Doubles all round?

IF BAYERN Munich win the Bundesliga this weekend, it will complete a clean-sweep for the five champions of the major European leagues, in oither words, every winner from 2017-18 will have retained their title. Across the big five (England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain), we have seen monopolies emerge over the past eight seasons – Juventus (8 titles), Bayern (7), Paris Saint-Germain (6) Barcelona (5) and Manchester City (4) have dominated their respective leagues. Since 2011-12, there have been 40 championship victories, yet only six times (Leicester, Dortmund, Atletico, Real, Monaco and Montpelier) has the trophy been lifted beyond the elite band of clubs (which also includes, Chelsea and Manchester United). Manchester City have the chance to win the first “double” in England since 2010, but if they are successful, it will mean they have won an unprecedented treble. It’s hard enough to retain the Premier – the last team to do it was Manchester United in 2007-08 – so winning all three domestic trophies will set a new benchmark. At the time of writing, other clubs are in with a chance of securing a “double” – Bayern, Barcelona, Galatasaray, Celtic, Slavia Prague, Red Star Belgrade, Dinamo Zagreb and Maribor are among them, while others, Ajax, Red Bull Salzburg, Shakhtar Donetsk, PAOK and Sarajevo have already created a bit of history.

BRAND FINANCE issued its latest Football 50 this week and GOTP wrote much of the editorial of the report, along with a video script which was used on a short film produced by TIFO Football. Equally gratifying was that Real Madrid published the video on their official website. Real Madrid is not only the most valuable football brand, but is also the sector’s strongest brand, ahead of Barcelona and Bayern Munich. The club may have relinquished its UEFA Champions League crown for the first time since 2015 in the 2018-19 season, and has once more been outperformed domestically by fierce rivals Barcelona, but the financial, cultural, and political clout of Real Madrid places it ahead of its rivals, despite the loss of talismanic forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who left Madrid for Juventus in 2018. Click here to see the TIFO video

A PORTSMOUTH fan kicked and punched a Sunderland player who happened to fall over the perimeter fence at Fratton Park in the play-offs. The incident was an ugly one and the club could yet find it is disciplined as it was all too easy for the fan to attack the player. In the past, clubs have had their grounds (or part therof) closed because of hooliganism. The footage will enable Pompey to take action against the fan, it remains to be seen how the Football League/FA respond.

MAX ALLEGRI is leaving Juventus, which will trigger off a managerial merry-go-round over the next few weeks. Allegri could end up in the Premier, but where will he resurface? Chelsea, who have a penchant for Italian coaches (Ranieri, Ancelotti, Conte, Sarri) may yet dispense with the services of Sarri, even if he wins the Europa League to add to the club already qualifying for the UEFA Champions League.

MOST people will not be surprised that Brazil exports more players than any other nation. According to the excellent CIES Football Observatory, Brazil is clearly at the top of the rankings for countries exporting footballers. In total, 1,330 players having grown up in Brazil play in the 147 leagues covered in this report. Brazilians are present in 85 associations out of 98. This reflects the unique role played by Brazil in supplying professional footballers worldwide. With over 800 expatriates, France and Argentina also stand out from the crowd as exporters. Overall, almost a quarter of expatriates are from Brazil, France or Argentina (22.5%). The principle exporters from other continents are Nigeria for Africa (10th place, 361 expatriates), the United States for North America (25th, 145), Japan for Asia (30th, 128) and Australia for Oceania (35th, 101).

GOTP is off to the Non-League Finals day on May 19 AT Wembley. We’re rooting for Fylde and Cray Valley Paper Mills!

Photo: PA

 

 

Great Reputations: Bolton Wanderers, cup kings of the 1920s

Bolton_1923Lancashire was the heartland of early industrial football. Look at the first Football League of 1888-89 and you’ll see that five of the 12 pioneers were Lancastrian. Bolton Wanderers were one of the five and it fifth place was where they ended up in 1888-89. The “Trotters” were not one of the more successful clubs from the region, although they finished runners-up in 1894 and reached the FA Cup final in 1904. It wasn’t until the 1920s that Bolton really made their name.

In the days when winning the FA Cup meant as much as topping the championship table, Bolton won the competition three times in eight years: 1923, 1926 and 1929. During the decade, they also finished third in the Football League First Division twice, in 1921 and 1925. In short, Bolton were one of the top clubs in the period following World War One and the nearest challengers to Huddersfield Town in the 1920s.

The level of consistency shown by Bolton Wanderers during this era was largely due to continuity and discipline as much as the relative abilities of their players at the time. In the three cup finals, Bolton used just 17 players, including five, Dick Pym, Bob Haworth, James Seddon, Henry Nuttall and Jack Butler, who played in all three. Of that quintet, only Haworth was not picked to play for England. The high level of familiarity played its part in building a near-telepathic understanding among the team and an infectious team spirit.

Discipline came from the very conservative leadership adopted by the club’s directors, whose near-puritanical approach was demonstrated by their refusal to allow a member of the club to become a licensee. They also provided fatherly support to some players in the form of money and advice. It was therefore a happy band that won silverware for Bolton Wanderers for the first time in 1923.

Bolton_1926(2)White Horse and all that…

Bolton were no more than a mid-table team in 1922-23, but their home record was good and this was why more than 20,000 people packed into Burnden Park every fortnight. Bolton had seemingly strengthened their team in the summer of 1922 by signing J.R. (Jack) Smith from Kilmarnock, a prolific goalscorer who had won the Scottish Cup with his old club. Also arriving at Burnden Park was a young full back named Alex Finney, who was plucked from obscurity at New Brighton.

Bolton’s FA Cup run started with a 2-0 win at Norwich City in the first round, Jack and Joe Smith scoring the goals. Leeds were beaten 3-1 in the next round, with David Jack netting two and Joe Smith again on the scoresheet. Then came one of those “ties of the round” against Huddersfield Town. It went to two games, with Burnden Park overflowing with almost 62,000 people inside. Jack, who had scored in the 1-1 draw at Leeds Road, scored the only goal of the replay. In the last eight, Bolton edged past Charlton Athletic by 1-0, with Jack again the matchwinner.

The semi-final, at Old Trafford, pitched Bolton against Sheffield United and it was that man Jack again who scored the only goal. Bolton would face second division promotion chasers West Ham in the first Wembley final.

Amid the chaos of that first game at the Empire Stadium on April 28, 1923, Bolton kept their heads and won 2-0. Just three minutes into the game, Jack hit a “high ball on its oblique course into the net, before anyone could touch him.”

In the 55th minute, despite some dogged resistance from West Ham, Bolton scored again, Ted Vizard hitting the ball so sharply into the net that it rebounded out and was scrambled away from West Ham’s defence. The referee, Mr D.H. Asson, had seen it enter the net and awarded the goal. 2-0, game over. Bolton’s players, having won the club’s first honours, were treated royally for the next few days, indeed weeks, including a luncheon at the House of Commons and civic reception when they returned home.

Bolton_PymRaised expectations

After winning the Cup, Bolton’s sights were firmly fixed on having a stab at the League title. In 1923-24, they finished fourth, but were among the top scorers in the country. The front trio of David Jack, Joe Smith and Jack Smith all netted regularly during the campaign. A year later, they finished third, just three points behind champions Huddersfield. They were actually one of the few sides to beat Herbert Chapman’s side that season and won three points out of four from the Yorkshiremen. But Bolton fell short because of their failure to beat the lower-placed teams in the division.

In 1925-26, they dropped to eighth, but the FA Cup again provided plenty of excitement. The only change to the Bolton side from 1923 was Harry Greenhalgh, a local full back who made the breakthrough in January 1926.

David Jack, who was now being courted by none other than Arsenal, set Bolton on the way to Wembley with the only goal in the first round tie against Accrington Stanley. Throughout the rest of the competition, Bolton found goals easy to come by. Six were scored against Bournemouth, three found the back of the net against South Shields and after beating Nottingham Forest in a three-game saga, Swansea Town were overcome by 3-0 in the semi-final. Manchester City, the team that had beaten Bolton in the 1904 final, were their opponents at Wembley.

In the build-up to the final, Bolton’s players were pictured trying some new-fangled “nerve powder” to calm themselves before the big day. Goalkeeper Dick Pym, late in life (in September 1986), told me it was little more than a publicity stunt:

“Ted Vizard was friendly with a young chemist in Bolton who was trying to put a headache powder on the market, which was going to be called ‘Sune-Eze’. They invited a reporter to Burnden Park to see one or two players taking this headache powder. As they came on the scene, Billy Butler was taking this powder in the middle of the pitch. They took a photo and then someone, as a joke, told the reporter it was a ‘nerve powder’. My own opinion is that the 1926 team needed no nerve powder to enable them to play football!!.”

As for the game, Bolton had to wait until 14 minutes from time to score the decisive goal, Jack receiving a pass from Vizard – after a fine flowing move -and shooting past goalkeeper Jim Goodchild. Vizard recalled the build-up:

“I had to do three things and do them all at once. I had first to reach the spot where the pass [from Joe Smith] was about to land; I had to screw it back on the half-volley; and I had to keep the ball low. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see David Jack making for the goalmouth, and to find him in an open spot I had to do all three things in an instant. It came off,  David scored and we won the cup.”

Regeneration

Bolton_1929

The following seasons saw the gradual replacement of the cup-winning heroes of 1923 and 1926. Joe Smith lost his place in 1926-27, his long-term replacement being George Gibson, a Scottish inside-forward from Hamilton Academical who cost Bolton £ 4,000. Also new to the club was Harold Blackmore, signed from Exeter City. A relatively small centre-forward, Blackmore was surprisingly good in the air. In 1926-27, Bolton finished fourth, but at the end of the season, more old faces started to be phased out. New players like Scot Jim McClelland, a £ 6,300 signing who never lived up to his promise, arrived. Another forward from north of the border, Willie Cook, also joined the club. The 1927-28 season was disappointing and league form further deteriorated in 1928-29. But to complete the three-year cycle, Bolton ended the season back at Wembley. There was no David Jack, however, as he had joined Arsenal in the autumn of 1928, yielding his club £10,890 – almost double the previous transfer record.

Bolton had made a loss of £1,200 in 1928 and the club’s finances were none too healthy when they decided to sell Jack, but they were looking for a fee greatly in excess of the near £11,000 paid by Herbert Chapman. Jack also had a successful career with the Gunners and his replacement in the Bolton front-line was Blackmore, who scored 30 league goals in 1928-29, a total Jack never reached with the club.

Final throes

The 1929 FA Cup run began with a home tie with Oldham Athletic and then went on to include victories against title-chasing Liverpool, Leicester City, Blackburn, and in the semi-final, Huddersfield. In the final, relegation-threatened Portsmouth would line-up against the Trotters.

Daily Sketch reporter L.V. Manning, previewing the contest on Cup Final morning, predicted a Portsmouth victory: “I believe Bolton to be the better team judged strictly by the highest academic football standard, but I expect to see Portsmouth first shake the Wanderers’ faith in themselves and then sweep on to victory.”

He was almost right with his prediction. In the first half, Portsmouth did more of the attacking, but Bolton’s defence soaked up the pressure. With 12 minutes to go, Bolton opened the scoring. A description courtesy of the Daily Sketch:

“A shot from Butler, Bolton’s outside right, beat Gilfillan and although Mackie, the Portsmouth right back, tried to clear, the ball struck the inside of the post and rebounded into the net.”

With less than a minute to go, Bolton scored again, Butler crossed to Blackmore and he shot home with his left-foot. A third FA Cup final win was secured.

And then…decline

After 1929, Bolton continued to slip down the First Division table and in 1933, they were relegated. They took two years to come back. The club’s next FA Cup final was in 1953. Bolton would rarely see such days as those experienced in the 1920s. Nevertheless, three Wembley wins in that decade made them the undisputed cup kings of their age.

In memory of Dick Pym (1893-1988), Bolton Wanderers’ three-time FA Cup winner, who spent time telling me about the Bolton team of the 1920s.

Calling in on….Portsmouth, the Pompey clangers

In Pompey we trust...
In Pompey we trust…

I should have expected it. Two clubs, positioned at 86 and 91 in the rankings, terrified of making the drop into non-league football. Portsmouth and Torquay. The home side, reeling after three relegations in four years, the visitors looking like they might become something of a yo-yo club. Welcome to Fratton Park, “owned by Pompey fans”.

Traditional football fans can’t help but like the place. It’s an old-fashioned ground with huge floodlights – the sort that help you  navigate a city like Portsmouth. Just what the locals – Pompey have neighbours as close as one door away from the Fratton Park entrance – think about having a floodlight almost in their back garden is anyone’s guess. On night matches, there’s probably no need for a living room light. Life in Frogmore Road must be quite illuminating!

Portsmouth’s recent history has been a nightmare. Twice in administration, almost 30 points deducted, those three relegations and a financial crisis that saw the club stare into the abyss. Then last year, the club was taken over by the Portsmouth Supporters Trust. While this means that the future is in their own hands, it may also highlight the massive financial limitations such a scheme will have in the age of oligarchs and oilmen. It may be more suited to non-league than the big time. But at least they are alive.

But not kicking [balls into nets]. Portsmouth are a “fallen angel” if ever there was one in football. It’s hard to believe that they won the FA Cup as recently as 2008 and reached the final two years later, the start of their steep decline. Their best days were long ago, two league championships in 1949 and 1950, a FA Cup win in 1939. In some ways it was appropriate that a city that gave so much to the war effort between 1939 and 1945 should  come to prominence in the post-war years.

P1040177 (300x169)There’s so much about Fratton Park that reflects the social history of the game. For a start, it has a classic Archibald Leitch stand. There’s always a nice atmosphere about these stands, which have gradually disappeared over the years.

Then there’s little things like the Naval Cadet walking round the ground with the placard of a smiling sailor and the demand, “play up Pompey”. Today, however, the inevitable bear or similar animal with an over-sized head accompanies the sailor boy. Personally, I dislike any attempt to Disneyfy club mascots. Portsmouth’s famous chant, “Play up Pompey, Pompey play up”, still prevails at Fratton Park.

I think Pompey have some great fans – 15,000 every game in League Two –  and they really do get behind their team. They’ve been through a lot over the years and their current downward spiral has prompted incredible loyalty.

"Hello Sailor..."
“Hello Sailor…”

No trip to Fratton Park would be complete without picking out the most famous Pompey fan of all, John Westwood, or to use his full name, John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood. Bedecked in his trademark stove pipe hat, blue wig and 60-plus tattoos, Westwood is comparable to a Dickensian character. Over the years, I have seen him at a number of Portsmouth games and always wondered. I still do.

I was trying to spot him before the game, but just before kick-off he arrived. His half-naked body covered in artworks illustrating his love for Pompey. There was some slight commotion as he moved into place with a couple of willing apprentices. As he moved among his people, Westwood, armed with his trademark handbell and trumpet, started to cavort to the drumbeat.

They didn’t stop. Westwood rang his bell in time with the drums, chanting throughout the game. It was fascinating to watch, certainly better than the quality of football on offer. Interestingly, quite a few people seemed to be watching the fans rather than the game.

Who could blame them? Portsmouth and Torquay looked every bit League Two strugglers. Portsmouth’s form going into the game was not good, although they were unbeaten in four games, three of which were drawn. In their previous game, they won 1-0 at Wycombe Wanderers. Torquay, meanwhile, had lost 1-0 at Oxford United but away from home their record wasn’t too bad.

The highlight of the first 20 minutes was an incident involving the referee, Dean Whitestone, who got in the way of a good Pompey mood. He held his hand up to acknowledge his error, but that didn’t stop the home crowd from giving him a  torrent of abuse.

Torquay, who brought quite a few fans with them, took the lead in the 27th minute, Billy Bodin  (son of former Swindon player Paul), fired home at the far post after the Pompey defence had failed to clear a cross from Joss Labadie.

Portsmouth had a good chance just before the interval through Ricky Holmes but as they walked off the pitch, the home crowd was expressing its disapproval of what they had seen.

Portsmouth played a little better in the second half, but they didn’t have the necessary thrust up front. Late in the game, though, Ben Chorley and Labadie both had the opportunity to restore parity. The score ended 1-0 to Torquay, giving the visitors some hope they can climb away from relegation. For Portsmouth, this was a reminder that they are too close for comfort. Pompey are three points ahead of the clubs currently in a relegation spot. They really will have to “Play up” soon, or the unthinkable will happen.