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Barney Battles Jnr

In February 1905 a famous Glasgow Celtic footballer called Barney Battles died of pneumonia. Eight months after his death his wife, then living at Musselburgh, gave birth to a son. In memory of his father he was named Barney Battles Jnr. When Battles Jnr was a teenager his family emigrated to the United States. He signed for the Boston Celtics, followed soon after by the Boston Soccer Club. In his first season he scored seven goals in eighteen games, helping Boston to success in the Lewis Cup and the American Professional Soccer Championship (ASPC). He was called up to the United States squad and won his only cap in a defeat to Canada. Boston followed up this success with wins in the Lewis Cup and ASPC in 1927 and 1928 respectively.

A dispute between officials led to Battles returning to his homeland in 1928. He signed for Heart of Midlothian and his first season at the club was spectacular, to say the least. In his first three games he scored one, two and then three goals. He finished the season with a ratio of 31 goals in 28 games. The fans took Battles to their hearts after a run of three end-of-season cup derbies saw him score 11 goals in 8–2, 5–1 and 5–1 wins.

The 1930–31 season was possibly Battles’ finest. He scored in what was to be his only appearance for Scotland. His exploits in the league were astonishing, made even more incredible by the fact that he missed part of the season with appendicitis. By season’s end he had scored 44 goals in the league and 68 in all competitions. This included three hat tricks in three games. It is up for debate whether this was as impressive as his four goals in the final twenty minutes when 4–1 down against Cowdenbeath to scrape a 5–4 win.

Thereafter Battles’ career was blighted by injury. His career was clearly on the wane and he retired after the 1935–36 season. He had scored 218 goals in 200 games for Hearts. When his former manager at Hearts moved to Hibs he attempted to lure Battles out of retirement. But Battles knew he was past his prime and he refused the offer.

He went on to work as a physiotherapist before becoming a successful sports journalist. In later years he owned a pub in Edinburgh. He died, aged 74, in 1979.

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