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Monday, September 25, 2017

Jim Corstorphine profiles the first player to be capped by Scotland while at East Fife. This article first appeared in Issue No. 2 of The Bayview (2017/2018).

Dan Liddle, the first East Fife player to pull on the dark blue of Scotland whilst still plying his trade with the Methil club, was born in the West Lothian seaport town of Bo’ness on 17th February 1912. Encouraged by their footballer father, who played for Bo’ness, Dan and his older brother John played football from an early age. As a schoolboy, Dan developed a reputation as a talented dribbler of the ball, and eventually made his name in the Juvenile game before stepping up to Junior football with Musselburgh side Wallyford Bluebell. The young Dan Liddle made such an impact on the left wing with Wallyford that he was selected to represent Scotland at outside-left in the Junior international against Ireland at Tynecastle just weeks after his seventeenth birthday, where he played his part in a 3-1 victory. Naturally, the youngster’s talents attracted the attention of several Senior sides, with Hearts the first such club to show an interest. Despite the interest from Hearts, and despite offers of contracts from both Middlesbrough and St Bernard’s, Dan opted to sign for East Fife, and duly put pen to paper on 18th May 1929.

Dan Liddle made his East Fife debut on 10th August 1929 against league newcomers Montrose at Bayview, and would have scored but for a brilliant save from visitors’ ‘keeper Robson. It didn’t take the youngster long to find the net, however, and just weeks later Dan scored the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over St Bernard’s at Logie Green. Throughout his first season at Bayview, the outside-left’s dashing runs down the wing and regular goal-scoring exploits quickly established him as a favourite on the terraces, and before long he had earned the nickname “Dangerous Dan”.

When the curtain finally came down on season 1929/30, East Fife had attained second place in the league table and promotion to the top flight of the Scottish League for the first time in the club’s history. It has to be said that this proud achievement would not, in all probability, have been accomplished without the services of left-winger Dan Liddle. Despite rumoured interest from Rangers, Dan stayed with East Fife for the duration of the following season. Unfortunately, season 1930/31 turned out to be a disastrous one from East Fife’s point of view, with the club returning to the Second Division at the end of the campaign. Despite the team’s poor form, however, Dan’s performances on the park had been impressive, and inevitably came to the attention of the SFA Selection Committee. Consequently, Dan Liddle’s name was added to the Scotland squad for their three-match continental tour in May 1931.

Dan made his Scotland debut aged just nineteen against Austria in front of 45,000 spectators at the Hohe Warte Stadion in Vienna on Saturday 16th May 1931, but unfortunately the occasion turned out to be a disastrous one, both for the team and the player. The Austrians raced into a two-goal lead inside the first fifteen minutes through Schall and Zischeck, and from there on it was “backs-to-the-wall” for the Scots, with things going from bad to worse when half-back Colin McNab received a bad gash on his head just before half-time. The player was able to continue, but when Dan Liddle was forced to retire after picking up a serious injury early in the second half, the Scots had to see out the remainder of the game with only ten men (no substitutes in those days!). The Austrians took full advantage, and eventually ran out 5-0 winners following further goals from Vogel, Zischeck and Sindelar to inflict Scotland’s first defeat by a foreign side and equal their record defeat which had been suffered forty-three years earlier against England in 1888! The embarrassment attracted much criticism in the press, with Monday’s Dundee Courier commenting: “Shades of our vaunted prestige. A Scottish team of supposedly international standard allow themselves to be whacked by a “foreign” team without scoring a goal! It’s a disaster!”

Despite his injury, Dan retained his place in the team to face Italy in Rome on Wednesday 20th May, but unfortunately the Scots were humbled again, this time by three goals without reply. In front of a crowd of 25,000, which included Fascist Party leader Benito Mussolini, the Italians took an early lead through a Costantino header after six minutes, followed by a second goal just before half-time from Meazza. Orsi rubbed salt into the wounds with a third just three minutes from time. The final match of the tour was against Switzerland on the following Saturday at Parc des Charmilles in Geneva, where the Scots finally tasted success. Playing with the wind at their backs during the first half, Scotland scored twice inside the first twenty-five minutes through Portsmouth’s James Easson and Clyde’s Willie Boyd, before the home team pulled a goal back on the half-hour mark through Buche. The Swiss then equalised midway through the second half through Fauguel and, just when it looked like a draw was inevitable, Aberdeen’s Andy Love netted in the final minute to win the match by the odd-goal-in-five and restore some Scottish pride.

Unsurprisingly, with East Fife now back in the Second Division, Dangerous Dan’s days at Bayview were numbered. Both Liverpool and Leicester City were keen to sign the outside-left, and it was the latter who eventually landed his signature shortly after the player’s return from international duty. Despite some great performances for his new club, including a four-nil hammering of Sheffield United in which Liddle scored all four goals, the player was never again selected to represent his country. He turned out for Leicester for fourteen seasons from 1932 to 1946 and, after having made one appearance for Mansfield Town in season 1946/47, ended his playing days with Lincolnshire non-league side Stamford. Dan Liddle passed away on 9th June 1982 aged 70.