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27/05/1929: Brum interviews Dennis Hodgetts

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-04-22 20:15:42

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"The Old Crocks" & Preston "Invincibles"
Dennis Hodgetts' Life-Story

Interview by Brum | 27/05/1929

Some of the greatest players the Association game has ever known are recalled by Dennis Hodgetts, the famous Aston Villa and English International forward, in concluding his Life Story in Football which he has been contributing exclusively to the Athletic News. 

A wonderful player himself, Hodgetts’ reminiscences have provided a most absorbing chapter to the series of Life Time Stories which we hope to continue.

I have not the slightest hesitation saying that the finest eleven that ever took the feld for England was the side that met Scotland in 1888. I was a member of that side, but I speak quite impersonally.
The forward line was the mightiest I have ever seen, in every sense — Spry Woodhall, a great hefty outside right, then at his best; John Goodall, superb player, and the only one of the five who was not a giant; Tinsley Lindley, a perfect Hercules; Fred Dewhurst, and myself. I was 13st. 2lb., and Lindley, Dewhurst and Woodhall were men of perfect physique.
The individual skill and combination were wonderful. We won 5—0; a remarkable result in an international with Scotland, and some of the eulogies I recall were enough to turn our heads. Tinsley Lindley was a delightful fellow; he was a born leader, and shall never forget the perfect esprit de corps he inspired.
I am prouder of my association with that wonderful side than I am of anything in football, except my connection with Aston Villa as a whole. I recall it as the match of my existence. Shock for the Scots.
My second and last match against Scotland was also a notable one. The eleven selected seemed to amuse the Scottish papers, and we were dubbed “The Old Crocks.”
Well, we may have been somewhat aged, but I think the idea mainly arose because the famous Corinthian, A. T. B. Dunn, was selected ten years after he had first been chosen for international honours, and eight years after his last previous International game.
Then they seemed to think that George Toone was pretty old, and Billy Bassett and I had both seen some service. So, of course, had John Goodall, and Edgar Chadwick and Johnny Holt, while Jack Reynolds had a rather patriarchial look, although, as a matter of fact, it was his first Scottish game. Bob Holmes and Alf Shelton were in the veteran stage, it may be, but we did pretty much as we liked, and won 4—1. We fairly had the laugh of the Scots that day.
Jack Southworth was a great player. I believe he was one of the finest and most systematic centres we have ever had out against Scolland. England could do with another team of the calibre of the “Old Crocks” to-day. We had a perfect understanding, at any rate. Finest club team.
Incomparably the finest club team I have ever seen, and indeed the greatest eleven ever got together, was Major Sudell's Preston North End combination of the late eighties. I make no qualification here. Every man was a star; practically every man was of splendid physique. Their individual skill was superlative, and their combination matchless. The combination, too, extended right through the team.
James Trainer was an artist in goal. He was the greatest custodian of his time. His like in England had never been seen. Of Nick Ross I have spoken. Bob Howarth was a splendid back, and so was Bob Holmes. Sandy Robertson, Davie Russell and Jimmy Graham were beyond camparison; they were as hard as nails, and Davie Russell was a model of agility and daring.
Jack Gordon was the finest Scottish outside right ever seen, just as Meredith was the best Welshman. His trickery was amazing and his centres perfect, while he and Jimmy Ross were simply a pair; they had an understanding which could not have been bettered. Then John Goodall was a master. Fred Dewhurst I have dealt with.
I will not to the lengths that John Goodall did in his eulogy of this great combination, but I make no reservation when I speak of the team as the greatest in history. Offer from Preston.
And here let me disclose a secret. I never felt prouder than when Major Sudell wanted me to go to Preston. He put the question to me, and it was in one way a temptation, but my regard for the Villa made me refuse. I believe if I had gone I should have returned to the Villa. I was a Villa man to the core. I should never have been happy away from them.
Geordie Drummond was one of the brightest lads I have ever encountered. For many years North End used to send down a team to meet West Bromwich Albion on behalf of the local charities, and the Albion always gave them a good time. At one dinner the Mayor referred to the game he had witnessed, and said that the thrilling play he had seen had aroused all the old war-horse in him.
"The old mare, you mean, sir?” said Geordie drily, whereat there was a great laugh in which the Mayor joined heartily.
I have two Cup medals, and I helped the Villa in three Finals. The second was 1891-2, when the Albion beat us 3—0 at The Oval. That was the match in which there was the outcry against James Warner.
It was a curious result, especially after our brilliant 4—1 win over Sunderland at Bramall-lane in the semi-final, but I will say no more. The Albion half-backs — Reynolds, Charles Perry, and Groves — were without doubt the main cause of our undoing. In 1894-5 we beat the Albion at the Crystal Palace 1—0 after a very hard game. Fifteen shillings a week.
I may say as a matter of interest, showing how things were at that time, that I was to have 15s. a week from the Villa. We had 17s. 6d. a week if we won. Archie Hunter had more than that, but that was the general remuneration paid at that time. If we made a draw, we did not get anything extra. I remember the Albion offering me 15s. a week.
At a later stage I had so much per match. At one time it ran to 30s. per match, with 10s. for mid-week games. If I did not play I did not get anything. Later I had £2 week for Saturday games, 10s. for week-day matches, and £1 if played with the Reserves. The most I ever had from the Villa was £3 a week and no summer pay!
I only played with the Reserves once, and, curiously enough, it was on the Saturday following appearance for England against Scotland, The officials asked me to play just to give Albert Woolley a try-out. He was a smart youth, and was soon in the Villa first team. I always think that he was the best left-wing forward I ever played with for Aston Villa.
I am speaking now of an inside man; I was at outside left when Howard Vaughton and Al Allen were my partners. They were splendid, and so was Steve Smith later, but Albert Woolley was a wonderful young player. By the way, I was playing inside left to Louis Campbell when I was picked at outside left against Scotland in 1892. Memorable cup-ties.
I think I may claim to have played in the sternest series of Cup games ever known — that in one of the most eventful of all Villa seasons — l886-7. After beating Wednesbury Old Athletic in the First Round 13—0, we conquered Derby Midland in the Second Round 6—1 — another meeting of old-time rivals. Then came something very different.
We were paired in the Third Round with Wolverhampton Wanderers, then a dangerous side, with Charles Mason and Dick Baugh at their best, and Jack Brodie, full of mettle and spirit, in the centre. They drew with us 2—2. We went over to Dudley-road, and again the result was draw 1—1. But the day was so bad that the game was ordered to be replayed at Wolverhampton, and this occasion we each scored three goals. In the next meeting we had the advantage ground again, and we managed to win 2—0.
But we had another narrow escape. We beat Horncastle 5—0 at Villa Park in the Fourth Round, and we had choice of ground with Darwen in the Fifth. We expected to get through — not with ease, it may be, but without being greatly extended, and we did win 3—2, but there were curious happenings in that game.
Moseley had just won the Midland Rugby Cup at Villa Park, the ground having been lent to our Rugby friends, and the Cup was at Wellington-road. Someone filled it with champagne, and brought it on to the ground to us. We did not spare the contents, and that champagne nearly beat us. However, we managed to scramble home, but we never trained on champagne again. Queen's Park memory.
The Villa were a wonderful team in the year they first won the Cup. I shall never forget us going up to Scotland in January of that year and meeting Queen’s Park. Dr, John Smith was playing centre-forward for them, and they had a quite good side, but we led them 5—0 at half-time. They would not come out again after the interval. It was admittedly a very bad day, but we were quite ready to continue.
Howard Vaughton played delightful football that day.
We had previously been at Edinburgh and met the Hibernians, with Billy Groves in their front line, but we were too much for them, winning by 7—2. Little wonder that we carried off the Cup later!