The A-Z of Sam English

Last updated : 05 September 2002 By

The A-to-Z of Sam English

For the first time in ages, I had a wee read of the club programme and was reminded yet again as to why we, as Rangers supporters, are probably the one group of supporters in Great Britain who need an independent voice to get the real feelings across from our point of view.

The article in the programme this article concerns was the 'A - Z of Rangers,' and in particular, the 'E for Sam English' part. There was no mention of his goalscoring exploits, no mention of him being the record goal scorer for Rangers in a single season, no mention of how he helped Rangers win the Scottish Cup in 1932. Instead, the programme notes centred on the tragic accident in which Johnny Thomson lost his life.

Without in any way wishing to be disrespectful to the dead Celtic goalie, I would like to attempt to redress the balance as regards Sam English's Rangers career, using what little information (and apologies to all concerned for any inaccuracies) I have in the hope that we can get it across that Sammy English is remembered as one of the greatest centre forwards Rangers have ever had and, if this gets printed in either the fanzine or the website, somebody inside Ibrox notices it and prints an amended version of the article from the programme in the next possible issue.

Born in Coleraine in Northern Ireland, Sammy English signed for Rangers in July 1931 from Yoker Athletic, where he had amassed an incredible total of 293 goals in just 3 seasons. His goalscoring ability did not desert him during his first season for Rangers, during which he scored a quite phenomenal 44 goals in 35 League games - a total that rises to 56 goals in 48 games, if we are to include the Scottish Cup along with the Glasgow Cup, and Glasgow Merchant's Charity Cup which were both still considered big tournaments in those days, as can be borne out by the fact that the 5 Glasgow Cup games Rangers played in during that season were watched by an aggregate total of approximately 180,000 people.

A look at the statistics from that year show just how good a scorer of goals Sam English really was. (In fact, he was described by none other that the great Bob McPhail as being the best centre forward he had played alongside. Praise indeed, coming from one so respected in the game.) In 1931 / 32, Sammy scored 3 goals on 6 occasions, 4 goals on one occasion, and 5 goals in one game as well. He scored in 5 consecutive games, 6 consecutive games, and 8 consecutive games during the league campaign on season 1931/32. He scored hat tricks in the first and second rounds of the Scottish Cup that year and also scored a goal in the final.

The statistics mentioned above are undoubtedly phenomenal, and speak very clearly for themselves, but conversation with Rangers supporters who saw the great Rangers teams of that period are unquestionably the best source of information as regards Sam's popularity with the Rangers crowd. This writer was fortunate enough to fall into conversation with an elderly gentleman in a Rangers pub on the Paisley Road West a few months ago. His description of Sam English?

"He had a right foot that seemed to be able to find the net from anywhere. He is the best striker I have seen playing for Rangers."

Conversation with my good friend, The Gub, produces more information. His Grandfather saw Sammy English playing, and described to The Gub Sammy as "a goalscoring machine." I would advise all Rangers supporters to get either the lyrics to, or the song itself "The Ballad of Sam English." This will confirm everything I have said regarding his popularity with the Rangers supporters of the day.

When talking - or in this case, writing - about the life and times of Sammy English, one is inevitably drawn to that fateful day in 1931. While understanding the sensitivity and emotion surrounding the matter, this writer has tried in this letter to get it across the ability Sam English had as a footballer and is in no way attempting to be disrespectful to John Thomson.

What has driven the desire to write this was the insensitivity of the present - day Rangers programme staff who did Sammy English a great dis-service by neglecting to recount his footballing career, and concentrated on a horrific accident that sadly left a Celtic player dead, and a Rangers player a broken and haunted man.