BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 March 2008, 07:37 GMT
Honour call for NI soccer star
By Ruth McDonald
BBC News

Rangers badge
Sam English played for Glasgow Rangers
DUP MP Gregory Campbell has tabled a parliamentary motion calling for the life of Northern Ireland footballer Sam English to be commemorated.

English from Aghadowey, near Coleraine, was one of the up and coming stars of Scottish football when he moved to Rangers in the 1930s.

He had marked his arrival at the club with a blistering run of goals.

He would go on to set the club record for the most league goals scored in one season - a record that stands to this very day.

Over at Celtic, John Thompson was making a name for himself.

At 22, he was already a star goalkeeper.

He had been signed at just 17 years of age, and he was, in the words of football historian Robert McElroy, "graceful, athletic, very brave and courageous".

The two men faced each other on the pitch on 5 September 1931 in a match which would end in tragic circumstances.

Home turf for Sam English - Celtic travelled to Ibrox for a derby that was as hotly contested then as it is today.

Disaster struck just five minutes into the second half.

The two men met outside Thompson's goal for what everyone agrees was a 50-50 challenge.

"I have seen the grainy black and white film of the incident, which shows a loose ball with the two players going for it," Mr McElroy said.

"It's actually John Thompson's forward motion in diving towards the ball that his head struck Sam English's knee".

John Thompson was rushed to the Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow, where he died later that day.

Sam English is a person of whom I would have thought people should be proud
Gregory Campbell

Celtic's manager at the time, Willie Maley, mourned his young star, writing after his death: "Never was there a keeper who caught and held the fastest shots with such grace and ease.

"In all he did there was the balance and beauty of movement wonderful to watch. Among the great Celts who have passed over, he has an honoured place."

For Sam English though, things were never the same again.

Although he put 44 goals into the net for Rangers that season, he was taunted and jeered by away crowds everywhere he went.

An official enquiry cleared him of any blame for John Thompson's death, but still the jeering went on.

At the end of 1933, he left Rangers and headed south to Liverpool, where the taunts followed him.

He gave up professional football aged 28.

But some are determined that 100 years after his birth, he should be remembered for his achievements on the pitch, and not for a brilliant career cut short by tragedy.

Mr Campbell, a life-time Rangers fan, has tabled a parliamentary motion calling for the life of Sam English to be commemorated.

"He is a person of whom I would have thought people should be proud and his memory should be cherished," he said.

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific