Saturday, 11 August 2012

Football Parade (1950)

Rob Langham from The Two Unfortunates has given us yet another fantastic article for the site:

One aspect of a football obsession that is perhaps under recognised is the impact of heirlooms. Sure, my formative years were stock full of Panini, Subbuteo and The Big Match, but it was items bequeathed to me by my father that played just as important a role – especially in forging a keen sense of the game’s history.

Among an assortment of annuals and notebooks, Football Parade, sold exclusively by Marks & Spencer and constituting something of a retrospective on the 1949-50 season was one such artefact. Presented with a foreword by a yet to be knighted Stanley Matthews, the aim, in the Tangerine man’s own words was to produce ‘the finest book on Soccer ever published’.

Simon Inglis’s Football Grounds of Europe, soon to be reviewed on these pages, may have subsequently snatched away that accolade by a whisker, but Football Parade remains a mine of information.

Running through the volume is a series of ‘Success Stories’ tracking the careers of a host of stars – almost all of whom continue to be household names – Matthews himself rounds off the book, but elsewhere, ‘Wor’ Jackie Milburn, Billy Wright, Tommy Lawton and Alf Ramsey are all featured, with a clear eye on the impressionable ten year old – my Dad was that age at the time.

One such entry features Arsenal centre back Leslie Compton and as the Matthews says, ‘it is not easy to be the elder brother of a popular genius – especially if the brother is the gay cavalier of Sport, Denis’ – you’ll recall the now extraordinary fact that both played football and cricket professionally – a feat of all roundership that would challenge even the feats of Jessica Ennis.

An overview of that season’s 1949-50 Home International Championships reveals a torrid campaign for ‘Ireland’ – still labelled thus in denial of an Anglo-Irish Treaty three decades before – the Ulstermen losing 8-2 against Scotland at Windsor Park and 9-2 at Maine Road – while a section on football tactics is curated by Matt Busby; the future nurser of babes warning us that ‘a player ‘running loose’ can cause consternation’.

At the time, Pompey were champions and Tottenham had climbed out of Division Two, an episode chronicled by Olly Cooper in our 'Great Football League Teams' series over at The Two Unfortunates. Wolves feature heavily while perhaps the most fascinating piece deals with Moscow Dynamos’ (sic) famous tour of the UK.

Gold shirts, striped socks...
who else, but Arsenal!
Landing at Northolt aerodrome, we are told that the mysterious Soviets insisted on their own referee for a match against an Arsenal side depleted by RAF call ups and other handicaps. Matthews himself guested for The Gunners in a 4-3 defeat while elsewhere that season’s FA Cup winners are portrayed in gold shirts at Highbury, having received special dispensation from the Football League to sport their triumphant colours in the subsequent league fixture.

The volume contains a range of illustrations – photographs and technicolour illustrations that recall Hollywood movies of the time including Don Revie and Raich Carter resplendent in Hull City amber as well as Roy Bentley, my Dad’s hero, and a man I was to meet myself 30 years later during his time as club secretary at Reading. A cartoon strip depicting scenes from football history contains a particularly dramatic illustration of the theft of the FA Cup from a Birmingham shop window in 1895.

Through the lens of time, the whole is fascinating although one can perhaps imagine how turgid a modern day equivalent would be – not for me a series of profiles of Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and company – perhaps our rose-tinted spectacles will become keener in time.

Our thanks once again go to Rob Langham for writing this great article for The Football Attic. If you'd like to do so too, drop us a line to admin [at] thefootballattic [dot] com.


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