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James Catton, 1924: My ideal teams

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-05-01 13:30:25

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James Catton | 03/11/1924

In these days one never hears mention of Harry Davis, an outside right who adorned the ranks of the Wednesday, of Sheffield, and what is even a greater distinction, had the honour of playing for England in that position in all the international matches of 1903.
It is hardly conceivable that a man would glory in his small stature, but such was the case. I remember Harry Davis coming to me and objecting to the statement that Whitehouse, of Stoke, was then the smallest forward in League football. He said: "I am less than anybody else, and I should like you to let the pblic know the truth." This was after England had met Ireland at Wolverhampton in 1903, and then Davis was the finest forward on view.
At his request he was put on the standard, and measured 5ft. 4in in his boots. But he weighed 11st. 10lb., and was really a pocket Hercules. I gave him the credit of his inches — and more, for he had the shoulders of a giant and a heart as big as that of a bullock.
This gentleman of Lilliput, who loomed so large by reason of his fine skill and courage, appeared against Scotland at Bramall-lane in April of that year, when the invaders relied for their defence on Sunderland. The Scottish F.A. "lifted" Ned Doid, Andy M'Combie, and James Watson in a body from Wearside, and by their aid they won.
Just about this time it seemed the fate of England to lose a man by injury in every match with Scotland. Somebody or other met with an accident, and in this struggle the victim was Harry Davis. James Watson was a daddy-longlegs, and he threw his limbs about in rather a reckless style.
Of course, he was a fine back — the best on the left in Great Britain — but one of his feet came in contact with the breast-bone of Harry Davis, and from that point the proceedings interested him no more, so far as the actual play was concerned. I shall always believe that this incident turned the match. And that was the end of Davis as an international forward.
He learned his game with the Ardsley old club before he joined Barnsley, the nursery of so many famous players, and then moved to The Wednesday. I lost sight of Harry Davis, who had a brilliant career — if relatively a brief one, for his leg was afterwards broken in an Association Cup-tie at Sunderland — so that he had good reason to remember the North-Estern club. GENTLEMAN WOODWARD
This year of 1903 will be memorable in the annals of the game for the sudden rise to fame of Vivian J. Woodward, who was then a young architect practising somewhere near Kennington Oval. He came out with Tottenham Hotspur and spent most of his career with the North London club, although he afterwards became identified with Chelsea.
I had a tremendous admiration for Vivian Woodward; so had everyone who knew him as a footballer and a man. It was in a trial match on Tottenham's ground in 1903 that I first saw Woodward, and he struck me then as a player of many gifts, as he had previously done Mr. Arthur Kingscott, who had met him in the course of his experience as a referee.
A matter of 5ft. 10lin., and then weighing 11st., Woodward was in the prime of his manhood, being 23 years old. He was a dashing centre-forward, and, above all things, a fine player. The purity of his style was even more pronounced than his ability, which was very considerable. How many caps and badges he was awarded it is difficult to say, but he must have received 60 of these decoration.
Woodward played all over Europe, South Africa, and in America with The Pilgrims. He was an intense lover of the game, and the nearest approach to G. O. Smith since the day of the Oxonian.
But one would never have imagined from his conduct in private life that Woodward was a sportsman — a footballer, a runner, a crickter, and a great lover of all games as games. He refused to make a profit out of them. It was difficult to induce him to accept even legitimate expenses, which he cut down to the lowest possible figure.
He adored his mother, and it was no uncommon sight to see mother and son wending their way to a match in company. At last I was introduced to this courtly lady and enjoyed a little chat with her, for she evidently followed football.
But you know no one would ever imagine that Woodward was an eager footballer away from the arena. Once we went for a long walk in Ireland. He set out with his camera and was much more interested in getting pictures of the cottages where the peasants lived than anything else.
Yes, he did talk about pigeons — about fantails and pigmy pouters. The most striking incident of this walk was that football was never once mentioned. "I DON'T CALL IT FOOTBALL"
Vivian Woodward was one of the most modest men I ever knew. And in judgment one of the most charitable. Only once in all the years that we often met did I hear him criticise the conduct of another man. I felt sure that this person deserved more than the mild censure passed upon him — because a harsh remark was so foreign to Woodward's nature.
He had a great contempt for men who engaged in rough play, because he was the fairest fellow who ever put a boot to a ball. Once after a certain Cup-tie he was really wrath about the way that their opponents had treated his team. It was a replayed match in Lancashire. There was a brother amateur on the other side and he apologised to Woodward for the character of the game that his club had played. Woodward did not mind the thrashing that his club had received, but he turned to me and said: "I don't call it football at all. It was brutal."
Much was required to arouse Vivian John Woodward to resentment because his game was all art and no violence.
It may be that Woodward had hard experiences in some of his matches against Scotland, while he was played in the centre, but there came a day when he was moved to inside-right, and there he was at his very best — his perfect heading and his deft passes having great effect.
Think of the match at Hampden Park in 1908 when England drew, 1—1. The Saxons had a team then, with: Hardy, Crompton, Pennington, Ben Warren, Wedlock, Evelyn Lintott; John Rutherford, V. J. Woodward, Hilsdon, Windridge, and Bridgett. "THANK YOU, MR. THOMSON"
There is a chapter to be written some day on every one these men. But that marvellously neat footaller, James Windridge, was so magical in manceuvre that I described him the Athletic News as Windridge, the Wizard. It is difficult to recall one who ever acquitted himself better at inside left. While on the run Windridge made a shot that passed beneath the cross bar, lifted the rood of the netting, and actually rebounded into play.
The Scotsmen went on with the game, but "Jim" Mason, THE referee of his day, blew the whistle, and pointed to the centre. There was a great hubbub, but Mr. Mason was not the man to yield to clamour or be influenced by excitement. A goal it was and saved the game for England.
Vivian Woodward, who was, if I recollect aright, the captain, went up to Jim Mason and expressed his opinion that it was a goal. "Thank you, Mr. Woodward," said Mason. Shortly after, in the course of a lull, Charles Thomson, of the Heart of Midlothian approached the referee, and said: "Mr. Mason, it was a goal." Whereupon Jim Mason, in the deep and solemn tones he employed replied: "Thank you, Mr. Thomson. But I knew it was a goal."
There was a lot of old-world dignity, courtliness, and real simplicity about Jim Mason, who acted as his conscience dictated and cared not a fig for any man. It was the same with Woodward — a gallant gentleman. Now he is farming away in Essex, but occasionally I have the pleasure of a hand-grip with him.
I mentioned Ben Warren, Billy Wedlock, and Evelyn Lintott as the half-back line in that match of Windridges's goal. Warren was, of course, famous as a charger, Wedlock as a phenomenon, and Lintott as a swift tackler and shrewd placer.
William Wedlock, of Bristol City, chose himself as the centre half-back of England in almost every match from 1907 to 1912 — and once afterwards. As I have said he was a phenomenon, as he stood the same height as Harry Davis, 5ft. 4in., but he only weighed 10st. 7lb. He was one of the world's wonders in getting the ball — whether it was in the air or on the turf. Here, there, and everywhere, intervening and doing his work with a contempt for fatigue, he dominated many a game.
I have been told thay he was tremendously popular during the South African tour, and that after one match Lord and Lady Methuen sent for him in order that he might be presented. At that time Lord Methuen was the Governor-General of Natal. A RISKY RIDE
The Rev. J. W. Marsh, now the Vicar of Nelson, used to officiate, years ago, as a referee in League matches, and he declared to me that Wedlock was the finest gentleman he ever met on the football field. From a man of the cloth this was a great tribute.
But it was deserved, for Wedlock was one of the free gifts of Nature, whether considered as a player or as a sportsman.
Never shall I forget the debut of Wedlock in any representative match. He was chosen to play for the Professionals against the Amateurs in December, 1906 — the rendezvous being the ground of The Wednesday at Owlerton. At least the name was Owlerton in 1906, but the pernicketty thought that Hillsborough had a more respectable sound, and a change was made.
The players were stripping fro the fray when it was discovered that Wredlock was not in the pavilion. A message announced that Wedlock would arrive at Sheffield on the Midland express about 2 o'clock. At least, there was a very small interval between the scheduled time of his arrival and the kick-off. No one knew Wedlock. So someone asked if I did, and I answered that I had seen him play and should, of course, he able to recognise him.
Therefore I was deputed to meet the train. In order to arrange for Wedlocks's transport to Owlerton I went down in a motor car driven by Fred Houghton Milnes, the captain of The Pilgrims and an amateur full-back for Sheffield United.
When the West of Enland express drew up out stepped a sturdy little fellow, fully dressed in football clothers, and wearing his studded boots. He had evidently realised the position, and turned the railway carriage into a dressing room. I went up to him and said, "Wedlock?" "Yes, zur," was the answer. The Western dialect was most convincing. "Como with me — quick". We hustled and took our seats in the motoer car. THE PUCK OF FOOTBALL
Fred Milnes was the driver, and I shall never cease to recall that journey. There were three miles to go, the way was long, narrow, and, in places, tortuous. As we literally flew along the thoroughfares of the city of Sheffield I mildly intimated that the speed was rather high for crowded streets. The reply of Mr. Milnes was that the police knew him, and that he had some influence with the Watch Committee if any trouble arose.
The town was soon left behind, and we screeched along that narrow highway which led, in my mind, either to Owlerton or to some destination where the temperature is said to be higher than that of a steel furnace — the Pons forge, for choice.
When we got out of that car I thanked Mr. Milnes most sincerely. I was never so glad to feel terra cotta beneath me, as Tabitha Bramble might have said. Play had just begun when Wedlock rushed out to take his berth at centre half-back. No sooner had he got on the field than he brough down Vivian Woodward, and the free-kick was given against him.
For the moment I felt that the man was not worth all the trouble he had given — though this was a match in which Ben Warren simply battered Stanley Harris, the inside left. Yes, but in spite of all the criticism Warren battered him fairly, and was never called to order.
After that unfortunate first step Wedlock played like a man, and, as I have said, for the next five years he chose himself — much to the indignation of those who believed that Charles Roberts, of Manchester United, was the rightful heir to the throne.
The night before Wedlock sailed for South Africa I asked him how he liked the prospect, and he answered: "Fine; a trip like this is as good as going to college."
Wedlock was the very Puck of football, for he annihilated space, and was never tired. He was the nearest approach to perpetual motion ever seen on the field. Known at Bristol as "Fatty," Wedlock, in his way, was as much phenomenon as William Foulke, who was twice his size.
He has never had his superior for getting the ball and using it without waiting to see whether his purposo was fulfilled. And he was succeeded by almost as great a player in Joe M'Call, of Preston North End. TEAMS FROM ALL TIME
The international matches of recent years are remembered by old and young alike. If I were asked to select my ideal teams from all the Englishmen and Scotsmen I hav seen in conflict in this big game of each spring I should name the following elevens: England: Taylor; Crompton, Burgess; Crabtree, Wedlock, Needham; Bassett, Bloomer, Lindley, Goodall, Spiksley. Scotland: M'Aulay; W. Arnott, Watson; Aitken, Raisbeck, M'William; J. Bell, B. Walker, Dr. Smith, Somers, Templeton.
I do not ask everyone to agree with such a choice, but I have taken men as effective players of a ball and was schemers. I bid readers to remember that Goodall could play anywhere.