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The 1929 FA Cup Final – with sound

Posted on 07 August 2010 by JamesHamilton

Bolton 2 Portsmouth 0 Wembley 1929

In 1929, pioneering firm British Talking Pictures Ltd went to Wembley and made a – talking picture!  of the FA Cup Final. It was what Mitchell and Kenyon would have done, but by 1929 new tech chose other, newer vehicles. Considering its subject, this film is astonishingly early.

You can watch, and listen, to the 11 minutes we have left at British Pathe’s site here. Isn’t it about time they allowed embedding?

British Talking Pictures

British Talking Pictures was a substantial enterprise – the UK arm of the General Talking Pictures Company with two studios in operation on the old Wembley Exhibition site and a third under construction. Its relationship with German company Tobis gave the firm access to the Tri-Ergon system of sound film recording, in which an extra strip is added to 35mm film: it’s likely that this is the system in use here. The firm’s system and studios were cutting edge and a source of considerable interest to the rest of the industry, as the abstracts below demonstrate:

Click to Enlarge

In October, a devastating fire would destroy both of British Talking Pictures’ existing studios, causing an estimated £100,000 damage – in 1929 prices. But the company survived and thrived, and by the mid-1930s was a leading supplier of sound equipment to cinemas across Britain.

£800 (1930 prices) buys you all this!

The Wembley Ritual

The recording itself is one of the very first made of an English sporting crowd. BBC Radio commentary was already up and running by this stage, and supporters can be heard on surviving recordings of these games. But this is the earliest uninterrupted recording that I am aware of, and certainly the earliest recording of the whole Wembley FA Cup ritual.

And the ritual is all there, complete, in what is only Wembley’s seventh final. There is organized singing before the game, a Royal presence (the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIII) and a brass band. But there is more to it: the proceedings end with God Save The King after the Cup has been presented. Note that the Bolton captain neither kisses nor raises the Cup when it is given to him: instead, he is chaired (somewhat awkwardly) around the stadium by Bolton officials and teammates.

Much of the FA Cup ritual is revealed, here, to be war remembrance. Pack Up Your Troubles is sung with enthusiasm, as match programmes are waved. For Abide With Me , the band is hushed, and the conductor, all in white, turns and leads the crowd. It’s a slow, graceful, moving rendition. The Bolton team had been together for a decade, and this was their hat-trick of winning Wembley Finals. They’d almost all fought, in 1914-1918, as perhaps most men in the crowd would have done. Captain Jimmy Seddon had suffered trench foot. The Wembley Ritual is one of remembrance. In 1929, it was remembrance – and remembering: the recollections of real memories, of real absent friends.

The Match Programme

The programme was a fine affair, graced by the thoughts of the Jonathan Wilson of his day, Charles Buchan, architect of the WM formation played by both sides:

1929 FA Cup Final Programme

The Daily News had been C.P. Scott’s paper before the Manchester Guardian. As for Buchan, he was no pioneer as a player-turned-journalist: one of Everton’s founding players, Frank Brettell, made more money from writing than from playing. But Buchan went on to found the first sustained intelligent football magazine for boys, one which has become a Christmas favourite and a focal point for 1950s nostalgia. All that was a long way away in 1929.

Playing Style

Herbert Chapman, writing at about this time, claimed that playing standards had fallen. What we see here is a mixed bag. There are some lovely touches, some excellent passes short and long, some great tackles, and even some decent keeping. The careers of both sets of players straddled the 1925 offside law change – the goalscoring records of George Camsell and Dixie Dean are 24 and 18 months old as we watch – and some of the long-ball crudities that the change encouraged can be seen too. More obvious here than in film of later years is the emphasis on the dribble – an attacker taking the ball as far as he could before encountering a tackle, almost rugby style. This is an older echo altogether, of the football of the 1860s and 1870s, and that old man accompanying the Prince of Wales as the players are introduced would have seen it for what it was. Because he was Sir Charles Clegg..

Sir Charles Clegg

Clegg is 78 here, which is old enough to have known Lord Kinnaird for almost all of his life and to have played against him in the first ever official international match at Kennington in 1872. Not that that was any kind of triumph for the Yorkshireman, who’d hardly had a kick all game. In 1926, Clegg related his bad memories of the first international match to the great sports journalist J.A.H. Catton:

Some members of the England eleven were awful snobs, and not much troubled about a “man fra’ Sheffield”.

In 1923, Clegg had succeeded Kinnaird as FA President, and in this capacity the Prince of Wales was given over into his care for the day. What the incorruptible, teetotal old man made of his charge is unrecorded.

Clegg was one of the great romantics at heart. Behind the flinty, no-prisoners facade was the soul of a young man who’d been driven out of his first love, athletics, by the corruption brought on by gambling. He’d fought the arrival of professionalism before tacking to the wind alongside Kinnaird and Marindin, and later fought both the infant Player’s Union and the breakaway Amateur Football Association. Clegg it was who led the 1905 investigation into corruption at Manchester City, from which dates the first great period of their Old Trafford rivals.

Clegg was a tragic figure too, and not just because he lived to see the sport he had played for love become big business that used players for profit before spitting them out like spent cartridges before they were thirty. Not just because the Football Pools would become a feature of everyday life under his watch. That small, determined figure you see next to the Prince of Wales was in mourning. He had had two sons with his wife Mary. He’d been luckier than Kinnaird, who’d lost two sons to the War. But first William Clegg died, in 1927, and then, in the year of this Final, the other son, Colin. His wife would die in 1933 and he’d see out his last four years of life alone.

The Managers

On the other side of London, Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal were about to begin their astonishing dominance of the English game, something which would continue right up to the renewal of war in 1939. Chapman was the dominant managerial figure – the Bradman of his trade – until Busby, but the Bolton and Portsmouth managers were figures in their own right.

Victorious Bolton boss Charles Foweraker was a one club man. He’d started out manning a turnstile at the brand new Burnden Park in 1895, and was there to see John Cameron score in the FA Cup Final replay of 1901. 1901 had been the first Final Pathe had filmed.  The initial tie at Crystal Palace had attracted 114,000 spectators, a record  and a turnout that flirted with catastrophe. Catastrophe came shortly afterwards. But not in South London: it came in Glasgow,at Ibrox, and The Scotsman published the relieved, self-exculpating letters of Crystal Palace’s manager on successive days, a page or two from the accumulating lists of Glasgow’s dead. In 1914, Palace packed 120,000 in. That was enough: and after the Great War, the Final spent a couple of years in the safety of Stamford Bridge whilst Wembley was made ready.

Foweraker had seen this great Bolton side win three Wembley finals in the stadium’s first seven years. For Jack Tinn, Portsmouth manager, and for Portsmouth themselves, it was all just beginning. Pompey had only been in the Football League for seven years, and were at the end of their second year of struggling in the First Division, Tinn’s first years in charge. Earlier in the season, they’d seen Leicester City put ten past them for no reply. But they’d survived, and would continue to do so. After one more losing Final, Tinn would lead a team to the Cup in 1939, and the trophy itself would spend the war under his bed. He retired in 1947, and a Portsmouth team most observers credit him with building would take back-to-back League titles in 1949 and 1950. Tinn would carry Portsmouth from the Great Crash to the Cold War, and leave them in an age of jet planes and nuclear brinksmanship.

The Crowd

But surely, the point of this 1929 sound film is the crowd at Wembley: the 100,000. For a supposedly flat-capped sport, there is an almighty preponderance of trilbies on view on what is obviously a cold day. Was Wembley a trip too far for Bolton men? But ten years later, Mass Observation would visit Burnden Park and find the trilbies there, too:

Burnden Park c.1939

Despite the presence of Portsmouth, there is no chanting to be heard. The Pompey “Chimes” are Victorian – the words were printed in the official club handbook for the 1900-1901 season. Some writers think that the “Chimes” were a thing reserved for late in the game, at least to begin with, and as Bolton’s goals came on eighty and ninety minutes respectively, that might explain the chant’s absence. But what we can hear is a classic crowd “roar”, that undulates with play, and we can hear rattles. Thousands upon thousands of rattles – not vuvuzela-intrusive, but a pervasive rippling sound underlying the roar that one might easily mistake for applause.

It is clear from the crowd’s reaction and behaviour that the players are idols already – superstars, kings whose hems must be touched. As both sets of players make their way up the Wembley steps – up the fresh, sharp concrete of the Wembley steps in the shadow of the clean, white Wembley towers – they are patted, pulled, hands reach for them and their shirts are tugged. There is a need, an intimacy, in all this contact, one which mirrors somehow the almost shocking skipping, hugging celebration of both Bolton goals. (Shocking at least to those who think affectionate celebrations are a modern phenomenon, but they appear in Edwardian footage too.)

The crowd marks a good pass, or a fine tackle, with that astonishing roar – loud and low-pitched. But when the goals come, the note is higher, diluted, thinned-out by surprise and pleasure. And whether it marks good play or a score, the note is never aggressive - these are still George Orwell’s orderly English crowds, not the passionate fans of today with their talk of Scummers or Bindippers or Plastics..

Between Wars

Just knowing that this is 1929 is enough to make one want to send in helicopters, to winch the players and crowd to safety, away from the Crash, Great Depression, Manchuria, Munich and the rest. But this is the point about life: it’s not a lift you can step out from, when the floor you want arrives.. and within ten years England had lost two kings, and the fragile peace besides. But, as we’ve noted, Jack Tinn was still there, at Portsmouth, in 1939, and sound film of Cup Finals, astonishing in 1929, was an absolute commonplace when he and his side came back and made it third time lucky.

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Why Did British Football Cease To Innovate?

Posted on 04 October 2007 by JamesHamilton

Fans Arrive at Crystal Palace for Newcastle v Villa FA Cup Final 1906

What British football had become by 1905, the world game reflects now. League systems, knock-out cups, international matches, the basic rules, professionalism, the nature of the football club, football administration – they’re all British inventions dating from a hectic 42 year period beginning in 1863 with the formation of the Football Association.

But in the 42 years after 1905, there is only one innovation to add to the list, and it’s a minor one, not universally adopted: the Buchan/Chapman third-back game. British men were responsible for innovation abroad – see the excellent El Bombin site for more on this – but Herbert Chapman’s many other frustrated ideas aside, the domestic game goes quiet.

In the subsequent sixty years, we’ve become wholesale importers of ideas and trends – some good, some not so good. We have exported Bobby Robson and hooliganism.

It’s worth asking why this is so. When English thinking has changed the design of rugby union kit in the last decade, when English cricket has invented the 20-20 game in the last decade, when British designers have dominated Formula One racing – it’s worth asking what happened to our national game to make it such a passive affair, content to jog along behind.

What follows are ideas, not conclusions: have at them.

The end of Britain’s industrial dominance

Industrialisation happened to Britain first, and had the effect of creating in short order a large number of large towns and cities with new wealth and few traditions of their own. Football clubs appear in these places as soon as the first shoots of reform free up time and energy, when there is enough of a railway system to make competition possible, but before suburbanization pushed available clear land out of range of the high-density inner cities.

By 1914, that development had run out of steam in many respects. The railway network had peaked, leaving no new territory that could be opened up. The industrial north, changed out of all recognition since 1840, would remain in its essential Edwardian form until World War II. The football clubs of the north would do likewise. They were born in innovative places, and stagnated in stagnating ones.

Football was an entertainment, not a sport

Once the idea of the large football stadium had been made real, starting with Everton’s Goodison Park, it found its typical form very quickly. Today, as in 1905, there seems to be a maximum crowd size of 60-100,000. Beyond that, the fan is too far from the pitch. Pace television, that imposes an upper limit on the income available from playing matches – and, as a maximum wage had been imposed by 1905, it imposes an upper limit on what’s worth building. There are few significant new stadia built after 1914, and no extensions of capacity beyond that maximum.

Most of the changes seen between 1863 and 1905 had served to create the situation in which football could perform as a mass entertainment – the standardization of rules, the incorporation of professional players, the creation of competitions. Once this was done, the question of why the game should continue to change became moot. The next major change – the loosening of the offside rule in 1925 – came because the status quo was not providing the same entertainment and football, already an expensive option for working and lower middle-class men, was facing strong competition for its audience.

British international dominance

South America and Europe caught up with Britain because we were there to be caught up with. We allowed ourselves to be caught up because we were ahead for a very, very long time, and our psychological advantage endured for a good twenty years after that. Since 1953, we have never regained the lead, but we have kept the rest of the world sufficiently in sight for the situation to be relatively painless. This is because of the relative strength of the Football Association and domestic football structures which have shown incredible resilience over the years and have kept standards up to a level above that which would trigger drastic remedial action.

Education

That first generation of professional footballers were, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, the first generation of working class people to undergo compulsory education. As a result, there were a large number of highly intelligent men playing professional football – the kind of intelligence that white-collar work and red-brick universities would claim in ever increasing numbers in subsequent years.

Because the idea of football as a lifelong career didn’t exist as it does now, few of these men remained in the game. Those that did – and Herbert Chapman is the supreme example – did not have successors. Edwardian football was a home to the intelligent and articulate; these people would find better homes in later years, the game itself undergoing a brain drain that has never really gone into reverse, not even now in an age where footballer’s wages dwarf those of white collar professionals.

Significant numbers of the great postwar managers – Busby, Shankly, Paisley – came from Scottish or north-eastern mining stock, areas where white-collar escape remained difficult longer than in the big industrial cities. Others – Clough, for instance – failed to take the opportunities of their education.

Football’s economics after 1914 limited the need to think and innovate – the run-on from educational reform meant that there were ever fewer people in the game able to do the thinking.

Gentlemen and Tradesmen

The traditional British idea of the gentleman – not sullying his hands with work – lives on: the dream of the country house and the ownership of land as the ultimate goal of the approved British life is as powerful now as ever. British sport has a version of this – most recently seen in the resistance to professionalism in Rugby Union. Games are for enjoyment, not to be taken seriously; training spoils the fun. And that British nostrum, “don’t be clever” converts into a sporting “don’t be skilful” – unless you propose to justify your skill in the manner of a Best or Gascoigne, that is.

In short, the very idea of improvement, of innovation, is suspect in the British game and always has been.

Alongside that is the determination – the tenacity of the idea – that there are such things as English or British values and that these are more important to victory than skill or intelligence. “Passion and commitment” in short. The Australians, who show both of those qualities in spades, disagree with us, and want intelligence and strategy too. We don’t: witness the steady, stealthy writing-out of Clive Woodward from the English memory of the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

Those who are keenest on the “passion and commitment” idea think themselves the salt of the earth; in reality, they are the dupes of snobbery, ignorant of their need of Langland’s advice and prisoners to an invisible, Austenesque social snare.

Homophobia

The rest of British life has benefitted from the cultural, economic and moral energy released by the horribly belated correction of moral attitudes towards homosexuality. I don’t know why the hell football doesn’t want that too, other than its usual reasons of childish, sniggering cowardice. Football is prone to mistake intelligence or creative thinking for homosexuality and to see that in a negative light.

Feminism: repeat to fade. Poor Jackie Ashley.

Football has done a great deal to fight racism in Britain – perhaps that deserves the term “innovation” in the light of recent experiences in Spain, Italy and Eastern Europe. That it felt it to be in its own interests to do so doesn’t take away from the courage shown by the pioneers who set that change in motion thirty years ago. But in relation to other things, it can seem anomalous.

Coaching

The Premier League’s coaching certificate is a qualification that you cannot fail – all you need do is put in the hours. Isn’t that extraordinary? but it comes from a tradition that insists on coaching, if it really must take place, mustn’t be too clever and must come from the heart, from natural talent, not from actual learning.

On Radio 5′s 606 last night, a Chelsea fan urged the replacement of Avram Grant as manager by Kerry Dixon and Gianfranco Zola. In British football management circles, you have to have been a horse if you are to become a jockey. Wenger, Mourinho and Benitez, none of whom played top level football, are living arguments to the contrary, but this conundrum has a habit of failing to impose itself on the national sporting consciousness.

“The lads in their wisdom,” in Gordon Strachan’s phrase (used after his Coventry City side ignored his instructions and took a beating) has always been the attitude. Edwardian football didn’t have managers in charge of tactics and strategy until Chapman, and there haven’t been that many in truth since. Foreign managers working in Britain or with British players complain at the lack of interest in matters of tactics, of strategy or problem solving, something exemplified by the difference between Sven Goran Ericksson’s approach with Manchester City compared to his treatment of England.

Conclusion

The British game that grew out of industrialization was an entertainment, not a sport: it was “only a game” albeit one with serious life lessons to teach. Once it found a viable form, as it had by 1905, the season in which the six-yard zone ceased to resemble breasts, once it was making as much money as was possible, why change, and how?

The British were top dogs at football for a very long time – and have never been so very bad at it as to feel the need for any significant alteration in their approach to it.

Football was, and perhaps still is, badly positioned to attract the active interest of the kind of British person who is responsible for the UK’s reputation for ideas, inventions, eccentricity, Clive Sinclair and Beagle II. But it’s good at engaging the interest of the type of person who hates all that sort of thing. Wodehouse divided humanity into golfers and poets. Football probably thinks Wodehouse was a ponce.

But football’s a frightened little lad in an overlarge body, laughing too loud at the rest of the world with the boys in the crowd, and the cheap words still come too easily.

What do you think? Nonsense? What other angles of this deserve coverage? Did British football cease to innovate?

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Herbert Chapman Part One

Posted on 14 June 2007 by JamesHamilton

H.Chapman in playing days

Queen Victoria died in January 1901. A matter of months later came the first significant footballing appearance of the name Chapman. “Chapman H.”, once of Worksop, had trialled for Grimsby Town in 1898, but it was the inclusion of that name on a list of triallists at Sheffield Wednesday that marked his break into the sporting big-time.

Chapman was a local boy, son to an illiterate coal miner living in a nearby village called Kiveton Park. He was born in 1879, at the height of Sheffield’s period of innovation and influence in football.

Football was to Sheffield what racing was to Newmarket, long before Liverpool or Manchester had any real part in it. In 1878, Bramall Lane, home to both Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United at times, saw the world’s first floodlit match, a game attended by 20,000 spectators. The FA Cup Final in London could only attract 5,000 that year. Sheffield was home to the first cup tournament – the Youdan Cup – and some of England’s oldest sporting clubs were based in the city(Sheffield Wednesday had already been in existence for 47 years when it introduced football to its cricketing members).

Mention of Worksop and Grimsby make it clear that even in the game’s earliest years, it was far from inevitable that talented players would end up playing for their local clubs. Chapman’s own brother would play for Sheffield United, but also Swindon Town, Tottenham, Notts County and Northampton.

Chapman was a dashing, hard-shooting centre-forward. His time at Sheffield Wednesday was to prove the club’s golden age. When the club won the Football League title in 1903, breaking the Sunderland/Aston Villa stranglehold, it wasn’t their first success. They’d won the League in 1892, the FA Cup in 1896, and had the distinction of losing 6-1 in the 1890 Final, still the second worst defeat in a Final. Nor was it Sheffield’s first. Sheffield United had a League title from 1898, and an FA Cup from 1902.

But it did mark the end of the great Villa/Sunderland days, which would never really return for either club. Wednesday won the title again in 1904. The highlight of Chapman’s playing career came in 1907, when he was made man of the match after his superlative performance in the 2-1 FA Cup Final victory over Everton.

Chapman would play on for several more seasons, chalking up about 15 in total, a reasonable number for the time. He wouldn’t have been far from an England call-up at his peak, perhaps only kept out by the likes of Steve Bloomer.

Those Wednesday fans who as adolescents begged Chapman’s cigarette card off their elder brothers would have been remembering him to their infant grandchildren during the Korean War; the oldest of them would have lived to see Maradona’s Hand of God goal in 1986. Any film of Chapman playing will be tucked away unpublicised at the British Film Institute Archive, if it exists.

But the Chapman name isn’t famous for goals and memorable performances. After injury and ill health ended his playing career, “Chapman H.” , by now a father of three, became a manager, of his last playing club, Hull City, in 1913. And it’s for management…

But “Chapman of Wednesday,” as he was described in his pomp, died of tuberculosis in 1916, aged 36. He died at his brother Herbert’s home in Leeds. And this is going to be Herbert’s story.

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The FA Cup, the BBC, and the Romance of the Underdog

Posted on 18 March 2006 by JamesHamilton

I saw my first FA Cup Final in 1976. I was seven years old, and only caught it by accident, tuning in while looking for something else. The match was already long into its second half, and I’d missed all of the game’s goals. Being British, I found myself cheering on the losing team, and, because it was the first football of any kind I’d seen, that losing team became MY team, and so they’ve stayed to this day. So my team came to me by accident too, and had I seen my first final only a year earlier, my team would have been Fulham.

The FA Cup Final became a family affair after that. We’d get together – my aunt, my parents and my sister – and watch the game over crisps and ice cream soda (I imagine my stepfather drank beer, but I don’t remember). 1977 was pure celebration, as the last year’s losers came back to claim the trophy at last: in 1978, we were all cheering for Ipswich, and 1979 was all tantrum and heartbreak. In later years, we got behind QPR, Manchester City, and, rewarded at last, Coventry City.

So I’m no stranger to shouting for the underdog. But just lately, I’ve been wondering why.

Since the BBC started showing highlights from all FA Cup games in those late-night marathon editions of Match of the Day, we’ve all got to know a lot more about the smaller clubs in our national game. Some, like Yeading, are very small indeed. Others, like Blackpool, have merely fallen on hard times. They all have their own stories and their own dramas, and these can come as a welcome relief from our over-familiarity with repetitive Premiership story-lines. But I can’t be the only one who is beginning to feel that the way these stories are put across is beginning to drag in a big way.

The Beeb has a fixed idea of what the FA Cup – especially in the early rounds – means. It means the little dog against the big dog. It’s true – of course it’s true – but in the last two years this plot line has been heavily overcooked. It is dragged out in every single instance of a game between two teams from different levels of the football ladder. When the Premiership teams enter the competition in the Third Round, that can be up to twenty games in which we are, in the Beeb’s script, on the edge of our seats waiting for a shock. I can’t keep it up, and find myself longing for the Premiership side to hand out a beating.

What’s more, in just about every single case, the underdog is presented in the same way. It is always a club “at the centre of its community”. That “community” will have “cup fever” and because there aren’t enough tickets to go round, will be seeking out funny/dangerous places in trees, on top of neighbouring buildings, hanging from lamp posts etc. in order to witness the game. The players themselves will be the true salt of the earth – much will be made of the “ordinariness” of their day jobs (and if they are full-time players, the gap will be filled with stories of how they were foolishly rejected by this or that top club and now have the chance to prove to said club how wrong they were). They will be builders, postmen, lumberjacks… white (usually) working class men, usually despised by the BBC as racist redneck provincials driving dangerously in white vans, who for ninety minutes will be presented as the true face of the good old English nation. The manager will either be young and upcoming, given a golden opportunity for a shot at the big time (which never comes) or he’ll have been at the club since 1945 and will be a “local character”, a typical English eccentric of the kind the BBC usually mocks and can hardly bear not to here. Any kind of link to the sort of football history that the Beeb presumes that the viewer will know about will be grossly over-emphasised. This last reached its disgusting apogee this season in the match between Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion and Manchester United, during which Brian Clough’s ghost was kept on constant, mawkish duty.

And then there’s that Beeb obsession with the question of haves and have-nots. It starts with some tortured statistics about how the entire team cost less than one week of the opposing goalkeeper’s wages. It ends with the merest hint at something sinister about the way the wealthier club made its money… about the way the top players made it there… against all of which the poorer team in all its yeoman honesty and traditional values is supposedly to be contrasted.

It’s all getting a bit wearing. For a start, none of it bears much relation to reality. The gap in quality between non-league, non-Premiership teams and the elite has closed, the games are usually close and whilst shocks are still relatively rare they lack the thunderbolt quality of Wrexham-Arsenal or Yeovil-Sunderland of yore. It’s been many, many years since any club – let alone any small club – has been the focus of their town (and let’s just drop that word “community”, with all its false implications).

And it’s so repetitious and formulaic. I’m really not sure that Ferguson, Wenger et al lose any sleep whatsoever over an interesting Third Round draw – and I’m certain they don’t see games as “potential banana-skins.”

If the BBC could take the time, and clear their heads of their fairytale approach to the FA Cup, there are fresh and genuine stories to every game. Take Yeading. It’s a very young club – only forty years old, and it’s in a “new” part of the south east of England, with no previous history of football (Hayes in Middlesex). The story of Yeading is part of an as-yet untold story about post-War working class Britain. What about the aforesaid Burton Albion? The Beeb assures us that this is an age when the haves take everything from the have-nots, yet Burton is a club to demonstrate that competent management can build a successful, viable club away from traditional football hotbeds – they have a new ground, the Pirelli stadium, that couldn’t be less like the Beeb’s romantic idea of what a non-league club should possess (a potato field next to a pub, essentially). Nigel Clough isn’t their first competent manager – they have also benefitted from Peter Taylor, who has managed England, and Neil Warnock, who looks likely to return Sheffield United to the top ranks this year.

Of course, the Beeb has no intention of changing its script. But it would be nice…

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