Lawrence Cotton

Lawrence Cotton : Blackburn Rovers

Lawrence Cotton was born in Blackburn. He attended Blackburn Grammar School and started work in the cotton trade in 1875. Lawrence and his brother, Clement, later established their own company.

The business was a great success and in 1891 Lawrence Cotton became a director of Blackburn Rovers. He became chairman of the club in March 1905. Cotton's investment in the club enabled the manager, Robert Middleton, to buy some great players.

Soon after Cotton became chairman, Middleton s igned Welsh international striker, Billy Davies from Wrexham. Ellis Crompton, another young player with a reputation for scoring goals, also joined the club.

Blackburn Rovers finished in 9th place in the 1905-06 season. Adam Bowman was once again the club's top scorer with 15 goals. His strike partner, Billy Davies, added 11 more. Robert Middleton made several significant signings that year, including Jack Martin, Edwin Latheron and Wattie Aitkenhead.

Lawrence Cotton helped to raise the money to improve the Elwood Park ground. On 1st January, 1907, the recently constructed Nuttell Street Stand was opened. It could accommodate 4,112 supporters seated in the upper tier, with room for a further 9,320 standing in front. A crowd of 35,000 watched Blackburn draw 1-1 with Preston North End.

Blackburn Rovers finished in 12th place in the 1906-07 season. They were knocked out of the FA Cup by Tottenham Hotspur but won the Lancashire Cup when they beat Liverpool 3-0. Jack Martin proved to be a great buy and ended up the club's leading scorer with 17 goals.

1907-08 season was very disappointing. Blackburn Rovers was knocked out of the FA Cup in the first round when they were defeated by Second Division Leicester Fosse. They also had a first round exit in the Lancashire Cup. Blackburn's league form was little better and after a late rally they finished in 14th place. Billy Davies, Edwin Latheron and Jack Martin, ended up as joint top scorers with 9 goals each.

Blackburn's new signings failed to shine. The Blackburn Times commented: "The second-rate players might advantageously be reduced and the money thus saved be utilized in paying the maximum wage to first-class men."

Robert Middleton appointed the former Preston North End star, Bob Holmes, as trainer. This had a good impact on the team as they obtain 4th place in the 1908-09 season. Billy Davies scored 19 goals in 27 league appearances. This included four goals against both Bristol City and Everton. Ellis Crompton (10) and Edwin Latheron (9) added to the impressive number of goals scored that season. Blackburn also won the Lancashire Cup and the East Lancashire Charity Cup that season.

Blackburn continued their good form the following season and by October 1909 they became leaders of the First Division of the Football League. They lost their position in January 1910 and finally finished in 3rd place behind Aston Villa and Liverpool. Blackburn's 45 points was the best total they had ever accumulated in a season.

Blackburn's defence was outstanding that season. In goal was England international Jimmy Ashcroft. Bob Crompton and Arthur Cowell were a formidable full-back pairing. George Chapman played at centre-half whereas Albert Walmsley and Billy Bradshaw were the wing-halfs. An injury to Billy Davies caused the club serious problems in front of goal. Wattie Aitkenhead was top scorer with 14 goals and the consistent Edwin Latheron added 10 more.

In 1911 Robert Middleton signed Jock Simpson from Falkirk for a fee of £1,800. He joined a foward line that included at different times in the season, Edwin Latheron, George Chapman, Walter Anthony, and Wattie Aitkenhead. Middleton also signed Alf Robinson to back up Jimmy Ashcroft. The defence looked very strong with players like Bob Crompton, Arthur Cowell, Albert Walmsley, Percy Smith and Billy Bradshaw in the side.

The 1911-12 season began badly with Blackburn Rovers losing two of its first three games. Robert Middleton decided to move George Chapman from centre-half to centre-forward. This was a great success and Blackburn's form gradually improved and the team went on an unbeaten run that lasted three months. This took them to the top of the league.

Despite being defeated by Bolton Wanderers and Arsenal, Blackburn went on another good run and by the end of the season they had three more points than main challengers, Everton. It was the first time in Blackburn's history that they had won the Football League title. Top scorers were Wattie Aitkenhead (15) and George Chapman (9). Jimmy Ashcroft and Alf Robinson played well and Blackburn only conceded 43 league goals. Only Everton let in fewer goals that season.

Lawrence Cotton's investment was beginning to pay dividends. Blackburn Rovers started the 1912-13 season very well and were undefeated until December. This was followed by five successive defeats. In an attempt to regain the championship, Robert Middleton broke the British transfer record by buying Danny Shea from West Ham United for £2,000. Patsy Gallagher, described Shea as "one of the greatest ball artists who has ever played for England... his manipulation of the ball was bewildering."

Robert Middleton also purchased another forward, Joe Hodkinson for £1,000. Shea scored 12 goals but it was not enough and Blackburn finished 5th that season. Edwin Latheron (14), Wattie Aitkenhead (13), George Chapman (10) were the club's other top scorers. The defence played well and conceded only 43 goals league goals. Only Manchester City had a better defensive record that season.

In July 1913, Alec Bell, the Scottish international left-half, joined Blackburn from Manchester United for £1,000. Bell was recruited as cover for the half-back line of Albert Walmsley, Percy Smith and Billy Bradshaw.

As well as buying the top players, Lawrence Cotton also invested in ground improvements. He spent 7,000 on a new stand by the River Darwen. This provided covered accommodation for some 12,000 spectators.

In the 1913-14 season Blackburn Rovers once again won the league title. Danny Shea was in great form scoring 27 goals. Edwin Latheron also did well that season with 13 goals. Both men also won international caps for England that season. They joined other Blackburn players, Billy Bradshaw, Jock Simpson, Bob Crompton and Joe Hodkinson in the England team. The defence also performed well and only let in 42 league goals that season.

The following season Blackburn Rovers broke the transfer record again when they bought Percy Dawson for £2,500 from Heart of Midlothian. Blackburn Rovers scored 83 goals in 1914-15 season. However, their defence was not as good and Blackburn finished 3rd behind the champions, Everton. Dawson was top scorer with 20 goals. He was followed by Edwin Latheron (17), Danny Shea (13), George Chapman (9) and Wattie Aitkenhead (8).

Blackburn Rovers was one of the first clubs to suggest that the Football League should be brought to a halt. Lawrence Cotton stated that: "We shall pull through some way or other, and then, after the war is over, we shall try to build up what we have lost. But for the present the one thing, and the only thing, is the war."

Lawrence Cotton became Mayor of Blackburn in 1917 and as a result of "the increasing pressure of civic and other duties" resigned as chairman of Blackburn Rovers on 19th February, 1919.

Lawrence Cotton died in May 1921.