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Watchman: Preston North End
Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-02-01 16:48:15
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— Watchman | 16/11/1930 —
Everybody who is au fait with the history of Soccer football know something about the great days of Preston North End, whose name is indelibly inscribed on the role of fame for a variety of reasons. In the first place they were the pioneers of professionalism, they had at one time a well-nigh invincible team, which played what old-stagers tell us was the most scientific game ever seen, and their feat of winning both the League and Championship and the F.A. Cup in one season — the former without a single defeat and the latter without losing a goal — has never been equalled or ever approached.
There have been endless arguments as to whether the team that accomplished that wonderful achievement would have been as all-conquering in modern football as it was in the late 'eighties. It is obviously difficult to be definite on such a point.
But the fact must not be overlooked that Preston, as a result of the shrewdness, sound judgment, and enterprise of Major William Sudell, who was elected a member of the club in August 1867, was the first club to see possibilities in introducing the best footballers of the day into any position which, in the opinion of the management, required judicious strengthening.
Major Sudell determined to run a team of out-and-out professionals, men who should make football their calling and devote themselves to it assiduously rather than spasmodically. The result was the building up of a team which in point of individual and collective skill, of perfect physical condition brought about by systematic training and of complete subordination of self, was for the period supreme.
ONLY CUP WIN.
There were only twelve clubs in the League at the time they were champions, and none of their rivals had cultivated either method, condition or combination to the same extent as did the Old Invincibles. The team which made Preston the temporary home of the F.A. Cup for the first and only time included Dr. R. H. Mills-Roberts; Howarth, Holmes; Drummond, Russell, Graham; Gordon, J. Ross, Goodall, Thompson, and F. Dewhurst; and there is a widespread opinion that that was the finest team that has ever worn North End's colours.
I shall not attempt to dispute it, though since that day there have been certain players who challenge comparison — in some cases favourably, I think — with the great eleven of 1888/89. Take as an illustration, James Trainer, who has often been described as the Prince of goalkeepers. He would have been in the invincible eleven had he been eligible to play in the Cup-ties.
A WELSH STAR.
This Welshman from Wresham first played for Great Lever, a Bolton club, and then for the Wanderers, and was in the latter's goal when North End took the liberty of putting twelve goals past him. Their defence, nevertheless, realised that there was a goalkeeper par excellence, and there was some heart-burning in the Bolton camp when Trainer went over to the enemy. There have been other great goalkeepers on the Deepdale staff, including Peter McBride, a Scotsman, who graduated with the Ayr club, and W. C. Rose.
Nicholas J. Ross, and Edinburgh slater, who left the Hearts because he desired to follow his trade, was unquestionably the greatest back who ever served North End. He missed his Cup medal because he had temporarily transferred his services to Everton. He was a lissom fellow, who put his whole heart and soul into the game.
He was very fast, tackled with such vim and accuracy that it was tremendously difficult to get past him, kicked with tremendous power, and was a most uncompromising foe.
NAME STILL LIVES.
He saved manu a maych when matters were going against his die by going to centre and showing his forwards how goals could be got. He has been dead 36 years yet his name still lives.
The two backs who were on duty when Wolverhampton Wanderers were beaten 3-0 at Kennington Oval in the Cup final were locals who were grand defenders, even though they lacked the "devil" of Ross. Both played for England against all three countries.
Few more judicious backs have been associated with the game than Holmes, whose first club was Blackburn Olympic, and who became a referee, then trainer, and an active member of the Player's Union.
In the palmy days of the Preston club they had a matchless trio of half-backs in Robertson, Russell, and Graham; they could play any kind of game. Strong and skilful in every sense, they were perfect tacklers and made their forwards play. Sandy Robertson, who came from Edinburgh St. Bernards, was as hard as nails, and to his lasting regret lost his place in the Cup team through an injury.
David Russell, of Stewarton, Ayrshire, a magnificently-built man, was a great breaker-up of combination, and John Graham, of Annbank, in the same county, did some wonderful work.
There have been other half backs who made a name with North End, such as Holdsworth, McLean, Percy, Smith (now manager at Tottenham), Hunter, Lyon, Waring, and one other, Joe McCall, a Wrea Green man who for many years carried the Preston team on his back. Those who never saw Russell play may find it hard to believe that North End ever possessed a better or more conscientious pivot than McCall.
Joe was an industrious fellow; he could never do enough. He was not only a busy pivot, but he was an extra back and sixth forward rolled into one. I cannot find any forward line in Preston's service, or elsewhere for that matter, that quite attained the high standard set by J. Gordon, J. Ross, J. Goodall, S. Thompson, and F. Dewhurst, though I am prepared to admit that the teams they met were not in the same class, and if they had had to meet defences as we know them to-day it is conceivable that they would not have harvested such a crop of goals.
Jack Gordon went to Preston from a Port Glasgow Athletic. He crossed the border to work, quite independently of North End, as a joiner in the village of Leyland, but he was discovered, and included in the eleven. James Ross was a younger brother of the full back, and graduated with Edinburgh St. Bernards.
He and Gordon earned an immortal reputation as a wing, and o other flank was a strong, robust, dangerous pair in Fred Dewhurst, one of the best forwards Lancashire ever produced, and Geordie Drummond.
Dewhurst, like Ross, was an expert in drawing an opponent to give his outside partner a clear course, and Drummond another importation from Edinburgh St. Bernards, was an adept at hugging the touchline when dribbling. It was a master stroke when North End induced John Goodall to leave Great Lever and knit these superb wings together, for Goodall, a London man, was the greatest centre of his day.
He was especially skilful in his ideas of securing effective combination; he shone more refulgently in that respect than as an individualist. Years later J. W. Crabtree, the old English international, expressed the view that these five had never been equalled.
There may be those who consider that "Dickie" Bond came little behind Gordon, that David McLean, who gave the best years of his career to Sheffield Wednesday, has a strong claim to be regarded as the ideal centre, though it is difficult to compare him with Goodall, for each had qualities the other lacked; and that Alec James, now an Arsenal star, was the equal of Dewhurst as regards individual skill. But at the risk of being considered antiquated I select the following as being the best players North End have had:
Drummond J. Goodall J. Gordon
Dewhurst J. Ross
J. Graham Russell Robertson
Holmes N. Ross
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