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Catton, 1929: Demand of centre-forwards

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-02-01 22:45:23

Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
— James Catton | 16/11/1929 —

Happy is the club which has a centre-forward with a comprehensive grasp of his responsibilities to the team and can carry his burden with success. Having found such a player it is difficult to understand how any board of directors can reconcile themselves to transferring such a man to a rival organisation.
A really capable centre-forward is the free gift of nature and perfectly priceless. It is said that slip-fielders at cricket are born not made. The theory is just as applicable to centre-forwards in the Association game.
In vital aspects the same qualities are essential — an intuition of the run of the game and a readiness to profit by the unexpected and accidental which occur in such manly pastimes.
There are hundreds of good cricketers who can never be reliable slip-fielders, and there are more very clever footballers who can never become centre-forwards. To do correctly a specific act in the fraction of a second is always difficult, no matter how easy the chance appears. Thousands of catches are taken in the pavilion and thousands of goals scored on the grandstand.
Football and cricket are just like Life — full of lost opportunities. Remembering how few men are gifted with a keen sense of anticipation and accurate action, with an acceleration of movement, amid opponents on every side, surely we cannot wonder that a centre-forward of this type is a rarity. CENTRES REQUIREMENTS.
It was once my privilege, years ago, to have a heart-to-heart talk with John Goodall in the parlour behind his bird shop at Watford. He considered that G. O. Smith, the Carthusian, Oxford University, and Corinthian centre-forward, the greatest centre-forward he had ever seen, and I was struck with the remark that he was "so easy to play with."
This quality is so often overlooked. The modern centre-forward, it seems to me, requires all the room, all the leading work done for him, must be constantly played to, and he thinks he has done his kob when he happens to place the ball in the net.
There are exceptions, but the centre in these days seems to regard himself as the Micawber of football, always waiting for something to turn up to his advantage. The he struts on air and admires himself when he sees his name at the head of this modern innovation — a list of goal-scorers, a set of figures almost as harmful to team work and match winning as the cricket averages.
What does it matter who gets the goals so long as some member of the eleven is successful? It is as much the duty of the centre-forward to opent out the game, to send the ball out to the wing raider, to keep the backs occupied and shoulder them away when the centre-kick is made and to give a scoring pass to a mate on either side of him as to net the ball himself. Yet how few of these latter-day centre-forwards are developers of attacks. How few think of the inside forward who is better placed than himself and give him the ball. STEVE BLOOMER'S RECORD.
I do not wish to be misunderstood when I say that G. O. Smith was not the greatest scorer of his era, but he was the easiest man to play with and the most unselfish provider of positions for his colleagues, who were all working with the same object.
Bloomer scored 28 goals in international matches. How many of these did he owe to the passes of G. O. Smith? Heaven knows, but we are aware that the old Carthusian once stated that he had only to say "Steve," and that as soon as the sound had died away on his lips the ball was in the goal.
If there was a "Jo" Smith now England's selectors would not be balancing the merits of Camsell, Dean, Bradford, Hampson, and the rest of them. Who, in these days, would be a selector, when there is not, to my thinking, a really first-class English centre? We have had no one at his zenith and of Hugh Gallacher, Newcastler's little wonder.
Each of these Scots is still a master of the ball. All English centres are subservient to the ball. That is the vital difference. Viewing these facts — not fancies — ought we not to feel real sympathy for clubs which, like Tottenham Hotspur and Preston North End, have each had to play seven centre-forwards in less than three months of this season?
Huddersfield have been hunting several years for a centre, and have played five men in this position since August. Even Arsenal have had to experiment with three before securing Halliday, with the revenue which the public provide to enable this club to obtain the most talented footballers that they can.
Here is a simple proportion sum: — If Halliday is worth £6,000 to Arsenal, with a gross income of £80,000 per annum, what would be G. O. Smith's value to the club? Quite simple: work it out. If we have sympathy for clubs which cannot either discover or obtain a genuine centre of ability, surely we should rejoice with Sheffield Wednesday who found John Allen at Brentford, with Middlesbrough who snapped up Camsell at Durham, with Leicester who saw Chandler with Queen's Park Rangers, with Grimsby who recognised the material in Joseph Robson, of Gateshead, and with Blackpool who realised the possibilities of James Hampson when he was at Nelson. No doubt it may be said that those clubs which have not a useful centre-forward had the same chance of securing these men as the club which got them. That is merely assumption, and it does follow that any one of these would have been as successful in different company as in his present team.
Footballers are fickle fellows, and just as likely to vary in form as thoroughbred. If clubs are to be reproached for not signing any of these men what shall we say of Leeds United, who seem to make a "corner" in centres, for this club have Tom Jennings, Charles Keetley, and David Mangnall on their books.
Of course Keetley has been so ill that he has had to undergo two operations, and for the moment Mangnall or Maltby, is the man in possession, and playing well. But I wish the cinematographer had been about with his camera in "Jo" Smith's days. What a couach manual for centres his pictures in slow motion would have been.