Almanac Book Review – Jason Goldsmith and Lucas Gillard’s ‘Be My Guest’ by Roy Hay



Though George Best and some friends adorn the cover, he is (perhaps surprisingly) not the most interesting person whose stories of his time in Australia are told in this new book by Jason Goldsmith and Lucas Gillard.


A book about football that begins with a murder story must have something going for it. Alex Young, not the Everton striker of the 1960s but Alexander (Sandy) Simpson Young, followed his brother to Tongala in Victoria after a stellar career with the Toffees before the First World War. He scored the only goal in the FA Cup Final of 1906 thus winning the trophy for the first time for his club. He also gained two international caps for Scotland. Young does not fit the mould of nearly all the other players in the book, who were attracted to Australia by financial rewards for playing a few games in this country during the summer close season of football in the northern hemisphere or at the end of their top-level careers. These men were known as ‘guest players’. Hence the title of the book.


Young’s brother had preceded him, following a pattern that had existed since the first arrivals of Scottish migrants in the 1830s and 1840s. A member of the family would be sent to Australia by his parents or siblings with some financial backing and expected to make a go of it down under and enhance the family fortunes. So Sandy, approaching the end of his playing career, grubstaked his brother John to buy a smallholding near Tongala between Echuca and Shepparton, and followed him there in 1914. Sandy played a number of games of soccer with Tongala but was never entirely happy here. The brothers argued over money and Sandy shot John, who died from his injuries. Tried and found guilty, he avoided the death sentence, thanks in part to Everton who sent an affidavit to the effect that he had been suffering mental health problems during his playing career. When he was released from prison he eventually returned to Scotland, where he died in 1959. Sandy Young was a fascinating character, but he hardly fitted the mould of a guest player or a brief visitor to this country.


Jason Goldsmith met his co-author Lucas Gillard when playing cricket and the idea for this book was thrashed out en route to Jamboree near Wollongong for a football writers’ conference. Goldsmith has an eye for the unusual. His first book, Surfing for England: Our Lost Socceroos, was about the Australian football players who were stars in the game but did not play for the Socceroos. The quote for the title was from Craig Johnston, who in later life regretted that he did not pull on the green and gold. At the time he knew that he would have jeopardised his career at Middlesbrough and Liverpool, and he claims he was misled as to his eligibility to do so after turning out for an England Under-21 team.


I am very pleased that Peter Price has a mention. ‘Peter who?’, you ask. Just Ayr United’s all-time leading goalscorer, who scored a hat-trick in his first game in Australia for Gladesville-Ryde in Sydney in 1963. He banged in nine goals in ten games but left under something of a cloud. I played soccer with Peter when I was young. He came to the village I grew up in and joined in one of the informal matches we played on summer evenings until it became too dark to see around 11pm.


If I’ve concentrated on the quirky and the unusual in this review, the book also relates a number of fresh stories about some of the superstars of the game who found their way to Australian football pitches. Malcolm MacDonald (‘Supermac’), Charlie George, Trevor Brooking, David Villa, Graeme Souness, Roberto Vieri, Bobby Charlton (numerous times), Aljosa Asanovic, Nicola Berti and many others had brief spells in Australia and left an impression. There were others included in the book who did not. Some just wanted a paid holiday, but the majority seem to have contributed to the game by attracting people to the games in which they played.


There is so much to learn from this book and it is neatly divided into short chapters, so it can be enjoyed in stages. Inevitably there are matters that might be queried. Steve Stacey was probably not the first person with an African-American background to play professionally in the United Kingdom if Andrew Watson did towards the end of his career. Steve preceded me as a soccer writer for the Geelong Advertiser.


It is encouraging that this book has better production values than some recent Fairplay publications, but the line length remains excessive.




‘Be My Guest’ is available now from Fairplay Publishing, you can purchase a copy HERE.



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  1. Rod Gillett says

    This is terrific Roy!

    Fancy Tonny having a soccer team back then!
    Nobody calls it Tongala….

    Played a bit of footy there, always a hard mob to beat.
    Very tenacious. Never say die.
    Most famously, Tonny is the club that Sir Doug Nicholls went to from Currumungja then to play in the VFL.

  2. Thanks Dr Rocket. Yes I wondered about telling about the other code in Tonny. But there is so much of interest in Be My Guest, that I had to get on to other things.

  3. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for this Roy.

    It reminded me that one of the greatest footballers of all-time, Ferenc Puskás, managed South Melbourne Hellas in the 1989-92 period, including to a NSL title in 1991.

  4. Have you ever seen the Puskas statue near Gosch’s Paddock, Kevin? It always struck me as a fine thing Melbourne would have a statue of such a noted iconic sporting figure from a far away land…but a blight that it was so neglected and out of sight for most.

    While editing this piece I was half expecting the names Del Pierro, Honda and Yorke to show up from an A-League perspective; I presume they get a run, Roy?

  5. Though Puskas came here for a holiday, he was picked up by South Melbourne and employed for three seasons as coach, so he was not really a ‘guest player’. Del Piero, Honda and Yorke were again employed as players for a season or more, so again not guests.
    As to the location of the statue, I suspect this was to avoid vandalism, if it were not in an area that was regularly under observation, as for example along Olympic Boulevard. But that is where it should be, unless at Lakeside Stadium. Or Middle Park where we should still have a monument to a stadium. That was the home of soccer in Melbourne for generations.

  6. Oh that does make sense. I think when I read about Sir Bobby’s numerous stints and the long term resident tragic brothers Young I assumed the book was inclusive of more established contractual relationships.

    A welcome review all the same, thanks Roy. I agree about Middle Park too…there’s nothing there to suggest the old stadium existed now or really that a ball was even kicked in anger, aside perhaps the grass in use by another code!

  7. These borderline areas are fascinating and I feel for authors who set out to do something new and interesting and have to make all these decisions about what is in and what is out. In this case, I felt it necessary to mention the underlying concept and its implications without detracting from my delight in what the authors had tackled. There is another interesting category that deserves some exploration. The ‘ring ins’. In all the codes when there was a big match coming up, some bright spark, usually with a bit of money to hand, would suggest or arrange for a top player to be brought in to ensure victory. We all know about the ‘Fine Cotton’ episode in horse racing, but in footy and soccer, and I suspect in league, there were many equivalents. I know of several in the 1950s and 1960s when there was money and prestige and promotion or avoiding relegation at stake.

  8. On the last point, I’ve chapter in Mike Huggins and Rob Hess, Match Fixing in Sport: Historical Perspectives, Routledge, London 2020 entitled ‘The Perils of Blowing the Whistle: Match fixing in Scotland and Australia’.

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