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Presenting the Trophy: 1929, 1954 and 1958

Posted on 11 August 2010 by JamesHamilton

Huddersfield Town's 1922 FA Cup Open Top Bus

Commenter Will contrasts aspects of the 1929 FA Cup Final crowd (see here) with modern football audience behaviour:

They are all there early. If you imagine the FA Cup final now there would be people drifting in right up to the kick off. But the stands are full at least 10 minutes before kick off. And what an orderly crowd – it looks much more like a theatre audience than a modern football crowd would.

When they go up to get the cup you can hear individuals shouting out. Now (if you could hear it over the ‘razzmatazz’ provided by the PA system…etc you would hear a dull roar from the crowd or chanting. In this video the crowd don’t feel the need to make a noise for the sake of it – they will gladly stand and watch the team collecting the cup, unless they have something specific they want to say. It gives the trophy presentation the feel of a school sports day.

In 1929, the crowd are more specifically spectators, and less participants, than they are today, at least at Wembley.

Wembley was strange turf – an away ground for everyone present, of course, and it would be interesting to have e.g. a “talking picture” from Stamford Bridge, Burnden Park or Maine Road to contrast the 1929 Final with.

The next clip is from the closing stages of the 1954 “Miracle of Berne” World Cup Final, in which a reborn West Germany beat the Magical Magyars with a combination of tech, weather and skullduggery plus the skills and courage of an underestimated side (Morlock, Rahn & Gmb). From about six minutes in, you can watch the German reaction to the Final whistle, and then the presentation.

The presentation – like that of 1929 – is treated as a short hiatus in the celebrations. For the players, it’s a moment for dignity and self-respect. And from Puskas, sportsmanship:

In today’s cup tournaments, the trophy presentation has become the moment of climax. Like so much in this homophobic sport, it’s highly sexual. The trophy is handed over – it enjoys an intimate moment with the captain – and then the captain turns to the crowd, and, bang! (And streamers fall, fireworks go up, a narcissistic single by Queen jerks into action: whatever else it all is, it isn’t in anyone’s idea of good taste).

In 1929 and 1954, the presentation had relatively little to do with the crowd as such. Even the chairing of the skipper – or, in West Germany’s case, the manager – looks like a comparatively private affair, something that took place amongst an inner circle, team and the team’s backroom support.

FA Cup Finals have always been a case unto themselves. Yes, they decide an important competition, but it’s also the national Football Association’s big annual day out, a chance to thank the many volunteers who keep the real game going. Of the 100,000 tickets sold at the old Wembley, only a proportion would be destined for the fans of the finalists.  In addition, until the 1950s, when the price of football admission and rail travel both diminished in relation to the growth in the standard of living, a journey to London would have been beyond many who attended home games. Saturday morning working would rule out others. To celebrate “with the crowd” at Wembley in 1929 might not have meant “celebrating with your core supporters” as much as it does today.

So when would the supporters’ moment come? When would they be acknowledged, in public, by the team they followed?

If this 1934 film marking Manchester City’s FA Cup win is any clue, then the pre-War fans’ “moment” wasn’t at Wembley: it was at the railway station, and in the streets, with the Cup held up to them from an open-top bus (ignore the voice over on this: usual ill-informed, patronising rubbish)

The bus would be bound for the steps of the Town Hall or City Chambers, where the trophy would be raised to a cheering crowd in a manner similar to but less sexualised that that now seen at Wembley.

Inevitably, bus parades aren’t the events they once were. Chelsea’s parades, for instance, go down the Kings Road, and once ended at my former workplace Chelsea Old Town Hall. Chelsea Old Town Hall hasn’t been a Town Hall for 45 years, and has never been in the same borough as Stamford Bridge. In 1970, the Mayor of Kensington and Chelsea stood at the Town Hall window, pouring champagne into the Cup. In 2010, with an attendance similar to a minor political demonstration of the sort London sees almost every day during the summer – rather fewer than they’d taken to Wembley itself –  Chelsea’s bus took them to Parson’s Green. (Chelsea’s support these days are a diaspora – coming from Sutton, Epsom, Dorking, Redhill and further afield as much as from West London – so a Wembley focus for celebration makes more sense in any case, as it would for most clubs who win the Cup these days).

This last British Pathe clip shows Nat Lofthouse of Bolton Wanderers in 1958. Changes are underway in the Wembley Ritual: he gives the Cup a chaste peck, and, a minute or two later, holds it up – somewhat – chest high – for photographers. You’ll also see his speech and his holding up the Cup on the steps of Bolton Town Hall – a traditional element still in full force 52 years ago. No easing past this crowd – it’s quite clearly something those present will remember for the rest of their lives.

There’s no doubt in my mind that football between the Wars was at its peak in terms of crowd behaviour and etiquette. The Edwardian game was a more violent and corrupt affair altogether. As for the 1950s, trains began to be vandalised by travelling supporters, and fan segregation surfaced as an issue outside Glasgow.

It’s not the world fan nostalgia harks back to. That world, one full of loyal players with hygienic lives, Gazza skills and workman’s boots, who go everywhere by bus and never lose an international match, is a media-fuelled fantasy. And what rough fuel the media provide.

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