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Balls, boots and bigots


At long last, the National Football Museum is opening in Manchester in July. It used to be at Preston, but then closed two years ago. It’s going to unveil some important documents, letters and reports, never seen before. Exciting, huh? Only one of them, by the way, is known. Can you guess which it is?
1) 1863 letter from the 16-year-old Hon Arthur Kinnaird, a schoolboy at Eton (later president of the FA). 
“I have just heard that some queer-sounding body called the Football Association, at their first meeting to draw up the rules of football, has ordained that hacking should not be allowed. Hacking, sir, is the true form of football. I have never come off the playing fields without having to collect up assorted ears, noses, willies, legs, arms and on one occasion half a body, still violently kicking me. We were playing Winchester at the time. If this comes to pass, it will mark the end of football as we know it.”
2) Speech by Lord Kinnaird at a meeting of the FA, 1885.
“Personally, I would have hung, drawn and quartered the Preston North End team who were ejected from the recent FA competition for using professional players. It will totally degrade all respectable gentlemen if football players ever receive payment. Football is a game for amateurs, preferably from a good school, preferably with a private income and preferably with both sets of ears, arms and legs, though this is not essential. Otherwise, gentlemen, football will . . .” (Falls over, having only half a body.)

Money talks

3) Letter in the Newcastle Courant, 1905. 
“Eeeh, this fat bastard Alfie Common, I kent him when he was a fat bairn. Middlesbro must be bloody crackers, paying £1,000 for him. Where will it end? Not being funny, but no player is worth that amount. Personally, I would not pay washers for any player. They’ll be wearing tattoos next.”
4) Early Pathé Pictorial film taken on Blackpool Beach, 1916, showing Billy “Fatty” Foulke, aged 42, saving penalties. 
“I’ll fettle the next person who calls me fat. Being 25 stone never stopped me playing for Chelsea and England – and eating all the pies, and jellied eels and three amateur players from Eton, legs and all, though their silly waistcoats made me sick up. If spectators are allowed to shout abuse at us players only doing wor job, where will it end? Next we’ll be criticised for being ugly, coloured, Scottish, Old Etonian or sucking a toothpick on the pitch, which doesn’t do Billy Meredith no harm. Eeeh, it’s parky here.” (Catches chill and dies.)
5) Charles Sutcliffe, speaking at an FA meeting in 1928 that voted not to join Fifa and take part in the World Cup. 
“I don’t care a brass farthing about the improvements of the game in France, Belgium, Austria or Germany. The FIFA does not appeal to me. An organisation where such football associations as those of Uruguay and Paraguay, Brazil and Egypt, Bohemia and Pan Russia are co-equal with England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland seems to me to be a case of magnifying the midgets.”

Fairy lights

6) Billy Wright’s diary, 1948.
“Football boots should be made of thick solid leather and come up well above the ankle, reinforced with steel toe cap. Barbed wire also helps, particularly if playing Jerries. Football boots as light as ballet shoes is nonsense. Might be OK for foreigners or fairies, excuse my language.”
7) Report in Daily Echo, Southampton, 1950.
“I attended last night at the Dell to see Southampton play Bournemouth under what are being known as floodlights. They are ungodly, unsightly and unlikely to be allowed in League games. Fans will go blind, women will miscarry and players will injure themselves in the dark on Billy Wright’s barbed wire.”
8) Scouting report for Grandoli Boys club, Santa Fe Province, Argentina, 1995.
“Lionel is aged eight and is so small and light that today a lizard ran off with him. Unless his parents can afford monkey glands or emigrate to California and feed him hamburgers, or stretch him on racks like the Spanish conquistadores, I suggest he gives up football. His only hope is to be a Hackminito, picking up the limbs after the Animals of the national team, as Sir Ramsey called them, next play against England.”

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 07 May 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The Science Issue