In the run-up to the release of Issue Seven on 3rd December, we will be offering you a sneak peek at a couple of excerpts of articles from the forthcoming issue. The second is from another Blizzard debutant, Henry Leach, on following a football league team around the turn of the century.
“What a jolly fine time you chaps must have, going away with the teams every other weekend!” This was a remark which was often addressed to me during one period of my journalistic career, when it became my humble duty to follow one First Division football team or another up and down the country in its peregrinations for points. Possibly the many who made it would have been less envious if they had experienced some of the discomforts of the business.
For instance, I have yet to learn that it is one of the pleasures of life to be forced to get out of a warm bed at 4.30am the Saturday before Christmas, to find there is no time to wait for breakfast, and then to trudge two miles through the blackness and a cold drizzling rain to a station where a two hundred miles’ journey north is commenced, and to which you will return in the very small hours of the following morning.
But, all the same, these little trips are somewhat interesting, especially if one is so young and enthusiastic that the results of league matches are considered of more importance than alliances between foreign powers. The genus professional footballer, when he goes abroad to meet the enemy, is a distinct study, and as most boys, especially those residing in a ‘Socker’-infested neighbourhood, have the form of the league clubs weighed up to an ounce, and follow their doings with the closest watchfulness, it occurred to me that they would like to know what takes place as a rule when the teams go away. Few may find out in the ordinary way, for the players’ saloon is sacred to all but the players and trainer, committee-men, and the football war correspondents who follow a club faithfully through the glories and disasters of a whole season’s campaign.
And let me say here now that the experience has taught me that much injustice is done to the football pros, as a class, by those who know nothing about them. I am no believer in the limited company manner in which association football is carried on nowadays; but it is wholly unjust to visit the sins of the system upon the men who are the necessary result of it.
From what I have seen of them — and it is very much — they are a very steady and respectable class, and are very probably much better men than they would have been if they had not taken up football as a profession. Regular habits of life are compulsory, and that is a great thing; and I have never known a professional to take any less interest in the game or be any less loyal to his club or solicitous for its welfare than would have been the case if he had been an amateur and did not get well paid for his services. He does not think of his wages when he is on the field, but only of his side and of the victory which he hopes may come of it.
Henry’s piece is an extract from the book Goal-Post: Victorian Football, edited by Paul Brown, avaliable at www.victorianfootball.co.uk.