On this day 154 years ago a goalkeeping legend was born in Arbroath, Scotland. John Edward Doig, more commonly known as ‘Ted’ or ‘Ned’, began learning his trade at an early age when he constructed his own goal frame that he could attach a ball to practise punching the ball, where the old style heavier football meant this wasn’t as easy as it sounds.
He would also use dumbbells that he placed at the foot of each post, that he would lift high in the air before dashing across to the other post to lift the other with his alternate arm. This early training for a position that was considered at the time the most difficult, and most dangerous, position on the pitch began to pay off when he played for local junior side St. Helena.
He was a follower of Arbroath and was a regular at Gayfield, where he was almost certainly in attendance for Arbroath’s 36-0 victory over Bon Accord in 1885. But it was a year later in 1886 that regular Arbroath goalkeeper James Milne was unavailable for a game with Dundee Harp and a member of the crowd shouted “Let Ned Doig play!”.
At 19-years-old, Doig jumped at the chance and although it ended in a 3-2 defeat he impressed enough to be singled out in The Arbroath Herald for being ‘the talk of the match’.
As he continued between the sticks for Arbroath, his reputation grew and word very quickly spread of this young goalkeeper who wasn’t just agile enough to become almost unbeatable, but strong enough to withstand any physical test that came his way. Unusually for the time, he was also an asset in starting the attacking play of the side where his kicking was a useful tool and began to change the role of the goalkeeper.
His reputation grew so quickly that only one year later would receive a telegram confirming his selection in the the Scotland squad. He would make his debut as a 21-year-old in a 4-1 victory over Ireland.
It was maybe only a matter of time before he made the move south as the English Football League was taking off and in November 1889, Doig signed for Blackburn Rovers. After a disagreement with the club he would briefly return to Scotland, before perhaps inevitably being picked up by Sunderland, who at the time almost exclusively looked north of the border for the best talent.
The move to England would be the reason Doig would only win six international caps as the SFA would not call-up players who left Scotland to begin playing the professional side of the game. This continued until almost the turn of the century when Doig could reclaim his position as Scotland’s number one.
Now 23-years-old, Doig and his wife Davina moved into their new house at 17 Forster Street near to Roker Park and he made his debut away to West Bromwich Albion where due to an issue with his registration Sunderland were on the receiving end of a two point deduction. Despite a start that ended with a two point penalty, Doig impressed and it was said that his punches from the area were as good as a kick out from the hands.
Over the next fourteen years Ned Doig would become a legend, with his trademark look of wearing a cap to hide his baldness, he went on to make 457 appearances and claimed four Football League Championships with the ‘Team of all Talents’. He still regularly stands out as one of the great goalkeepers to have played for Sunderland.
After leaving Sunderland, Doig moved to Liverpool where his family settled, only a few streets away from Anfield. In November 1919, he was taken ill and died soon later of Spanish Flu. He is laid to rest in Anfield Cemetery, in what was an unmarked plot, until an effort to remedy that means it is now marked with a plaque that contains the club crests of Sunderland and Liverpool.