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Billy Meredith: Giants of Soccer IV.
Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-04-13 22:00:56
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BEN WARREN'S PART IN ENGLAND'S RENOWNED HALF-BACK LINE
— Billy Meredith | 28/10/1934 —
The greatest right half-back I have known was Ben Warren, who played for Derby County and Chelsea, and appeared in the England team on fifteen occasions (nine times while with the County and on six occasions assisting Chelsea). He had also several inter-League honours to his credit.
With Wedlock and Grimsdell, Warren formed what was unquestionably one of England's most renowned half-back lines — and it must not be forgotten that Duckworth, Roberts and Bell, of Manchester United, were always spoken of as being one of the best trios that ever played.
Warren was a strong and forceful player, as brilliant in attack as in defence, and his stamina was amazing. He was about 12 st. and 5ft. 9in. in height, and a great "feeder" of the ball.
It was his tackling, however, which was one of his finest assets. He timed his moves to the moment, and although he probably ran miles during the course of the game, he invariably finished as fresh as when the game opened.
Warren had a wonderful reserve of energy. When he appeared to be beaten he would bring out that extra ounce of strength to overtake an opponent for possession, and to take the ball into attack. He used his shoulders fairly and squarely and with all his weight.
He and Bob Crompton had a remarkable understanding when playing in the England side and very few goals were scored by a left wing of any international side against them. They knew each others moves, and their covering-up was excellent. Little wonder that they played together for many years.
Warren, after a period of about eight years with Derby County, moved to Chelsea in 1909, but tragedy was to follow. This great player's career ended in 1911. He died in an institution soon afterwards. In the opinion of many players, myself included, it was thought that Warren used his head so frequently and against the heaviest balls, that it had its effect on his brain.
It was one of football's biggest tragedies. For Warren threw all his strength and resource into every match and no one game was treated as better than another by him. In League struggles he played just as hard and with just as much enthusiasm as when assisting his country.
Other outstanding right half backs at that time were Val Harris, of Shelbourne and Everton fame, who played twenty-one times for Ireland, and who is now, I understand, training some club in the Free State League.
Jimmy Gordon (Glasgow Rangers) was another. So was Dick Duckworth (Manchester United), while, coming a little nearer to modern Soccer, I cannot omit Willis Edwards, of Leeds.
Ben Warren may not have been a much better player than Dick Duckworth, and, of course, I appreciate how much Duckworth helped me in my career — he played behind me hundreds of times — but it was unfortunate for Duckworth that he should have such a brilliant player as Warren playing at the same time. Warren undoubtedly cost Duckworth many an international cap.
Of modern right half backs, I place C. Britton, of Everton, as the best. This young player joined the Merseyside club under curious circumstances. He came from Bristol Rovers, and was considered, I have heard it stated, to be mere "make-weight" with regard to the transfer of Ronald Dix.
Britton is a strong player, with a penchant for crossing the ball into the middle of the goalmouth. In my opinion, he should never be left out of an England team.
MY IDEAL HALF.
In fact, Britton is my ideal of what a right half back should be — a grand schemer, one that keeps in touch with his wing men, and an equally brilliant defender.
Probably Britton's closest rival is Matt Busby, a Scot, of Manchester City.
Busby, like Britton, has had a curious experience. He joined the Lancastrians as inside left, was not altogether a success, and — I think I am right in stating — to fill what would have been a vacancy in the reserve team he was played at right half.
That move "made" Busby, and to-day Scotland are in the position of having two right half backs of equal brilliance. The other is Massie (Hearts, and formerly Bury), who also was a forward, but apparently not a big success, and returned across the border to become a right half back and a captain of Scotland.
Without some mention of that grand player, Gardner (Aston Villa) these notes would not be complete, and neither would they if I omitted to say that I seldom fail to get a thrill out of watching Britton play. The latter ought to be an automatic choice for England for many years to come.
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