One of the themes in the book Making the Arsenal is that 100 years ago journalists could write and entertain, even with the most mundane subjects. In fact the first page of the story is football match report from 1910 in which the author thinks the game is so terrible, he wanders off into other subjects completely.
“Making the Arsenal” is a novel and the examples there are, of course, not real, but there is an actual example of this type of writing from around 1930, reporting a friendly match between Kettering and Arsenal.
In reading this (and forgive me for pointing it out as you may find it utterly obvious) it is necessary to remember that substitutes were not only not allowed in those days, they were not even imagined.
Here’s the piece in full…
The next time I go to see a match on the Rockingham Road ground at Kettering, I shall insist on being accompanies by Sherlock Holmes, the Big Four from Scotland Yard and a leading member of the British Magical Society. Though I have no intention of causing any undue alarm in the camp of the faithful followers of the Poppies I feel it incumbent upon me to warn them, at the close of a thrilling season, that the green patch which covers the playing area conceals a treacherous quicksand wherein players disappear and are never seen again.
Kettering were entertaining the Arsenal in a friendly fixture and with the exception of a goal or tow that happened along the in the first half all went well (though I believe diminutive Mitchell had some trouble with his shorts – they seemed to fit too tightly round his ankles). It was after the referee blew the whistle for the refreshment interval that the tragedy happened. Two strapping Arsenal players – David Jack and “Happy” Hapgood – vanished into thin air. Presumably, the quicksands had swallowed them up not even a tuft of hair could be traced and the crowd stood aghast when the Arsenal re-started. No David Jack, no Happy-go-lucky Hapgood.
In their places appeared two substitutes, mysteriously revealed from some sort of Arsenal “pool” held in reserve (like a battalion in billets) somewhere behind the grandstand. People wondered, they whispered in queer undertones. What happened to Jack? Where was Hapgood?
If there had been another adjournment before the end of the match, I should not have been surprised to see the Arsenal team re-enter the arena with a brand new forward line, three halves borrowed from the Scottish League, two backs from West Bromwich , and a goalkeeper on loan from Newcastle United!
I was just beginning to wonder where the police had authorised the issue of the second £500 reward notices when a powerful voice nearby informed the world that Jack and his friend had merely dropped out to gie two other Arsenal men a chance to kick the ball!
This extract is taken from Football Ambassador by Eddie Hapgood – the book I reviewed a few days back. It is published by GCR books (see the link on the right next to the headline at the top of the article) and can be ordered directly from them. I am extremely grateful for the kind permission given by GCR books to reprint this extract.
And if you enjoy that style you might care also to buy “Making the Arsenal”
(c) Tony Attwood
IN ALL SORTS OF OTHER THINGS
Hapgood: full review of the autobiography of the England captain we signed from Kettering Town.
EPL owes more money than the rest of Euro football combined.
Should the top clubs from smaller countries move into Euro Leagues?
Arsenal win the league: the start of the new golden era.
Why did Arsenal move to Highbury, and not somewhere else?
(c) Tony Attwood 2010