Prestonpans, East Lothian born centre half Charlie Thomson was a classic, instantly recognisable late Victorian/pre First World War footballer who began his football career with Prestonpans in 1897 and who played, initially as a centre forward, for Heart of Midlothian for 10 years from 1898 to 1908. He first played for Hearts in April 1898 along with the likes of Bobby Walker, George Livingston and Albert Buick, winning the Scottish Cup in 1901 in the famous 4-3 victory over Celtic, a match in which he scored the third goal. He also was winning captain of Hearts in the 1906 Scottish Cup Final in a 1-0 victory over Third Lanark. He could play in any position but switched to centre half from 1903.
He scored 47 goals in 218 Scottish League and Cup appearances for The Jambos, before joining Sunderland in the close season of 1908. That transfer alongside goalkeeper Thomas Allan cost Sunderland £700 at a time when there was a maximum transfer fee of £350 for any player, with Allan essentially the makeweight for Thomson’s much larger fee. These suggestions are supported by two facts: firstly, Thomson was at that point Scotland captain while Allan was not recognised internationally; secondly Allan returned to Hearts merely 2 seasons later, for a fee much less than £350. Thomson made his Football League debut at Manchester City in September 1908 and went on to make 264 appearances for the Wearsiders scoring 6 goals and captained them to the League Championship in 1913 as well as to the FA Cup Final in the same season where they lost 1-0 to Aston Villa at The Crystal Palace. He also led them to two third place finishes in the League Championship in 1909 and 1911.
He won the first of his 21 caps for Scotland (scoring four times) earned over a 10 year period through to April 1914 wben he played in a 1-1 draw with Ireland at Dalymount Park, Dublin in March 1904, in 13 of his internationals he captained his country, and he also represented The Scottish League 5 times while at Tynecastle, scoring twice.
He subsequently played for St Bernard’s in 1915, retiring after the First World War in 1919.