The Scottish Weekly Record regularly interviewed the top players and officials in the Scottish game, and in December 1903 Robert Campbell’s great form at full back for Partick Thistle earned him space in the newspaper.
Robert played 207 games for Thistle, scoring two goals, before he moved to Rangers. He later played for Millwall before signing for Bradford City, where he won an FA Cup winners medal in 1911.
In the Kyle district of Ayrshire the Lugar flows ‘mang moors and mosses many’ in its upper part, and winds amid picturesque scenery immortalised by Robert Burns till it empties itself into the Ayr near Barskimming. The village takes its name from the river, and lies about three miles east of Auchinleck.
From this obscure mining centre there has sprung a race of hardy football players, who have gained world-wide reputation. Who has not heard of the famous Dandy Row of Lugar and the men it has produced? In the 80s the Hibernians owed their high position in football to the presence in their ranks of a trio of half-backs from Lugar, who were the dread of every other team they met. James McLaren, the best-known of the trio, scored the winning goal for Scotland against England at the Oval in 1889. John R Auld, of 3rd Lanark, Queen’s Park and Sunderland, now a director in the Newcastle United Club, was another half-back from the same quarter. Sam Thomson, the crack centre forward of the once unrivalled Preston North End – the pioneers of professionalism – learned his dribbling at Lugar ere joining the Rangers in the Kinning Park days. Pat Lafferty was another great forward of the old school. He was a loyal member of the Lugar Boswell Club, and had no ambition to leave the district for the evanescent fame of partnering Andrew Peacock in the Rangers. Lafferty and Peacock were a powerful couple, and the big Ayrshire right-winger made many an opponent anxious about his ribs. He could charge solidly, but he charged fairly.
The late Michael McKeown revived the glories of Lugar when he came to the front at Easter Road, and no less prominent in Scottish football is another Lugar back in the person of Robert Campbell. of Partick Thistle FC. Meadowside’s right defender is a sturdy, square-shouldered youth of 5ft 8in, who is regardless of fear, and in strength of kicking and vigour in tackling is not excelled by any right back in the country.
Idol of the Shipyards
In a hot struggle – and their are many such with the Thistle – Campbell’s 13 stone is an item of some importance, but he does not rely on his weight alone to carry him through. Usually he is the best back on the field, and just the type of fellow to win the hearts of the rough and ready brigade from the boatyards, who ‘rag’ the Drumpellier cricketers and cheer the West of Scotland during the summer months, and pack the special trains when wintry winds blow to shout for the Thistle.
A pleasant, mild-looking fellow off the field is Robert Campbell. One would never associate him with grafting in the bowels of the earth. He is a man of few words, but they do say his command of language is impressive. It is on record that this child of Lugar once said that his proudest moment of his life was when he played for the Scottish League against Ireland. Turning to his partner and buckling up his sleeves, he dashed into the fray with the remark, “Now we’ll show those Irish artists what two Scotch colliers can dae.”
A Weekly Record man engaged the Partick back in conversation after the Celtic match. Mr Campbell is not given to much talk, but he has the shrewd intelligence of his class, and he knows a little about the football he travels every week from Lugar to demonstrate.
“To fellows like myself, brought up in mining villages, there is nothing but the pit to look forward to,” remarked Campbell once he had found his tongue. “Football gives a man a chance of getting a lift in the world. Many Ayrshire collier lads have done well through football. Some have been amongst the best players in England. Sometimes I have been tempted to leave Ayrshire, but I am settled in Lugar, and I like playing in Partick. Between work and football the miner can make his life comfortable. At Lugar we have no other amusement thn kicking about in the long days, and Rosebank Park, where the old Lugar Boswell used to play, is a pretty lively spot for budding dribblers. I find if a miner is fortunate to get into a good senior club, he can make his home life a good deal more pleasant by the extra money he can earn, and at the same time enjoy his game of football as keenly as when he first got a place in a junior team.
Tactics on the Open
“From your experience of League football, what advice would you give to a young back?”
“In the first place he should never stop playing till the referee blows his whistle. Many a time a goal has been lost by the fault of a back stopping play to claim for off-side and foolishly thinking that it was sure to be granted. Clubs are so keen in the desire to get a decent position in the League that they cannot afford to lose a soft goal. If a back can trust the man in front of him, he ought to mark the outside forward on the opposite side in open defence and leave the half-back to deal with the inside forward. He should learn to control his temper and to trust his goalkeeper.”
“What club forwards do you reckon the best you have played against?”
“I think the Rangers team of two years back were the most difficult to beat of any. The Rangers somehow always let themselves loose against Partick, and several times when we had a pretty fair team we went all to pieces against them. R.C.Hamilton, Speedie and Alec Smith were the hottest trio I ever had to face.”
“How does the present Thistle team compare with some of the best club combinations in your time at Partick?”
“I don’t think the Thistle ever had a better team. A fellow gets every encouragement from the crowd to ‘buck up’ and the best relations exist between players and officials. In all parts the Thistle are better than they have been since joining the League. The improvement is greatest among the forwards. Many of the matches we lost within the last year or two could have been won had the forwards been able to shoot. Match after match I have seen them take the ball right up to the goalkeeper and not a mother’s son among them could plant a goal.
“The boys are now finding the road to goal more easy. Massie is the finest dribbler in the team. I always had a high opinion of ‘Wullie’. Sam Kennedy is a very good centre. From breaking through the defence he has few equals.”
Advocates Daily Employment
“What are your ideas in the matter of training?”
“In the first place I think every player should follow regular daily employment. Working every day makes a man keener on his training and keener on his game on the Saturday. I consider no football player should see a football from the one Saturday till the next. I never touch a ball between the Saturdays. I train myself at Lugar. A quarter mile run at a fair pace, half a dozed short sprints and a rub down is my ordinary spell of training.”
“What team do you reckon the best in Scotland at the present time?”
“I see no better than 3rd Lanark. All round it is a great team and the forwards are strong in shooting. I believe Celtic have a better team now than when Partick Thistle met them at the start of the season. It is a team that will go on improving. Most of the players are young, and will come a lot. If 3rd Lanark keep up their form, however, they will win the League Championship. ”
“And now a word about your own career?”
“I was born at Lugar and learned my football in a juvenile team there called the Craigton Strollers. Brodie, Curragh and Cairney, who played for Partick Thistle, were also in the Craigton. I joined Partick Thistle six years ago, and got Auchencloss’s place after serving two years in the Reserve team at Meadowside. As a member of the Thistle I was capped by the Scottish League against the Irish League last season, and I played in the Glasgow team which beat Sheffield in the Inter-City match at Ibrox Park by 3 goals to 0, a few months ago.
“In the season of 1889-1900 I helped Partick Thistle to win the Second League championship. We had a close run for it with Morton, and just got it by a point. Two years ago I was in the Thistle team in the final of the Glasgow Cup, when the Rangers beat us by 3 goals to 1. In five-a-side tournaments I picked up a few medals at Muirkirk, Lugar, New Cumnock and Skares, along with Stark, Brodie and the two Curraghs all Lugar bred and born.
Season by season