The resignation of Jimmy Phillip in 1924 forced the first managerial change in
Aberdeen’s 21-year history…but his successor Pat Travers was no stranger
Travers had been a clever inside-left as a player and in a much-travelled playing
career which spanned the opening two decades of the 20th Century, performed for
Renton, Barnsley, New Brompton (now Gillingham), Clyde, Aberdeen, Celtic, Dumbarton
Pat joined the Dons from Clyde on May 11, 1910 and immediately struck up a
great understanding with Aberdeen’s international winger Willie Lennie.
The left-wing combination of Travers and Lennie was a major factor in the Dons’ title
push during the 1910-11 season. During the summer of 1911, after hang a transfer
request turned down by the Pittodrie board, ‘Paddy’ displayed a
side to his nature that would serve him well in the future as a manager. He
negotiated a re-instatement to the junior ranks and from there arranged his
own transfer to Celtic.
After one season at Parkhead, during which Travers won a Scottish Cup winners’ medal,
scoring a semi-final brace that dumped the Dons en-route, he returned to Pittodrie
for a further two-year spell, and in 1914 he joined his hometown club Dumbarton.
Following World War One Pat had a two-year spell as a coach in Norwegian football
before returning to Dumbarton to take over as player-manager. However, Travers
found himself heading north once again when he returned to Pittodrie to succeed
Peter Simpson as Dons’ coach on July 1, 1922. Later that same month Billy
Russell, an accomplished runner, was named as an assistant to Travers. Following
Jimmy Philip’s resignation in June 1924, Travers was appointed as Aberdeen’s
manager on August 1 and he quickly settled into the job.
Despite his obvious coaching credentials, he saw no reason to change the manager-trainer
relationship of the times, leaving his former assistant Russell in sole charge
of the training duties. After a difficult first season that had few highlights
other than the brilliance of future ‘Wembly Wizard’ Alex Jackson,
Travers slowly began to build a side that would bring a first major tantalisingly
close. The 1925-26 season saw Travers guide the Dons to their fifth Scottish
Cup semi-final but a change of boss brought no change in luck and the Dons
last four jinx struck again to deny the Black and Golds a first-ever final.
Travers was very much a figure of authority, but he did not abuse his power,
and consequently was well respected by his players. His wide experience as
a player had taught Pat the value of looking far and wide for playing potential
and he quickly put that into practice at Pittodrie. The depressed United States
soccer scene was an early source of fresh talent for Travers to plunder and
later he was to cultivate links with both the Irish Free State and South Africa.
Travers tenure at Pittodrie can basically be looked at as a tale of two teams.
The first began to take shape during a trip to South Africa in 1927, and over
a period of three years developed into a side that ran Rangers close for the
League title in the 1929-30 season. The Dons ended that campaign as the only
side in Britain with an undefeated home record. However, the following season
brought controversy and mystery when Travers was party to the sensational ‘banishment’ of
five players – four of them established first team stand outs – in
a still unexplained mid-season clear-out that fuelled inevitable rumours concerning
a possible bribery scandal.
Travers met all such rumours with a stoic silence and got on with the task
in hand, putting together another top-class side with the assistance of former
team-mate Donald Coleman who had taken over from Billy Russell in March 1931.
In the event Travers assembled what many people regarded as the finest side
ever to grace Pittodrie. Willie Cooper, matt Armstrong, Willie Mills and Billy
Strauss were just some of the names that went to make up the great Black and
gold side of the mid-1930s.
After another failure in the Scottish Cup semi-final in 1935, the Dons finally
broke that last four bogey by beating Morton at Easter Road in April 1937.
The Dons first-ever Scottish Cup final attracted a still unbeaten record attendance
of 146,433 but opponents Celtic had the upper hand to run out 2-1 winners and
deny Travers his first trophy as manager. Pat was in the process of rebuilding
for the third time at Pittodrie midway through the 1937-38 season when he was
approached by his former club Clyde about the vacant manager’s post at
Shawfield, and in November 1937 he became the new manager of Clyde. In a gesture
typical of the times, Travers was presented with a silver tea-service on his
departure to Shawfield.
Ironically in a repeat of his playing days, Travers immediately tasted success
in the Scottish Cup on leaving Pittodrie when he guided his new charges to
a Scottish Cup triumph in 1939.