Larkhall born goalkeeper Fred Craig was a stalwart of Plymouth Argyle, where in 2 spells either side of World War One he played 467 times for The Pilgrims in all competitions, 361 of which were Football League appearances between 1920 and 1930. Later in the 1920’s he also started to take penalties, and scored a total of 5, probably putting him up there quite high among the lists of all time goalscoring goalkeepers!
He began playing football as a juvenile with Glenview and from there stepped up to Larkhall United in 1909. A year later he was with Ross Rovers in Ferniegair and gained a county cap against Ayrshire Juniors before joining Larkhall Thistle, Scotland’s oldest junior club, in 1911. It was whilst playing for Thistle that he was spotted by Bob Jack, who signed him for Argyle in July 1912, keeping a clean sheet in his Southern League debut against Crystal Palace that November.
Craig took over as first-choice ‘keeper midway through the 1914-15 campaign. However, the First World War, already a year old, finally called a halt to football at the end of that season and Craig found himself driving heavy trucks between London and the Channel ports. He played briefly wartime league football for Brentford before returning to Scotland, where he played for Royal Albert, Vale of Leven, St. Johnstone, Ayr United, Hamilton Academical and Motherwell during the war. He made his Hamilton debut in March 1916, the first of 42 games and nine clean sheets for the club.
Craig was back in Plymouth for the resumption of the Football League in August 1919 and became a fixture in the first team for the next ten years. He accumulated a remarkable run of 109 consecutive league and cup games between September 1919 and December 1921, for which he was presented a gold medal by the club’s directors at a benefit game for him in May 1922. Perhaps that was the inspiration for an even more impressive run: after missing the first game of the following season he totted up an astonishing 181 consecutive appearances between August 1922 and September 1926. And in the 1921-22 campaign, Craig let in only 26 league and cup goals, which remains the Plymouth’s all-time low for a season.
He was also selected to keep goal for the Anglo-Scots side against the Home Scots in January 1917 (whilst with Hamilton) and again in March 1923. The annual fixture was effectively a trial match for the Scotland team. Playing with him in the 1923 game was his Argyle team-mate, Paddy Corcoran, at outside-right. His 18-year relationship with Argyle was rewarded in 1929-30, his final season with the club; he captained the side for much of the campaign and won a Third Division (South) Champions’ medal, after which he ended his career with a short spell with Barrow, where he made 15 appearances. He was enticed to Cumbria by his old friend and former Liverpool player Tom Miller, who was Barrow’s manager at that time, despite being much sought after, particularly in Scotland.