Scottish strikers have featured heavily in Everton’s history. Graeme Sharp, Andy Gray and Duncan Ferguson have all been heroes on the pitch for the Toffees. Steven Naismith has been impressive this season for Roberto Martinez’s side, though not quite reaching the heights of his fellow Scottish frontmen.
Before they all made their mark, there was another sharp-shooting Scot who currently lies second to the legendary Dixie Dean as Everton’s all-time leading league goal scorer. He was the first player to score a hat-trick in the Merseyside derby, scoring four times in a 5-1 victory over Liverpool in 1904. He also netted the winner for the Toffees in the 1906 FA Cup final against Newcastle United, which brought the famous trophy to Liverpool for the very first time.
His name was Alexander Simpson ‘Sandy’ Young.
Born in 1880, Young made his name first with St. Mirren and then Falkirk before making the move to Everton for a fee of £100 in 1901 at the age of 21. He spent 10 years with the Merseyside club.
Described as a skilful player who relied on guile to outwit his opponents, Young, who was capped twice for Scotland, was purportedly a fine distributor of the ball who had a good understanding of the game. In an Everton matchday programme against Derby County in 1904, Young was summed up thusly:
“Young has a capital idea of center-forward play, and understands certain conditions can wreak havoc on an opposing defense. He is one of that class of footballer who depends upon skill to produce effect, and mere physical force is a nonentity as far as his methods are concerned.
Everything depends on the condition in which a man is placed, and if we have center-forwards whose sole idea is of the battering ram species, we likewise have their anti-types, who are content to exhibit some degree of cleverness in originality and execution. Without doubt Young belongs not to the former class of players.”
Despite having a record-setting spell at Everton, he was sold to Tottenham Hotspur for £700 but only made five appearances for Spurs, scoring three goals including a last minute equalizer against Everton in a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park. He then moved to Manchester City playing 13 times and netted just twice before ending his career at South Liverpool.
The sale of Young to Tottenham in 1911 was controversial, but then Everton chairman Dr. James Baxter justified the decision making a rather curious if not unsettling comment. He told shareholders:
“There were many things that came to the knowledge of the directors that were quite unknown to the shareholders”.
Despite being a genius on the pitch, off the pitch Young was a decidedly more complex character. The Liverpool Echo in 1915 described him as “somber”, “highly strung” and possessing “peculiar habits”. The paper detailed:
“He would live alone, as far as possible, and many a time when out training he slinked off to some long walk, and no one would get a word out of him. A curious temperament was Sandy’s and there were periods when he stroked the single lock of hair that adorned his forehead, which suggested that he suffered severe pains in the head.”
In 1914 after ending his playing career, Young decided to join his brother, John, in Australia. Young had earlier loaned £325 to his sibling. The money was used to help his brother emigrate and purchase a farm in Tongala in 1911. Sandy upon moving to Australia bought land there himself with the view of helping his brother. Unfortunately the pair did not get on, which led to tragic consequences.
The root of the problem, as reported, was money. Their relationship turned violent with the pair constantly arguing and coming to blows — sometimes with buckets, sticks and forks.
On November 30, 1915 a friend of the pair witnessed them having another blazing row. Sandy Young was upset that his brother John kept borrowing money without paying anything back. Sandy at one point threatened to seize the farm arguing that it was his money that paid for everything.
As their friend left Sandy and John spoke to him, separately. Sandy confided “I cannot stop here, I am afraid John will murder me.”
John said separately “Don’t go away yet, I am afraid Alick (Alex) will come out and shoot me.” He couldn’t have spoken truer words.
The following morning, Sandy shot his brother. John survived long enough to make a statement to the police:
“I was milking a cow when Alexander came up and said, ‘I am going to shoot you.’ I replied, ‘Put the gun away. You are only trying to frighten me.’ Alexander, though, took no notice, and fired at me.”
After shooting his brother, the former Everton striker pulled the trigger on himself. He somehow managed to survive.
Alexander Simpson ‘Sandy’ Young was charged with murder. In court, Young admitted that he indeed shot his brother but only after being chased for 40-yards with the latter threatening the former with a shovel. After the shooting, Alexander Young recalled:
“I took up the shovel and went to my house and shot myself in the head. I do not remember anything after that.”
Young would have in all likelihood been sentenced to death had it not been for the intervention of his sisters and Everton. A pair of Sandy’s sisters travelled to Liverpool from Edinburgh to alert the striker’s former club of his plight. Everton manager Will Cuff and the club’s board sent documentation from two doctors testifying that the striker was treated for mental health issues.
Young, who relied on Everton and the citizens of Liverpool to pay his legal fees, was found guilty of manslaughter in June 1916 and sentenced to three years in prison. He was released in July 1919 and returned to Britain 10-months later.
Young lived his life as a recluse occasionally asking his former club for financial assistance. He passed away at a nursing home in Portobello, Scotland on September 18, 1959 and was buried in an unmarked grave at Seafield cemetery.
Fifty five years after Young’s death, Everton and the club’s heritage society sought to recognize their former striker whilst acknowledging his acts and the tragic turns in his life. Lorna Conaghan, Young’s great great-niece, had discovered the whereabouts of the former Everton striker’s grave.
There was then a drive to raise money to pay for a headstone for the tragic Young. Donations poured in from the public, former Everton legend Neville Southall did a book signing with all proceeds going to the cause whilst the club promised to match any funds raised. According to Paul Wharton of the Everton Heritage Society, it only took a day to raise the £1400 needed to pay for the headstone.
Sandy Young’s grave was rededicated on September 3, 2014.
Everton club officials and family members came from all over the world to witness the ceremony. Catherine Yarham, John Young’s great grand-daughter, travelled from Australia to attend the ceremony though there were mixed emotions. Her parents in no uncertain terms described Sandy Young simply as the man who shot her grandfather and asked why she wanted to attend the service. Yarham for her part hoped that by attending a sense of healing, if not closure could be achieved.
Cyril Cleeton, Sandy’s nephew, also attended the service. The 87-year old recalled:
“I had no idea he was such a good footballer. I knew he had once played for Falkirk and Everton, but Everton played in a different country – we had no idea he was held in such great esteem. He didn’t talk about it.”
Cleeton also found the gouge on Young’s right cheek on an occasion when he was shaving his uncle. When he asked about the mark Young replied:
“We don’t mention that.”
Following Young’s sale to Tottenham in 1911, the Everton chairman James Baxter promised the club would look after the striker:
“Everton have never treated their players like oranges” and continued “at the proper time his services would not be forgotten”.
Over a century later, Everton made good on that promise.
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