Although his Everton career spanned just 66 games spread over some 15 years, Gordon Watson is considered one of the club’s great servants – over more than half a century – serving as player, trainer, administrator and even barman in one of the club’s lounges.
Spotted in 1933, playing Blyth Spartans, one of his native north east’s most illustrious amateur clubs, Watson was blooded in the Central League and had to wait more than three years for his full Everton debut. He nevertheless made a stir for the reserves, and after Preston North End failed to sign him in November 1933, he looked set to join Coventry City a year later only for the move to fall down at the last moment.
Their loss was undeniably Everton’s gain, and as the great side of the late 1930s gained momentum, Watson earned a deserved reputation as the club’s twelfth man: unfussy, reliable, entirely committed whatever the role he was asked to fill. All of Everton’s great teams have been underpinned by great utility men – whether it be Sandy Brown in the 1960s or Alan Harper in the 1980s – and Watson was of such ilk.
His contribution to the great title winning side of the 1938/39 – when he played 16 games – should not be dismissed. He was twelfth man on so many occasions that his team mates reputedly clubbed together to buy him a cushion so that he could be more comfortable on the trainer’s bench when he missed out. But his role as Jock Thomson’s deputy in the title run in was crucial.
Watson would have walked into many First Division teams as a regular and being called upon as a reserve should minimise his many footballing talents. He was once called up to play for the England B team, but Everton would not let him play as the fixture clashed with an end of season tour.
Aged 25 when the Second World War broke out, the conflict invariably took its toll on his Everton career and he would have made many more senior appearances had it not cast its shadow. Watson made more than 200 wartime appearances in an Everton shirt and was still with the club when peace came. In 1947/48 he made 22 league and cup appearances, the most in his career, and he appeared before Goodison’s record crowd, against Liverpool in September 1948.
As early as 1945, Watson had sought a coaching position at Goodison and approached the Everton board with a request that he be considered should such a role arise. As his playing career petered out, he took up the role as trainer, a position he held until the 1960s. Subsequently he worked in the club offices, fulfilling a variety of roles.
He was a well known and highly regarded figure, much loved by the fans. Never was this more keenly felt, when in 2001, shortly before his death, he paraded the FA Cup into one of the Gwladys Street Hall of Fame’s legendary dinners. The roar that greeted him nearly carried the roof off the Adelphi and lives long in the minds of all who were there.