Although Celtic’s Champion’s League tie against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu [onWednesady evening] may be a ‘dead rubber’, no football fan needs reminded of the kudos of a game in that stunning stadium against the ‘Kings’ of European football, fourteen times winners of the competition, including its predecessor the European Cup. A club synonomous with success at the highest level, it has fielded players of outstanding pedigree from all over the world and without delving too deeply names such as Di Stefano, Puskas, Zidane and currently Benzema spring to mind.

Their cast of foreign male players features only one from Scotland, now virtually unknown but whose photograph with the St.Andrew’s Cross flag alongside hangs proudly in the club museum flanked by players from Germany, Denmark, Slovakia and Brazil and their accompanying national flags.

John Fox Watson from Hamilton joined ‘Los Blancos’ as player/coach in the summer of 1948 and although he only played one senior game during a year at the club, a 3-1 defeat to Celta in the Balaidos Stadium, Vigo on 6th March 1949, he earned his place among the ‘greats’ in the museum. Those ‘greats’ include members of the team that won Scottish hearts with their fabulous 1960 European Cup 7-3 triumph against Eintracht Frankfurt at Hampden, a link with Watson as the Spaniards were managed by the legendary Miguel Munoz, a teammate of Watson’s in the game against Celta and goalscorer that day. While ‘Jock,’ as he was known, may have had a low playing profile, he kept good company in his only match as teammates included five Spanish internationalists.

How did a Scottish player back then make it to Real Madrid, only nine years after the end of a Civil War that decimated Spain and whose effects were still very evident? Although Scots were not entirely unknown in the early days of Spanish football as Dr.Alexander Mackay from Caithness had founded the country’s oldest club Recreativo Huelva F.C. and some were involved in the early days of Barcelona F.C., there was no ongoing Scottish involvement. Foreign coaches however were in demand as Spain sought to develop their game.

As it happened Real had an English manager, Mike Keeping, a former teammate of Watson’s at Fulham who persuaded the Scot to come to Madrid as player/coach in the summer of 1948. Whereas country hopping is commonplace nowadays for footballers, these were different times and this represented a leap into the unknown for Watson.

In common with others of his generation the Second World War had robbed him of some of his best years but he enjoyed a decent career as a strapping centre half not afraid to put his head in where it hurts.

Born in Burnblea Street in Hamilton in 1919 to parents Alexander, a colliery brakesman and Marion, he attended St. John’s Grammar School where his talents earned him selection for Scottish Schools against English Schools and Welsh Schools.

In 1936 he joined English 2nd Division club [now the Championship] Bury from Douglas Water Thistle and made his debut in 1939, playing a total of seven games before the outbreak of war.

He then guested for various clubs including Aldershot, Brighton and Brentford before combining football with a spell as a P.T.I. at Sandhurst Military College. In 1943 he joined Fulham for whom he continued playing in the old 2nd Division after the war till answering the call to Madrid.

At that time Real were not the all conquering force they would become from the mid 1950’s onwards. Santiago Bernabeu had become President in 1945 and embarked on laying the foundations for the future, including building the new 75,000 capacity stadium later to bear his name. At Watson’s arrival the club had only finished 11th in the League but improved to 3rd following his season as coach, closely behind champions Barcelona.

Grandson Spencer Watson with family members visited Madrid and the Bernabeu in 2013 to retrace ‘Jock’s’ footsteps and commented,” We were thrilled to see his photo on the wall of the museum. It was a brave thing to do then going to Madrid. He went with my grandmother and two young children, my father then 3 months and my aunt then 3. Details are hard to come by but I understand he was treated like royalty. He was given a lovely house and had nannies to help with the kids. I remember him as a gentle giant and a proper character. He was a Rangers fan and used to love the old Home Internationals.”

On his return he played for and captained Crystal Palace for two seasons before going non league and becoming a pub landlord, latterly in Southend where he died in 1976 aged 58.

As the only male Scot and first Briton to play for Real Madrid, he was a true pioneer.