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Catton, 1931: Dean as great as G. O. Smith?
Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-02-02 21:09:00
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IS DEAN AS GREAT AS G.O. SMITH?
— James Catton | 12/12/1931 —
Just as people who never saw W. G. Grace will timidly inquire if he was really as wonderful a cricketer as greybeards conted, so they startle veterans with such a query as:
— Do you think that G.O. Smith was as effective a centre-forward as this fellow Dean, of Everton?
W.G. and G.O. are almost mythological heroes to the youth of this generation. Comparisons with the long ago are difficult. Association football has changed in several essentials. In all periods the position of centre-forward has afforded scope for individual brilliance. In every age, and whatever his style of play, it has been and is vital that the centre should be a sure shot for goal.
Yet G. O. Smith never scored with such frequency as Dean. A study of the great matches in which the Old Carthusian and captain of Oxford University played, offers convincing evidence that he was not merely a finisher of movements.
His gentle manner and modest speech did not suggest the generaç conception of a footballer. When he came off the field not a hair of his head was out of place. He possessed perfect body balance in all movements. Smith once summed up his style to me in this way:
— In my day the centre was supposed to be the leader of the forwards and the pivot on which the others turned. His task was to initiate attacks, to make openings for the inside forwards. He had to lure the defence to one side and then pass to the other and keep the backs engaged.
How different it is to-day! The other forwards work out their schemes, then give the ball to the centre-forward, who is expected to score. We now look upon the centre as a "spear-head," as a thruster and not a developer. To most people he takes all the glory as the scorer. He is not a general, but a private soldier whose duty it is to make a definite break in the bastion.
In Smith's day newspapers did not print lists of the leading scorers. Who scored was of no consequence so long as somebody did. And if we ask an ancient like John Goodall, of Watford, who was the greatest of centres, the old professional will say:
— 'Jo' Smith, because he was so easy to play with.
Do we not overlook this accomplishment now? Do we see the centre-forwards who make it easy for their colleagues to place the ball in the net? G.O. was the universal provider.
Yet he once got 14 goals in a week! No goals in his career gave Smith such satisfaction as that he scored in the Dewar Cup match of 1899-1900, when the Corinthians defeated Aston Villa by 2-1. G.O. writes:
— I was lucky enough to get the winning goal and we were all very proud of having beaten our redoubtable opponents.
While John Goodall says that Smith was easy to play with, the old Oxonian retorts:
— In all my international matches the way was made fairly easy for me.
In these phrases and remarks do we not trace the perfection of understanding and combination so often lacking in these days?
A GREAT CENTRE.
No one can deny that Dean is a great centre. Scotland has had her heroes in R. S. McColl, A.N. Wilson, Dr. John Smith, the giant of Mauchline, William Sellar, and many others, but even Scotia has never had such a scintillating scorer as Dean. The Evertonian, like G.O. Smith, is always in the best position for his purpose — to get goals. Stein may make perfect centres, and Johnson and White, the forwards on either side of Dean, may provide the final pass, but of what use would such efforts be if Dean were not there? He should be called Dean, The Ever Ready, with either feet or head.
Never has there been a centre-forward so adept with his head. With a nod he flicks a ball here and there: he diverts it where he wills. McGrory, of Glasgow Celtic, is a clever "header," but no one has ever equalled Dean in the downward subtle turn that he can give the ball with his brow or the side of his head.
Men like Jack Sharp, who have played first-class football, and watched it latterly, are positive that there has never been a man with such a head: not even the renowned Scot, "Sandy" McMahon, of the Glasgow Celtic, or the other "Sandy" — Turnbull, of Manchester.
There are many kinds of centres. George Allan, of Liverpool, was of the big bustling type, who dashed headlong for goal. Did not William Foulke, the Daniel Lambert of all goalkeepers, once embrace Allan and stand him on his head?
RESERVES OF STRENGTH.
Of Allan's style was Albert Shepherd, of Bolton, Newcastle, and Bradford City. Not quite so powerful as Allan, he had such reserve of strength that he could plough his way through mud at a speed that would have exhausted most men; but Shepherd had always a shot left in his stride.
Perhaps some can remember how Shepherd, at Stamford Bridge 25 years ago, scored four goals against the pick of the Scottish League with Charles Thomson, of the Heart of Midlothian, at centre-half-back.
Speed and power are incalculable assets to the modern centre. Lambert, of Arsenal, is of this kind, while Waring, of Aston Villa, with explosive élan and always fresh, fearless and tireless, possesses a shot that recalls the swiftness of a swallow in its swerving flight.
Scotland has had more really great centres than any country. Right from the faraway, when Geordige Ker of the Queen's cast a spell over his adversaries, down to this hour, Caledonia has had a clever and cute centre-forward. Their reigns may have been brief, but they were popular idols.
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