New Tredegar, Monmouthshire born full back (he played both sides) Moses Russell started his football career with Welsh clubs Ton Pentre in 1911 and Merthyr Town later the same year. Whilst with Merthyr Town, Russell helped them win the South Wales & Monmouthshire FA Cup. Whilst with Merthyr Town, Russell helped them win the 1912 South Wales & Monmouthshire FA Cup Final. In the summer of 1912, Russell signed for Southport Central but the club was suffering from financial problems and he returned to Merthyr in February 1913 on a free transfer.
He made his international debut for Wales against Scotland at Tynecastle in March 1912 and would win two further caps that spring before signing for Plymouth Argyle for £400 in May 1914 with whom he would win a further 20 of his 23 caps for Wales between 1912 and 1928, all of which came in the Home Championships, which Wales won three times during his time in the side. His haul remained a Plymouth club record for nearly 80 years until being usurped by Tony Capaldi’s 21st cap for Northern Ireland, ironically against Wales, in February 2007.
His debut for Argyle came in a Southern League match against Brighton & Hove Albion in September 1914, already aged 26. During his first season at Home Park he played at full back, centre half and left half but his Argyle career was interrupted by the suspension of peacetime football in May 1915 due to the onset of the First World War. During the conflict he served with The Royal Army Service Corps receiving the British War Medal and Victory Medal, and played as a guest for Swansea Town. His muscular style and unique look often made him a target for fans at away grounds but he was an incredibly effective defender. Despite being just 5ft 8in tall he was a superb header of the ball, but it was his determined tackling and uncompromising approach that made him the player he was.
Described as a player with “unquenchable enthusiasm and gritty determination”, Russell became a stalwart defender for The Pilgrims when football resumed after the War, initially he played at right back, forming an excellent partnership with Septimus Atterbury. When Atterbury retired he switched to left back, where he spent the next five seasons. The Argyle handbook stated that his “happy association” at full back with Billy Forbes would “defy comparison with any in the country”. Russell went on to become club captain and led the side to the runner-up position in Division Three (South) in six consecutive season from 1921 to 1927.
In the summer of 1924, a Plymouth Argyle team visited South America to play some exhibition football in Uruguay and the Argentine. Russell captained the side and played in all nine matches. Russell’s style of play caught the attention of the Argentine press; at the end of the tour “The Standard of Buenos Aires” commented:
“The visit of Plymouth Argyle will be best remembered by the outstanding personality and genius of Moses Russell. His effective style, precise judgment, accurate and timely clearances, powerful kicking and no less useful work with his head…..one of the most wonderful backs and one of the brainiest players ever seen on the football field.”
The arrival of Fred Titmuss saw Russell return to the right back position, and he remained a fixture in the first team until the beginning of the 1929-30 campaign. He played his last match for Argyle in February 1930, at the age of 41, having made his final international appearance in November 1928. He also represented the Wales FA on their 1929 Tour of Canada. At the end of the 1929-30 season, when Plymouth finally won the Third Division (South) Championship (after so many near misses, and in a season in which he only made 7 appearances) he left Home Park having scored 6 goals in exactly 400 appearances for the club, signing for newly elected (and briefly existent) Division Three (South) club Thames Association, where he spent two years making a further 14 appearances before retiring after a brief stint with Llanelli in 1931.
NB although this photograph was published in 1924, Russell wears a Wales shirt and the photograph was probably taken some years earlier.