Christine Jardine His tally of 44 league goals in a single season is still a Rangers record, but it is only now, almost eight decades later, that the achievement of Sam English is being marked both in Scotland and in his home town in Northern Ireland.

For his family it is a bittersweet acknowledgement. It is almost the first time the player's contribution to Scottish football is being recognised for its own merits, and not as part of the tragic accident that overshadowed, and curtailed, his career.

This morning, members of the family will travel from Clydebank to Coleraine to be guests of the mayor at a civic reception in the borough.

They will then visit the former English family home in Aghadowey for the unveiling of two plaques erected in his memory - one on the cottage where he was born, the other a roadside marker to direct people to the site.

It is the culmination of a year that has seen the centenary of that birth in August marked by the presentation to Rangers FC of the Sam English Bowl - a single piece of solid silver containing 44 silver balls - which is to be given to the club's highest scorer each season. Earlier this year his name was added to the Ibrox club's Hall of Fame.

Sam English was a newcomer at Ibrox in season 1931-32 when he set the goal-scoring target that has proven too much for even the club's other record scorers, Jim Forrest and Ally McCoist, to match.

But the season was marred by the tragic goalmouth accident that cost Celtic goalkeeper John Thomson his life, and from which Sam English never recovered.

After spells with Liverpool, Hartlepool and Queen of the South he retired from football at 28 and died of motor neurone disease in 1967 at just 58.

On the club website Rangers acknowledge that, although he was exonerated of any blame for the collision, English was traumatised by what had happened and described the remainder of his career as "seven years of joyless sport".

Until now his family have been reluctant to talk about that career, aware of his own natural reticence and out of a deeply felt respect for John Thomson's family.

However, in an exclusive interview with The Herald they have spoken for the first time about the pride they feel and their regret that his three daughters did not live to see his recognition - the youngest, Eleanor, having died just two months ago.

Eleanor's husband Ronnie said she would have been "delighted" by the honour.

"She knew that he had been nominated for the Hall of Fame, that the plaque was a possibility, and of course the dinner at Ibrox in August was wonderful," he said.

"I think Sam himself would have been quietly pleased. He was a shy man. But he would have been more pleased for his girls, Charlotte, May and Eleanor . It would have meant so much to them."

Ronnie is one of the party visiting Coleraine this morning to see the plaques, which were created following a campaign launched by Rangers supporters.

James Currie, former director of leisure services in Coleraine, said : "Last year a group of supporters recognized that it was his (English's) centenary year.

"They and some local supporters clubs and politicians, including an MP, then approached the council to commemorate his achievements, and it was decided to put up the plaques.

"One of them will be on the cottage where he was born. And when you see the tiny hamlet he came from, the simple tin-roofed, stone cottage, it is remarkable what he achieved and did with his life, though it was tragically cut short.

"He must have had a great amount of natural talent to have scored the goals that he did."

Coleraine's Mayor David Barbour, who will host the civic events, also paid tribute to English, who moved to Clydebank as a young boy but now joins a list of sportsmen from the area recognized by the council, which includes Celtic's Bertie Peacock and Manchester United's Harry Gregg.

For his family in Scotland it will be a difficult day, following so soon after the death of his daughter Eleanor.

One of her sons, Douglas Cree, was keen to thank those who had made the memorial possible, and perhaps remove some of the cloud that has always impinged on his grandfather's memory.

"For me, I am just very proud that something has been done to recognise him and mention him on his own, his goal scoring record. To say that he was a great, great footballer."

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