George Cochran

Whilst, rightly, the figure to be most often lauded as a pioneer of football in Barcelona is the Swiss, Hans (Joan) Gamper or Kamper, he was not the or even a founder. The man perhaps most deserving of that title, not least because he was not only to repeat the role, again in Catalonia, in Torello but also to go on to form and embed the game still in Spain but on the other end of the Pyrenees in Bilbao in the Basque County.        

His name was George Paterson Cochran, sometimes with a second "t" in his maternal, middle name and also known under the surnames of Cochrane or Cockram and with the clue to his origins in the names. 

George Cochran was born in Bathgate in West Lothian. The year was 1870. But his family was on the move. The second child of Angus parents, his father, an insurance agent, from Dundee and his mother from Coupar, they would soon be on their way to Paisley. And it would be growing up in that Renfrewshire town, which would be the key to subsequent events. In 1881 the family was living on Paisley High St., he a scholar. In 1891 he was a Clerk and it was probably as such that by 1892 he arrived in the Catalan capital, quite possibly in the advance party sent by the Paisley cotton-thread makers, Coats, looking to erect a mill in Spain's north-east corner. 

In Barcelona in 1892 Cochran met London-born James Reeves and the two were instrumental in the formation late that same year of the Barcelona Football Club. The first known football game followed on Christmas Day, although it is not known if Cochran played. Conversely he certainly did play in the next in March 1893. It was an internal game within the club, Reds v Blues, possibly England v Scotland, with Reeves captaining the former and Cochran the latter.

Then in 1894 what is sometimes described as a split occurred at the club resulting in the formation of the Sociedad de Football de Barcelona and Torello Football Association, with Reeves in the former and Cochran and probable fellow Scot, William MacAndrews, in the latter. In fact it was probably the marking of a move for Cochran and others to Borgonya by the inland town of Torello, the site chosen for the Coats mill. Certainly the following year Cochran was playing up-front and captaining the Torello team that played two games against the new Barcelona entity. The first was in the Catalan capital, it and Torello directly connected by train. The result is recorded as both 6-3 and 8-3 for the home team but with Cochran scoring. The second was in Torello, perhaps even Borgonya, and the result was reversed. The mill-team won 5-3 with Cochran hitting a first-half hat-trick.         

However, the two 1895 games remain the last to feature Cochran in Catalonia. Perhaps his contract, normally four years, was up and he returned to Scotland. But Spain clearly called him back, with his enthusiasm for football undimmed. In 1901 and aged thirty he seems to have joined the already extant Bilbao Football Club, formed almost a decade earlier and originally and still mainly a British team. His first known appearance for them is in early 1902 now at left full-back in a 4-2 defeat to the newly-formed Basque team, Athletic Club. And it was these two clubs, which first informally combined as Bizcaya in May that same year in winning the Coronation Cup, that year's and the first Copa de Rey. However, Cochran did not feature in any of the games. He only returned once the formal fusion of the clubs as the present-day Athletic Bilbao had taken place. In April 1903 in winning in Madrid the final of the second Copa del Rey he was there as one of just two Britons in the eleven but significantly at centre-half, Scottish centre-half. He might also have been there again the following year had the win for Athletic Bilbao not been a walk-over. He was certainly in the squad. And he may have been there again at centre-half in 1905 in defeat to Madrid F.C.   

At that point and now in his mid-thirties his footballing seems to come to an end but he appears to have remained on Spain's northern coast perhaps almost until his death. He is said to have settled in Portugalete, the town at the mouth of the river that flows through Bilbao itself and across that river from Bilbao F.C.'s original ground at Lamiako. He also seems to have married a Josefa Laban and started a family. George Cochran Jnr. was born in about 1913. All this is revealed when in January 1929 all three Cochran's sailed from Santander to Britain, giving an address in Paisley. Perhaps George was already unwell and was coming home specifically, because at another address on the other side of town he was to die in April that same year, aged just fifty-eight, described as a Mercantile Clerk, his wife and son returning to Santander and Spain the following July. Where he is buried is as yet unknown.        

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