Scott, Elisha (‘Leesh’, ‘Lee’) (1893–1959), soccer player, was born 24 August 1893 off the Donegall Road in the Shankill area of Belfast, one of the younger sons in a Church of Ireland family of ten (five girls and five boys) of William E. Scott, a yarn bundler, and his wife, Jane (née Carruth). He attended St Simon's school on the Donegall Road but did not play soccer there. Starting league football playing as a centre-forward with the 4th Belfast Company Boy's Brigade team c. 1906, he switched to goal as a fourteen-year-old, impatient with the inefficient performance of his team-mate in that position. Signing a professional contract with Broadway United in 1910, he played for two seasons before he was purchased by Liverpool Football Club (FC) in the autumn of 1912, having been recommended to the club by his brother, William Scott, goalkeeper for Everton and Ireland. It is reckoned that a shrewd concern to appoint high-calibre goalkeepers on the part of the far-sighted manager, Tom Watson, was the foundation for the increasing strength of Liverpool in the first decades of the twentieth century. Soon after recovering from a wrist injury, he made his debut on the senior club side in an away match against Newcastle on New Year's day 1913, holding a strong striking force at bay in a 0–0 draw. His debut at Anfield occurred in October 1914 when he profited by a severe injury incurred by the first-choice goalkeeper, Scottish international, Kenneth Campbell.
The English football league suspended games during the first world war. It is known that Scott played for some time on loan to Belfast Celtic during the war, but it seems that he also served in the British army on the Western Front, probably in the 36th (Ulster) Division. He won an Irish Cup winner's medal in 1918 with Belfast Celtic. Suffering a period of discontent directly after the war, when Campbell continued to be the preferred choice in Liverpool, Scott made his way back to the first team by the 1919/20 season. It was during this season that he was first picked for Ireland in a match against Scotland (0–3). Though his international debut proved inauspicious, his first few seasons with Liverpool established him as one of the best goalkeepers in the English league. In winning the league championship in two consecutive seasons (1921/2, 1922/3), Scott's exceptionally low number of goals conceded per season was the critical difference for the emerging Liverpool team. He became the most consistent player and leading personality on the team during the 1920s. He was so closely identified with the club that the official Liverpool telegraphic address (equivalent to the modern website address) was ‘Goalkeeper, Liverpool’. Though only of average height (5ft 9in (1.75m)), he compensated with intense alertness and elastic reflexes. Unusually for the period, he put in considerable practice to refine his skills, and made a habit of warming up mentally and physically for at least an hour before each match by bouncing balls on his own off a wall. Of masterful temperament, he made his presence felt during the match by an unceasing flow of caustic, often scurrilous, banter, directed at the opposition and at his own defence.
Playing in twenty-six of the forty-six home internationals in which Ireland participated between 1920 and 1935, he doubtless stood between predatory opposition and humiliating defeat on numerous occasions, though it must be said that the Irish record (twenty-seven losses and eight victories in the series) was discouragingly poor. The nil–all draw between Ireland and England in Belfast in 1925, in which Scott was reportedly outstanding, was one of the Irish high points in the 1920s. He had the comfort of playing with superior team-mates in the league. His greatest rivalry (and one of his best friendships outside the game) was with the legendary striker Bill (‘Dixie’) Dean (1907–80) of Everton. It was joked that if the pair met on the street Scott would dive through the air when Dean greeted him with a nod.
Scott was released from Liverpool in 1934 when he was appointed player-manager to Belfast Celtic. Becoming full-time manager in early 1937, he succeeded in winning the Irish league with Celtic in 1936–40 and 1945. Under his management the club also won six Irish cups, eight gold cups, three city cups, and other lesser honours. His transition from player to manager was seamless and indicates a natural mix of command and discernment in his makeup. Belfast Celtic players respected and feared his fierce enthusiasm and rasping comment: ‘we weren't allowed to think negatively … he wasn't interested in second-best’ (Lurgan Mail, 1985). He continued to collect post and draw wages as manager of the Belfast Celtic stadium for nearly eight years after the infamous riot at the Belfast Celtic–Linfield derby on 26 December 1948 which shut down the club. His greatest achievement as manager took place, however, some months later, when during the American invitation summer tournament of 1949 Belfast Celtic defeated a strong Scotland side 2–0 at the Triboro stadium, New York. Though he retired as ‘the only boss in soccer who doesn't worry about next Saturday’ (Irish Soccer News, 28 July 1956) he was remembered by ‘Dixie’ Dean in 1980 as the best goalkeeper he had ever seen. He died 16 May 1959 in Belfast after a two-year illness and was buried in Belfast City Cemetery.