Alexander "Alex" Skinner Jackson was perhaps the greatest player of his day, the "Gay Chevalier", a man who from very early on understood the value of his talent but in the end seems to have tired of it, playing out his last seasons at thirty-ish in France at Nice and Le Touquet. He was also a man who died an extraordinary death. Having during the Second War risen up through the ranks to Major after hostilities he was fatally injured in lorry crash in Egypt and is buried not in Scottish but North African soil.
But like so much Scottish footballing talent of the day he was born in Renton, just a few doors up from the home of one the village's great footballing heroes of a generation earlier, Archie McCall. The year was 1905, younger by seven than his footballing brother, Walter. But he was not of Renton stock. His father, a Tinsmith cum Ships Stoker, was a Fifer by birth but brought up in Aberdeen and his mother from Edinburgh, arriving in Renton at the turn of the century. It meant Alex learned his football in the village with junior club, Renton Victoria, and at seventeen was signed not by Renton itself, which had been dissolved that same year, 1922, but by Dumbarton.
There he spent a notional two years but during a trip to see an elder brother, who had emigrated, he and Wattie both played a season for considerably better money at Bethlehem Steel, essentially a Scottish team and a pillar of U.S. Soccer. He then used the reverse process of a trip home to see family to be signed without Bethlehem's knowledge by Aberdeen, now managed by Dumbarton's ex, boss.
In fact he again only played a single season for The Dons before, he aged still only twenty-one, Huddersfield came in for him. By then he had also already played the first of what would be seventeen internationals and, with Scotland only playing the Home Championship, was already becoming a fixture.
At Huddersfield Jackson would make almost two hundred appearance over five seasons at outside-right but one with a difference. He was famous for cutting and shooting inside the full-back, he could head the ball and take a free-kick. He also played in four of five successive Scotland-England games including the 1928 1-5 Wembley Wizards victory, in which he, still not twenty-three, opened the scoring and completed a hat-trick.
After that he was hot-property. In 1930 in an extensive spending spree he signed for Chelsea and was made captain. But all was not happy in the camp and as the players' spokesman he had to vent grievances but found the directors turning against him. He was frozen out but, despite looking for a transfer, the club retained his registration. It meant he could not sign for another League team so he turned to non-League football with Ashton and Margate for season and then, with several other Chelsea players, took himself off to France, where league football was taking off, and once more outwith FA jurisdiction.
It had its downside. With him still only twenty-seven years old it deprived the Scottish national team of his services at his peak and when, with the young Dally Duncan on the other wing the forward line would have had some punch. It also deprived the British football in general of the same. But for Alex, by then comfortably off and marrying Grace Skelt in London in 1933, it must, before a return to Britain in 1936, have provided them with a balmy first three years of marriage.
1937 - Harrow, London
1946 - 19th General Hospital, Cairo, Egypt
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