Archive | June, 2009

The Professional Foul: 1908

Posted on 30 June 2009 by JamesHamilton

Professional Foul 1908

Courtesy of the British Library’s new British Newspapers 1800-1900 (= about 1910 in practice) service, this image comes from the Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times of February 15th, 1908.

There are two points of interest here, the first of course being tempora mutantur and that we all agree with the sentiments in the caption.

The other point of interest is that, in two pages of 1908 football coverage, this is the only sketch. The other illustrations are all freeze-frame action photographs.

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Life Expectancy at Age 10

Posted on 30 June 2009 by JamesHamilton


We’ve – I think I can count you in if you’re reading this – all been frustrated from time to time by “life expectancy at birth” type stats which fail to take into account the skewing effect childhood mortality has on the overall figure. If you were born in the 1840s, for instance, your life expectancy at birth would have been rather low – anything from 17 to somewhere in the 40s depending on your background. But so many of your cohorts wouldn’t make it past the various childhood accidents, illnesses etc., but if you did get through, your prospects were much more positive. (More beneath the cut)

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Handling Outside the Area

Posted on 23 June 2009 by JamesHamilton

I certainly didn’t know this, and you may not either, but until 1912 goalkeepers were allowed to handle the ball anywhere inside their own half. It was only subsequent to that that handling by keepers was restricted to their own penalty area. (Handling doesn’t mean carrying in either instance – which is why keepers in “Mitchell and Kenyon” spend their time bouncing the ball and looking genuinely absurd as they do).

The law change was a response to just about the only man to take advantage of the own-half arrangements, Welsh international goalkeeper Leigh Roose. We’ve met Roose here before, as an amateur of the “middle” middle classes with an upper middle class lifestyle who nevertheless played league football at the highest level. If you follow the link, we now find him pioneering the Grobelaar/Dudek wobbly knees penalty technique.. and receiving rather different treatment for his pains.

Then as now, goalkeepers who came out of their areas were vulnerable to quick counterattacks, and Roose’s colleagues explained his tactical isolation in those terms: he had the skill and the courage in an era possessed perhaps of only two or three keepers of anything like modern standard.

He appears in the Mitchell/Kenyon film of Ireland v Scotland, reputedly the first international to be filmed. Unfortunately this is not one of the many the BFI have chosen to Youtube.

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The Best New Resource in Years

Posted on 18 June 2009 by JamesHamilton

Those of us old enough to remember the Times website going down under the pressure of releasing its archive to RBKC will love this:

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Simpler, Quieter Days

Posted on 17 June 2009 by JamesHamilton

We’ve already discussed here that football crowds in Edwardian England were the biggest concentrated peaceful gatherings of human beings permitted by authority since ancient times, that football went around the world faster than rock and roll would later do, and that the game as we know it is a phenomenon of urban industrialization.

But its novelty and originality are hard to illustrate, especially when you have modern football culture as a backdrop laughing at all those funny black and white men in their baggy shorts and moustaches. Simpler days when life was slower and respect for tradition elders leaving their doors unlocked loved their mum etc., and isn’t it nostalgic about all the fan violence of the seventies.

So here’s a little thought experiment. Imagine a boy born into a family of agricultural labourers in north Wales in 1820. If he lives a long life – let’s say 90 years – here is what he’ll have seen:

  • the coming of railways
  • the invention of the telegraph
  • the invention of the iron steamship
  • the invention of the telephone
  • the invention of the typewriter
  • the invention of the motorcar
  • the creation of the modern industrial city
  • the invention of flight, both aeroplane and airship
  • the invention of the machine gun, smokeless rifle, dynamite, gelignite etc
  • the invention of radio
  • the invention of photography, both still and moving picture film
  • the creation of the modern Post Office
  • the creation of the modern civil service
  • the creation of the modern welfare state
  • the invention of modern paper from pulp
  • the invention of the fax machine

I am forty this year, and my life has seen the computerization of industry, the arrival of the internet, and…

..and that’s about it. Offices of 1968 are entirely familiar to modern eyes, as are shop interiors and transport options.

By the time our 90-year old child of the land dies, horse buses have gone from London streets and 70,000 people can get into Old Trafford without Parliament panicking or calling out troops.

He’d have lived through a time of genuine change and tumult, cultural overhaul and population movement, and seen that window of time in which Britain was where the future took place.

Football is part of this – remember that the first floodlit match took place in Sheffield in 1878, and throughout that first growth period of the game, the northern cities were, quite straightforwardly, the cutting edge. How fast it all was, too – league football was an accepted part of national life within 20 years of the FA Cup’s shambolic first season.

And when the northern cities lost that edge with the coming of World War One, so did football. The growth sports of the interwar years were speedway, athletics and sitting about in cinemas. The football flywheel spun on, generating Highbury and other, less famous stadium extensions. But after about 1930, nothing significant would change again until the coming of Sky and the Premiership. (You could, of course, argue that the ending of the maximum wage was “significant” but it didn’t change the look or the balance of the game until television money made that possible, and that had to wait until the 1990s).

One possible way to look at it is to say that the game between 1870 and 1990 was the product of an industrial, urban culture, but that the game since 1990 has different roots, leading to a different feel and look to it altogether.

In other words, it ceased to be Billy Wright’s game, and became John Barnes’s.

The great miracle of the game, of course, is that it illustrates how new cities, of unprecedented size, populated by people wrenched by economics from their centuries-unchanging rural fastnesses, could, within almost no time at all, generate their own culture, ways of doing things, and organize themselves on their own scale peacefully.

All of that was up and running by 1890. And over by 1990. The old days, the working class, the terraced houses and pubs and football and chip shops, lasted barely three generations. Of those three, one arrived, and one left; only the middle generation spent a lifetime in it.

If Lowry had blinked, he’d have missed it.

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A Brief Puskas Anecdote..

Posted on 16 June 2009 by JamesHamilton

..involving, if I remember correctly, George Best, who, when leading a youth coaching session for schoolkids, introduced what looked to them like a fat old man. “This”, he proclaimed, “is Puskas. The best player in the world.” (Or words to similar effect).

Blank looks from the youngsters. Then Best punts a football in his direction…

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A Tribute to Ferenc Puskas

Posted on 14 June 2009 by JamesHamilton

Little by little,  but at increasing pace, the footage is digitalized.

This is a unique cultural moment, in which a broadband connection brings you everything free at the point of use: Picasso drawing with light, Schnabel playing Schubert, and, as here, Ferenc Puskas. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.


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The Denis Law Workout

Posted on 11 June 2009 by JamesHamilton

Give this clip less than three minutes of your time – and then see if you don’t want to watch it again.


Found using the superb new video search. Windows Live, Office 2007, Windows ICE, Windows 7, and now this. Are Microsoft feeling OK? Are they suffering Apple entryism? Because all of a sudden everything they do is excellent. Another proud reputation from my youth trashed, and that, as Larkin said, is England gone.

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