The £39,000 signing of Alex Scott in February 1963 brought to a conclusion one of the most closely fought transfer sagas in Everton’s history. Amid the great freeze of that winter, Harry Catterick caught wind that Tottenham, Everton’s principle League Championship rivals, were closing in on Scott’s signature. Catterick intervened at the eleventh hour and, as he so often did, got his man. In turning down the reigning champions he joined their heir apparents, and by May 1963 had become one of the few players to claim league title honours in both England and Scotland.
Scott arrived on Merseyside with a formidable reputation. Rangers had acquired him as a teenager from Scottish junior football and he marked his debut as an 18 year-old, against Alex Parker’s Falkirk, his home-town club, with a hat trick. In his eight years at Ibrox, Scott scored 108 goals in 331 matches and won four league championships. However he would thrive most on the European stage, then in its infancy, and his goals propelled Rangers to the semi finals of the 1960 European Cup.
An explosive player with a devastating turn of pace, Scott was the sort of player who could conjure something from nothing. To opposing full backs he was the stuff of nightmares: if they marked tightly, then he would knock the ball past them and run onto it; if they stood back, then he would cut inside and run through the available space. Scott would exploit such indecision mercilessly, and had a degree of consistency almost unparalleled amongst widemen.
Perhaps Scott would have played his entire career at Ibrox, but in 1962 his place came under threat from Willie Henderson, an outstanding young tyro, and he sought opportunities elsewhere. At Everton he immediately came into the team in place of Billy Bingham, who moved on to Port Vale in the wake of Scott’s arrival, and with fellow new signing Tony Kay added fresh impetus to Everton’s ultimately successful title challenge. Alas, Scott fell short of the appearances necessary to also win himself a Scottish Championship medal for his efforts with Rangers that season – which would have constituted a remarkable achievement.
Six months after winning the title Scott was back at Ibrox playing against his former team in a British Championship match. He scored once in a 3-1 victory, but in the return leg at Goodison the visiting supporters gave him a torrid time. George Orr remembered in his diary of the era: ‘The whole length and width of the running track, from the Street End to the halfway line, was full of bottles and glasses taken from Rangers fans. There were fights everywhere.’ The game ended 1-1, Scott’s compatriot, Alex Young scoring the Everton goal.
Amongst his team mates Scott was known as ‘The Head Waiter’ in reference to his habit of running with one arm held stiffly, as if holding a tray – the result of a childhood broken arm. Evertonians dubbed him ‘Chico’, after a television promotion that starred a cut out figure of a Mexican Indian. Many of the cardboard cut-outs featuring Chico the Indian eventually found their way to Goodison on match days.
Scott was a determined figure, and his desire to win sometimes brought him into conflict with his team-mates. Brian Glanville recalled one incident: ‘With Everton Scott was quite capable of intruding if he felt that a team-mate was playing selfishly. In a game against Tottenham Hotspur in January 1965, when, exasperated by the individualism of Everton's big centre-forward, Fred Pickering, he simply tackled his own man. The stratagem seemed to work, since from that point the two combined sweetly and Scott gave Cyril Knowles, Spurs' English international left back, a torrid afternoon.’
Scott continued to shine through the mid-1960s, and was one of Everton’s most outstanding players in their FA Cup Final victory in 1966. But as Harry Catterick reshuffled his pack and out-and-out wingers fell out of vogue, Scott was required to play deeper and track back and defend. Alex Young later likened the situation to using a Ferrari to deliver pizzas.
Aged 30 at the end of the 1966/67 season, Scott had already seen his position come under threat and Catterick deemed him expendable, selling him to Hibernian for £15,000. Ironically he replaced his younger brother, Jim, also a winger, who had left Easter Road to join Newcastle.
Over the course of a decade, Scott won just 16 caps. He would have earned more, but for the fierce competition then between wingers in Scotland. In 1966 alone, the year of his last international appearance, Scotland also used Celtic's Jimmy Johnstone, Charlie Cooke of Chelsea and Willie Henderson, his successor at Ibrox - all of whom are regarded as incomparable by their respective clubs' supporters.
He retired after a spell with Falkirk, later running a pub in the town with Jim.