Alex Raisbeck, Liverpool Football Club’s first title winning captain, has had a new headstone placed on his long forgotten grave.
Born in Stirlingshire in 1879, Alex Raisbeck played for Larkhill and Hibernian before joining Liverpool for £350 in the summer of 1898. The Edinburgh Evening News reported that Liverpool had signed a centre half who was second to none in the country who could help his new team to great things.
From his position in the middle of the pitch, Raisbeck could anticipate and break up opposition attacks, then distribute the ball to his own team’s forwards. His reading of the game was so good that he rarely broke sweat, yet his athleticism allowed him to outjump players of far greater height (he was five foot ten). The first of his eight appearances for his country came against England on 7th April 1900, a game which the Scots won 4-1 at Celtic Park.
For the 1900-01 season Raisbeck was appointed Liverpool’s captain and he led the Reds to a title triumph. They clinched their first championship with a 1-0 win at West Bromwich Albion, after which they were welcomed home by an estimated 60,000 fans at Central Station.
Raisbeck was arguably Liverpool’s first superstar pin-up footballer, his flowing blond hair and moustache attracting plenty of admirers. The maximum wage though meant that players’ lives were far less glamorous than today and many considered employment outside of the game was more secure. To prevent the risk of their captain doing this, Liverpool employed Raisbeck as a ‘bill inspector.’ This was a position for which there were no wage restrictions and technically he was supposed to check advertising posters around the city were displayed correctly.
Just three years after winning the league Liverpool were relegated but Raisbeck led them straight back to the top flight and captained the side to a second championship in 1906. He remained at the club for three more years before returning to Scotland to play for Partick Thistle. After retiring from playing in 1914 he went on to manage Hamilton, Bristol City, Halifax, Bath and Chester. Raisbeck was back at Liverpool FC in 1939 and served the club as a scout for ten years until his death in 1949, when he was buried in Anfield cemetery.
His final resting place lay forgotten about for a number of years but in was rediscovered in 2016 following the formation of the Liverpool FC Graves Project, which aims to repair and restore the graves of former players. It was located with the help of the Friends of Anfield Cemetery but the headstone, which lies very close to that of Tom Watson, the manager who signed him, was in a poor state. However family members were contacted and his grandson Doug then got in touch with Sarsfield Memorials arrange the installation of a new headstone. Positioned on 9th December 2016, it is a fitting tribute to his football achievements.
Alex Raisbeck and his wife Elizabeth, who is also buried in the grave, had a total of twelve children, one of whom is still alive and in his nineties. The installation of the new headstone has also helped connect family members, with a descendant living in Australia now in touch with aunts, uncles and cousins in England. It is hoped that a formal ceremony can take place in the spring of 2017.