The Boys to Beat Brazil

Herbert Chapman (d. 1934):

In an idle moment I set down this team of old players to amuse myself in comparing them with the chief players of today.

Sam Hardy, Bob Crompton, Jesse Pennington, Ben Warren, Charlie Roberts, Ernest Needham, Jockie Simpson, Steve Bloomer, Albert Shepherd, George Holley, Fred Spiksley.

‘It goes a long way to convince one that football has lost its personalities. We have few now of such giants. But I doubt very much whether the public would today be satisfied with the old football, with all its precision and deliberate accuracy. It does not fit modern tendencies. It would be out of tune with the bustle and excitement of everyday life. Spectators want a fast-moving spectacle, rapier-like attacks that have the spirit of adventure, and ever more goals. But I should do an injustice to the old timers if I did not believe that they would have been able to accommodate themselves to modern requirements. Their natural ability would have ensured this.

Perhaps, and what if? What if, and what if someone thinking along the same lines had actually done something about it? It’s too late for our Edwardian stars, but perhaps not for the boys of ’66. (Personally, I’d fasten on the boys of ’57, or ’61, or ’70, but that’s another subject altogether).

Just to take your minds off the forthcoming match against Croatia, watch this, then read this, and dream….

(Owners of the BBC/Bfi DVD “The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon” can see Herbert Chapman in playing action for Sheffield United against Bury in 1901. Or so says the Sheffield United historian watching the minute-long clip on his television. According to my records, Chapman was playing for non-league Worksop at the time..)