John Dick

The White Cairt Watter, the River White Cart, rises in rural, southern Renfrewshire, on Eaglesham Moor. It lies above the village of Eaglesham itself, which is named and said in two languages - the Gaelic for church and the Germanic for village, Eagles (Eaglais)-Ham - and rather neatly fits with the life or lives of its footballer of greatest note, John Dick. He was the one born in 1876, the son of a mason, who developed into a centre-half, a Scottish centre-half, of note, starting his on-pitch career at Airdrieonians. By then it was his local club. In 1891 he is recorded as an Apprentice Mason in the town, his family having moved there in the mid1880s, with him still a boy. Thus it was also there he learned the game, although London and the then still Woolwich Arsenal would for a decade from 1897 be where, renown for stamina, he made his real playing mark.  

At the Arsenal he was to make almost three hundred club appearances, many alongside Roddy McEachrane, but never with any international recognition, and have a spell as captain, win promotion in 1904 to the First Division before another half a decade mainly in the reserves. He, listed initially as both stonemason and professional footballer had also married, in 1899, a local Woolwich girl, Annie, but Annie Campbell Keard. By 1911 three children had been born, two boys and a girl. 

But that would be only half the story. With Dick's retirement from playing the next stage in his footballing activity was almost immediate. Already in 1912 he travelled to Prague to coach the city's pioneering German-Jewish team, Deutscher Fussball Club. In part it may have been prompted by the arrival in 1905 across the city of Dumbarton, Celtic and Scotland's Jake Madden at Slavia Prague and the success he had already enjoyed there. He remains a revered figure at this club to this day. However, The Great War would intervene. Whilst Madden remained in Prague for the duration of The Great War Dick may have returned to the UK. Yet, having clearly made an impression of his own, DFC becoming Bohemian champions in 1913 and 1914, he would be back. On cessation of hostilities and almost immediately, he was in 1919 appointed as trainer now to Slavia's rival across the city, Sparta, where, if anything, Dick was to have in two spells an even greater immediate impact. In the first from 1919 to 1923 the club was to take the Cup in all four years he was there, plus the year, 1924, immediately after he left. In the second from 1928 to 1933 it would win the relatively novel Czech League in 1932, having been runner-up in 1930 and 1931 to Slavia. And in 1930 again it would also take the Miteuropa Cup, the early forerunner of the European Cup. 

It was quite a record but it came on top of that he had done in the meantime and again not back in Britain but Belgium. In 1923 he had joined the Antwerp club, Beerschot. It had won the newly instigated Belgian League in 1922 but it seems it was not played in 1922-3. Dick arrived and it was then won for a further three years in succession, again in 1928, and the club was runner-up in the two other seasons he was there, including 1929, the year of his return to Prague. In effect he had done in Belgium's second city what he had already in Czecho-Slovakia's first, a pioneer of top-class football in not one but two major, Continental countries.      

And even second time around in the Cech capital there might have been more but for ill-health. John Dick's return, not to Scotland appears to have been prompted by quickly fatal cancer. Just two years later he was dead, aged just fifty-five, his passing recorded not in his home country, nor in Woolwich or Charlton but still in Kent; in nearby Welling with no grave yet located but unlikely to be far.  Both Plumstead and Woolwich Cemeteries are within a mile's distance.  

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