Boksburg, South Africa born goalkeeper Arthur Riley played for Boksburg and Transvaal, coming to England with South Africa’s touring team in 1924. He won the first of two caps for South Africa in a 2-1 win against Ireland in Belfast on 24th September 1924, and played in the team that beat Liverpool 5-2 in a friendly on 1st October 1924. Not only did the guests exhibit “joyous football, a goal-getting game that showed us that South-African football has improved more quickly than our own” but two players in particular caught the attention of the Liverpool Board and the Echo’s correspondent, Bee; Gordon Hodgson and “the goalkeeper, a tall, keen fellow who has reach, anticipation and a safe pair of hands, is only twenty, but he looks more like thirty-five.”
He was signed for Liverpool aged 21 as an understudy for Elisha Scott, ten years his senior, by then Reds manager Matt McQueen in August 1925, he made his Football League debut on 24th October 1925 in a First Division match at White Hart Lane, a game Spurs won 3-1. The Irishman’s form and reputation kept the South African mostly out of the first-team picture until he finally started an extended run in the side in October 1927. But it wasn’t until near the second part of the following season that he could really feel safe about being first choice. Scott was a hard act to follow but Riley proved a more then capable replacement. Scott, who was now 38 years of age reclaimed his spot in the 1931-32 season and held on to it until February 1933 when Riley returned.
The highest final League placing during any of the years Riley was at Anfield was fifth in 1929. and the 1930’s were very mediocre as far as the club’s results were concerned and twice, in 1936 and 1937, they flirted dangerously with relegation. Although Alf Hobson took over in goal for much of the 1936-37 season, Riley’s courage and agility probably turned a number of games which could have left the club’s First Division status even more at risk. The last of Riley’s 338 appearances for Liverpool came in a 2-0 defeat away to Manchester United in May 1939 on the final day of the 1938-39 season. It was a shame such loyalty over 15 years was never rewarded by being part of a successful Liverpool team.