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Club News

John Fox Watson - Palace's Other Galactico

1 February 2016

When Emmanuel Adebayor signed for Crystal Palace last week, many thought that he would become the first player to pull on both the famous red and blue stripes and Los Blancos’ classic white shirt.

However there is one other man who we believe also achieved the feat over 60 years ago, someone thought to be Real’s first ever British player and the only Scot to play for the Spanish giants.

John Fox Watson, better known as Jack, was born in 1917 in Hamilton and started his career with minnows Waterthistle and Douglas Juniors before crossing the border to sign for Bury, making his Football League debut in February 1939.

The outbreak of World War Two put the centre-back’s career on hiatus but following the war’s conclusion he joined Fulham, and after two years at Craven Cottage he got his move to the newly-opened Bernabeu Stadium (then known as New Chamartin) when former Cottagers teammate Michael Keeping took over as Real Madrid manager in 1948 and brought Watson with him to Spain as a player/coach.

Today seen as possibly the biggest club in the world, the Real Madrid that Watson pitched up at was literally in ruins. The Spanish Civil War, and later WWII, had seen football suspended and their Estadio Chamartín ground had been bombed during the conflicts. Many of the club’s staff had been killed as a result of the conflicts, but in 1945 Santiago Bernabeu was appointed president and began rebuilding the club.

Watson would spend a single season with Madrid, and played just once for them in a 3-1 league loss against Celta Vigo. In 1949 he spurned the advances of neighbours Atletico Madrid to bring his family back to England and join the Glaziers who at that time were playing in the Third Division South.

In his first season in south London, Watson – who was by now in his early 30s – missed just one game all season and scored his only goal for the club in a thrilling 4-4 draw against Ipswich Town on Christmas Eve 1949. 

After Palace finished seventh in the table at the end of that campaign, Watson remained a regular in the first-team at the start of the 1950/51 season but was gradually phased out, and made his final appearance in January 1951 in a 6-1 defeat at home to Nottingham Forest during a rotten year which saw Palace prop up the entire Football League as they finished bottom of the table.

Watson’s time in SE25 yielded 63 appearances and he would finish his career at Canterbury City, before dying in 1976.

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