Archive | May, 2007

Not the end to an auld sang…

Posted on 31 May 2007 by JamesHamilton

It’s a familiar part of football history to every fan: Victorian and Edwardian Brits start up small football clubs to pass the idle hours in foreign climes, and before you can say A.C.Milan or Grasshopper Club Zurich…

…or, in the case of Juventus, a club started by natives turned to good old Blighty for help in their difficulties.

It’s still going on.

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Brian Clough: Part Four

Posted on 31 May 2007 by JamesHamilton

We know little or nothing about the process by which Clough made his way into the Middlesbrough first team, but once he was there, what he did was memorable, and the imagination backfills something similar into his time in the reserves.

It’s not the number of goals that Clough began to score that is most noticeable: his annual totals weren’t that unusual for 1950s Division Two, and in any case Clough emerged at the same time as Jimmy Greaves, who was doing something similar against stronger opposition. What sets Clough apart is that he scored his goals measurably faster than anyone else before or since. His first 200 league goals came in just 219 matches (compare Alan Shearer, who took 389 games to match Clough’s total).

It must have been obvious to England’s top clubs, long before the end of Clough’s first season, that a talent had emerged in the north east similar to that of Jimmy Greaves in London. Yet he was allowed to remain at Middlesbrough for five seasons after his debut – despite reaching the England team in three.

This is almost certainly a case – another case, one of hundreds, merely more extreme here – of football careers being damaged and distorted by the retain-and-transfer system and the maximum wage. Owing to the maximum wage, and ruling out corruption, there was no real financial incentive for players to move up in the game. The young Bobby Charlton would not have been paid appreciably more than the young Clough, for all that their careers were unfolding at quite different levels.

The playing incentive to move up – the desire for recognition and trophies – had the “retain and transfer” system in the way. A club was under no obligation to transfer a player, whatever the player, or other clubs, might think about it. Should a player not be offered a contract at the end of the season, he would be out of work – yet his former club could hang on to his registration (basically, his legal right to play) should they wish. Clough might make any number of transfer requests – and did, becoming notorious for wanting out at every turn. But Middlesbrough could afford to ignore him. His popularity with supporters would have meant that the board would not have liked seeing him dropped to the reserves, but otherwise Clough would be theirs until they decided otherwise.

It might be an interesting exercise for you to port those circumstances across to your own job. Imagine a scenario in which you could, as now, resign at will. But should you resign, your right to work in your field isn’t yours at all: it belongs to your former employer, who can choose whether or not to hand on that right to your next employer. Unless they do hand it on, you can’t work and you can’t earn. The comparison with slavery made by campaigners against the maximum wage was appropriate. By the time the end came for all features of this heinous system (and the last vestiges went only with the Bosman case) it was too late for Clough.

Of course, a “big” club with money behind it might have wanted to “come in” for the second brightest young English striker (and what a period it was, to enjoy both Clough and Greaves at the same time – until February 1958, English football had a Shearer, too, in the form of Tommy Taylor). But there’s no evidence, apart from Sunderland’s interest in 1961, that there was ever any chance of this happening. Clough was an intelligent man with a mind of his own and a drive, however desperate and ill-seated, to express it at the expense of his relationships with others. He’d have hated the point being made, but he was in some ways a middle class character in a working class world, and, as such, a frightening and unsettling figure.

Most managers of the time would have found a Clough type in their changing room intimidating and divisive. The only English manager during Clough’s career who conceivably might have dealt with the situation was Don Revie, but the Don wouldn’t become a player-manager until 1961. It’s notable that the big “awkward-case” transfer of the 1960s, that of John Giles, saw Giles (another smart, outspoken man) move from Manchester United to Revie’s Leeds. A changing room containing Jack Charlton, Billy Bremner, John Giles and Brian Clough is hard to imagine without sweating. But Clough would have thrived in such an atmosphere.

Revie wasn’t there when Clough needed him. By the time Don had money to spend, Clough had suffered his great career-ending injury. Revie was a Middlesbrough man, and would have been aware of Clough; no one else had the sense or the courage to take him to the level he deserved.

Clough twice topped Division Two’s scoring charts, with 42 goals in 1958-59, and 39 goals in 1959-60. To put that achievement into perspective, Jimmy Greaves top-scored in Division One in 1958-59 with 33 goals, then again in 1960-61 with 41. Both men were scoring at the rate of a goal a game, or as near as makes no difference. In the ten years since the post-War resumption of football and Clough’s top-scoring for the first time, Division Two’s top scorers achieved 30, 23, 32, 33, 35, 46 (Derek Dooley), 39, 42 (John Charles), 33, 34, 44 (Arthur Rowley), and 33 goals. In short, Clough doesn’t stand out altogether, but he is shoulder-to-shoulder with famous names. And the top-scorer charts don’t reflect second and third. Clough kept the goal-a-game ratio going for his entire playing career.

What’s more, he did it playing for poor sides. Middlesbrough had a poor defence, even for Division Two, and no one of note besides Clough playing in front of it. His goals were not aided, as were Greaves’, by the presence of a Blanchflower or a Mackay.

And just the speed with which he scored… RSSSF place Clough 42nd in the all-time Football League scoring tables. (That’s higher than Ian Rush, a fact full of atmosphere). His career is listed as nine years long, but the realistic number, catering for his late introduction and injury, is six (1956-62). The 41 men above him in the list needed 18, 15, 13, 21, 15, 19, 15, 20, 16, 15, 16, 14, 14, 17, 12, 14, 14, 16, 15, 16, 18, 16, 17, 19 (Shearer), 12, 15, 19, (however many Sheringham will eventually accrue), 11, 20, 13, 17, 12, 13, 11, 14, 16, 17, 11, 14 and 20 seasons respectively to beat him. Clough is a full five years faster onto the list than his closest rivals. Only two men ahead of him are Edwardian players, but a full 18 were in a position to take advantage of the 1925 offside rule change, which led to several years’ worth of goalscoring mayhem (including Dixie’s 60 in a season and Camsell’s 59).

Clough left Middlesbrough in 1961, two years after the last of his two England caps. Sunderland, he hoped, would provide him with a path to the First Division and a return to the international side. With that pile of statistics above in mind, isn’t it incredible, amazing, to read that sentence there? These are, we’re told, the good old days, when proper standards applied. What’s good about the national and international neglect of a striker like Clough, about his being tied down by the twin ropes of a disgusting contractual situation and an immoral attitude to talent and intelligence?

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When eventually he managed it, Clough’s departure from his home town club came in the period Larkin made famous for its interim, ante-room qualities: “Between the end of the Chatterley ban/And the Beatles’ first LP.”

Larkin was not being entirely honest when he claimed that it had all come too late for him. He’d have been better speaking on behalf of Clough. Both Larkin and Clough came to prominence in Yorkshire. Larkin famously saw it as a place to hide. Clough would have to leave it to save his own life – not once, but twice.

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Brian Clough: Part Three

Posted on 29 May 2007 by JamesHamilton

Brian Clough made his debut for Middlesbrough at what looks like a relatively late age. He was twenty when first picked, and it took him the best part of two seasons to establish himself as a regular selection. National Service and his own late physical development held him up.

It meant that what Clough clearly regarded as his proper career didn’t get underway for a full seven years after he had left school. There are signs in accounts of his behaviour at this time of the great frustration this caused him. As the only sibling in a large family not to go to grammar school, he’d have spent those seven years watching all of those closest to him following recognisable career paths while his own life threatened to foreclose. Before football came for him, he’d failed his apprenticeship, got into some minor trouble, taken on dead-end jobs and been forced to confront the fact that this scenario might not actually ever end.

Becoming a proper Middlesbrough player changed all of that completely, at least in the short term. Clough went from being a relative failure within his close family to becoming a well-known citizen of the town, doing well in a prominent role. Middlesbrough F.C. was, as we’ve seen, unusually important in what was a relatively new place on the map. Football gave Clough something to go for, a chance to excel.

That chance to excel was important to him from the off. This time, we can believe Harold Shepherdson’s recollection of a young man who, after years of boredom, fear and frustration, has been given something to enthuse about:

He had that amazing aura of self-confidence. Every morning at training, he seemed to time his entrance for the maximum effect. He’d throw his cap on to the rack-stand in front of the others and then start talking to them about football. He was so dedicated, so desperate for success.

One of the great temptations to which football history and biography is subject is to look for the man in the child. To look for Cloughie in Clough, in other words. The person Shepherdson describes could be any one of a vast army of young men with “front” in the north of England in the late 1950s. It’s not a hard act to put on. It might even be seen as a necessary act to put on – Clough might have been pleased to be a footballer at last, but the job of establishing himself in the first team meant elbowing older men out of the way. And there were a lot of them. Clough was one of at least five recognised strikers at Middlesbrough.

Roaring boys are almost always deeply insecure. Clough had reason to be insecure, after seven years of drift. But he comes across also as intelligent, and courageous enough to display his intelligence in the football environment that was and is so deeply hostile to such things. In his first full year as a Middlesbrough player, Clough showed no sign of having any intrinsic hostility to his situation either at his specific club or his class situation generally: the flat cap was a deliberate trademark, worn proudly by all accounts as a symbol of his background and his pleasure in coming from it.

Clough was more of a reader than most players – photographs exist of him sitting in the changing room with a newspaper open on his lap – and had wider interests than football, for all that the game received his full, unusually deep, attention. In the mid and late 1950s, newspapers were the main media as far as sports were concerned – this was still the newsreel era insofar as filmed soccer action was concerned, although not for much longer. Journalists and journalism was absolutely part and parcel of a football professional’s life, and most of the north east’s top players would have counted journalists among their acquaintances and friends. Some of those journalists would have been in the game themselves, most notably Len Shackleton and Charlie Buchan.

Clough was unusually articulate, and not just for a footballer. As such, his thoughts were of value, and even before he became a regular selection for Middlesbrough a pair of journalists for a national newspaper sought to take him under their wing. As Clough recounted later:

Charlie Summerbell (of the Daily Mirror) was the hardened journalist, and Len (Shackleton) wasn’t. Len used to tag people onto his shoulders, so to speak: he did the same thing when he was a player. Shack was an amateur in journalism, and he used to go around with Charlie. So, whenever Len wanted to talk to me about anything, there was always a couple of them.

Shackleton used his contacts to fix Clough up with his first car – and his first pay rise:

I was battling away with about four centre forwards at Middlesbrough and I was fourth on the list, believe it or not. I was on eleven quid a week during the season, and seven pounds during the summer, something like that; but Dougie Cooper, a centre forward they thought could play – big lad, strong shoulders, typical build of a centre forward – and somebody else, they were on eleven quid all year round. I was a rabbit by comparison, and people used to say I got knocked off the ball too easily. The only thing was, Dougie Cooper couldn’t score goals, and I could. So Len told me to ask for a rise, and when I asked him on what grounds, he said ‘Tell them you’re just as good a player in the summer as he is.’ I would never have thought of that, but Len did.

Clough’s enthusiasm, intelligence and thrust seem to have ensured that he was quickly unpopular in the Middlesbrough dressing room, but it’s important not to overstate that. 1950s clubs had large squads, with up to four people competing for each first team place. With no substitutes, you were either in or out, and, once in, you could be very hard to dislodge. Out, you had to contend with the fear of what would happen to you at the end of the year. With the maximum wage and restrictive player registration rules in place, every player learned every summer whether they would be retained by their club, and, if not, had to hope that the club would also agree to their transfer elsewhere. This was not always the case. A club could retain your registration, preventing you from signing elsewhere, but not offer you a contract themselves. Up until the 1950s, this had represented a reasonably good deal for young working class men, although it hardly made for a progressive, developing game overall. By 1955-6, conditions of industrial employment were improving fast (this film on the subject was shot in 1958) and pressure was beginning to be applied, by Middlesbrough’s Wilf Mannion amongst others.

But in the context of Clough’s popularity in the dressing room, it must be recognized what a dog-eat-dog scenario he was operating in, with such limited experience. There were thousands of players unpopular with their colleagues up and down the country, and he was just one.

Nevertheless, it must have been frustrating for him. He’d have known of some of the exciting changes taking place in English football’s First Division, especially in the case of Matt Busby’s young Manchester United side. The coaches who would dominate European club football and bring success to England were either still playing or in early management careers – the first since Chapman to regard management as a career in that serious, change-orientated manner – and were already showing their influence and openness to new ideas. From Stan Matthews’ Brazilian-style boots to the Revie Plan and Joe Mercer’s attempts to update football training in schools, interesting things were going on and Clough was part of none of it.

Bob Dennison, the Middlesbrough manager, was, like most Second Division managers of the time, still very much in the mould of the old secretary-manager, a figure whose job was to liaise between the players and the board, pick the team, but leave decisions on play and tactics to his experienced pros. Middlesbrough continued, as was typical, to play the W-M formation devised in the 1920s by Buchan and Chapman. Dennison seems to have been a peacemaker by temperament, not a bad thing in the circumstances. Middlesbrough weren’t going anywhere under his tutelage, but they weren’t going down either.

So when Clough requested a transfer after only nine games in the first team – and went to the papers about why he was already dissatisfied – Dennison’s response was to make Clough club captain. Over the next three years, Middlesbrough were to record 20-30 more goals per season than in pre-Clough days. Clough’s transfer request was the act of a young, still deeply impulsive personality, but for all that Dennison was no Busby or Cullis, Dennison’s calming the waters was a great thing for his club and sign that chest-thumping confidence is not always the only thing a manager needs in order to do the right thing.

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Brian Clough Part Two

Posted on 28 May 2007 by JamesHamilton

The history of football is the history of great men. That’s still true, despite the efforts of the likes of Simon Kuper and Leo McKinstry. The majority of football books are concerned with the exceptional, the miraculous, and if they can’t find it in real life, then it will be invented and then embellished. Reality, in the form of real people, real events, realistic judgements and points of view, are not of interest for the most part. They aren’t what we come to football for. That makes thinking about football and writing about football difficult.

It’s especially hard when thinking and writing about Brian Clough. It’s like dealing with Churchill: people hang such meaning on the man. Somehow, if Churchill isn’t “Churchill”, then England isn’t England – and heaven help you if you establish that England wasn’t England, in the period of the past when it matters most to people that it ought to have been. Not a few of the most potent myths of English football have been projected onto Clough. Football fantasy squats on him like a red-top grass mohican.

Clough is “old school,” he comes from a time when football was (insert inaccurate fantasy of the past) and he would have (insert another fantasy) if he’d been (insert another fantasy). Modern football is (insert gripe) and old big ‘ead would spin in his grave if he knew.

And add whatever you want about tradition, and about native culture, and about passion and commitment, but what none of that can change is, that when Brian Clough was born in Middlesborough in 1935, that town was little older than Milton Keynes is now.

He wasn’t born poor. His house still stands, not because a famous man came into the world there, but because it’s what it was in 1935, a comfortable, reasonably modern semi-detached house on a good estate. His family were moderately prosperous, holidaying every year at Blackpool, and bright – Brian was the only child to fail his 11+.

Depending on whom you believe to have been the best football managers in British history, there are some interesting parallels to draw. Of a list made up of Clough, Herbert Chapman, Sir Bobby Robson, Jock Stein, Sir Matt Busby, Bob Paisley, Bill Shankly and Don Revie, all are born of mining stock in Scotland or Yorkshire or County Durham, except for Clough and Revie, who both hail from Middlesborough.

When you are born in 1935, the first thing you remember properly is World War II, and it’s strange how little part war plays in anything written by or about Clough. Middlesborough was blitzed hard. It was an important port, with significant iron and chemical industries – an urgent target for the Luftwaffe. We don’t know if Brian’s father had to fight, or any of his brothers – nor if friends or family in the town died as a consequence of enemy action.

Brian’s 11+ failure, coming just after the end of the War, combined with Middlesborough’s relative geographical isolation (it was easy for imported goods to find their way out of the town, less simple for bright, frustrated young men) meant that his future was almost certainly in some kind of manual, industrial role, at least to begin with. Like many young men in Middlesborough, he hated the prospect, and saw football as a way out. Life in industry – and to some degree, financial hardship – yawned frighteningly beneath him until he was well into his thirties.

It’s customary at this point to begin an account of the hero’s early footballing life. In Middlesborough at that time it would have been the same account for every young boy. The town was new, as we’ve noted, built purely for its port and its iron ore, and there was unusually little else there. Other industrial towns might have had things left over, churches, castles, ancient central precincts to tell you that there was more to life than work and football. Middlesborough didn’t, really, and its football club, there in the middle of town at a time of rationing, enjoyed a monopoly hold on the imagination. It really did stand for the town, and it’s rare to meet a ‘Boro alumnus for whom it has no meaning or importance.

It had a monopoly on other things too, and used it. Like most clubs, it hung on to the season ticket receipts for the aborted 1939-40 season, then charged an entrance fee for wartime games. Like all clubs, the standard contract of the time and the maximum wage then in force enabled it to keep a large professional squad, with first and final say over their lives and careers. When Clough signed professional forms in 1952, after an inauspicious career in local football, the maximum wage was still reasonable value compared with what he might have had in industry. But only just, and not for much longer.

Middlesborough had its pick of the local talent, which, according to eyewitnesses, was unusually rich during Clough’s early lifetime. Wilf Mannion, who was an early colleague of Clough, came, like Clough, from a family of potential players. Mannion was a Gascoigne of his time, yet felt himself not to have been even his own family’s best player. Better footballers, now unknown but then prominent local figures in the area’s many small clubs, would turn Middlesborough down in the light of its often callous, penny-pinching treatment of its squad, its disregard for their loyalty, its failure to use what it had.

The quality of the football at Middlesborough was often squalid: ‘Boro were content to go nowhere as a second division club and did nothing to develop its players or its team. This was not unusual for the time. The ground was squalid too: Ayresome Park is one of the least mourned of the old stadia that have been replaced with proper facilities since 1992. The club was owned and run by wealthy local businessmen, with little connection to, or concern for, the people who kept the turnstiles clicking week after week.

Until the end of the maximum wage and the advent of television, a football club was a cash cow, nothing more. At the end of their careers, players might hope for, but not always get, a testimonial (clubs were notorious for dodging out of that particular contract clause on the weakest of excuses – Preston North End even tried to rob Tom Finney of his) and a long twilight career which they’d spend running a little shop or a pub. That was the reward for 10-15 years of providing top-level entertainment and being a professional sportsman: there were many who did not get as little as that. Wilf Mannion was one of them. By the early 1970s, only 15 years after retiring, he was a shrunken old man, eking out his life in genuine poverty.

Clough was a late developer, physically, which was one thing that delayed his professional debut until 1956. National Service was the other. Clough spent little time he spent away from Middlesborough in his early years. It’s unlikely that he left the town at all (apart from a fortnight’s holiday in Blackpool once a year) before his call-up papers arrived, and it isn’t clear that he went terribly far away even then.

In fact, it would be a long time before he left the area in any real way at all. He’d travel with Middlesborough F.C., of course, and then with his other (still local) club Sunderland. He’d play in two England internationals. But after Sunderland, his first management job would be another parochial north east of England affair, Hartlepools United. Later, Leeds, Derby and Forest would keep him in the top half of England as he worked to keep them in the top half of the table. Only his brief sojourn in Brighton (and his frequent foreign jaunts and London broadcasting gigs at that time) took him really far away from home.

Clough’s National Service doesn’t fit the bread, wine and miracles of most accounts of his career, and we know precious little about it. He went into the RAF, and although he played football extensively, we know he failed to make the RAF representative team and was upset at the failure.

So there was no warning that a talent had appeared in the land: no one remembered seeing the young Clough play and predicting great things. Harold Shepherdson, later England trainer under Ramsey, knew Clough’s father (a foreman at a sweets factory next to Ayresome Park) and claimed to remember the young Brian declaring that he’d play for Middlesborough one day. But there were too many Clough brothers; too many other boys saying exactly the same thing. Can he be believed? Would he really remember?

If Clough’s nascent football career stalled, or if it was ended by injury, industrial life yawned beneath him. It would pull him straight back to hell without murmur or appeal. He knew it, and the prospect frightened him. His first job, as a messenger boy for ICI, held nothing for him, and he loathed it. But he was lucky all the same. Good enough to be signed up by Middlesborough at 15, a year after leaving school. Good enough to be kept on (National Service might well have saved him at that point, keeping him off the club’s wage roll and out of sight and mind when it came to contract time as his physique finally began to grow). Other boys of his age had other outcomes.

It has to be remembered that Clough wasn’t Cloughie then: he was just one more loudmouthed, opinionated young boy, one amongst many, who’d continue to make more enemies than friends until good fortune (and the intervention of influential friends) pulled him out of the hole his personality was digging for him. Most people like him stayed in the hole, and kept on digging, and were made redundant when the bad times returned to Middlesborough, left jobless, short on funds but not on bitterness.

Anthony Daniels has said – and it’s well said – that there is no torture more exquisite and unendurable than that experienced by the intelligent child trapped in a working class environment. One might tip the hat here to Clough’s own tributes to his upbringing, to Ferguson’s lauding of the values he took from Govan, to the industrial nostalgia industry. But few went back, who weren’t compelled to. Clough grew up at a time of unusual prosperity in Middlesborough, and yet the choices open to an intelligent, thinking young man once 11+ had come and gone were so few and so bad.

It was something he was always intensely aware of, and that awareness would set the tone for the best part of his career.

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Brian Clough – Part One

Posted on 26 May 2007 by JamesHamilton

There could be no better way to launch a summer of football management articles than this marvellous film of Brian Clough.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SN3F19y8HMM]

Clough’s complete happiness in that moment comes across, but also his intelligence. There was an intellectual force to Clough that is vanishingly rare in his profession, which shows well here:

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Post Ratings and Service Interruption

Posted on 24 May 2007 by JamesHamilton

You can now rate posts on this site (at least, I think you can: I don’t want to go about rating myself, so I haven’t actually tested it out personally). This is in addition to some of the other recent alterations, which have allowed you to be emailed with any new comments on an individual post, preview your own comments, etc.)

Yesterday, the site was down for much of the day due to technical issues at the hosting company. Apologies.

I also note that Youtube have taken down large numbers of the Edwardian football clips, which will render some of the earlier posts nonsensical.

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Into the Time Machine

Posted on 24 May 2007 by JamesHamilton

An old chestnut popped into my mind as I rode the wrong train home from the meet-up last night. I’d triumphantly chosen the only pub in London not showing the football as our venue, and, having missed that match (I can’t say that I did miss it all that much) began thinking around time travel and catching up with all of the missed, lost games of the 130 years of recognizable football.

It’s hardly an original question. If you had a time machine…

I’d start with 1910, probably at one of Newcastle United’s Crystal Palace FA Cup Finals. I’d watch the greatest team of their era – the one that Herbert Chapman spent his postwar career trying to emulate – then travel back into Central London, taking in a couple of Edwardian pubs along the way to taste the beer, then ride the young London Underground to Paddington and take the pre-grouping Great Western down to the West Country. I’d buy autochrome film and walk through the East End. I’d walk white untarmacadamed roads and jump out of the way of the occasional passing car.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0IwmJEjehg]

And then on to 1925. I’d watch and film Dixie Dean. Catch silent movies in young, unblemished prints, spend a day at Lickey Incline, cross the Atlantic in steerage and watch the ship enter New York in its golden age. Drink the night away with Armstrong and Ellington.

Then Portugal 0 England 10 in 1947; Arsenal v Manchester United February 1958; buy my 1965-6 Old Trafford season ticket.

And then back to 1910, park the time machine in a shed, cover it with a tarpaulin, turn my back on it, and walk away…

dcm_pht_07853d3.jpg

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1877

Posted on 23 May 2007 by JamesHamilton

Angouleme, France, summer 1877:

duhauron1877.jpg

(Click to enlarge)

This isn’t the first colour photograph ever taken, but it’s among them. It’s taken by Louis Ducos du Hauron, a pioneer of both additive and subtractive methods of colour photography.

Things don’t always happen in their what might seem to be the right order. 1877 was FA Cup victory year for The Wanderers, a team now utterly vanished from the face of the earth. Their name was taken up by the likes of Bolton and Wolverhampton in emulation of the values the club espoused, values that have vanished with such violence as to re-emerge in our own time in comic anti-matter form. The British Council describe it thus:

Wanderers are people who roam around from place to place. The first winners of the FA Cup, in 1872, were called simply The Wanderers, a name the club adopted in 1864 after moving from east London to Battersea Park in south London. But the name also conveys the sense of a group of travelling gentlemen who play for pleasure rather than to win – a very English sentiment, particularly in the late 19th Century when most clubs were formed.

Decent colour photography in general, let alone decent colour photography of football, was anything between 58 and 100 years away at this point. Moving film was 20 years in the future. Playing for pleasure, at the top levels of sport, meanwhile, is an English value now entirely absent from the same game that nonetheless would like to see itself as the repository of all those good old fashioned English values.

It never was the repository, not really: just one of those illusions, like that of the Edwardian “Golden Age,” and I bet the 1877 Final (a 2-1 victory for Wanderers over Oxford University) was a savage, scurrilous affair unfit for public view. Certainly the Times Archive draws the veil.

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Jostein Nygard on the 1938 World Cup

Posted on 22 May 2007 by JamesHamilton

From today’s Guardian:

Meanwhile, Jostein Nygård writes from Norway, who, he claims, are still sore about how they were eliminated from the 1938 World Cup. “Fresh from a bronze medal at the 1936 Olympics, we were drawn against the tournament favourites and holders, Italy,” moans Jostein. “They took an early lead as expected, but then Norway took control, eventually equalizing through Arne Brustad seven minutes from time. A few minutes later Brustad scored another – or so everyone thought. But, outrageously, the referee disallowed it for a non-existent offside. Italy went on to win 2-1 in extra-time. The referee – Alois Beranek – was an Austrian representing Germany and, given the close ties between the Nazi party and the Italian fascists, many questions were raised.

Until recently, there was Youtube evidence to back up Nygard’s claims, now mysteriously suppressed… but we are left with these extended clips from the ’38 Final between Italy and Hungary, which are well worth your time. The truth of the matter is that, corruption notwithstanding, Pozzo’s Italy were in all likelihood the best team in the world at their time, surpassed only in the post-War period by the 46-48 England side.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUlG3tmfPYY]

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More Than Mind Games Meetup Wednesday 23rd May 2007

Posted on 22 May 2007 by JamesHamilton

We’ll be meeting for the Champions League Final in the Cardinal near Victoria Station between 6.30 and kickoff at 7.45. The match should be on big screens, all being well. You can see a map here.

So that you know who to look for, here’s yours truly in football commentator mode:

james.jpg

I’ve slightly more hair than that now.. and I’ll be wearing a dark blue jacket, some kind of blue shirt, and jeans. If the pub proves to be packed with my doppelgangers, call xxxxx xxxxxx and I’ll tell you where to head for. Looking forward to meeting anyone who can make it.

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