Alfred Gibson

Alfred Gibson worked as a journalist for The Morning Leader and The Football Star. In 1905 he joined forces with William Pickford to publish Association Football and the Men Who Made It.

Primary Sources

(1) William Pickford and Alfred Gibson, Association Football and the Men Who Made It (1905)

This wonderful Association forward has been at once the delight and despair of countless thousands. To watch Templeton at his best is a sight for the gods; to watch him at his worst is to see at a glance the frailty of things human. Templeton has two styles; but happily one of them - the best - is generally uppermost. He is like the boy of whom the nurse said, "When he is good, he is very, very good, and when he is bad, he is horrid." Templeton is afflicted with a large measure of the eccentricity of genius. He is a man of moods. When "the afflatus" is upon him he is a winged horse to whom a spur is useless, and whom a curb cannot hold. It is then that the watching multitude is aflame with mingled surprise and admiration - surprise at the wondrous versatility of the man, admiration at the grace and beauty of his movements. There is nothing of the steam-roller about his methods. He is more like "a fawn playing with the shadows." He dances airily out and in amongst his opponents, threading his way by devious steps, which no one can anticipate and no one can stop. Tall, thin, gracefully built, he has the easy action of the accomplished dancing-master, and all the slimness of a Sherlock Holmes.

There is the quality in his rush along the wing which one can only associate with a flash of lightning. He is irresistible, not because he bores his way through the opposition, but because he evades it. He will never attempt to go through a man if there is a way round him. He does not overcome obstacles so much as he ignores them. If there be a stumbling-block in his path he will contrive to make stumbling blocks look foolish. A sort of human eel, he twists and twines his way through all opposition without so much as touching it. With easy, prancing step he waltzes hither and thither, while the discomfited enemy gazes in silent rage and admiration. No forward ever had such power of making an opponent look foolish. A big back may rush at him, determined to take "man or ball," but Templeton with the dark locks, by a quick movement of the body, eludes his pursuer, who mayhap is measuring his length on the ground, while Robert is careering up the field in quest of goal.

Unfortunately Templeton has also the defects of his qualities. If the afflatus be absent, if the mood be wrong, if the task be uncongenial, if he meet with some unexpected check all his wit, all his cleverness, all his electric flashes seem to desert him, and lie becomes a hapless, helpless spectator of a game which in happier circumstances he would be likely to dominate. He has one quality, however, which stamps him as a player of the best class. In big games, in times of real responsibility, he usually shows his best form. He has played some marvellous games for Scotland against England. A partner who understands him, or at least who is fairly sympathetic to his methods, is almost necessary to his success. At times he has played some of his great games without reference to a partner, or indeed to any one on the field, but, as a rule, a bad partner upsets his mental equilibrium, and he is finished for the day.

The complaint is frequently made that lie is too individual - too selfish, some say, for the needs of modern football. There is some truth in the criticism, but one might with justice retort that Templeton with all his faults is frequently of more service than painstaking mediocrity. On the other hand, to find Templeton in one of his inspired moods, when he flashes forth on his conquering career, is to find one of the most fascinating forwards ever seen on a football field.

He is a man who must be "nursed," who must be led by silken strings, who must be allowed to develop his game in his own way. He is unlike in manner and method any other footballer of the present day, although his partner in the Woolwich Arsenal ranks - Tom Fitchie - is a man after his own heart. Both men make for subtlety rather than for force. Both are clever dribblers, although Fitchie is stronger on his legs. The two, however, are eminently suited for each other, and Templeton has played some of his best games for the Arsenal club.

The strong point of Templeton is the amount of ground he can make, and his ability to centre the ball accurately. Playing as lie usually does at outside left, he does not score many goals himself, but he is the fruitful source of scoring by others.