Peter Dougall: the next Alex James… but not quite

By Tony Attwood

Peter Dougall was born on 21 March 1909 at Denny in Falkirk, and played inside left.  His first recorded club was Dunipace Juniors, who were founded in 1888 and who currently play in the West Region of the Scottish Junior Football Association.

Here’s his football career.

Years Team Games Goals
1926–1929 Burnley 6 2
1929 Clyde
1929–1932 Southampton 29 5
1932–1933 Sète
1933–1937 Arsenal 21 4
1937–1938 Everton 11 2
1938–1940 Bury

His first move was directly to a first division club in England – Burnley – at the age of 17 and he started to play for the first team the following season but after failing to secure a regular spot in the first team went back to Scotland and joined Clyde in February 1929.

He does not appear to have played for Clyde at the start of the 1929/30 season but instead moved to Southampton, where he was greeted as the next Alex James for his ability to get past a man and turn in a very tight space.   But again he only gained a small number of games having to wait each time until one of the senior players was injured.

Eventually a change of manager resulted in him being offered for sale for £500.  However rather than wait any longer for a chance Peter Dougall decided to accept an offer from FC Sète – the attraction to the French club being that the registration Southampton held under the retain and transfer rules did not apply outside England, and so no fee was payable.  Indeed many transfers to overseas clubs that look unlikely to us now came about as a way of breaking away from the restrictive retain and transfer rules.

FC Sète was on the up at the time, and in 1934 won not only the league for the first time but also the French cup – becoming the first team ever to do so, and renaming themselves FC Sète 34 to commemorate the occasion. However after 1960 they began to sink to the lower levels of the French league system.

Dougall however left the club however before their great triumph and was offered a trial at Arsenal on 27 September 1933 signing as a professional on 23 October.  He made his first team debut on 10 February 1934, away to Middlesbrough.  Wikipedia has it that Dougall played “alongside Alex James with whom he had been compared so favourably four years earlier” but this is completely wrong.  Alex James was injured in December 1933, and from then on only played about two games in three and Dougall was used as a cover for James when James didn’t play.  In each of 1934/5 and 1935/6 Dougall notched up eight games covering for James in the remaining part of the season and scored one goal.

In 1935/6 however the utterly versatile Bastin moved to inside left when James wasn’t playing (an event that was becoming more frequent) and it wasn’t until March and April that Dougall again got eight more games, this time scoring three.

However in 1936/7 Davidson became the replacement of choice after Dougall was injured before the start of the campaign, and after having made 21 league appearances and two FA Cup appearances Dougall moved on to Everton in August 1937.

Dougall made 11 appearances for Everton, but playing for their reserves won the Central League, before going on to play for Bury for whom he signed in the summer of 1938.

Later some of his collection of his medals went to auction including the Arsenal team photograph, 1934-35 and a picture of him in his Arsenal kit, plus an Arsenal player contract, between Herbert Chapman, on behalf of Arsenal, and Peter Dougall, retaining the player from 21st October 1933 to 5th May 1934, on a weekly wage of £5 10s. 0d, (£5  50p)


Sadly I have no information on Peter Dougall save that he guested for Manchester United during the war – and died on 12 June 1974.  If you have any further information please do share it.


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