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Watchman: Eleven to beat the world
Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2021-07-30 01:39:59
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Eleven to beat the world
Watchman | 03/05/1931
For more than eight months it has been my pleasant, if somewhat exacting duty to deal with the outstanding events in the history of many of the great football clubs in England, Scotland and Wales, and to recall some of the greatest players who have served them, and now, in conclusion, the task has been imposed on me to suggest the best eleven players, irrespective of their nationality, who have played in the two countries I have named.
First let us consider the goalkeepers. From the long list I reduced them to half a dozen: W. Rowley (Stoke), J. W. Robinson (Derby County, New Brighton and Southampton), and Samuel Hardy (Liverpool and Aston Villa) as the three best English-born keepers: J. E. Doig (Sunderland) as the prince of the Anglo-Scots, and J. Trainer (Bolton Wanderer and Preston North End), and L. R. Roose (Stoke, Everton and Sunderland), representing Wales.
In the Principality, I know they look upon Jimmy Trainer as the most gifted man who ever stood beneath the bar, just as they regard Roose, the amateur, as the most daring and most unorthodox.
J. E. Doig. of Arbroath found his way into scotland's team on only six occasions, and four of his games were against England. He played in the memorable meeting at Ibrox Park in 1902, when the collapse of a stand resulted in the game being abandoned, but he was not in the side that figured in the second game at Birmingham.
Sam Hardy, who went to Liverpool from Chesterfield and whose passing over to the Villa was a big disappointment to many Merseysiders, was England's goalkeeper on 18 occasions between 1907 and 1920. The war robbed him of many more caps. In 1907, 1909, 1910, 1914, and 1920 he was never left out of the English team, in 1913 and again in 1920, he helped Aston Villa to win the Cup, and in my opinion he was the greatest custodian of all time, never spectacular, but accomplished in every detail. and as safe as houses.
Eight years before Hardy earned his first Cup medal the Villa won the trophy with the aid of Howard Spencer, a right back, who was a model of what a professional footballer ought to be, and is now a director of the club he served so well.
Another famous English back in Bob Crompton, of Blackburn Rovers, challenges comparison with Spencer. He, too, until quite recently, was a director of his club, which he joined in 1896 from Blackburn Trinity. Six years later he was capped all three international games, and between 1906 and 1914 was out of the England team only on one occasion. A big, fine, upstanding defender. Crompton was capped on no fewer than 34 occasions, but somewhat reluctantly I pass him over in favour of Nick Ross who has been dead over 30 years but still lives in memory. Ross was perhaps the greatest of the "Old Invincibles" He was a Scot and never received a "cap," but at that time Scotland would not consider her exiled sons.
There have been many great left-backs, Jesse Pennington, who, like his old international partner Crompton, gained practically every honour except a Cup-winner's medal, was for many years a West Bromwich Albion stalwart. He was awarded the first of his 21 International caps in 1907, and his last in 1920. But for all-round excellence I should place Pennington second to the great Donald Gow, who was capped while with Glasgow Rangers, of which team he was captain — a back with a beautiful style, and scrupulously fair.
Dan Doyle, who made an International reputation with Celtic, and enhanced it with Everton, was another grand left-back.
Before me as I write is a list of 23 half-backs, any one of whom I suppose has a strong claim to be regarded as the best man in his position. That fact is sufficient indi• cation of the difficulty to single oat the three. By what standard, for instasce. Is one to tudye the respective claims at right half of Frank Forman (Nottingham Forest , . Jerry Reynolds (Aston Villa). dandy Robertson (Preston North End), and Maurice Parry (Liverpool)?
Each was a star in his own particular way, each had distinctive qualities, but for all-round excellence Forman must be my choice. He had the physique, the headpiece, and the natural ability which made him not only a great half-hack but an extra back and a sixth forward.
At centre-half, Scotland's claim is represented by Alex Raisbeck, of Liverpool, and James Cowan, of Aston Villa. England's by William Wedlock, of Bristol City, and Charles Roberts, of Manchester United, and that of Wales by Caesar Jenkins.
Raisbeck played seven times for his country against England; Wedlock appeared on six occasions against Scotland. Both estabilished the right to be ranked with the great ones of the football field whose names will go down to posterity. And by reason of his height, his dashing, breesy versatility, his keen anticipation and unflagging energy. I give Raisbeck as my ideal centre-half.
J. W. Crabtree is my preference at at left half, though he had to compete for his place with such masters of their craft as Peter WcWilliam, Ernest Needham, Grimsdell, McMullan, and J. T. Robertson.
Crabtree's nearest rival for honours was, to my mind, Needham. The former was, perhaps, the most versatile and adaptable player of all time. He was equally at home right or left — one foot was to him as good as the other. Nor did it matter whether he was asked to fill a back, half-back or forward berth. He was by nature a genius.
Wales vies with England for the honour having bred the greatest of all outside rights. I refer to William Meredith, who played for the Principality in fifty international games.
Meredith was an example of what is posible to a player who perfects the art of ball control and uses his brains, and those of us who were privileged to see him — with his famous toothpick — play many of his greatest games will not hesitate to say that be was supreme in his position, conscious though we must be of the skill of "Billy" Bassett, of West Bromwich fame, who was England's choice on 16 occasions.
Steve Bloomer, who scored 28 goals for England in 23 internationals, is entitled to be regarded as the beat inside right that has figured in English football. Others may have excelled him in the matter of combination, but few had the ability to create a scoring opportunity so easily as he did.
It is not so easy to settle upon the greatest centre-forward where we have John Campbell (Sunderland), John Goodall (Preston North End), G. O. Smith (Corinthians), Archie Hunter (Aston Villa), and R. S. McColl (Newcastle United) to weigh in the balance. The meteoric brilliance of the last-named gained him a place on thirteen occsasions in Scotland's team, and I am cognisant of the remarkable scoring achievements of Campbell, who, in the opinion of the late Mr. Tom Watson, who managed Sunderland and Liverpool, was without a peer at centre.
My vote, however, goes to John Goodall, who, though born in the south of Scottish parents, learbed the game at Kilmarnock, and played football of the best and purest kind, football that was both artistic and intellectual.
Goodall grafted the subtle Kilmarnock style into the Preston forward play. Never a sprinter, he initiated a combination of dribbling and passing — swift, short passing, — that made the "Old Invincibles" supreme.
My inside left selection is A. G. Morris. the Welsh International, who played on twenty-one occasions for his country. He was equally good as an individualist and in combination, a splendid strategist.
Bobby Templeton, the outside left, who assisted Aston Villa, Newcastle United, Woolwich Arsenal and Kilmarnock, and eleven times played for Scotland, was a football genius who, in his best mood, was a sheer delight to watch, but was afflicted with a large measure of the eccentricity of genius.
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Templeton J. Goodall Meredith
G. Morris Bloomer
Crabtree Raisbeck Forman
D. Gow N. Ross
Here we have ten Internationals(Ross is the exception) who, between them, figured in nearly 200 representative games.