David Robertson, QoS to USA

To coincide with this weekend`s Scotland game in America, this is a short feature on a Queens player who after leaving Palmerston became an internationalist for USA.

David Robertson was born in Kilmarnock and played for Dreghorn Juniors. It was with the club from the town of his birth for whom he made his debut in senior football. A full back, Robertson played for Killie in the early 1920s.

Robertson joined Queen of the South as a loan player in 1922. In Queens` last season before joining the Scottish League, Robertson made eight first team appearances from August to October. His stay at Palmerston Park was short as Robertson had overseas ambitions – he emigrated to the United States of America.

In America, Robertson joined New York Club, Brooklyn Wanderers, for their first season in the American Soccer League. Based at Hawthorne Field, a ground dedicated to association football, Robertson became a mainstay of the club for the next eight years, remaining there until 1930. In 1926 he had a team mate who later managed a string of top clubs including Milan but is best known for signing Eusébio and taking Benfica to two European Cups, Béla Guttmann. Another Hungarian team mate, János Nehadoma, later played for Fiorentina.


The best finishes enjoyed by Robertson with his Brooklyn team mates in the ASL were a 3rd in 1924/25 and a 2nd in 1928/29. From nowhere David Robertson suddenly appears in the league`s scoring charts in 14th place in 1929 with 15 goals. This seems explainable from a couple of match reports the season after on games against Bethlehem Steel. There is a Robertson listed in both for Wanderers not as playing at right back but at outside right.

While international football was well established in Europe going back to the first ever official international game when Scotland played England in 1872, in America international football was still something of a novelty. USA played in two unofficial fixtures in the mid 1880s against Canada. The Americans didn`t play another international game until they played in a 1916 tour against Norway and Sweden. Still the international concept failed to take off in The States with the next two games not being until the 1924 Olympics in Paris. Estonia were beaten 1-0 before a 3-0 win for Uruguay in the last eight was the first defeat for the USA of the six games mentioned so far. After the Olympics the Americans played two friendlies while in Europe winning in Poland and losing in the Republic of Ireland.

The next three USA internationals were in an 18 month period in 1925 and 1926, all against Canada. The first was a 1-0 home win for Canada in June 1925. The return game was played five months later in Brooklyn. This is the international game for which Robertson is documented by the RSSSF as having played in. Robertson enjoyed a handsome victory with the Canadians being turned over 6–1. Five of the goals were scored by the star striker in American football of the 1920s and 30s, Archie Stark, a Scottish migrant like Robertson. This was Robertson`s solitary international cap as his name isn’t on another international team sheet.

One name that does appear though in the next USA game is the remarkable Joe Kennaway, a player already mentioned elsewhere in this website. The then 21 year old goalkeeper in the Canadian team, the 6-2 defeat seems to have done his career prospects no harm. Two months later he moved to The States to join Providence in Rhode Island of the ASL. That franchise moved from Providence to Fall Rivers in Massachusetts. Kennaway was outstanding playing for Fall Rivers against a touring Celtic team in the Summer of 1931. Tragedy then struck Celtic weeks later and their goalkeeper, John Thomson. The 22 year old prodigy already had over 200 Celtic appearances to his name, as well as four for Scotland. In an Old Firm game on 5th September he was in a collision with Rangers forward, Sam English. Thomson was stretchered off with serious skull injuries and died in hospital on the evening of the same day. English was fully exonerated but deeply traumatised by the events. He tried to rebuild his career but after playing for Liverpool, Queen of the South and Hartlepool, he retired from football aged 28.

In a time of obvious high emotion for the Parkhead club, it was to Kennaway to whom they turned to replace the massive goalkeeping void that they had. Kennaway played for Celtic with distinction in the 30s making over 250 league appearances alone and collecting two league and two Scottish Cup winners medals (the 1937 Hampden win against Aberdeen drew the all time world record crowd of 147,365 for a national cup final with 20 000 locked outside). He became a dual internationalist in 1933 when he played for Scotland against Austria in the first visit of a foreign national side to Hampden. He would have played more games for Scotland but the other home nations objected. He did though play four times for the Scottish League. It was also from 1933 that he is already mentioned on this website. He appears in the legends profile of Willie Savage as being the opposing goalkeeper in a historic Queens game. This was the first ever game of QoS top division football, the 3-2 win against Celtic.

A final word or two on Robertson. Brooklyn Wanderers played in a one off international club competition in 1926, the International Soccer League. This tournament was contested by four Canadian and three American sides. Brooklyn Wanderers won the tournament. Robertson’s time playing in America coincided with the blossoming of football in The States. In the first ever World Cup in 1930 America recorded both of the first ever world cup shut out and hat trick before finishing the tournament in third. An administration power struggle however brought this US football golden era to an end. Robertson’s cap in 1925 for America doesn`t make him the first ex QoS player to have gone on to become a full internationalist. Hughie Gallagher had debuted for Scotland against Northern Ireland on 1st March of the year before.


Many thanks to Bruce Wright for contributing to this article.