HE was a winner on the pitch but a loser off it in a contentious court case at Hampshire Assizes.

Albert Buick defied convention as a centre-half. He was only 5ft 7in tall, suffered from a slight stoop and had long gangly arms which earned him the nickname of 'Spider' but his all-action style, combativeness and abundant stamina endeared him to supporters and brought him two caps for Scotland, scoring against Ireland and Wales as they triumphed 5-1 on both occasions. He would almost certainly have represented Scotland in other internationals but had a solid rival in Alex Raisbeck.

Buick began his career in his home town of Arbroath but was soon snapped up by Hearts after he had been drawn to an advert the Edinburgh club needed players. His greatest moment for the club when they defeated Celtic in the 1901 Scottish cup final. Two seasons later, he joined his third and last side, Portsmouth, who were competing in the Southern League, spending eight seasons with them before retiring. He then concentrated on running a wine bar in The Arcade in the naval town.

Buick was never frivolous with his money, principally investing in property, and it was towards the end of his career that he was introduced to house and estate agent Albert Holley.

In one deal in 1909, he gave Holley £200 from his hard earned wages for an investment upon a mortgage, and he was due to have the deeds handed over to him in the ordinary way, but it never happened, although he did receive interest.

Buick asked for the return of his £200 but never got it. Holley said he did not have the cash but had given it to his confidential clerk who was practically in sole management of his business.

"Holley introduced him as his partner, " the footballer's barrister E B Charles related. "He said he was a man of a thousand, a first rate man, that he could be trusted absolutely and that he practically did all the business."

And that relationship lay at the heart of a civil hearing in 1911 when Buick sued Holley. Had the clerk been acting as an authorised agent for Holley? Charles contended if they were satisfied that was the case, then Holley would have to reimburse the player.

Mr Justice Coleridge was told that from 1906, there had been a number of satisfactory transactions in which mortgages were completed and Buick received the deeds, but Holley's health was causing concern and if he wanted to invest money, the clerk would do it for him. In 1908, Buick had £200 to invest and made arrangements to do so with another party but he then met the clerk who told him his governor had property he could advance money on.

Daily Echo: Broad Street, Portsmouth. Circa 1910.

"Buick might be a good footballer but he was not a highly intelligent businessman and he gave into the clerk," said Charles. "Buick gave him £200 thinking he was working for Holley and that went through, the deeds being received in due form. The following year, Buick received £100 for his professional services and went to Holley's office where he saw the clerk who suggested it was a poor sum to invest and he had better make it up to £200 but unfortunately the deeds for that amount never came because the clerk had been unfaithful to the plaintiff and his employer too."

Charles submitted that as he was acting as Holley's trusted servant, the loss must be Holley's.

But, giving evidence, Holley denied hearing of money being paid to his clerk in 1909 and had even complained of Buick taking up too much of his time.

His barrister J A Foote QC submitted the question was whether the clerk had the authority to pledge Holley's credit to any amount. "He never did so and the whole business of the £200 was carried out in an informal business. Although Mr Buick is a footballer, a football player is not naturally a fool, and on his own evidence, he was engaged with the management of a great deal of property. It is clear he and the clerk did considerable business together, and I cannot understand his attitude towards him when he did not receive the deeds for the money he advanced."

Jurors spent some 30 minutes in deliberation before finding in favour of Holley. Buick returned to Arbroath where he died aged 73 in 1948.