A century ago, in March 1912, the Scotsman returned to Barcelona to play in the Pyrenees Cup semi final against Espanyol. And with another local derby upon us, we now remember this incredible player’s time at Barça
Scotsman George Patullo was one of the first great Barça strikers, scoring an impressive 43 goals in 23 games between 1910 and 1912. His was a strange story…
Known at the time as ‘The Great Patullo’, he was the mentor of Paulino Alcántara, the creator of the half-turn. Scoring 43 goals in 23 matches for Barça, he became an outstanding striker by chance, and has been described in his home country as the Scotsman with an even deadlier finish than Messi. Few people know about him today, but those that do have argued that he is the greatest Briton ever to wear the Barça shirt.
The player had a peculiar story. It takes us back to the year 1910 and the Conreria football ground in Badalona, which was the venue for some tough-fought contests between British expatriates and students from the University. One day, the Brits turned up with a tall, skinny and blond goalkeeper. His name was George Patullo, who was born in Glasgow on November 4, 1888 and had only just arrived in Catalonia on business. He had often played rugby, hockey and tennis, but football was relatively new to him, and he had only ever played as goalkeeper. That wasn’t the best of days for him, for his side was already trailing 5-1 at the end of the first half.
Fed up of conceding so many goals, Patullo decided to come out of goal and play as centre forward, a totally new position for him. What happened next is the kind of thing that usually only belongs in story books. The humiliated keeper was transformed into a star striker, and in the second half his side came back to win 6-5, all thanks to five goals from this amazing Scottish athlete. The University demanded a rematch a few days later, which ended 4-4, with Patullo scoring all four goals for his side.
Gamper convinces him to join Barça
Joan Gamper was there to see those amazing exhibitions, and persuaded Patullo to play for Barça. He made his debut on September 24, 1910 against Espanyol, a game that ended 1-1, with the Glaswegian, naturally, scoring his side’s only goal. Patullo stayed at FCB for two years, scoring streams of goals, and helping them to the Catalonian Championship in 1910/11 and the Pyrenees Cup in 1911/12.
Back from Scotland for one game
The fans loved him, and their affection grew on March 10, 1912. Although he had returned home to Scotland and his work in the coal trade, he came back to Barcelona just to appear in the Pyrenees Cup semi final against Espanyol at the old Carrer Indústria ground. FC Barcelona paid for his hotel, but Patullo, a staunch amateur to the end, returned every bit of the money to the club.
Barça won that game 3-2, with two goals from Patullo, who also won a penalty. There were plenty of tears after the game, when the Scotsman insisted he was going back home for good. He wasn’t there for the Pyrenees Cup Final, which Barça won on May 5 in Toulouse against Stade Bordelais (3-5).
Victim of the First World War
Back in Britain, he signed up for the Tyneside Scottish Brigade to fight in the First World War (1914-1918), after which he was awarded the Military Cross. But during the conflict, he was poisoned by venous blood gas and needed medical treatment. He was told that the climate of the Balearic Islands would be much better for his condition, and he moved there to live as a relative unknown, although he did have a short spell as manager of Club Baleares in 1930. He also returned to Barcelona on April 17, 1928, where he took the honorary kickoff at Les Corts before Barça’s Spanish Championship match against Oviedo.
Unfortunately, his respiratory condition did not improve, and became chronic. He died in London on September 5, 1953. Now is a fine time to remember one of FC Barcelona’s forgotten heroes of the past.