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James Catton, 1924: Great England-Scotland matches

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-07-26 15:52:51

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James Catton | 13/10/1924

The father of international Association football, and therefore the founder of the great match each year between England and Scotland, was Charles William Alcock, a Durham man, who became domiciled in the South of England, practically from the day that he was sent to Harrow school.
In fact, no man was such a propagandist by boot, pen, and voice for the culture and popularising of what is now called Soccer as this big, hardy, son of the North.
The first time I met Charles Alcock was in Edinburgh, when Nottingham Forest and Queen's Park were about to play their semi-final tie for the Association Cup at Merchiston Park.
Almost the first remark he made to me was:
— I like The Athletic News because it goes stamping about and does not care a hang whose toes it treads upon.
At that time he was the honorary secretary of the Football Association, and to my mind he was never given credit by clubs and the general public for the noble work he did. During his long term of office, from 1867 to 1896, the game outgrew him. Such a development would have taxed the resources of any man, and those who complained about him as a letter-writer should have tackled his task.
Mr. Alcock was very anxious to initiate matches between England and Scotland, and when he had an idea, or had decided upon a course of action, he was very determined.
In the autumn of 1870 he arranged matches in London under the title of England v. Scotland, but the Scots were either residing in London or boasted a Caledonian pedigree. The first treasurer of Queen's Park, Robert Smith, who had removed from Glasgow to Norwood, assisted him.
Several of these games paved the way for a genuine match which, with the hearty co-operation of the Queen's Park club, brought about the first encounter at Partick in 1872. AWFUL SNOBS
The first book on this sport, entitled "Football: Our Winter Game," was written by Mr. Alcock, and as the volume is now scarce, I shall not apologise for quoting the first two sentences: —
"Ye needna' gang back till the Paradise," said a Scotch judge once to a barrister, well known for his habit of dragging the court into antiquarian researches. "Suppose ye begin somewhere aboot the time of Noah's flood; it might be satisfactory."
There is a hint here, and I propose to take it by avoiding all further reference to the inception and the early days of this historic match.
I was only twelve years old when the series commenced, and I did not see the match at Partick. I have had the pleasure of talking with three men who did play, but Mr. J. C. Clegg, the lat Mr. E. H. Greenhalgh, of Notts, and Mr. Willie M'Kinnon, of Glasgow, have no vivid recollections of the struggle.
Mr. Clegg once told me, in the course of a long chat, that he remembered nothing at all about the match, and the only impression left upon his mind was that it was a game in which individualism was rampant, and that he was reluctantly forced to the conclusion that some members of the English eleven were awful snobs and not much troubled about a mon fra Sheffield.
John Charles Clegg is not tolerant of snobs, and I gathered that he did not enjoy the first international match under Association rules. "THE SHEFFIELD DODGER"
When the contest was renewed in the following spring W. E. Clegg, his brother, played; of course, he is now Sir William Clegg, one of the city fathers of Sheffield. The brothers Clegg took a tremendous interest in "Billy" Mosforth, one of the most remarkable players I ever saw.
A great artist, he was known as The Sheffield Dodger, and took a prominent part in the international games between 1877 and 1882, when he was at his zenith. For one match Sir William Clegg and Mosforth had arranged to travel together to London overnight, but Sir William was unable to do so, as he had a consultation with a gentleman named Charles Peace in reference to a charge of murder.
Mosforth went to town alone, and when Sir William arrived and went on the field the match had been in progress a quarter of an hour.
Mosforth was a character. He played at the Oval on April 5, 1879, when Scotland led at the interval by 4-1, but England won by 5-4, and the spectators carried the Sheffield boy off the ground while Lord Kinnaird, then England's umpire, congratulated him most heartily, and said that he wondered where he got such marvellous speed from.
England's victory by 5-4, and Sheffield's share in it, makes one think of the match in the mud at Hillsborough, Sheffield, in 1920, when the Motherland again won by 5-4. This game should ever be known to Englishmen as M'Call's masterpiece, for the Lancashire lad was a hero on that eventful day.
Apart from Mosforth and the Cleggs other figures of those early days rise from memory. The tall, gaunt figure of Tom Vallance, of Glasgow Rangers, a back of beautiful balance; Charles Campbell, the Queen's Park centre half-back, as great at heading as he was voluble in talking; and Sam Widdowson, who broke Campbell's jaw in the match of 1880, are all alive. The two rose to head the ball and Sam's cranium struck his opponent's face. Widdowson did not know what he had accidentally done until the match was over, and, of course, he was very sorry.
That game was a great disappointment to Sam, because the Scots won by 5-4 and the Englishmen felt that three of the Scottish goals were not valid and sound. No doubt the referee was honest and convinced that his decisions were correct, but he was chosen on the ground at the last moment, and was one of the officers of the Scottish Football Association. "THE OLD CROOKS"
This roaming in the gloaming of the past — no further back than the time of "Noah's flood" — must cease, in spite of the strong temptation to pay tributes to Wattie Arnott, the Bainbridge family, Nuts Cobbold, Dr. John Smith, of Mauchline, and many another.
I will jump to 1892 when Arthur Dunn led on to the field at Ibrox an eleven which were supposed ready prey for the Scots even if they had to recall Wattie Arnott, who was then not only beyond his prime but short of practice and training. This English team was called "The Old Crocks". I suppose that was because Arthur Dunn, the Old Etonian, who was one of the two centre-forwards against Ireland in 1884, was at last re-called, and came in as a full-back, if you please.
"The Old Crocks" consisted of George Toone, of Notts County, in goal, Arthur Dunn and Bob Holmes, of Preston, as backs, John Reynolds (then of West Bromwich), Johnny Holt, that little devil of Everton as Sam Widdowson called him, Alfred Shelton (Notts County) as half-backs, with Billy Bassett and Johnnie Goodall on the right wing, Jack Southworth ("Skimmy", the fiddler), and Edgar Chadwick, and Dennis Hodgetts of the left wing. Why did the Scotsmen and the critics all this lot The Old Crocks? The Scottish journalists labelled them in this manner, and the triumph of Scotland was assured.
The evening before the match the players of both teams fraternised. They were not kept in separate camps, or hotels, in those days. Oh yes, these Scotsmen openly boasted what they were going to do with these English veterans (vide Bassett, then about 23 years of age).
Their confidence was boundless. Sandy M'Mahon was going to sand-dance round Johnny Holt, carry the ball on his head from the half-way line, and pop it into goal, and do all sorts of wonderful juggling. William Sellar was to score again and again, and Kelly of the Celts, was to put Southworth in his pocket and button it up. JOHNNY HOLT'S HAPPY DAY
What did Bobby Burns say about the best laid schemes of mice and men? That little devil Johnny Holt was all over M'Mahon; he climbed up him and over him, brought him down to earth and sand-danced on him.
For 20 minutes the Scots never touched the ball, and in 17 minutes the old crocks of England had rattled on four goals, so completely outwitted were Kelly, Dan Doyle, and Wattie Arnott.
Within ten seconds England had scored. John Southworth kicked off, and Goodall tipped the ball to Bassett, who swung a pass towards the left. Chadwick gained possession, dribbled round Arnott, and drove past M'Leod, of Dumbarton, the goalkeeper. The trick was done and the Scots never played that ball.
The Old Crocks gave a display such as I have never seen — either before or since. That was not the only goal which was perfect in conception, combination, and execution.
This was a far more wonderful exhibition of the game than that of the following year at Richmond, when England won 5-2. The Surrey Cricket Club felt compelled to refuse the use of The Oval as part of the cricket ground had been re-laid, and the match was taken to an athletic ground at Richmond, which was well known as Rugby rendezvous. The match furnished a splendid gate. SPIKSLEY'S HAT TRICK
But it also furnished what is far more important — a splendid match. The issue was in doubt in the second half, and I thought that the Scots would win. As a rule, my interest in the issue of a match is nil, but I do like to see England triumph in this great match. The feeling is only natural in an Englishman — if a small edition.
The match was, however, won by rare combination and enviable endurance. The unity of the team was not really developed until after the interval, when Bassett cross-kicked to the left wing again and again, and Spiksley (by the way, he writes his name without an "e" in the centre of it) scored three goals in succession in about ten minutes! I cannot remember any other Englishman performing the hat trick against Scotland. These goals were brilliant.
The Scots protested on the ground of off-side to the referee, who I think was Mr. J. C. Clegg, but he was against them every time. It seemed to me that the Caledonians were not allowing for the speed of Spiksley, who was much faster than he looked, and a player worthy to rank with Mosforth, Hodgetts, or any other outside-left I have seen.
Spiksley's control of the ball, his individuality, and his pluck for a man of modest stature, without much weight, were amazing. Like Hodgetts, Fred Spiksley did all his ball work with the outside of the right foot. In fact, Fred Spiksley could do almost anything he wanted with either foot, and was a sure marksman. Spiksley as a football player was a wonder.
As I have only reached 1893 in these fragmentary recollections of the big match, another session becomes necessary. This will cover the period from 1895 to 1924 — or after the subsidence of Noah's flood.