Nottingham born full back (he could play either side) Alf West began his football career with Nottingham Jardines Athletic in 1898 and played for Radford Congregationals in 1899 and Ilkeston Town in 1900 before joining Second Division Barnsley in the 1902 close season, for whom he made his Football League debut against Stockport County the same September. It wasn’t long before his performances turned heads at Liverpool, who signed him in November 1903 for £500. Several big clubs were chasing his signature and Small Heath had already had a bid turned down. He had impressed so much at Barnsley that a testimonial was to be given him by his admirers. West went straight into Liverpool’s first team and played in the remaining 24 First Division games although his presence couldn’t prevent The Reds from relegation at the end of the season, Liverpool being eventually relegated in seventeenth place, one point behind Stoke City.
West had the makings of the finest full-back in England but his career suffered from a few serious setbacks. West was absent until Christmas 1904 as Liverpool tried to make their way out of the Second Division due to an unfortunate shooting accident as reported by the club programme. “West had been training for a 120 yards handicap and finished his preparation with a week at Lytham. Everything was complete, and he, accompanied by his trainer, went to take the final spin before leaving for Keswick where was due to run the following day. Not having had much practice at starting with the pistol it was decided to adopt this method. Whilst the trainer was handling the weapon, it accidentally went off and West received a bullet under his right shoulder.
He walked away some 200 yards, and then, staggering, fell into his trainer’s arms. Fortunately the bullet did not penetrate the lungs, but spent itself by travelling along the outside of the ribs to the front part of the chest.” West was in critical condition as he had been actually been shot with two bullets just above the heart by trainer William Norman “who was naturally much upset.” Regaining his place, he played 18 times during the campaign as Liverpool won the Second Division Championship and then missed just a single game a year later as the club won its second League Championship in 1906.
West could never easily forget the match against Leicester Fosse in the first round of the FA Cup on 13th January 1906 when he missed two penalties, one in each half! Thankfully for him Billy Bannister missed a penalty as well and Liverpool beat The Fossils 2-1 but were conquered by eventual winners Everton in the semi-final at Villa Park.
He was described in the Liverpool club programme in 1907 as “perhaps the best and classiest back that had been seen at Anfield and his style was perfect.” A more detailed description of his playing style was in the programme on 18th March 1905: “West is an ideal full back, reliable in tackling, and always cool and collected under the severest pressure. His methods are such as commend themselves to all who desire to see football played with a maximum of skill and a minimum of physical force. West does not rely upon the latter quality; he calmly awaits the oncoming forward and judges the precise moment for intervention with admirable facility.”
West got injured against Middlesbrough after only four games had passed of the 1906/07 season and then once he had recovered “the most severe family tragedy trouble that could befall a man happened” and he missed the rest of the season. West was a regular the following season, but only played 10 games in his last season at the club, leaving in 1909 to join Southern League Reading for a single season before he returned to Anfield in May 1910. But only made four more League appearances for Liverpool before being transferred to Notts County in the 1911 close season after 5 goals in 141 appearances.
He was an ever present in his first two seasons at Meadow Lane, and although they were relegated from the First Division in 1913, he missed only two games as they won the Second Division Championship in 1914, helping Notts consolidate their position back in the top flight, scoring 4 times in 134 appearances. However the First World War interrupted his career and during the War he served in the Army. West was shot in the leg, causing him to return home in 1916. By 1917, he was back in action in France and survived the War, and after the conflict he had short spells with Mansfield Town and Shirebrook in 1919 before retiring.
NB although this image was published in 1914, it appears to show West in a Liverpool shirt.