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Needham, 1921: The standard of play

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2024-03-31 15:03:29

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Ernest Needham | 10/12/1921 —

Many football followers who have patronised the game for a great number of years standard of play at the present seem agreed that the time 18 not so good as it used to be, and that the decline has been particularly marked during the past few years. Now this is a subject which has to be studied, because those who have taken an interest in football for, the last thirty years are apt to forget that the cal! for players at the present time is far greater than it was years ago. In the eighties, when the Football League was formed, the competition consisted of twelve clubs only. Now you have twenty-two clubs in the First Division, and three additional sections, the whole embracing 86 teams, which are called "the cream of the country," all these independent of Scottish football.
My readers, who have seen football clubs make such great strides during the last ten or twelvey years, and who have seen Leagues and clubs springing up here. there, and everywhere, must realise that the more clubs you have the more players you require. Now my opinion is that there is only a limited supply of what you might term "star performers" at any time, and whereas. there were enough to go round in the old days, to-day the demand cannot be met. This fact, therefore, is partly responsible for the decline of football as a whole. HOW YOUNG PLAYERS SUFFER.
When you had only twelve clubs, and those clubs were confined to a small area of Lancashire and the Midlands, you were almost sure to see some first-class play, because they were able to get the best talent at practically no cost whatever. There was no serious opposition, for although there were several good clubs in the South — chiefly amateur bodies in the Metropolitan district — there was no Southern League and no big League clubs in the North of England.
Nowadays you have not so many polished players in each team as was the case in former years, and it requires little thought to know that a team which is short of talented players who can teach the younger end is bound to suffer and compare unfavourably with a side where the position is reversed.
The decline of football depends chiefly upon the spirit in which players enter the game. If men play the game for what money they can make out of it, then deterioration is certain. I believe that it is possible to combine financial interests with the love of the sport, and it is essential that this should be done. I am sure that the majority of the players do not play merely for pounds, shillings and pence. There may be a few exceptions, and I hope they are few. IDEAS DIFFER.
You will admit, of course, that you cannot expect a player to train so many days per week, and possibly at the week-end travel a great distance, without some remuneration for his services. It is due to him.
There is another point on the standard of play which must be noted. The present generation do not look upon football in the same way as their elders used to. What strikes a veteran as good play may not make a similar appeal to a young player.
Let us go into the merits of present-day players and compare them with those of the past. During the last thirty years goalkeepers, for example. have been plentiful. You are bound to find differences of opinions as to whether Sam Hardy was a better 'keeper than Moon, Robinson, Sutcliffe, Foulke and Doig, or indeed others who were tip-toppers in their time.
So far as full backs are concerned, England, last season at all events, had not defenders up to the old standard, though there were good men in Pennington, McCracken and Marshall; and Scotland had Dodds. These must be set against "Nick" Ross, the greatest back who ever played football, Dan Doyle, Howard Spencer, "Nick" Smith, Oakley and Crabtree. Others there were, naturally, and opinions of readers will be divided as to which men were actually the best of the bunch. PAST HAS THE PULL.
Now take the half-backs. This season we have some good ones in McCall, Grimsdell, Smith (Tottenham Hotspur), Watson (Burnley), Ducat, Barson, and, Wilson, of The Wednesday. Look back, and the following names will come to your mind: Holt (Everton), Russell, Archie Goodall, Hugh Wilson (Sunderland), Auld (Sunderland), Raisbeck, Reynolds, Calderhead, Tommy Crawshaw, Frank Forman. The past has the pull.
Taking a step further and discussing the forwards, you had, in the old days, Bassett, Johnnie Goodall, Athersmith, Dennis Hodgetts, Jack Sharp, Steve Bloomer, G. O. Smith, Fred Spiksley, Alec Smith, Johnnie Campbell, "Sandy" McMahon, "Bobbie" Walker, Grenville Morris, "Bob" McColl, Edwar Chadwick, and "Billie" Meredith, who is still playing for Manchester City. Against these I quote Buchan, Kelly, Chedgzoy, Dimmock, Bliss, Quantrill, Joe Smith (Bolton), Chambers (Liverpool), Morton, Cunningham, and Andrew Wilson (Middlesbro).
I have no doubt that there are as good players to-day as there were years ago, but now follows an important point. The players do not blend nowadays as the fellows of former days did, and here is a contributory cause to football deterioration.
Present-day footballers play the game just as keenly as ever it was played; indeed, I should say football now is a little faster than it was, but combination is not as good as of yore. The fault can be easily remedied. Players should learn to adapt themselves to conditions and to positions. They should learn by constant practice to trap and control the ball better. HOW TO REMEDY FAULTS.
They should endeavour always to keep the ball down on the ground, instead of kicking it anywhere and anyhow as soon as it comes to them; When they receive the ball they should immediately get it under control and survey the position for a second before parting with it. Young players will find that ability to do this will stand them in, good stead when they are wanted for better company.
Self-examination is not a bad thing. Our players of to-day would show to better advan tage if they would make a greater study of the game. We all have our faults: No one is perfect. If a player will only find out his own little weaknesses and do all he possibly can to remove them. he is bound to improve.
Team play can be improved by the forwards and half-backs playing together, the ball being passed along the ground. My advice is, "Pass the ball before you are tackled." You will find that, that is the best policy. The only players who should be permitted to kick the ball in the air are the backs, when clearing in front of, the goal, and the extreme wing men when centring into the goal.