Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Monday 29 September 2014

Soccer registrations reach 600 in pre-WW1 Melbourne

This article is from The Winner, 5 August 1914, only just over 100 years ago. It demonstrates a number of things. First it shows the value of The Winner as an historical source for soccer historians and our good fortune that it has been digitised on Trove. The article also suggests that soccer in Melbourne in 1914 is a game in rude health - with: 600 players, a competitive Dockerty Cup competition, a strong league, a budding junior competition, willing and able officials and administrators and interstate representative trips. The only dull note is the complaint of limited availability of grounds (something that echoes down the years).

‘The Victorian Amateur British Football Association Is now well established, and I can assure you that the game of 'soccer' has come to stay in Victoria, and this with all due respect to other branches of football.' Thus spoke a prominent official to the writer in the course of a recent interview. 'It is not generally known, I feel sure, that we have no fewer than600 players on our register, all connected with clubs in Melbourne and district.' I may point out that the Victorian British Football Association is under strictly amateur auspices, and that it has at its head a body of sportsmen whose one and only desire is to further the interests of this branch of athletics.
Their love for 'soccer' is full of enthusiasm, and bids well for the welfare of the game. Though to an extent hampered for the want of official playing grounds, the Association has surmounted many formidable obstacles, in the course of its efforts to bring the code to the forefront. And it is well to know that they promise to 'make good.'
Of all winter pastimes, 'soccer' has made great and rapid strides in England and Scotland, particularly having made wonderful progress in veritable hotbeds of Rugbyism. In fact, I number amongst some of my best football friends persons who are now well known officials with British Association clubs in the North of England, who years ago held high positions in Rugby circles. When I cast my mind's eye back, it seems almost perplexing to note the intense popularity the 'soccer' game enjoys where once only 'rugger' was spoken of.
It would truly seem as if when one becomes thoroughly initiated into theintricacies of British Association football, it possesses such a wonderful fascination that there is no forsaking itfor any other branch of the winter game. I well remember an old football acquaintance of mine, one of England's finest goal-keepers — J. W.Sutcliffe — remarking to me that 'soccer' was the ideal game so far as scientific football is concerned. Itcould not be well said that this illustrious player had a prejudiced mind, seeing that Sutcliffe is one of the few footballers in the world who enjoys the distinction of having represented his country at both 'soccer' and 'rugger.' He gained his Rugby international honor on the occasion of the first visit of the Maories to England, Sutcliffe being then a mere youth. After further successes inclass 'rugger,' he joined Bolton Wanderers, and whilst with that famed Lancashire organisation gained thecoveted blue riband of the 'soccer' football— an international cap, and a place in the English team! I simply make reference to the above as an in-stance of a crack player's love for this particular game after securing the highest possible honors at the sister code.
To revert, however, to our local clubs, it is interesting to note that the Victorian B. F. A. is affiliated with theparent body in England, no more powerful organisation that which exists in British sport. Victoria is represented on the Council of the v English F. A. by Mr E. Gibb, a player of the olden days, who is not altogether unknown in New Zealand football circles.
Chatting the other day with an enthusiast, he told me that there, was some hope in the not far distant future of organising a tour to Australia of acouple of 'crack' teams from England and Scotland respectively as a missionary enterprise to exhibit the niceties of the game. The undertaking would, of course, be a costly one, butat the same time, it might be money well spent.

It is well to know that the Victorian Council have secured Government sanction from the Defence Department toformulate a scheme for the institution of a 'Soccer' league on behalf of the cadets. The project seems to be a commendable one. Mr R. C. M. Strachan, of Prahran, has made the Association an offer of either a challenge cup or shield to be put up for competition among the cadets.
I am told also, officially, that thecode is making rapid headway in theYarraville district, and in Footscray and Spotswood a lot of enthusiasm is being shown. It is well, too, to knowthat the V.B.F.A. has no lack of efficient referees, which is a most important factor nowadays. The Referees' Association has as president Mr J. G. Hawes, an indefatigable worker in the interests of 'soccer.' Mr W. B. Gilbert is secretary and treasurer, and the examining council comprises Messrs Cummings, Palmer, and Gilbert.
All this goes to show that local 'soccer' is booming, and must eventually make that headway which has characterised its progress in Great Britain.
The finalists for the Dockerty Cup competition is not as yet settled. At the second time of asking, the St. Kilda and Thistle teams failed to decide the issue, another pointless draw being played. The other semi-final, that between Wonthaggi and N. and D., saw a keen, strenuous game, with the last-named coming out on top by a goal to nothing. The game was brimful of incident, each side in turn being seen to advantage. The win may be said to have been of a somewhat flukey character, the winners' goal which gave them the victory being the result of an unlucky piece of play by one of the Wonthaggi backs, who turned the ball into his own goal.
In the concluding stages of the game excitement was intense, Wonthaggi testing the defence of the opposition to its utmost. Thevisitors had certainly a bad share of the luck of the afternoon.
The other games resulted:— League (Division I.) : Birmingham, 2; Burns,The goal-scorers were Taylor, Dodds, Anderson andRuddiman re spectively. Yarraville, 2 ; Prahran, 1.this game, Earthey (through owngoal), Blackburn and Staniforth werethe scorers. Spotswood and Preston scored a draw of a goal each, with Mobbs and Purcell as the respective goal-getters.
The present is a red-letter week for 'Soccerites.' Today (Wednesday) thefollowing players leave Melbourne by the s.s. Manuka for Hobart, under the management of Mr. E. Harvey: — Hamilton, H. Jones, Stranger, M. Gardiner, Woods, Rumbol, Fleming, Marsden, Jeffereys, G. Brown, and Weston.
Seeing that this issue of 'The Winner' contains the first official publication of the teams for next Saturday's international match — England v. Scotland — at Fitzroy, there will be some disappointment amongst those players whose names do not appear. The Football Council sat until a late hour, giving the many claims their most careful consideration.
In accordance with the traditions of international football, all the selected are of English or Scottish birth.
England — Robinson (N. and D.),Hyde (capt., Birmingham), F. Jones(Burns), Lamb (St. Kilda), Riley(Spotswood), Goodson (Thistle), Fisher(Thistle), Walsh (Spotswood), Kendall (St. Kilda), Dowker (Yarraville),Slade (St. Kilda), Allen (Birmingham), Church (St. Kilda), and Golding (Birmingham).
Scotland — Russell (Thistle), Kelly(Albert Park), Raith (Thistle), Tray-nor (Preston); M'Milian (capt., St.Kilda), Cox (Albert Park), Turner (Thistle), Lowe (St. Kilda), Spencer(St. Kilda), Hogg (Thistle), Guthrie(Thistle), Ruddiman (Burns), T. Anderson (Burns), W. Anderson (AlbertPark).
Mr C. R. Williamson is to officiate as referee, with Messrs Dempster and Meens as linesmen. The Football Council hold anothermeeting tomorrow (Thursday) evening, and finally decide on the two elevens to take the field.

Saturday 27 September 2014

Soccer's regeneration in Melbourne 1907[1908]. The First Committee

This photo and attached text are great material. They give us a sense of organisational energy and commitment to the game upon its regeneration in Melbourne. However, the article also shows the problem of memory, even relatively recent memory (Harrison is writing in 1914). In all likelihood the photo is from 1908 and not 1907. Unfortunately there is no corroborating evidence from 1907 to suggest these men had formed a committee at that stage. I'll keep an eye out though.

This fine looking group of gentlemen represents the first committee formed in soccer's regeneration
in Melbourne in 1907. It was published as a retrospective by the Winner on Aug 12, 1914.
Click to enlarge.


Soccer players, will be interested in the above illustration, representing the original committee formed to propagate the game in Victoria in 1907. Those in the group are, front row, reading from left to right:— H. H. Wood (sec.), H.L. Dockerty (president); H. Miller (Treasurer); back row: J. Holford, E. Harvey, W. Pitt, L. Fifer, A. Phillips, D. Evans, and P. Fraser. Of these gentlemen Mr Dockerty retains the presidential chair, Mr B. Harvey is now treasurer, while Mr L. Fifer has been secretary of the St. Kilda club since its inception. At the date of the formation of the committee there were only six clubs, which were formed into a league, in the State, comprising Carlton, St. Kilda, Prahran, Williamstown, Melbourne, and Fitzroy. The trophies consisted of one shield, held annually by the league premiers, and the Dockerty Cup being awarded on the 'knock-out' principle. There are now 22 clubsin the Melbourne district alone, while other clubs are Ballarat, Bendigo, Warrnambool, Wonthaggi, and other towns. There are two league trophies, for the first and second divisions, and there is further a junior cup to be played for on the same terms as the Dockerty Cup. Of the original players E. Forbes is still an active member, and J. Kerr, one of the most enthusiastic councillors.

Soccer Player Enlistments 1915. A vital founding document.

This is the article I've been searching for  a kind of foundation point for the database of Victorian soccer soldiers in WW1. Of the 500 or so who enlisted, 114 are named below, alongside their clubs, As the article suggests, the list is incomplete at the time. Also there are OCR errors and literal errors that need to be accounted for. Nonetheless it's a great starting point. 
The article is in the Winner on the April 28, 1915 (3 days after the carnage of Gallipoli but before the facts were known). The fixtures referred to in the the article are here. The Winner has only recently been digitised and as Mark Boric suggested, it is a real boon for soccer historians. This was a paper that took the game seriously and gave it substantial coverage.




The Victorian Amateur British Football Association, which opens its campaign on Saturday afternoon next has had both its playing and ordinary members' ranks seriously depleted by the call to arms since the outbreak of war. In consequence, the executive of the association have passed through a rather serious ordeal since the close of last season, but the clubs have rallied well to the occasion, and the prospects for season 1915 are by no means of the gloomy order. Though the list of those soccerites who have volunteered for active service with the Expeditionary Forces are not quite complete, the following names to be placed on The Winner's roll of honor, for which I am indebted to Secretary E. C. Crawford, will prove of interest : —

  • N. and D. — R. Martin. W. Knox, T. Norton. W. Richardson, J. Wallace, J. Maughan [?], J. Morgan. — Hutchinson, — Thompson, H. Weston, F. Harper, — Finch, J. Stubbs, —Derbyshire, P. Grogan.
  • Burns. — W. Lycett. 
  • Preston. — R. C. May, . Geo. Hew...? Phelps, P. Minter, Geo. Latimer. F. Williams, Geo. Rumbol. 
  • Yarraville. — R. Hamilton, E. Jones. ?.Vaughan. 
  • St. Kilda. — F. Hopwood, H. Lowe, H. A. Lowe, T. E. Lowe, F. Waterhouse, F. Garwood, T. Spencer, J. Vass, J. Kemp[?]rey.
  • Thistle. — J. Guthrie, J. Parkinson, W. M'Laughlin, T. Jones, J. M'Kenzie, R.M'Lardy.
  • Albert Park. — G. Jeffrey, G. Fraser, J. Cox, H. Weston. T. Jennanway, T. Millar, W. Morrison, W. Fairweather, A. Dewar, J. Knight, T. Knight, T. Flowers, A. Stirrup, C. Price, H. Kelly.
  • Hawthorn. — H. Matthews, W. Matthews, G. Matthews, A. — Simmons, G. Foster, W. Foster.
  • Birmingham Victoria. — G. Talbot, F. Heywood, A. Hyde, D. Walker, L. Dymond, B.Golding, G. Sheppard, S. Dethridge, Jas. Greaves. 
  • Footscray Thistle. — D. Smith, A. Stephens, J. Malcolm, D. M'Donald, B. Gow.
  • Prahran City. — C. Gray, — Impy, F. Helps, A. Baker, — Stretton, J. Brown, F. Wright,— Gottschild, — Asdown, F. Keating. —Witham, — Roberts, — Shalders, — Kennedy. — Lane, T. Hutton.
  • Spotswood. — W. Cattrall, R. Linn, — Price.H. Mobbs, — Thorpe, A. Taunton, H. Lomax, G. Catchpole, R. Catchpole, — Chorley, R.Blair, B. Issard.
  • Cambrian United. — J. M'Pettigrue, W. Glenister. F. Piggott, J. Lewis, H. Lewis, J. Evans, O. Thomas, W. Manderson, H. Jones, J.Roberts.

There are 19 entrants for the League this season, and, as will be seen from the fixture list given below, two new clubs — the H.M.A.S. Cerberus and Windsor — figure in the list. Thirteen entries were received for the first division of the League, which the Association management decided to divide into two sections as follows: —

Section A. — Spotswood, Northumberland and Durham United, Footscray Thistle, Yarraville, Albert Park and H.M.A.S. Cerberus.

Section B. — Burns, Birmingham Vics., St. Kilda, Thistle, Preston, Sandringham and Prahran.

It has been resolved that to decide the premiership, the first and second in the above sections shall do battle at the end of the season, and there is every promise of a big fight for the blue riband of Victorian Soccer. Clubs in the second division of the League are Cambrian United, Hawthorn, Spotswood A., Thistle A., St. Kilda A., and Windsor. Though the various teams have indulged in practice games of late, and many of the players have shown promising form. I do not intend so early in the season to attempt to forecast the prospects of the individual clubs. I know, however, that there have been transfers of some good players to clubs which will have a tendency to considerably weaken those organisations from which they have seceded. In the near future, I may have something to say on this important matter.

The Football Council, under the presidency of Mr H. C. Dockerty, are determined to further the interests of the soccer code in the metropolitan area, and the indefatigable hon. secretary —Mr B. C. Crawford — seems to have a lot of hard work in front of him. I regret that the calls of business has necessitated the withdrawal of Mr W.B. Gilbert from the Council, as thatgentleman was a thorough and conscientious worker in the interests of the game.

Telling Fibs for Footy

John Silvester's piece in today's Age reminded me of the following piece I published in March 2013. Silvester spews out his usual self-loathing-pommy soccerphobic bile by making up stories about crowd segregation in Victorian soccer and bizarrely using examples of verbal and physical violence in footy to show that AFL crowds do indeed get on without verbal and physical violence.
The Victorian sports media has been ever thus. With a few honourable exceptions it has been the VFL/AFL's full-time shepherd and part-time attack dog.
Even as Victorian soccer entered the 1930s in a sorry state the VFL press remained wary of the threat the game had represented in the late 1920s, taking every opportunity to remind its readers what a weak and passionless game soccer was. For example, in a truly astounding piece of journalism, the VFL saw fit to publish G. Cathie’s withering epistolary account of English soccer in (of all places) its 1934 Grand Final edition of the Football Record.‘Australian Game Vastly Superior’ is a fabricated (if not delusional) reminder for readers that Australian Rules is truly the game for Australia.
Some interesting and illuminating comments on the soccer code of football as played in England, compared with our own Australian game, is contained in a letter received this week from Mr G Cathie, a life member of the League, who is at present in England. The letter runs as follows:—
‘Whilst in Newcastle I saw the opening match of the soccer season and to say I was disappointed is to put it very mildly. Believe me, soccer is not in the same street as our game and it made me feel proud to belong to an organisation that plays the Aussie code. There was little enthusiasm amongst the crowd, which numbered about 14,000, and the deliberate ‘kicking-out’ was atrocious and a blot on their game.
‘The full backs are the only players allowed to touch the ball with their hands, and they are afraid, when in possession, to leave the goal by more than 15 yards. Then they punt the ball with a kick which as often as not goes in the opposite direction to where it is intended. What salaries would await some of our Aussie rules full backs if they were to come over here.
‘They could learn all there is in the code in a week or two, and would become champions in a month!
‘Think of players like Jack Regan, Frank Gill, Maurie Heahan, Ron Hillis, ‘Jacka’ Todd, Jack Vosti, and Bill Tymms and Bert Hyde in their prime, coming out with the ball from the goal mouth like a streak of lightning, vigorous, pacy, spectacular – and generally with only one man to pass. Then footing the ball to the other end – it would create a sensation in England. If we could only teach our English cousins the great charm and exhilaration of our national sport, it would be wonderful.’

The article claims that soccer is an inferior game for a number of reasons. It is less exciting and exhilarating. The crowd numbers are low and those who attend are not enthusiastic towards the game. The players are afraid to be adventurous and they are incompetent at what they do. The writer assumes (like Jack Dyer afterhim) that with a little bit of training VFL footballers would take soccer by storm. Ultimately Cathie’s complaint is simply that soccer is guilty of the crime of not being Australian Rules football.

Significantly, the letter shifts mood midstream. Starting out as a hardnosed and prejudiced critique of soccer’s faults, it suddenly transforms into a fantasy of Australian Rules internationalism. Coveting the salaries of the English game for Australian Rules champions and decrying the failure of ‘English cousins’ to be taught the merits of the game, the piece becomes a resentful hymn to the game’s failure to belong anywhere beyond the southern half of Australia. Beneath the triumphalism lies a self-loathing xenophobia.

It seems unnecessary to go beyond one word – ‘silly’ – to summarise the article. However, when it is realised that the author is inventing material as well as leaving out crucial information then the piece shifts from the realms of silliness to propaganda.

Cathie can be forgiven for calling the goalkeepers full-backs, but he can’t be forgiven for calling them cowardly for refusing to handle the ball illegally outside of the penalty area. Yet the more serious errors are ones of detail. The author claims to have gone to the opening game of the season in the Newcastle area. Problematically, Newcastle United were playing away on this day, hammered 5–1 by Nottingham Forest. The professional teams in the area who played at home on that day were Gateshead and Darlington (3rd division) and 1st division Sunderland who beat Huddersfield Town 4–1 at Roker Park – a game at which there would have been a few more than 14,000 given that Sunderland were in the upper echelons of English football in the mid-1930s. If the author is referencing a game he saw Newcastle United play (possibly their first home game on 1 September, beaten 5–2 by Brentford), he really needed to point out their 2nd division status. He might also have added that the club was in a shambles, having been relegated the previous season and only just avoiding relegation in 1934–35 on goal average. As he rightly pointed out, they weren’t very good!

However, accuracy in reporting was not at the forefront of the writer’s mind. The important work to be done on Grand Final day 1934 was simply to remind Australian Rules spectators that soccer was an illegitimate and uninspiring game compared with what they were about to receive, fare that deserved to be served to the world. The great tragedy of such propaganda is that in the 1930s there was almost no contradictory source for information on English football for readers of the Football Record. Such dishonest propaganda therefore found easy entry into the realm of ‘truth’ for generations of Victorian football aficionados and the stories they held and told.

The effect of this propaganda cannot be underestimated historically or politically. The process creates collective or social memory grounded in historical exclusion, marginalisation and untruth. Such social memory becomes an important tool for cultural-political elites to enhance legitimacy and control. In this way hegemony is achieved or solidified. The stories told about soccer in the name of the VFL are very much part of this process of maintaining cultural hegemony. While the dominance of Australian Rules football at this time is not in question, the lies it tells itself and its supporters about the world of sport point to a severe case of anxiety and insecurity.

The Footy Record could get away with this kind of propaganda then because there was no other source of information on English football for its readers. Imagine the flurry of refutations that would happen today if such blatant lies were told. While the propaganda remains as per Silverster's piece, it is far more subtle today.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Gallipoli Veteran Stuck With Soccer

This is a nice piece passed on by Roy Hay.

Keith Gilmour, ‘Gallipoli veteran stuck with soccer’, Soccer World, 7 October 1966, p. 2.