‘As we clashed, the side of my head hit Ray here on the cheek’

  • May 28, 2019 10:23
  • Jon Henderson

Aston Villa’s win over Derby County yesterday was their greatest Wembley triumph since the 1957 FA Cup final in which they beat Manchester United 2-1 in a controversial match. The man at the centre of the controversy recalls what happened...


In the Aston Villa dressing room before the 1957 FA Cup final, centre-half Jimmy Dugdale, sick with nerves, threw up just before kick-off. Outside the sun shone on a packed Wembley. As the clock ticked towards 3pm, the referee Frank Coultas waited for a signal from the Royal Box, where the 31-year-old Queen Elizabeth had just taken her seat, before blowing his whistle.

Although Villa were the underdogs, they had two or three players of outstanding quality. Peter McParland was one of these, combative but creative and clever, the sort of player any manager would crave. He had scored twice against Wales on his debut for Northern Ireland and would be their best player at the 1958 World Cup finals.

McParland starts his own story of the 1957 Cup Final in the build-up to the match. He had made a mental note of something that his teammate Jackie Sewell mentioned to him. ‘Jackie said to me two or three weeks before the final that he had met Tommy Lawton at a wedding in Nottingham and Tommy said, “Remember to shake the goalkeeper up.” That was something you did then.

‘And Jackie told Tommy, “Yeah, we’ve got a fella who might go and give him a bit of a shake”.’

McParland says he was already aware Ray Wood reacted badly to physical contact – ‘He went for people, Ray did’ – and recalls an example of his petulance.

Not long before the final he was with the Villa team when they stopped at a pub on the way home from a midweek League game at Burnley. Highlights of a European Cup semi-final between Manchester United and Real Madrid were on TV. ‘And I remember Gento came flying through the middle and Woody ran out, picked the ball up and whacked Gento. Put him on the deck. So he was prepared to hit people at the time.’

Like Gento, McParland played on the left wing and did so with gusto.

At Wembley, six minutes had passed when he clattered into Wood. ‘Jackie Sewell had the ball on the edge of the box in the inside-right position,’ McParland says, ‘and I’m out here on the left and I’m coming in.

‘Jackie played a nice ball in and when it was in flight I said to myself, “This is going back into the far post. It’s in the back of the net”.’

McParland’s version of what happened next goes like this: ‘So I came in and I banged it with my head but I banged it straight into Ray Wood’s arms as he was coming off his line.

‘He’d come running towards me and I was running in just in case there was a drop and I turned my shoulder then to shoulder-charge him. He turned to me to shoulder-charge and then turned away at the last minute, last seconds. As we clashed, the side of my head hit Ray here on the cheek. It was through not getting the shoulder to shoulder [that the injuries occurred].

‘I was lying on the deck and 100,000 people were spinning round me. I thought, “Oh, I’m finished. This is me out.”

‘I got myself together again, though, and when the trainer came on he made me feel better. But Ray had a problem and went off by stretcher before coming back on just before halftime.’

Wood was posted at outside right with the time-honoured instruction to the walking wounded: if nothing else cause problems. Wood did this to such effect that McParland felt he was sufficiently recovered to go back in goal, which was what in fact he did for the last few minutes. But McParland’s irrepressible performance – not only did he clash with Wood but scored two excellent goals – would prove enough for Villa to win 2-1.

The BBC TV commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme said immediately that what happened between McParland and Wood, which left Wood with concussion and a broken cheekbone, was a pure accident. He called it a fair challenge, ‘but unfortunately their heads collided’. Although this was not the universal view there was a far greater acceptance then of the fairness of such collisions.

McParland apologised to Wood after the match and says he has no argument with his not being happy. ‘He wouldn’t have been happy, I wouldn’t have been happy if I had been taken off. He reacted in a sporting way to my apology but you always had the feeling that he felt he was hard done by.’

The press criticism McParland received did not really bother him, he says. ‘I was glad because we had won the Cup. It was part and parcel [of being in an incident like that] that they were going to slam me and some of them did. I just had to take the flak.’

Despite this criticism and Wood’s obvious resentment, McParland remembers suffering no backlash from other opposition players. The United defender Bill Foulkes even told him that ‘Woody should have got out of my way – and he didn’t because he liked having a bash at people’.

‘The next season,’ McParland says, ‘before all the games I played early on the goalkeepers said, “You wouldn’t have done that to me in the final because I’d have sidestepped and let you run into the back of the net.” All of them said that.’


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


Tales of a Birkenhead boy who learnt things the hard way

  • May 24, 2019 12:19
  • Jon Henderson

Warwick Rimmer’s Football League career began in 1960 at a time when players’ wages were pegged at 20 quid a week. He found the lessons he learnt then had lost none of their resonance many years later when he passed them on to fresh-faced recruits in his role as youth development manager at Tranmere Rovers...


Warwick Rimmer has said he will pick me up from outside Hamilton Square underground station. Travelling from Liverpool Lime Street, Hamilton Square is first stop on the Wirral Line on the Birkenhead side of the Mersey. From in front of the station there is a commanding view across the great expanse of river in the direction of Albert Dock. It is a waterway that has shaped British history. It makes a riveting spectacle.

Right on time, Rimmer pulls up. He has a full head of white hair and hobbles a bit, the legacy of 20 years of professional football, but is trim enough to be playing still. Although he played for Football League clubs Bolton and Crewe – he signed for Bolton as a 15-year-old in 1956 – he is a Birkenhead man born and bred and when we meet is working for Tranmere Rovers.

When his playing career ended he became commercial manager at Tranmere before spending 26 years as their youth development manager. Latterly he has worked part time as their child protection officer and recruitment officer.

As we drive through Birkenhead he slows down to point out where his father and uncle, Syd and Ellis Rimmer, once had what would have been grandly known as a turf accountants office (betting shops were not legalised until 1961). We are heading for Tranmere’s ground, Prenton Park, which is more than 100 years old and, despite several rebuilds, still has plenty of room for improvement.

We make our way along a warren of narrow passages under the stands before finding a room we can talk in without being disturbed. It is about ten feet square and probably has not changed much over several years, apart from the fridge filled with beers in the corner. It is where the opposing managers, assuming they are still talking to each other, have their post-match chat.

If this sounds a sombre setting to introduce a chapter about matches to remember, there is a reason. Rimmer has continued a surprising trend: the regularity with which my veterans have identified as their memorable matches those that they might be expected to want to forget.

In fact, it has been striking how many of them have only fleeting recall of the great games in which they featured, such as World Cup matches and FA Cup finals. They choose to hark back to some of the less obvious ones because of their salutary lessons.

When players shared with so many the daily grind of making a modest living maybe it is hardly surprising that these matches had a deeper, more durable meaning.

A game that has clearly stayed with Rimmer in a more meaningful way than perhaps any other took place right at the start of his professional career.

Rimmer had appeared at youth level for England, including a big win over Spain in the Bernabeu when he played alongside Bobby Moore. He was impatient to make his first-team debut for Bolton, which he did eventually at the start of 1960-1, ‘but not before I’d got a bit of a lesson’.

He says it is a lesson he now passes on to the apprentice players at Tranmere so they don’t repeat his mistakes.

‘I’d been in the reserves for quite a while and then somehow, I don’t know what had happened, I found I’d slipped back into the A team playing a match at Stockport on a Saturday morning. And my first reaction was to think, “Oh bugger this, nobody’ll be watching.” I contemplated acting top dog and not bothering.

‘But in the end I decided, “Well it’s a game like any other and I’m going to try my hardest.” I put my mind to it properly and we won and I did well. And it was because of this, and the fact that two senior players were injured, that a week and a half later I found myself playing my first game for the first team against Hull City in the League Cup.’

‘So I tell the young boys [at Tranmere] these days not to cut off their noses to spite their faces. You never know who’s watching you in training, friendly matches or whatever.’


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


A Wolves side fuelled by monkey glands were going ‘to run Portsmouth off the field’ – but Pompey won 4-1

  • May 23, 2019 14:39
  • Jon Henderson

The drugs ban imposed this week on a Salford City player is just the latest example of a footballer – just as athletes do in a range of other sports, and have done down the years – trying to improve performance in any way he can. Here’s one of the stranger episodses from back in the day...


Briefly, in the 1930s, the Monkey Glands Affair was the talk of football and gave great prominence to the man most closely associated with it, Major Frank Buckley.

Buckley is someone whose name may largely have disappeared into the mists of long ago but he was a substantial figure in football’s postwar development.

Player after player mentioned his name to me when I was writing When Footballers Were Skint. Not all liked him, quite the reverse in some cases, but the impression that emerged was of a character who would have stamped his personality and ideas on whatever profession he had chosen in whatever era.

Buckley was born in Urmston, Lancashire, in1882. Photographs of him in middle age show a strong face with a slightly wry expression. A physiognomist would almost certainly have concentrated on the well-set chin. Had he been a Hollywood actor in the 1940s and ’50s he would have been much in demand as a gunslinger. Gary Cooper might not have got the High Noon part.

As a player he represented a number of clubs and was almost as ubiquitous as a manager. His seven clubs included Norwich City, Notts County and Leeds United, but it was during 17 years at Wolverhampton Wanderers, 1927-44, that he made his name as the most innovative manager of his time. Some of his ideas and methods survive to this day.

It was Buckley who came up with numbering on shirts, the first structured scouting system and developed a youth policy complete with a nursery club in Yorkshire, Wath Wanderers.

His attention to preparing players for matches was also revolutionary.

Coaching hardly existed before the Second World War and sports psychology was a distant whisper. Buckley engaged with both. In particular, he was at the forefront of introducing routines with a wider purpose than simply keeping players fit.

For a start he challenged the quaint notion that practising with a ball was unnecessary because players saw quite enough of it on Saturday afternoons. Buckley put practice matches at the centre of his coaching and demanded a direct style of play rather than excessive elaboration.

He developed a contraption that shot out balls in no particular pattern to sharpen players’ close control and stressed the importance of being able to kick with either foot. He even encouraged players to do ballroom dancing to improve their poise and balance.

He also introduced rowing machines so that fitness sessions were not simply a case of running up and down the stadium terracing.

But the thing about him that really caught the public imagination was whether he did or didn’t experiment with the use of monkey glands.

The story went that Buckley was persuaded that monkey-gland implantations – a technique pioneered by Serge Voronoff, a French surgeon of Russian extraction – helped with stamina levels, recovery and improved mental performance. It was said that Buckley had them tried on himself and the Wolves players.

For a while the football world was abuzz with the possible advantages conferred by these glands. The fact that celebrities such as the playwright Noel Coward and the author Somerset Maugham were entertaining this treatment as a possible life enhancer gives some credence to the likelihood that Buckley was experimenting with it, too.

Nothing was conclusively proved, though, and after Wolves lost by three goals to Portsmouth in the 1939 FA Cup final – sometimes referred to as the Monkey Glands Final because Portsmouth were also said to be sampling the treatment – the whole episode was consigned to being one of Buckley’s more bonkers ideas.

The Scottish footballer Johnny Paton, who as a youngster was offered a trial by Buckey at Wolves, remembered all the talk about monkey glands. Paton, whose clubs included Celtic, Chelsea and Brentford, said: ‘The idea was that these young players of Major Buckley’s would run Portsmouth off the field. But Pompey had a lot of older players and Wolves got beat 4-1. That burst the bubble of thinking you could win anything with young players.’

Roy Wood, a goalkeeper who played for Buckley at Leeds, was also familiar with the rumours about Buckley’s plans ‘to plant monkey glands into footballers to give them a boost’ but he was never offered anything remotely exotic.


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


‘He could be in a small room with three other people – and, with the ball at his feet, he’d dribble round the lot of them’

  • May 16, 2019 11:38
  • Jon Henderson

Jimmy Hagan, a 15-year-old when he joined Derby County in 1933, developed into a truly outstanding inside forward, but the big disappointment for the Rams was that he spent his best years playing for Sheffield United. Strong-minded – to a fault, some thought – Hagan was only 20 when he quarrelled with the Derby manager and left...


Jimmy Hagan, born in 1918, would be better known had his best years not coincided with the Second World War and had he not been quite so obdurate. He played in 16 wartime internationals – classified as unofficial and so barely recorded – giving performances that stood comparison with teammates Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney.

But while he glittered brilliantly on the outside as a two-footed inside-forward, his propensity for awkwardness meant officialdom were leery of him. He played in only one full international for England, a pitiful return for one so talented.

He started with Derby County in 1933 as a 15-year-old, an England schoolboy international from County Durham. Two years later he turned full-time pro and made 31 appearances for the Rams before falling out with manager George Jobey. With a sense of his own worth, his argument with the club concerned the price Sheffield United should pay for him.

On a weekly wage of seven pounds, Hagan made his debut for Sheffield United in 1938 and for the next 20 years built a cult following at Bramall Lane. ‘Jimmy Hagan was the very heart of Sheffield United,’ his biographer, Roger Barnard, wrote, ‘the conductor, the orchestra leader and virtuoso soloist combined.’

And yet straight after the war Hagan almost walked away from a game that paid him so little for the embellishment he gave it. He joined a local architects to train as a surveyor and for a few years gave the club only part-time service. In the end, though, he missed the game too much to be put off by its frugal rewards.

‘What made Jimmy Hagan so outstanding was that he had a brain, for a start. And he could be in a small room with three other people,’ Colin Collindridge, a Sheffield United teammate, said, ‘and, with the ball at his feet, he’d dribble round the lot of them.’

Collindridge said there was a drawback to playing alongside him: ‘Opponents wouldn’t be able to get the ball off him and I’d stand watching him in amazement and then wouldn’t be ready when he passed the ball to me.’

But Collindridge and Hagan did perfect one double act: ‘After the war Jimmy and I had a routine going that appealed to Jimmy because it meant using his brain.

‘A German bomb had landed on the Bramall Lane pitch and where the crater had been filled in the surface was always a bit soft. I’d manoeuvre my fullback so he was standing on this bit of ground and when he was properly bogged down Jimmy would slip the ball past him for me to run on to.’


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


Biteback buys collected columns of Times sketchwriter

  • May 16, 2019 11:14
  • BookBrunch

Biteback buys collected columns of Times sketchwriter - BookBrunch.co.uk


Patrick Kidd's The Weak Are a Long Time in Politics uses columns from his stint as the paper's political sketchwriter: politics is 'show business for ugly people'

James Stephens, publisher at Biteback, has acquired world rights to The Weak Are a Long Time in Politics: Sketches from the Brexit Neverendum by Patrick Kidd, former political sketchwriter at The Times. 

According to the acquisition statement: 'Politics looked straightforward when Kidd took the reins of the daily political sketch in The Times in 2015. David Cameron had just won a general election and would clearly be Prime Minister for as long as he wanted; George Osborne was his obvious successor (rather than the editor of a free London evening newspaper); Theresa May was a slightly underwhelming Home Secretary; and Jeremy Corbyn an anonymous Labour backbencher best known as a serial rebel against his own party. 

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'Then suddenly everything went a bit strange. In this anthology of his best columns from the past four years, Kidd plays the role of parliamentary theatre critic, chronicling the collapse of Cameron, the nebulous clarity of May, the rise and refusal to fall of Corbyn and Boris Johnson’s repeated failure to keep his foot out of his mouth. Featuring a menagerie of supporting oddballs, such as Jacob and the Mogglodytes, Failing Grayling, Gavin ‘Private Pike’ Williamson and the simpering lobby fodder that are Toady, Lickspittle and Creep, this is a much-needed antidote to the gloom of the Brexit years.' 

Kidd, who is now The Times’ senior writer and diarist, said: "It was my privilege – some might say punishment – to spend three years as a sort of theatre critic for the Westminster Palace of Varieties. The lead actors may not have been up to much and the plot could often be implausible, but there is something captivating about watching politics close up. It is, as they say, show business for ugly people." 

Stephens said: "Brexit has been an interminable process and has changed politics in this country for ever. It is salutary to look back through Patrick’s glorious sketches and chart its terrible course, count the bodies of those whose careers it has killed and marvel at just how far we haven’t come. Patrick is one of the finest, and funniest, writers around, and we are very excited to be publishing him."


The Weak Are a Long Time in Politics by Patrick Kidd | 17th September 2019