Saturday, 5 May 2012

The days before 5.15 kick-offs and Denis Wise collecting the FA Cup with his son

I’ve bought the above book off eBay. First published in 1966 I owned a copy as a small boy and turning the pages is pure nostalgia of the sort when you keep remember things you’d forgotten. I particularly like the pictures, each a little work of art. The footballers – all epitomes of vitality – have chiselled, Dan Dare-like good looks, lustrous locks and Colgate smiles. Their laces are tied after two loops of the instep. Fans wear colourful rosettes and bulging scarves and they’re always smiling too. The text depicts a much simpler, more inclusive and less ostentatious era of the game (although I daresay this impression is partly because it come from a children’s book). Three pages are devoted to the FA Cup and, to coincide with today’s final and round off another season of blog posts, I reproduce them here.

“The FA Cup competition which is now so famous was first begun in 1871. It is a knock-out competition. The winning team is given a large silver cup which it keeps for a year. In 1895 the FA Cup was won by Aston Villa. When the team took the cup back to Birmingham it was placed in the window of a Birmingham shop so that everyone could see it. During one night the cup was stolen from the shop window. It was never discovered who had taken it so a new FA Cup had to be made.

“Soon there were so many professionals clubs that they always won the FA Cup from the amateur clubs. So the Football Association began another competition with another FA Cup just for amateur clubs. The Football Association is now so large that it is made up of more than 60,000 clubs. This means that there are more than a million players. There are usually large crowds at cup-tie matches. Many of the spectators wear rosettes, made in the colours of the team they support. Some of them carry bells and rattles to make a noise at the match.

“Every footballer longs to play in the final of the FA Cup at Wembley. The Queen or some member of the royal family usually comes to the cup final at Wembley. At the end of the match the queen presents a cup to the captain of the winning team. She then gives a medal to every member of the two teams. It is a wonderful moment for them. The men in the winning team often carry their captain to the dressing room on their shoulders while he holds the FA Cup high above his head.”

This last pic accompanies the text about media coverage of football and the publication of football papers on Saturday evenings. Delivering the Sports Post in Reading circa 1980 is as close as I’ve got to sports journalism.

When the Cup was king: Players were chairing their trimphant skipper off the pitch long into the seventies, of course. Here Billy Bremner looks remarkably at ease with the somewhat ungainly posture at the end of the centenary FA Cup final which took place 40 years ago this weekend. The pic accompanied a story about the day in today's Yorkshire Post. What a legendary side that was. Bet you can remember them all: Harvey, Reaney, Madeley, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Bremner, Giles, Gray, Clarke and Jones.

King of the cup: I again take my hat off to this blogger who today is due to complete a remarkable FA Cup odyssey which has seen him attend a tie and replay in every round of the competition, 26 in all. Good blog too - and now available as an e-book.

A question of sport: Who are the four players pictured in this fine Cup final pic (which I used to have framed in my flat)? And what was the year? Answers in the comments box.

Summer soccer curiosities: Three weeks today marks the 30th anniversary of Aston Villa’s triumph in the European Cup. I loved this story which did the rounds a couple of years ago – about the disappearance of the Cup and its recovery at a Birmingham police station. Clearly Villa are a somewhat cavalier with cups.

This time of the year also reminds me of a wonderfully arcane warm-up match for the 1988 European Championships – between England and Aylesbury United. Click here for an account of it from When Saturday Comes and see below. On YouTube you'll also find a peculiar film of the England players – complete with Gary Lineker in his jockstrap – in the dressing room  before the match. You can almost smell the embrocation.

And finally ... talking about summer football, hands up who gives a fig about the Olympic tournament? Hmmm, thought so. Me too. Anyway, good luck to Psycho.