Dundee travel to Glasgow tonight to take on Partick Thistle at Firhill so we take a look at an international player who played for both The Jag and The Dee, Irishman Sam Irving. Irving who was an outstanding left-half during the Twenties when he played in the Scottish Cup Final for Dundee, won the FA Cup with Cardiff and played for his native Northern Ireland 18 times.
Samuel Johnstone Irving was born in Belfast on August 28th 1893 and began his footballing career in the North-East of England, playing for a number of non-League clubs. In 1911 had an unsuccessful trial with Newcastle United before finally being given his break in the Football League by Bristol City, for whom he signed in November 1913, After the First World War, Irving had spells back in the North-East of England playing with Blyth Spartans and again with his first club Shildon Athletic before signing for Dundee in 1920.
Sam made his debut for Dundee on the first day of the 1920/21 season in a 2-2 draw away at Falkirk on August 16th. He was in the Dundee side when the new stand was opened at Dens on September 17th 1921 before a 1-0 win against Ayr United and within two years won the first of his 18 caps for his native Ireland, appropriately against Scotland in Belfast when the visitors won 1-0.
During his time at Dens Park, Irving won a total of ten caps, including in a famous win over England in 1923, at both right-half and left-half. A Scottish Cup runner-up in 1925 when Celtic defeated Dundee 2-1, in August 1926 Irving joined Cardiff City in an exchange deal that took Joe Cassidy the other way. Repeatedly he could have been sold but ultimately Cardiff were lucky to get his signature after six years at Dens and he scored in his final game in a 4-1 home win over Hearts on the first game of the 1926/27 season.
The polished international wing-half had a spell on loan with Partick in 1924 and guested for New York Centrals in the summer of 1925 and in total made 183 appearances for Dundee, scoring 6 times.
He made his Bluebird’s debut in a 0-0 draw at Leeds early in the season and remained a regular in the side throughout the campaign. Initially he played at right-half, but later shifted to inside-right, where he played in the 1927 FA Cup Final victory over Arsenal when Cardiff took the trophy outside of England for the first time and to date only time. He continued as a regular in the Irish half-back line throughout his time at Ninian Park, filling in as inside-left for a match against Scotland in 1927 and also captaining the side.
In March 1928 Irving joined Chelsea, serving as “a sharp-tackling fetch-and-carry” wing-half in their 1929/30 promotion campaign. While with Chelsea, Irving toured South America in 1929 and the team were surprised by the unsporting behaviour of their opponents, and the antics of the crowd who pelted them with oranges. Irving’s answer was to catch the fruit, peel it and eat it! It was while at Stamford Bridge that Irving brought his international career to a close, winning his final cap at the age of 36 in a 3-2 defeat by Wales. In May 1932 he returned to Bristol, this time signing for Rovers, retiring from playing a year later.
With his playing days behind him, Irving returned in Dundee where he ran a billiards hall. Although he had gone on to play for three more clubs after leaving Dens Park, his roots were clearly laid in the city of Dundee where he ran his billiards hall and pub for many years to come.
In 1938 he was involved in a takeover of Dundee United, taking control of the team as joint-manager/director for the 1938/39 season. He stepped down from the manager’s role after a year, but remained with the club as a director.
The pride of Ireland’s team for many years could claim to be as much a Dundonian as ever he was an Irishman – apart from his very rich Irish brogue – and he died in the city on December 12th 1968 aged 75.
Honours at Dundee:
Scottish Cup runners-up: 1925
Northern Ireland full caps: 10
League: 160, 6 goals
Scottish Cup: 23
Totals: 180. 6 goals