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Bloomer, 1910: Some footballers of yesterday
Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-02-09 01:54:43
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SOME FOOTBALLERS OF YESTERDAY
— Steve Bloomer | 11/11/1910 —
I am greatly afraid that I have set myself a task of some magnitude when I promised the editor to write about footballers of yesterday. During my somewhat lengthy career in first-class football I have met many fine exponents of the game who deserve columns each, and If I do not happen to make mention of any particular player who, according to the views of the reader, should be entitled to a paragraph, I can only fall back upon the please that there are so many to write about and so little space at my disposal.
It may seem rather peculiar to start an article with apologies, but in this case it really cannot be avoided, because, you see, I may be likely to give offence to those whom I apparently ignore, and, at the same time, create lifelong enemies by writing of the doings of men as players of yesterday when they were also entitled to be considered players of to-day.
AN IDEAL CUSTODIAN.
In this latter category I place my ideal goal-keeper, who so far back as 1897 played for England against Scotland and Ireland. I refer to the most brilliant of all goalies, J. W. Robinson, with whom I have had the pleasure of playing on many occasions. What Robinson did for Derby County, New Brighton Tower, Southampton, Plymouth, Exeter City, and, so far this season, Stoke, would fill a volume as thick as a family Bible. Those who can remember his daring saves will, I am sure, agree with me that the assistance of such a man was worth much to any side.
Somehow, with Robinson in goal every player in the team would feel comfortable. The forwards would have no need to worry about the defence; all they had to do was to play the scoring game. And the halves knew that most of their time could be spent in feeding the forwards, for with two decent backs and Jack Robinson the defence required no assistance.
ROBINSON THE UNFORTUNATE.
I have seen Robinson make a dash at the ball when it has been practically in the goal-mouth, and before he could get the sphere away some four or five players have been on top of him; but, no matter how big the heap of struggling humanity, Jack would soon be discovered wriggling from under, and before his opponents knew it the ball would be well up in their territory.
My pen can scarcely do justice to his wonderful form when he was at his best; but a more unfortunate player it would be difficult to find; in fact, it is common knowledge amongst footballers that Robinson has had nearly all his bones broken at one time or another. He has been kicked in the head, which has left him very deaf; and only a year or two ago his leg was injured to such an extent that no hopes were entertained of his ever being able to stand upright. However, he persevered with a bloodless surgeon, and is to-day playing a game which might well be envied by many a youngster.
AN UNANIMOUS SELECTION.
In the words of the showman, "my next, ladies and gentlemen," is a player who, as a half-back, has never had an equal in England. It is scarcely necessary for me to mention his name. You have guessed it! — Ernest Needham. When he was at the zenith of his power he fulfilled every duty that is required of a "half," that is to say, he could defend like an extra back and attack like an extra forward. I don't think I ever saw a man who was so active, for he was here, there, and everywhere, and to his opponents was about the most dangerous player to be reckoned with.
For many years no side which represented England could be considered complete without him, and I should imagine the first name which came to the lips of the International Selection Committee was Ernest Needham.
He was a very determined tackler, a magnificent dribbler, passing accurately to the player who was in the best position to make headway, and, moreover, a deadly shot at goal.
THE MAN WHO MADE THE TEAM.
I haven't any hesitation in saying that Sheffield United gained their position in the League table year after year through his untiring energy and really wonderful play. His greatest knack seemed to be a knowledge of what his opponents were going to do, and he was ever in the right place. I have played against Sheffield United on many occasions, and have frequently congratulated myself on having got past the backs, when, lo and behold, Needham was there to save his side.
A CORINTHIAN STALWART.
Another great "half," who has probably been forgotten by most football enthusiasts of to-day, was Mr. Wreford Brown, who captained England's victorious side against Scotland in 1898. He was not only a splendid player, but also a thorough sportsman, who always did his best for the true interests of football. Those of my readers who will recall his name will doubtless remember him as one of the great outstanding lights of a great team — the Corinthians.
The man in the street would never have imagined Wreford Brown to be one of the most brilliant centre half-backs of his time, for he looked rather slack than otherwise when off the field, and nobody would have credited him with sufficient energy to carry him through a strenuous game. But on the field nobody could work harder, and he would stick to his opponent like grim death, and I can remember the well-deserved applause which came from vast crowds when he played the attacking game and fed his forwards in his own inimitable way.
THE ONE AND ONLY G. O.
I cannot go any further without mentioning that other great Corinthian who, as a centre-forward, can never be ousted from the topmost pinnacle. For an amateur player to be selected, year after year and match after match, to play for England at a time when the country was particularly rich in professionals, who could fill the position with brilliance, was only one way of proving what G. O. Smith really was, and the twenty occasions on which he played centre-forward for his country against Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, would doubtless have been added to, but for his somewhat early retirement from the game.
Only those who have played with him can fully appreciate the unselfish manner in which he led his men in International matches. He could start a really magnificent combined movement, and was always well up in front of goal to give the ball that necessary finishing touch which sent it spinning into the corner of the net. From these words it must not be imagined that G. O. Smith would always want to kick the goal. Not a bit of it; for if he saw another man better placed to make the kick — and, he seemed to see everything in a thousandth part of a second — he would make one of his accurate low passes which would place the matter beyond any doubt.
I often wonder when I hear people raving about this or that centre-forward whether they ever saw G. O. He was a great player, wonderful worker, and a gentleman whose splendid personality caused him to become a very popular favourite with players and spectators alike.
MY WING PARTNER.
Before I leave this topic of players of yesterday, to which, by the way, I know I have not done justice — I want volumes, not columns — I must pay my tribute to John Goodall, who was my partner on the right wing when I played for Derby County, and whose valuable advice has been of the greatest assistance to me throughout my career. Capped for England fourteen times, and one of the mainstays of his side, he will be remembered as one of the steadiest players in the world.
I don't think I can do better than quote the words of G. O. Smith, who, alluding to Goodall, says, "Not only as a player has he gained universal admiration, but as a man of whom it is know that he will have recourse to nothing that can be called for a moment underhand, and will always play the game as it ought to be played. Search amongst amateurs and professionals and you will not find a fairer or more gentlemanly player, and both alike are proud to reckon him amongst the numbers of their friends. May good luck always attend him."
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