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Gibson, 1912: Past and present players
Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-04-12 21:36:33
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GREAT PLAYERS OF TO-DAY
— Alfred Gibson | 07/12/1912 —
There may have been periods of the game when there were more players to whom the term "great" could be applied, but there has seldom been a time when there were more first-class men playing the game than there are to-day, and among the first-class players there is a goodly proportion that are great in nearly every sense of the word.
THE OLD AND THE NEW.
It is a matter of opinion perhaps whether we have backs quite the qual of, say, Nick Ross and Walter Arnott, of imperishable fame; whether we have half-backs with the towering superiority of Crabtree, Cowan, Reynolds, and Groves; whether we have forwards of the same class and calibre as Bassett, Goodall, Archive Hunter, W. N. Cobbold, R. S. McColl, Johnny Campbell, of Sunderland, and one or two others. Oldish people would doubtless sigh for the older brigade, but I who have seen both old and new am quite divided in my allegiance. In some respects the men I have mentioned were unique, but I can name players of to-day who also possess qualities distinctly their own. I cannot believe that the heroes of the past had all the virtues. There were good men before Armageddon, and there will be great men after it. The raw material of the nation is as good as ever, and we still possess the intelligence to mould it into heroic shape.
ON THE SAME LEVEL.
Whom, for instance, have we to-day to compare with Nick Ross and Arnott? I know I will raise a storm of protest from the older section of my readers when I suggest Robert Crompton, of Blackburn, and Jesse Pennington, of West Bromwich. I do not suggest that either of the latter has the positive genius that swept Nick Ross along and inspired him to deeds that in the eyes of his contemporaries looked like magic, nor do I insist that Crompton or Pennington had all the magnificent qualities of Walter Arnott in mesmerising forwards, but I do say that the two modern men, each in his own style possess qualities that put him on the same elevated plane as the giants of old. Robert Crompton, indeed, with his big-boned frame and iron constitution, has easily outlasted in length of time the great North Ender and the masterful Scottish amateur. For sheer consistency over a long term of years Crompton has never been equalled, far less surpassed. He holds a record number of International caps, and this, too, at a time when rivals are more plentiful and competition far keener.
BEST AGAINST BEST.
And Crompton is essentially a big match player. In his ordinary League games he occasionally takes a "breather," lapses into an ordinary player, but put him into an International side, and braced up by the occasion he immediately becomes his own great self, a player who dominates the game and reduces clever and versatile opponents to the level of ordinary good players. The sure sign of a great player is that he is seen at his best against the best class of opponent, and in this respect Crompton is one of the greatest backs of all time. Pennington differs from Crompton only in one way. He is rather more consistent in League games, but while always being good in International matches, he rarely rises to the heights of Robert Crompton. Other great backs of the present day are McCracken, of Newcastle United, and McConnachie, of Everton, the first an Irshman, and the second a Scotsman. These men, without being so much in the public eye, are exponents of the very highest class of football.
THE PRESENT HALF-BACKS.
When we come to present-day half-backs we do not find ourselves so rich in really great players. We have, of course, the evergreen and popular Wedlock of Bristol City. His success in big games has been extraordinary, more especially as one would hardly pick him out of a League game as more than a first-class club player. He has not, perhaps, the style of a classic, but his robust and tireless energy always make him a formidable antagonist in the best company. Three scientific half-backs, if not more successful, we find in Roberts, of Manchester United, and Veitch, of Newcastle, although the latter has now probably passed his best. Buckley, late of Aston Villa, was a strong and consistent player, and Ducat, of the same club, before he broke his leg, was certainly one of the great half-backs of the day. In the absence of very great half-backs one must name Harrop, of Aston Villa, a man of the best class. One could name many other players on the borderland of greatness, but at the moment we are in for a lean time in regard to the half-back line.
THE FORWARD LINE.
Happily we are better situated in the matter of forwards, so that it is often difficult to decide who are the really great players among our contemporaries. One can, however, safely assert that since Bassett's time we have had no such fine right winger as Simpson, of Blackburn Rovers. Quite a little fellow, about the same make and build as Bassett, Simpson owes nothing to physique. He relies on his clever foot-work, on a cool and alert temperamente, on a brain that keeps thinking and scheming every moment of the game. Give him the ball, and nine times out of ten he will part with it to the advantage of his side. I have never seen a man centre so well when hard pressed by opponents literally hanging on to him, while as a goal-scorer he has no superior in his position. He is a Scot, although born in England.
THE CRACK RIGHT-WINGER.
Another great winger is a Welshman — William Meredith. For nearly a decade this man has stood almost alone at the top of his class. He may not be quite as elusive as he was a year or two ago, when not even Simpson could have conceded him anything. Indeed, there are good judges now who regard Meredith as the crack right-winger in the kingdom. Happily, there is no need to vaunt the one against the other. There is still another great right-winger in Wallace of Aston Villa. This speedy, dashing, and clever player learned his football mostly in London before going to the Villa, where in the best company he has developed into one of the great players of his generation. And there are other superlatively good men in this position, such as Mordue of Sunderland, Rutherford of Newcastle, and Bond of Bradford City.
ALL "GOOD 'UNS."
When we turn to the other positions we are not quite so rich in class players — as outside left — but even here there are numbers of good men above the average. Wall of Manchester United is still one of the best, though not consistent. Bach, of Aston Villa, has developed into a good outside-left, and along with Stephenson of the same club makes the best wing in England. Middlemiss of Tottenham Hotspur is always a fine winger, although hardly rising to greatness. I have seen no better outside left for some time than Lamb of Swindon, a tall, powerful, resourceful player, with a perfect swinging centre at the right moment. Bloomer is still playing good football, but his day is nearly over, and at inside right we have Shea of West Ham, a midget of infinite cunning, and like him, Halse of Aston Villa, both London lads, and two of the best goal-getters in England. Buchan, another Londoner playing for Sunderland, is great at inside right. Unfortunately Fleming of Swindon has been disabled since the Cup-ties of last season.
THE PICK OF THE BASKET.
At centre-forward Hampden of Aston Villa must definitely be classed among the greats of his generation, but we have not many of the best class for this position. Vivian Woodward is still a very fine player, and while he can play well anywhere he is, undoubtedly, at his best at inside right or inside left. I have named a good number on the active list, and if asked to write down the really great men of to-day I would name Crompton, Pennington, Wedlock, Roberts, Ducat, Simpson, Meredith, Wallace, Buchan, Fleming, Hampden, Woodward, Bache, Stephenson, Halse, Shea, Wall, Mordue, and Lamb.
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