Alex Stevenson was Everton's ‘Celtic Sorcerer’ of the 1930s and 1940s, with Jackie Coulter forming one of the most magical wing partnerships to ever grace Goodison Park.
Stevenson first made his name at Dublin’s Dolphin club, where he was part of the team that reached the 1932 Irish FA Cup Final. Spotted by Arthur Dixon, a legendary Glasgow Rangers player turned coach, he joined the Scottish club in August 1932. Gifted and mercurial, the inside left made just a dozen appearances for Rangers but played in the team that would lift the Scottish League Championship in breathtaking fashion during the 1933/34 season. Before Stevenson could witness that success, however, in January 1934 he was persuaded to join Everton. Astonishingly, no Irish Catholic has played for Rangers since Stevenson’s departure.
Standing just five feet three inches tall and weighing barely 10 stone, he cut a diminutive figure but took strength in the old saying – ‘the player who is good enough is big enough.’ Like many smaller players who thrived amid the physical challenges posed by the First Division, he was a deceptively strong footballer, but never needed to descend to the skullduggery that defined other players. For Stevenson was among the finest ball players of his generation, and, blessed with perfect control was able to dodge and weave his way through opposing sides with ease.
He soon formed a formidable left sided partnership with the winger Jackie Coulter, and in his first days at Goodison, before they were given first team opportunities, word of the pair attracted up to 15,000 curious onlookers to Central League games alone. A few years later, the sight of Stevenson and Coulter lining up in the first team alongside mavericks such as Torry Gillick and Tommy Lawton must have been as exhilarating for Evertonians as it was a terrifying for their opponents. According to Tommy Lawton, Stevenson possessed the capacity to roll ‘the ball across to me like we were playing on a billiard table.’
Coulter's Everton career was cut short by a broken leg sustained whilst playing for Northern Ireland and he was transferred to Grimsby Town in 1937. Stevenson however, continued to provide the link between Everton's defence and attack and Coulter's replacements, Wally Boyes and, after the war, Tommy Eglington, proved to be equally proficient.
Stevenson was a crucial part of Everton’s League Championship success in the 1938/39 season when he was amongst their most consistent performers. His most memorable contribution came during Everton’s Easter triple header. With the title race tightly balanced, Everton beat Sunderland 2-1 in the Good Friday fixture at Roker Park. There then followed a lengthy train journey to London, where Everton faced Chelsea. Tired and below par, Everton laboured and with fifteen minutes remaining the scores were still goalless. Then Stevenson intervened with what Lawton dubbed the ‘miracle’ of Stamford Bridge. ‘Alex Stevenson headed a goal!’ he recalled to his biographers. ‘When you think that Stan Matthews headed the ball more often than Stevie you can see why I call it a miracle.’ On account of his size Stevenson was dubbed ‘Mickey’ – after Mickey Mouse – but as Gordon Watson remembered: ‘For that header he was up above [Chelsea centre half] Bobby Salmond. It was a great moment because Stevie had played so well all season, he was probably our most consistent player – and that’s saying something because we were a great side.’ On Easter Monday Everton beat Sunderland again, 6-2 at Goodison. Stevenson scored his thirteenth goal of the season and Everton were virtually assured the League Championship.
Stevenson won the first of seven Republic of Ireland (then Irish Free State) caps while playing for Dolphin in 1932. Like several players of his generation, he also won Northern Ireland honours, the first of 17 caps coming as a Rangers player in 1933.
Like so many of his colleagues, the intervention of the Second World War cut Stevenson off in his prime. He continued to be a regular for Everton in the wartime leagues, also guesting for Tranmere Rovers and Blackpool. When football resumed in 1946, he was in his mid thirties and playing for a declining team. His footballing brain remained as acute as ever, but his diminishing pace saw him overshadowed by Wally Fielding. Although he continued to represent Everton until the end of the 1948/49 season he increasingly became a peripheral figure.
In May 1949 he was released by Everton and joined Bootle as player-manager. Later he returned to Ireland, managing the Republic of Ireland between 1953-55.