|Stott by Alex Service |
This biography goes off on a bit of a tangent! James Forman (Tod) Sloan was born in Indiana in 1874 and was initially rejected by his parents. He overcame extreme poverty and neglect to become a famous jockey. His technique was unique, in that he sat high on the horse’s neck. This was called the ‘monkey crouch’ and Tod made this technique his own. He became one of the most popular sportsmen in the world and, effectively, lived the American dream.
‘Tod sloan’ or ‘on your tod’ became Cockney rhyming slang for ‘on your own’. It was therefore surprising to find in the match report for the debut of Stott that he was immediately referred to by his apparent nickname of Tod Sloan! Could this mean he was a loner? Unlikely. It probably refers to his stature. Jockeys tend not to be the biggest people! Just like, for example, Tommy Bishop and, in Super League, Rob Burrow in later years, this half-back was somewhat vertically challenged, yet this did not seem to be too much of a barrier to prevent him playing rugby for the Saints, initially in the A Team.
Our Tod got off to a marvellous start when he made his senior debut against Wigan on 12th November 1898 at Knowsley Road. Athos, in the St. Helens Reporter [15-11-1898] gave favourable reports of ‘Sloan’ the scrum-half and his combination with the legendary Billy Briers in the halves: “Tod Sloan, the miniature half, did not give a bad display by any means, his smartness in gathering, and trickery in eluding his opponents being very pretty while his passes were always clean and well-timed. But on the other hand, his rush-stopping will always be weak. This is not a fault, it is a physical impossibility”.
The St. Helens Newspaper concluded that: “He played trickily and showed a good deal of judgement in is passing, while he also proved that he could kick and run. “ Saints won 10-7 against their famous opponents, with centre David Traynor scoring all the points, two tries and two goals. Tod was also a try-scorer himself on two occasions during his 13-match odyssey with the seniors, scoring in wins against Salford and Warrington, both at Knowsley Road. His final match was in the second round of the Challenge Cup, at home to Morecambe, which was a 0-0 draw. Whatever happened to the legendary Tod after that is unknown. If anyone could provide any further information, or an image of this player, we would like to hear from you.