Football Life Goes On

The death of Jack Charlton has been marked across the world but with greater poignancy in his home town of Ashington, his one club Leeds and in Ireland where his managerial and personal skills galvanised a team and country to World Cup achievements never seen before and likely not ever again.

This T shirt with Jack Charlton 5 on the reverse is a memorial to the great but humble man who was one of the people, an accolade not available to many. It has been produced by and is available from http://www.philosophyfootball.com.

The words taken direct from their website. “Yesterday a Leeds, England and Republic of Ireland Great was laid to rest. A one club man Jack was also a miner, a soldier and anti-fascist. At Leeds he won the League championship, 2nd division championship, Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (twice), FA cup and League Cup, all illustrated. With England he won the Home International Championship and most famously of all he lifted the World Cup, also featured. After Leeds he managed Middlesbrough to the 2nd Division Championship and Anglo-Scottish Cup followed by taking the Republic of Ireland to their first European Championship, beating England there, and two World Cups. The lot, chronicled on our memorial shirt.”

Thank You

I would not only like to say thank you to Jack for all of the great memories but also to everyone who reads this blog. We are just over half way through the year but have already surpassed last years stats which have risen considerably since I started in 2017. This despite no football to attend although some of the views may have been due to lockdowns in different parts of the world and a need to get a football fix of some sort.

My son suggests that I should rename the blog ‘taponthegate’ because when there is a restart payment will likely be by some mode of contactless. It looks like the Non League game could be back some time in September and I can’t wait.

Black Footballers Matter

On a shopping trip I found myself near Edlington Cemetery. The significance of this is that Arthur Wharton the first ever black professional footballer is buried there.

I’d read about his amazing goalkeeping career and how he ended up a publican and for his last 15 years down the pit mostly at the almost adjacent Yorkshire Main Colliery. He died pennyless and only in 2014 after a campaign by his Grand Daughter and Football Unites, Racism Divides, a Sheffield-based community scheme’ was a fitting memorial headstone erected at his grave.

Naively I had read online that he had a black headstone and with only seeing graves in ancient cemeteries in recent years, being met with 70% black headstonees completely confused and made me realise that I had a big hunt in front of me.

Luckily a man was moving some mowers who turned out to be the guardian of the cemetery. He was really helpful and took us to the grave and talked about the campaign to honour Arthur and the search for his unmarked grave which was only revealed when someone came in to enquire about a burial in the 1930’s and there at the top of the page for the date they were looking for was Arthur Wharton’s name which had eluded them for some time.

Arthur played for Darlington, Preston North End, Rotherham Town, Sheffield United, Stalybridge Rovers and Ashton North End between 1885 and 1901. He is also remembered for running 100yds in 10 seconds to equal the ameteur world record in 1886 at the AAA’s championship. The man in the cemetery said that local legend says that he achieved this on an Ash Track at the nearby Miners Welfare in Pit Boots! Arthur Wharton was a complete all round athlete excelling at cycling and cricket too.

The full Arthur Wharton’s story can be read in detail in his biography, ‘The First Black Footballer: Arthur Wharton 1865-1930’ by Phil Vasili, published by Frank Cass. The ISBN for the paperback edition is 978-0714644592 and for the hardback edition is 978-0714649030.

A memorial 16 foot statue of Arthur Wharton can be found at The Football Association’s St George’s Park depicting him tipping the ball over the bar.

Photograph of Arthur Wharton in action from Newcastle United Fanzine ‘True Faith.’

Arthur was part of a great line of Black footballers whose achievements can be seen as remarkable despite the racism they experienced.

Andrew Watson was arguably the ‘The Worlds First Black Football Superstar’ as set out in a book of the same title that I reviewed 19th November 2019.

Walter Tull who played for Clapton FC, Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town and is honoured with a statue in Northampton not only for his football but the fact that he was nominated for the Military Cross for his outstanding bravery in the First World War where he was the Army’s first ever Black officer to command white troops.

Jack Leslie the Plymouth Argyle legend who was picked for England in 1925 but not played because of the colour of his skin.

Viv Anderson the first black football player to represent England in a full international match. Not until 1978 though.

Brendon Batson, Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille Regis, who were legends playing for West Bromwich Albion in the late 70’s and early 80’s and great roll models to all on how to succeed despite the racism they endured. A statue to them all in West Bromwich town centre is a fitting epitaph.

John Barnes, my personal favourite, was an outstanding player for Watford and Liverpool who suffered many racist chants but kept his cool and destroyed the prejudice not only on the pitch but also in his eloquent observations off it. I recently saw him on a Breakfast program that was trying to make an issue about racism in football but Barnes was cooly saying that it was not a football problem but a wider society one. He was dismissed by his interviewer who should now know that it was he who was wrong. My greatest memory of John Barnes play was a goal he scored at St Andrews in the FA Cup. I was sat in the stand with Birmingham supporters and when I stood up to celebrate the goal and his great skill I thought, why did I do that. To the Birmingham fans credit they all clapped because the skill was a wonder. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jzx68fnZCQ

Marcus Rashford who humbled the Government into a U turn over free school meals this summer.

There are others but these are the ones that come to mind. There is surely enough material with regards these few alone to create a book about ‘Black Footballers Matter’.

I can’t wait for the real season to begin!

Like many I sat down to watch the return of football but came away wondering why.

Now TV showing of Sky TV opening game of Premier League restart.

Villa and Sheffield United played out a dull goalless draw with technology being the only real talking point as Orjan Nyland crossed his line with the ball after catching an average free-kick cross under pressure from his own sides Keinan Davies.

The whole experience for me was soulless with what appeared little passion considering that both clubs had much to play for. The empty stadium meant no theatre with no opposing chants, no happy faces, no body language of despair, just nothing.

I have great empathy for the players who must be so mindful to protect themselves and their loved ones.

I still have the feeling that it is all about money and avoiding legal challenges.

Perhaps it will get better, the play off games should certainly be more competitive and the best news of the day was that Barrow have made a miraculous return to the Football League after being cruelly voted out of the League system in the 1970’s.

The light on the horizon is that I am sure that I will eventually be in a ground somewhere watching an exciting game of football, listening to the crowds sometimes strange comments, basking in the sun, being drenched or frozen to the core. What has been most abundant has been time to plan and the journey looks endless.

NON-LEAGUE CLUB DIRECTORY 2020-21

I need to admit I have broken a tradition in that I have ordered the Non – League Club Directory for delivery as soon as it is published rather than receive it as a Christmas present. Whether it’s because I am starved of football or just can’t wait to immerse myself in some planning and indulge myself in some statistics and fantasy I’m not sure, but I can’t wait.

I have just copied the info from their website because I couldn’t have put it better. If you buy the book I hope you enjoy it as much as I will.

PRE-ORDER NOW…

Now in it’s 43rd year, the latest edition of the Non-League Club Directory will possibly become the most unique of all the Directories as it records a season that, for most at our level, ultimately didn’t take place! However, up to lockdown clubs were pushing for promotions, battling against relegation or enjoying cup runs, a record of which can be found in the latest Directory. 

Team line-ups for the clubs in the National, North and South Divisions including FA Cup and FA Trophy matches, plus a data-base of over 2000 players who featured.

See how the new 2020-21 constitutions will look for all leagues in Steps 1-7.

Also included in almost 900 pages are the results from all the FA competitions, as well as England C; Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Island football; Colour and black & white photographs.

To reserve your copy and to receive it hot off the press (Mid August) as well as taking advantage of the ONLINE DISCOUNT (RRP £24.99)  click on the website http://nonleagueclubdirectory.co.uk/non-league-club-directory-2019-20.html

‘You’re not singing anymore’

It is either inspired planning or incredible luck that Minnie Birch has today released an album of football songs interspersed with reminiscences by football fans called ‘You’re not singing anymore’.

With the season ready to re-start tomorrow with no crowds we can all watch on TV and sing the title song.

Will the anticipation be met with deflation as the atmosphere less stadiums echo to their past. The opener is at Villa Park where the Holte End has always been considered the twelfth man by their fans. It may be that if we listen carefully ‘Hi Ho Aston Villa’ will still be rumbling around this great old stadium.

Minnie Birch is a football fan, an ex Sunday League player and also a very good folk singer. If the demos you can hear on line are anything to go by she will do well in her genre of music.

Minnie’s renditions made me ponder on my favourite football chant and although I have heard songs and sung them ‘off key’ many times it is ‘He’s here He’s there He’s in the Rose and Crown, Rodney Green, Rodney Green.’ This was while watching Watford where Rodney Green played for them as an old fashioned Centre Forward between 1968 and 1970 scoring 8 goals in his 30 appearances, this was his swansong in English football.

Whether this was the current Rose and Crown at Kings Langley or the Rose and Crown just down the road from the ground on the High Street I don’t know. The one on the High street seems to have closed about the time of Rodney Green’s departure. I must also say that I have no knowledge of him ever going in the Rose and Crown. However he was a liked figure by the fans and would often acknowledge their chants.

The Day Italian Football Died

The Day Italian football DiedTorino and the tragedy of Superga

Written by Alexandra Manna and Mike Gibbs: Published by The Brredon Books Publishing Company in Great Britain 2000

This is a really sympathetically written book that takes as the central theme the tragic plane crash of May 1949 which was carrying the entire Torino team as well as reserves, officials and trainers. Torino were known at the time as Grande Torino because of their dominance of Italian football having won Serie A for the previous three seasons and were about to win their fourth,

The players were so dominant in Italian football that they contributed more than half of the national team players for some time. The final chapter in the book reveals some very profesional statistics about the players and the club and throughout there are numerous photos that bring the words to light.

There are obvious comparisons to be drawn with the Munich air disaster but what followed was not a rebirth into ultimate bright lights but a struggle to shake off what appeared to be a curse on the team and its fortunes.

The history before the crash from the clubs inception is covered as is the 50 years that followed and it was this anniversary that inspired the publishing of the book. This disaster had a profound impact on Italian football and is still very much in the conscience today.

Garage Football Find

You hear of Garage Finds of old cars but these are a few photos I have found in a major lockdown clearout. They were taken with a Kodak Brownie 127 at the famous England 9-3 win over Scotland on 15th April 1961. It has always been reported as the game where the Scotland goalkeeper Frank Haffey had a nightmare.

I remember it for the fact that England dominated the first half to go in 3 nil up at half time and that the group of Scottish supporters sat directly in front of us and who were out in party mood did not reappear for the second half. Perhaps the bright lights of the West End looked infinitely a better bet than the trouncing to come. But after 53 minutes Scotland were back at 3-2 and nothing looked certain, England though just ran away with it after that and my favourite Jimmy Greaves scored a hatrick.

I believe this to be England 8 Mexico 0 from 1961 when I was collected from school and taken to the game. England were completely dominant scoring 4 goals in each half with a hat trick from Bobby Charlton. If it is not that game it is England 2 Sweden 3 from 1959 but I don’t think we had the Brownie then. My memory from that match was my father lifting me up to look over the wall at the top of the terracing to see the throng of supporters outside streaming in, no wonder I don’t have a good head for heights.

Philosophy Football

20200522_092901_resized

Philosophy Football ‘Eleven Great Thinkers Play it Deep’.

Written by Mark Perryman:   Published by Penguin Books 1997

Yet another Oxfam Book buy (£1.80) that has sat on my bookshelf for some time.

A small sized book with only 131 pages I thought would be a quick read. Nothing of the sort, this book sets 11 great philosophers, thinkers, writers, musicians in Mark’s eleven a side football team. Mark reviews, extends and fits their life skills and what they have contributed to world development into their imagined position in the team.

This sounds deep and highbrow  but mark gets lots of light hearted writing even into some of the very serious team members.

For me it was not an easy book to read as I wanted reference to the individuals values that I did not know but it certainly was worthwhile. Mark Perryman is the Co founder of Philosophy Football which as the book states “is a self styled sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction”. www,philosophyfootball,com

Mark has written other books and writes regularly on different topics as well as football.

One recent article ‘Null and Void’ points out that in this pandemic top flight football has shown up to be in the main just another business that is scrambling to keep the money-spinning show on the road. I fully sympathise with his article and will look out for more in the future.

Just look up ‘Null and Void’ Mark Perryman and it will come up first on the google list.

 

Football will be back.

Public Health is the prime consideration for when football resumes and we will have to wait for that day.

My first football love was St albans City and still a go to on their excellent twitter feed for their scores when they are playing. Over this lockdown period I have been following some fascinating articles about the history of football in St Albans by the club historian David Tavener. I hope that he collates his depth of knowledge and great writing style into a definitive history one day.

Over the VE Day weekend the twitter feed published a copy of the program for the first game played at Clarence Park since the ending of the Second World War which was not played until September 1st. Hopefully St Albans will be playing their first home game by September if it is safe.

 

 

st albans program

Looks like it was an exciting game but the notations on the program look as if the person watching was not too impressed.

Bowles

20200504_184231_resized

Bowles’ written by Steve Bidmead and Published by Virgin Books Ltd 2002 as part of FourFourTwo Footballers series.

This was a nostalgic read capturing the era when characters not only filled the back pages but front as well of the press in general. Stan Bowles was the anti hero to some but a hero to many who saw him as one of their own. He has been termed a maverick by many which is defined in The Collins Dictionary 25th Oct 2016 as : a person of independent or unorthodox views….Over the subsequent course of time, the word has been used to describe people in both a positive and negative context. To me Stan was a postive person reflecting the lives of many of his time. He was also an amazingly talented footballer.

This book captures the time and with the help of Stan a look into his world.

Born in Manchester he first came to fame at Manchester City but a  not unusual fall out with another larger than life  character Malcolm Allison saw him leave and play for two northern clubs before he joined QPR in 1972 and set in motion a seven year stay that saw him idolised by the fans.

He was bought to replace Rodney Marsh, departed for Manchester City, whose number ten shirt no one wanted to wear. Marsh had become a cult figure at the club and I can testify to this having seen him dominate a game at Watford one evening. An injury on the far side of the pitch from the dugouts saw him leave the field, lean against the hoardings, chat to the fans for a few minutes, then signal to the referee to return and continue his masterclass.

Stan Bowles however was not fazed by his predecessors aura and soon became the fans darling due to his on and off field antics. As a player he would often receive the ball in the attacking half and be able to effortlessly jink or body swerve a defender and bend a ball with both sides of his right foot to produce a telling pass or shot. QPR  arguably had a golden era when Stan played for them.

Unfortunately his footballing abilities were overshadowed by his life off the pitch and this book captures this brilliantly.

Not to ruin the book I will list only two of his telling quotes and these only from the introduction, ‘I lost a half million quid on gambling, booze and women – the rest I wasted’ and ‘I was penniless again. I’d blown the lot on vodka and tonic, gambling and fags.Looking back, I think I overdid it on the tonic.’

If you can get a copy of this book sit back and enjoy a time when individualism was still above the team ethic and personal activities were not plastered across Social Media.