Jock Thomson was one of a succession of fine Goodison servants whose first months at the club were defined by football fiasco. Like Ben Williams, Ted Sagar, Billy Coggins and Tommy Johnson, Thomson was no sooner an Everton player than he was, with his new Everton teammates, tasting the unfamiliar waters of the Second Division. Less than two months and just nine games after signing in March 1930, Thomson was part of Everton’s first relegation side. This was, nevertheless, a black mark in an association with the club that was otherwise defined by glory.
The former Dundee left half had arrived at Goodison after Everton were given an option to sign him as part of the deal that had brought Alec Troup to Dens Park in January 1930. Everton had actually been following the player for some months, but his performances split the Everton directors. It was only after being watched by the former Everton player, John Bell, who recommended him, that Everton made their move, paying £3,650 for his services.
The half back position had been problematic for Everton all through the 1929/30 season and the 23-year-old Thomson was expected to rectify this. Standing 5ft 11inches tall he was, reported the Liverpool Post and Mercury, ‘a really class half-back whose mode of play is the right one. He keeps the ball on the floor, when at will possible and Everton should be strengthened by his inclusion to the team.’ The correspondent added ominously: ‘He will be tested to the full in Everton’s remaining games and he may expect a strenuous time during the next few weeks.’
Indeed he was, although Thomson made a sound start himself – despite the shortcomings of his colleagues. ‘Thomson made a successful initial appearance and added strength to the middle line,’ the Post and Mercury reported of his debut against West Ham at Goodison. ‘He was particularly effective in dribbling and delivering his pass at the most opportune moment. In attack he did excellent work, his good shooting being another point in his favour.’ Yet that match ended in a 1-2 defeat and such poor form over the coming weeks would cost Everton their top flight place.
However Thomson would be crucial to Everton and their revival over subsequent years. ‘A strong and forceful left-half, Thomson toiled in the Goodison midfield trenches and strove to do the simple things well,’ wrote David France. ‘He relished the heat of battle and was respected for his resolute tackling which helped shore up a far from water tight rearguard.’ Over the coming years Everton would win the Second Division Championship, the League Championship and FA Cup with Thomson at the heart of the team. ‘One of the three Scots in the team, whose dainty footwork greatly help Johnson and Stein on the left wing,’ read one profile ahead of the 1933 FA Cup Final, ‘[Thomson is] a good tackler and a fine feeder, he is always in the thick of the fray, and he is very enthusiastic.’
Yet Everton’s board were ruthless and showed time and again that no one was indispensible in their pursuit of success. After three fallow years following the Cup win Thomson was dropped in favour of the promising youngster, Joe Mercer, ahead of the 1936/37 season. For nearly two years Thomson was sidelined and although he captained Everton to the Central League title in 1938 it looked as if his career was, to all intents and purposes, over.
But late in the 1937/38 season, with Everton battling relegation, Mercer was injured and Thomson returned. Now a veteran, his experience and guile helped elevate Everton above the mire, and they were steered to the sanctuary of fourteenth place. Everton’s directors recognized his impact and the following season Mercer was switched to right half to accommodate him. Thomson was made captain as Everton raced to the League Championship in breathtaking fashion.
War, of course, changed everything. Post-conflict the Scot became Manchester City manager and enjoyed mixed success in the Maine Road hotseat. He subsequently left football and worked as a licensee.