When Chelsea snubbed Europe because of one man’s small-mindedness

  • October 01, 2018 10:35
  • Jon Henderson

Football’s first European Cup was the start of something very big – except that Mr Hardaker didn’t see it that way.


After the war no one epitomised English football’s ‘keep it on the island’ mentality quite like Alan Hardaker, the Football League’s long-standing secretary.

Hardaker started working for the League in 1951 before taking over as full-time secretary in 1957. Previously he had been an ordinary player who aged 23 declined professional terms offered by Hull City in order to start his apprenticeship as a bureaucrat working as secretary to the Lord Mayor of Hull.

As Football League secretary Hardaker displayed his unattractive brand of conservatism with his comment to a national newspaper that having to deal with ‘wogs and dagos’ was the reason he opposed English clubs entering international competitions.

Largely as a result of this attitude Chelsea, the 1954-55 English league champions, were persuaded not to enter the inaugural European Cup in 1955.

Some years later Brian Mears, the Chelsea chairman from 1969-81, said he was not sure why the club spurned the competition having been nominated by the French sports newspaper l’Equipe, along with 15 other European sides, to represent the cream of the Continent’s clubs.

‘The club probably just chickened out of something few people knew enough about,’ Mears added.

Why they chickened out was almost certainly the result of Mears’s father, Joe, the Chelsea chairman from 1940-66, having been leant on by Hardaker, who was xenophobic and myopic in equal measure.

Gwardia Warszawa of Poland took Chelsea’s place to the satisfaction of little Englanders and to the detriment of the English game’s prospects of keeping up with foreign competition.

Nor, on reflection, can the Chelsea club and players have been happy to miss out on the financial benefit, especially the players whose wages at this time were capped at £15 a week.

The resounding success of the first European Cup, won in style by Real Madrid, instantly instated the Spanish champions as the continent’s most glamorous club and ensured the competition’s future. In fact Real would go on to win for five years in a row.

Despite this Hardaker and his ilk still wanted nothing to do with it. But Manchester United, the new English champions, refused to be bullied into following Chelsea’s example. They went ahead and entered the 1956-57 competition, a decision that was rewarded by a thrilling run to the semi-finals where they lost to Real.

It was not until ten years after this that Celtic, directed by their impressive manager Jock Stein, became the first British club to reach a European Cup final – a feat they celebrated with a spectacular victory.

Stein had the vision to stray beyond the traditional British way of playing. He worked on ideas such as zonal marking, before the name existed, but above all he stressed the importance of players expressing themselves outside the confines of any particular system.

Stein assembled a team of players who came from within 30 miles of the club’s Glasgow ground. And after Celtic’s exhilarating 2-1 win in Lisbon over the cynically efficient Italian side Inter Milan in the 1967 final, their manager said: ‘We did it playing football, pure, beautiful, inventive football.’

A year later, a George Best-inspired Manchester United, directed by another exceptional Scotttish manager, Matt Busby, succeeded Celtic as European Cup winners, thrashing the continent’s former masters Benfica 4-1 at Wembley.

And by now even Alan Hardaker must have recognised some merit in the competition.


This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing.


Why David Beckham’s predecessors never got charged with speeding: they didn’t have cars

  • September 28, 2018 10:07
  • Jon Henderson

Not that long ago car ownership was confined to chairmen, board members and assorted long-trousered functionaries.


It took some years before professional footballers became masters of their own travel as motor-car owners. In the first instance only the wealthy businessmen who ran the clubs had cars or access to them. Players had to wait to be asked before being granted a lift in one. It wasn’t until well after the Second World War that every player had his own car as a matter of course.

Terry Neill, who joined Arsenal in 1959, remembers the slow advance of car ownership, started by the better-paid players, once the £20-a-week wage cap was lifted in 1961.

‘When we got on to 45 quid a week we all started to acquire what we thought were fancy cars,’ Neill says. ‘I’m talking about a Sunbeam – second-hand, of course, knockdown price, a bit rusty.’

Up until then a car journey was a treat with the player invariably a passenger, although in Terry Allcock’s case it was a treat of the bizzarest kind.

In the Fifties Allcock was a good player in a very good Bolton side that contained three international inside-forwards. He scored for them in the early rounds of their triumphant 1958 FA Cup run. But then learnt he was superfluous to the club’s needs.

How he found out, soon after moving into a house in Bolton, shocked him. Without any warning he was told when he arrived for training one morning that Norwich had made an offer for him. Bolton were keen to accept.

‘Having got over my surprise,’ he says, ‘my first thought was, “Where the hell’s Norwich.” I thought for a minute it was Northwich.’

Before agreeing to the move he was at least allowed to visit Norwich. This involved catching a train to Peterborough where he would be picked up by car. Allcock worried how he would recognise the driver but was told the driver would recognise him.

‘And do you know,’ he says, ‘I was met by a midget. He worked for the chairman who was a friend of his. He was one of the famous circus acts.

‘When we got in the car he said, “Do you mind if I drive fast, there’s a match on at Carrow Road and we might catch the second half.” They were playing Coventry. I was frightened to death. He had wooden things on the pedals and he couldn’t see over the steering wheel. But we did make it for the second half.’

When all players eventually had the funds to own their own wheels, they quickly discovered there were downsides.

Another Bolton player, Warwick Rimmer, was coming to the end of his 14 years as a first-team regular when the club drew the outstanding Manchester City side of Colin Bell, Franny Lee and Mike Summerbee in the third round of the League Cup in October 1971.

Having set out from his home in Blackrod for the short drive to Bolton’s Burnden Park ground, Rimmer ended up trapped on the M61. ‘I wasn’t on the motorway for two or three hundred yards when it was absolutely gridlocked,’ Rimmer says.

His car was stationary for half an hour before he registered that the vehicle in front had a City sticker in the window. He quickly devised a plan, but it would work only if the woman passenger up ahead had a driving licence. And, as luck would have it, she did.

Rimmer apologised for asking rival fans to do such a thing, but would one of them drive his car to the ground. Legging it was his only chance of making the kick-off.

Rimmer told them when they reached the ground the steward would recognise his car. He would arrange for them to be left a couple of tickets.

He reckons the only thing that kept him going as he jogged the three or four miles to the ground was trying to remember the registration of his brand new car. ‘I kept repeating it over and over in case I never saw it again.’

He reached Burnden Park with about three minutes to spare. The manager, Jimmy Armfield, was outside waiting for him. When Rimmer said he had been stuck in traffic and had to run the last bit, Armfield demanded to know how far. ‘Oh, only round the corner, just back of the shops,’ Rimmer fibbed.

‘I dashed into the dressing room and stopped a young chap putting my shirt on. I didn’t bother with any warm-up. So it just shows what you can do and that it’s all in the mind.

‘I got in a bit of trouble for being late but nobody bothered too much, particularly as we upset City 3-0 with a young Manchester boy called Garry Jones – he went on to do quite well at Bolton – scoring all the goals.’


This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing.


The star footballer who could have been a contender – at golf

  • September 27, 2018 10:24
  • Jon Henderson

Stan Anderson was a young adult before he had even heard of golf. It soon became his passion.


What do retired people and professional footballers have in common? Time on their hands during the week to play golf when nearly everyone else is at work.

And golf-playing footballers, like the retired, come in all categories: from hackers who spend more time in the long grass than on the mown stuff to a sizeable group who are really rather good. And then there are the very good indeed.

Stan Anderson was one of the very good ones despite having been totally unaware of the existence of the game until he was a young adult.

Anderson, who was born in 1933 and died earlier this year aged 85, came from a mining community, Horden, not far from Sunderland, where his father, Jim, had worked underground until suffering the chest problems that were the coal miners’ lot.

Young Stan might also have been a miner had it not been for the fact that his talent for playing football was soon evident. He would go on to have a brilliant career as a stylish midfielder who captained the North East’s three great clubs: Sunderland, Newcastle and Middlesbrough. He also won two caps for England.

But his sporting life might well have taken a very different course had he found golf earlier.

Don Revie, who joined Sunderland as a player from Manchester City in 1956 and later went on to manage England, introduced Anderson to golf. ‘I remember the first thing I ever heard Don say in the dressing room was, “How many lads play golf?” I’d never heard of it. Golf? He said, “You come up and caddie for me, Stan”.

‘So I went and carried his clubs. I watched him and a few others playing and they were hitting the ball all over the place. I thought, “I can do better than that”.’

At this point Anderson interrupted the saga of his love affair with golf to give an insight into how he ticked. ‘The point is if you’re going to do anything you’ve got to do it the best you can. It’s like any game, squash for example.’

And he recalled a conversation he had with the chairman of Doncaster Rovers when he, Stan, was the Doncaster manager.

Chairman: ‘Do you play squash, Stan?’

Anderson: ‘I’ve never played squash in my life.’

Chairman: ‘Right, I’ll take you down to the squash club and we’ll play.’

‘I hadn’t got a clue,’ Anderson said. ‘Four bloody walls and a line up there and another one there. I thought you had to hit the front wall all the time. I struggled and he beat me.’

Chairman: ‘Same time next week, Stan?’

Anderson: ‘Yeah, OK, Tony.’

During that week Anderson went to the library, took out a book on squash and gained a far better understanding of the game. ‘Only then did I realise you could hit it off that wall, too, and so long as the ball didn’t go below that line… and the next week I beat him easily.

Anderson: ‘Same time next week, Tony?’

Chairman: ‘No I’ve got something else on.’

Anderson never played the chairman again but, with his interest in the game kindled, he did not lose interest in it.

‘I was playing some really classy players. There was a lad called Alan Murray, who was good. He’d heard about me playing squash and said he’d give me a game.

‘The club where we played had a ladder and he was third or fourth and I wasn’t even on it, obviously. And I beat him and, of course, all the lads were taking the piss out of him.’

Anderson took the same resolute interest in golf once he had watched Revie and others give what he instantly recognised as a pretty lousy demonstration of how to club a small white ball with power and precision.

Things weren’t easy to start with because as a left-hander he had difficulty getting hold of a set of clubs. But a drinking mate of his father’s had a friend who sold him some, not a full set, for four pounds. He was on his way.

‘A year later I ordered a full set and got down to playing regularly. I played all that summer and eventually got my handicap down to one.’

The game became a passion for him. Even into his early eighties he was still playing twice a week. He seemed affronted by being asked whether he ever shot rounds of lower than his age. ‘Oh, I do that regularly,’ he said, dismissively. When we met he had just done a round of 78.

He regarded his greatest golfing feat as finishing joint first in the 1991 Yorkshire Seniors amateur championship.

In his prime he shot a round of 65 in Scotland. It wasn’t on one of the big courses. ‘But I did play at St Andrews on the championship course and got a 72, which I thought was a good score.’


Based on an interview Stan Anderson gave in 2014 for the book When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing. 


Who was the greater, Stanley Matthews or Tom Finney? It remains one of English football’s most fascinating debates

  • September 25, 2018 10:23
  • Jon Henderson

Matthews’s name may have a greater resonance but Finney’s supporters feel the evidence is on their side.


Tom Finney was born in 1922, seven years after Stanley Matthews, and had a much shorter Football League career with his only club, Preston North End, than Matthews did in his two stints with Stoke City either side of playig for Blackpool.

While Matthews played from 1932 to 1965, by which time he was 50, Finney’s first Football League appearance was not until 1946, a late start imposed on him by the outbreak of the Second World War, and he retired in 1960. But his ability and personality were such that comparing him to Matthews became – and remains – something of a national pastime.

One thing that endeared Finney to his supporters was that despite the adulation he attracted he was always stubbornly grounded, discreetly pursuing his second profession as a plumber throughout his playing career. Matthews was far less accepting of his lot as a brother in downtrodden arms with those who watched him play.

The principals themselves could not always avoid being drawn into the Matthews/Finney debate. Finney would relate how he was often quizzed on it by clients while out on a plumbing job. ‘On one occasion,’ he said, ‘I remember defending Stanley Matthews’ corner while I changed the ballcock on a WC.’

The media and even academics found it an irresistible talking point. In 1946, the widely read Picture Post scrutinised the two, deciding that Finney was ‘less spectacular [than Matthews], less of an individual, less of a one-man circus. Perhaps his greatest asset is that highly developed feeling for collective play that some critics miss in Matthews.’

Much more recently the cultural historian Joyce Woolridge referred to Matthews’s quirkiness and extreme self-displine, which, she reckoned, gave him an ascetic gloss, while Finney’s image was more that of an ‘ordinary bloke’ with an exceptional talent.

In my book, When Footballers Were Skint, I talked to a number of players about the famous duo from the perspective of having played against them.

Bill Leivers, a redoubtable defender for Manchester City, came down firmly on Finney’s side. ‘He was something out of the ordinary,’ he said. ‘Everyone looked at Stan Matthews and said what a wonderful player he was, which is true, but from the players’ point of view the better player was Tom.

‘Tom was so much more versatile, equally effective playing in any of the forward positions [Matthews played on the right wing]. And he was a lovely bloke, too.’

Frank O’Farrell enjoyed the privilege, as he puts it, of appearing with Finney for Preston. ‘He never made headlines in any detrimental way to the game,’ O’Farrell said. ‘He trained and after training he’d go off with his workbag to do his plumbing. The odd cistern might be leaking or something.’

On the field, O’Farrell added, ‘there wasn’t anything you could find fault with. He had the perfect temperament. He got kicked by fullbacks at a time when wingers didn’t always get the protection they get now but he never used bad language or swore. He just showed what a good player he was.

‘He played on both wings and could score goals as well as make goals for other people. When I joined Preston he was playing at centre forward – and he was devastating.’

If he did do harm to opponents, it was of the psychological variety. O’Farrell recalled a match when Preston won handsomely at Tottenham with Finney scoring a hat trick: ‘Harry Clarke was the Spurs centre half that day and I met Harry some years later. “You remember the game when you beat us down here,” he said. “That finished my career.” Finney played against him and destroyed him. Playing at centre forward, Tom could go both ways and Harry just couldn’t cope.’

Finney was aware of the psychological damage he could cause as he demonstrated when he played against the hard-tackling Dave ‘Crunch’ Whelan, a meeting that might have been billed as the merciful against the merciless.

The occasion was a pre-season practice match when Whelan was coming back from an injury.

‘I’d played a couple of practice matches and I was getting by,’ Whelan said, ‘and then who should I be up against when Blackburn played Preston but the great Tom Finney.

‘He never took me on, though, he never brought the ball to me. He’d pass it, which wasn’t his normal game.

‘So when I was going off at halftime I said, “Tom, you’ve not taken me on at all.” And he said, “No, I’m not going to either. This is one of your first matches back. I want you to feel confident.”

‘A great gentleman. He did it the whole game. He stayed away from me, used the ball. Never went round me at all. Very professional. A great man.’

Of course, given Whelan’s reputation for clogging, Finney might have been staying out of harm’s way rather than being kind. Whelan might have reached this conclusion, too. But this was Finney and even an opponent perfectly capable of harsh thoughts was inclined to think Preston’s star man was treading the path of righteousness.

If Finney had possessed Matthews’s cussed streak – Matthews made a habit of falling out with managers – Finney would almost certainly have kept going for two or three more seasons.

Gordon Milne, who also played alongside Finney at Preston, said it was pretty obvious at the time that Finney stopped when he did because of the manager Cliff Britton. ‘Britton was a pretty dour sort of bloke,’ Milne said. ‘I think he knocked two years off Tom Finney’s career.’

Later Finney confirmed this, discarding his normal reticence in a ghosted autobiography. He described Britton as power mad and ridiculously overstrict and unsympathetic. He said it wasn’t long before he regretted his decision to retire and could have been talked into playing again. But his wife, the strong-minded Elsie, decreed otherwise.

It is hard to imagine she would have delivered such a ruling 50 years later.

Picture a twenty-first-century Elsie. She would have been on the phone to Tom’s agent demanding he get her man a lucrative transfer because his manager was being nasty to him. He could return to plumbing later on, if he really wanted.

Not everyone has taken the Matthews/Finney debate as seriously as they should. Recently this appeared on a football website: ‘Personally I always rated Albert Finney and Bernard Matthews.’


This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing.


Even after being ‘clogged’ the great Stanley Matthews gave the perpetrator his autograph – unwisely as it turned out

  • September 21, 2018 16:12
  • Jon Henderson

Matthews could appear remote and inaccessible during his playing days, but he had a reputation for acts of kindness and consideration.

Don Ratcliffe, who was established in the Stoke City first team when Stanley Matthews returned to the club in 1961, has particularly fond memories of the legendary outside right who played in the Football League until he was 50.

One story Ratcliffe tells concerns the boots Matthews wore. ‘I kept asking Stan if I could have some of his handmade boots, but he wouldn’t give me them.

‘He’d say,  “No, you’ll hurt yourself.” They were very soft, you see, just like skin. Very light.

‘Anyhow, when I signed for Middlesbrough and was leaving Stoke he gave me two pairs, two brand-new pairs. I was really chuffed with them.’

Sadly, this story of Matthews’s kindness is in sharp contrast to what happened next. ‘When I took them to Boro,’ Ratcliffe says, ‘somebody pinched them, one of the players.’

Even if Matthews could be tetchy at times, Ratcliffe says the mood soon passed. ‘I remember playing the ball to Stan and he came running up to me, “Don’t you ever pass a ball like that to me again,” he said. “Just remember I’ve got three gorillas trying to kill me. If you’re going to give me the ball just smack it straight to me, very hard.”

‘Anyhow, soon afterwards I got this ball and I was ten yards away from him and I thought, “Yeah, I’ll show you for telling me off.” So I smacked it really hard, but mis-hit it and it was going about four-foot high into the crowd. And he just put his foot up and killed it dead.

‘I couldn’t believe it. He got it on the end of his toe. “That’s better,” he said and put his arm up to say thanks.’

Howard Riley of Leicester City has a curiously touching anecdote about the man whose Football League career with Stoke and Blackpool lasted 33 years, until he retired in 1965, and who made 54 England appearances. ‘It was only towards the end of his career that I played against Matthews,’ Riley says, ‘and when he turned up to play in a testimonial at Filbert Street he said to me, “All right, Howard.”

‘He played against so many other players more than he did against me that I hadn’t really expected him to remember who I was. I considered it a compliment.’

Colin Collindridge, who played for Sheffield United from 1938 and later for Nottingham Forest and Coventry City, testifies to Matthews’s ‘gentleman’s way of doing things’. The occasion was an FA Cup tie in 1945-46 – the only season when ties were played over two legs. Collindridge scored three times in the second leg but Sheffield United still lost 4-3 on aggregate to a Matthews-inspired Stoke City.

‘As I was running off the pitch this fella came up to me,’ Collindridge says. ‘I looked round and it was Stanley Matthews, who was the best right winger for years. He shook my hand and said, “I know you’ve lost Colin but thanks for a great match.” And that was it; off he went.

‘Now I thank Matthews for this. I wasn’t in his class as a footballer but he still had the time to congratulate me.’

Matthews’s capacity for being courteous brought a rather different reaction from Dave ‘Crunch’ Whelan after a match between Blackpool, Matthews’s club from 1947-61, and visitors Blackburn in the 1950s.

Whelan, Blackburn’s young right back, says he clogged Matthews in the match itself – ‘I cleaned him out, got the ball and took a bit of him with it’ – then sought him out afterwards for his autograph. ‘I mean he was a legend, still playing in his forties’

But had Matthews been able to read Whelan’s mind he might not have been quite so charitable in obliging his impudent assailant.

Whelan recounts his conversation with Matthews in the doorway of the Blackpool dressing room:

Matthews: ‘You’re Dave Whelan, aren’t you?’

Whelan: ‘Yes, I’m Dave Whelan. Can I have your autograph, please?’

Matthews: ‘You kicked me out there and you kicked me quite deliberately didn’t you?’

Whelan: ‘Yes, sir.’

Matthews: ‘But that’s against the rules.’

Whelan: ‘I know but it’s the only way I could stop you.’

Matthews: ‘You won’t do it again, will you?’

Whelan: ‘Oh, no.’

Matthews: ‘Give me your book.’

‘And he signed it, “Best wishes, Stan Matthews”,’ Whelan says. ‘And next time I thought, “You’re going to get clogged.” He was a great player.’


This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing