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James Mason, 1930: Great teams and great players
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THREE GREASTEST TEAMS OF ALL-TIME
PRESTON, VILLA & SUNDERLAND
James Mason | 25/10/1930
Two teams of the game's most famous players — Qualification for each football position.
In my previous article I mentioned what a power the North Staffordshire clubs were in the football world years ago, and it has also been indicated that this district has contributed materially to that band of really great players the game has known
Discussion among football enthusiasts often veers round to which the three greatest teams of all time and I should like to give my own opinion. Frankly, I think the three greatest club teams were:
Preston North End, who became known as the "Invincibles".
Aston Villa, who have a really magnificent record and are, in my view, the most consistent side since the Football League was inaugurated; and
Sunderland, the "Team of all the Talents"
ORIGIN OF THE TITLE
It is not generally known how Sunderland secured the title of the team of all the talents, and as it was given to them vovally, it will be as well to explain the circumstances. Mr. Harry Lockett. who was the first secretary of the Football League, was also secretary of the Stoke Club, and he arranged for Sunderland to play Stoke in a friendly game at Stoke, advertising them as the team of all the talents. When the team arrived at Stoke, and saw the tribute that had been paid to them they were naturally delighted, and the management adopted the title, which has stuck to them ever since.
The three teams I have mentioned comprised professional players, but, in passing, I should like to say that the two finest amateur teams the game has known, were undoubtedly Glasgow Queen's Park and Corinthians. Queen's Park contained some of Scotland's greatest players, including Walter Arnott, the finest left-back the game has known. And who will ever forget the Corinthians? Every player was a star performer. What a magnificent trio in defence they had — W. R. Moon in goal, and the brothers Walters at full back, thought by good judges to be the greatest defence England ever possessed. G. O. Smith, a prince among centre-forwards, and W. N. Cobbold, said to be one of the finest dribblers ever seen on the football field, were two other famous Corinthian players. And I could mention a host of others.
These teams and players I have seen on several occasions, and it is on the general form they showed that I make the selections — and, as having had the honour to referee the Scotland v. England match five times. I can claim to speak with some authority.
MY TWO BEST TEAMS
If I were asked to choose two teams containing the greatest players for their respective positions, that the games has known, I should unhesitatingly select the following:
J. Trainer (Preston North End), goal;
Nick Ross (Preston North End), right back; Walter Arnott (Glasgow Queen's Park), left back;
Jimmy Crabtree (Aston Villa), right half; Alex Raisbeck (Liverpool), centre-half; Ernest Needham (Sheffield United), left half;
Billy Meredith (Manchester United), outside right; Steve Bloomer (Derby County), inside right; John Goodall (Derby County), centre-forward; Dennis Hodgetts (Aston Villa), inside left; Fred Spiksley (Sheffield Wednesday), outside left.
The first XI.
J. W. Sutcliffe (Bolton Wanderers), goal;
Howard Spencer (Aston Villa), right back; Herbert Burgess (Manchester City), left back;
Frank Forman (Notts Forest), right half; Charlie Roberts (Manchester United), centre-half; Peter McWilliam (Newcastle United), left half;
Billy Bassett (West Bromwich Albion), outside right; Bobby Walker (Heart of Midlothian), inside right; Jimmy Quinn (Glasgow Celtic), centre-forward; Grenville Morris (Notts Forest), inside left; Bobby Templeton (Aston Villa), outside left.
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J. W. Sutcliffe
The second XI.
Billy Meredith, the outside right of Manchester United, represented Wales in international matches on no fewer than fifty occasions — a record for any player. I had the honour to referee the last one in which he played — Wales v. Scotland, at Cardiff. The Welsh Association presented him with a magnificent selection of silver plate — for services rendered. Bob Crompton, of Blackburn Rovers F.C., holds the record for an English player, and Bobby Walker, of the Heart of Midlothian, holds the record for Scottish player.
WHAT IS NEEDED
Perhaps it would be useful to give my views of what is required of players for the various positions in a team. These are my opinions:
Goalkeeper: A goalkeeper should be fairly tall, but not too heavy, and the great essentials are quickness and agility.
Backs: They, too, should be fairly tall and preferably with a fair amount of weight, though not too much to reduce speed. Another essential is a powerful kick, and expert knowledge in tackling.
Half-backs: The three players in the intermediate line constitute the mainstay of the team, and these should be competent alike to break up the combination of the attacking forwards, and assist their own backs in defence, as well as help their forwards in attack by judicious passes. Neither height nor weight is an essential qualification for a half-back, for some of the best International half-backs have not scaled more than 10st. 5lb. nor been taller than 5ft. 5in. Undoubtedly the work of the half-backs is as exacting and important as of any player on the field.
Forwards: It is essential that the wingmen both on the right and left of the line, should be possessed of speed and perfect control of the ball, for the success of any team depends, to a great degree, on accurate and well-timed centres from the wings. I have noticed that the greatest wingmen of all time, such as Billy Meredith, Billy Bassett, Jocky Simpson, Fred Spiksley, Bobby Templeton, Alan Morton, scarcely ever centred the ball into the goalkeeper's hands. As a rule they centred about 10 yards from the goalkeeper, so as to give the centre and inside forwards a chance to shoot. Likewise the inside forwards should have perfect ball control, and should be ever on the alert to make openings both for their wingmen and for the centre-forward. They should also be able to act independently and elude the defenders when occasion demands, and last, but not least, be able to shoot accurately.
The centre-forward is probably the most difficult position in the forward line to fill, and those clubs with long purses and able to pay a big fee for players, are bemoaning the fact that there is a real dearth of first-class centre-forwards. An ideal leader of the attack must combine speed with cleverness and accuracy. He must not be selfish, for that might mean many good chances being spoiled. Another very necessary quality is the ability to shoot well from any angle, for it is to the centre-forward that the team looks for goals.