for Rangers since Sammy left. It’s essential this his contribution to Rangers is noted and with this being the 100th year after his birth then it gives us an ideal opportunity to celebrate his achievements at Ibrox as well as introducing them to the young Rangers fans of today.
For other reasons, the fact that he was an exceptionally talented footballer has tended to be overlooked when he comes into discussion and we are seeking to redress the balance. When people are talking about his footballing career, one incident should not take precedence over everything else; it should be his remarkable talents as a centre forward and scoring records at his four senior clubs that are given that accolade.
His career at Ibrox was remarkable. In the season in which he set the goalscoring record, it would appear that none of his 44 goals were a penalty. Although this cannot be stated as fact given that research has found descriptions of 43 out of 44 of his goals, it is not unreasonable to assume the one that has eluded discovery so far would not have come from a penalty given the cursory manner in which it was described. Jim Forrest, in his own record season of 57 goals in all competitions in 1964/65 had a similar statistic in that all of his goals came from open play and also finished the season with a superb record of 30 goals in 30 league games and he is rightly revered by supporters of his generation; but the links with the 1930s are diminishing with every passing year and it is vital that we keep our history alive and by honouring Sammy English by commemorating the 100th Anniversary of his birth, that is what we aim to do.
From reading reports about the games Sammy English played for Rangers and from listening to stories from either Rangers fans who saw him playing or from stories that have been passed down through the generations, it is clear that Rangers had a genuinely brilliant footballer on their books, quite possibly a serious contender for the most talented striker ever to have played for our Club. When one looks into the statistic of 44 goals in 35 games then it becomes evident just how good a player he really was and this is the message the Commemoration Committee are aiming to send out.
Sammy scored on his debut for Rangers on 8th August 1931, starting as he basically went on for the entire season. His goals in that season and the number of different methods they were scored indicate the contemporary descriptions of him being something out of the ordinary. Indeed, one observer from the 1930s actually compared him to the mercurial Hughie Gallacher – another Rangers fan – which emphasises just how talented a player Rangers had on their books and why we as Rangers fans in 2008 are fully entitled to celebrate the remarkable achievements of a remarkable player even though they were over 75 years ago.
Statistically, Sammy’s Rangers career is exceptional. As has been mentioned, in 35 league games in 1931/32, he netted 44 times. In the Scottish Cup in that season, he netted 9 times in 7 games, a run that included two hat-tricks. In the Glasgow Cup, he played four times and netted a solitary goal while in the Charity Cup of that season he scored twice in the final, leaving an average of goals per game in that competition of 2 in 2 games, having played against Queen’s Park in the semi-final but not scoring.
Pulling that altogether in 48 appearances in 1931/32 his goal tally was 56 in all first team games with the local Glasgow competitions included as they were an integral part of the football calendar back then. With Rangers finishing second in the title race to Motherwell’s best ever team, the medal return for Sammy English that season still included one for each of the cup tournaments, an impressive haul by any standards.
He completed the whole set of medals in Scotland the following season, scoring 10 in 25 games as Rangers reclaimed the championship and also earned a winner’s medal in the Glasgow Cup, giving him an overall medal tally of 6, quite acceptable by any standards for two seasons at a Club. True to form, he had an excellent record in the Glasgow Cup of 1932/33, scoring 5 goals in the three games it took Rangers to win it. He netted one goal in five games in the Scottish Cup although Rangers lost to Kilmarnock in the semi-final, the team Rangers best in the previous season’s final; and did not play in the Charity cup fixtures.
Therefore, in competitive games in 1932/33, Sammy English scored 16 times in 33 games, still a very commendable statistic meaning his overall Rangers record was in 81 games he scored 72 goals – an exceptional record. This is the reason we feel that his time at Ibrox should be commemorated and why the Commemoration Committee has been set up. For somebody with such a talent to have played for our Club and to have set a record that stands to this day is very special and deserves to be recognised as such and will be in the months ahead as various projects see the light of day.
Earlier on in this article, reference to Jim Forrest was made and it is interesting to note that two players who were very similar in a lot of ways, had their Rangers careers cut short after they set scoring records which both stand out on their own merits in this day and age. Both players went South and both returned to play for teams in Scotland; in the case of Forrest he went to Preston North End and then played for Aberdeen at a later stage. In the case of Sammy English, however, he also went to the North West of England but to play for Liverpool. With due thanks to the Club Historians from Queen of the South and Hartlepool and from the website www.liverweb.org we are able to relate some details of his career at Anfield. Research is still ongoing in this area but the details we have at our disposal at the current time allow us to relate relevant statistics to build up a fuller profile of his career in total which will hopefully materialise in the near future.
Sammy signed for Liverpool for £8,000 in August 1933 by their manager George Paterson and made his debut on August 26th of that year in a 3-2 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers. He scored his first goal for his new Club four days later in a 1-1 draw at home to Stoke City and doubled his tally on 2nd September in a 3-2 home win against Sheffield United. He also managed a feat at Liverpool he never accomplished in Scotland: scoring against their biggest rivals. While Sammy never scored against Celtic during his time as a Rangers player, on 30th September 1933 he scored for Liverpool against Everton at Anfield, grabbing Liverpool’s third in a 3-2 win. He maintained a steady scoring record in England – including netting in another Merseyside derby, scoring twice in a 3-1 home win over Tranmere Rovers in round 4 of the FA Cup in front of an impressive crowd of 61,036 – although Liverpool were soundly beaten 3-0 at home to Bolton Wanderers in the next round. Come the season’s end, Sammy English had started 31 games for Liverpool and finished the season Liverpool’s second top scorer with 20 goals. Going by today’s standards, it is inconceivable to see the Liverpool team of the 1930s finish the season four points off the relegation spot; but that is exactly what happened in Sammy’s debut season for them and while there might not have been a pot of gold at the end of his journey south, he played an integral part in keeping his new team in the top division that season. In a paradox the following season, Liverpool’s form in some respects took an upturn while those of Sammy went to some degree in the opposite direction. Liverpool finished in seventh place, comfortable away from the relegation area although they remarkably conceded three more goals than the 85 they scored and also slumped to a 1-8 loss to Arsenal in September of that year and an 0-8 collapse at Huddersfield in, a result which, if records are accurate, remains along with a 9-1 reversal at Birmingham in 1954, their recode defeat. Sammy featured in the former game but not the latter. Come that season’s end, Sammy’s statistics read as being six goals in nineteen games meaning that in 50 games for Liverpool he scored 26 goals, a record of over one in every two games which is undeniably a decent return.
Be that as it may, Sammy returned North for season 1935/36 to play for Queen of the South in a transfer deal in what was for them a then record of £1,700. Again, in the one season he played for the Dumfries Club, Sammy returned a very healthy goal average of 9 goals in 26 games as the Doonhamers finished 15th out of 20 teams. With QoS being in the top table they naturally faced Rangers in the League with the Ibrox men winning both encounters 2-0 away and 2-1 at Ibrox although the information as to whether Sammy took part in any of these games is unavailable at present and is a situation we hope to rectify in due course.
Sammy was on the move again at that season’s end, this time back to England where he joined Hartlepool United. From figures kindly supplied by the Hartlepool historian, we can gather that Sam English played his first game for Hartlepool United on 29th August 1936 in a 1-1 draw at Southport. He made 75 starts for his new Club over the course of the following two seasons and during that time scored 31 goals. He scored in his last game for Hartlepool on 30th April 1938 in a 4-1 win at home against Carlisle United and he finished as top scorer in 1936/1937 with 20 goals and also in 1937/1938 with 11 goals.
His last goal in his last game for Hartlepool brought the curtain down on a footballing career that, while it was far from being ordinary in terms of medals won and goals scored, could have delivered so much more given the peerless natural talent that was at hand. Undeniably his best spell was, fittingly, at the Club he loved: Rangers. That his record still stands today is testament to the feat he achieved and as such we as Rangers fans in 2008 are going to commemorate it in a number of ways to link with what would have been his 100th birthday. The reason for relating the facts and figures from his career away from Ibrox is to demonstrate his outstanding record on 1931/32 was no flash in the pan but that he maintained a very consistent record wherever he played and those facts are detailed below:
Queen of the South
Overall, his career figures amount to a very impressive goal every 1.67 games. Of course, his main achievements were at Ibrox and it is these achievements we seek to commemorate. The methods in which we will do this will become apparent in due course and for it to be the success we hope it will be we are asking for as many Rangers fans as possible to get involved. We would ask for anything you think may be of interest, be it pictures, memorabilia, stories, suggestions and offers of help. These can be made to the committee by either getting in touch via the FF PO Box or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sammy English was one of our own. We will do the right thing by him by celebrating his contribution to our Club.
Yours in Rangers,
AYRSHIRE BILLY BOY