Answering my own question is a no-brainer, and it gets a resounding Yes. Completely different from today’s game in many ways, some changes are for the better, others are the complete opposite. I would like to provide some personal details.

I was born on 15 July 1938 in Mill Road Hospital, Everton, a stone’s throw from our home address of 75 Everton Road.

I made my debut in the 'Boy's Pen academy' in the 1948-49 season but, unlike many, I can't recall the opposition or any details. I didn't attend every game in the first couple of seasons, but I do recall seeing Ted Sagar, Jack Hedley, Gordon Dugdale, Peter Farrell, Jimmy McIntosh and Tommy Eglington. It's likely that I saw TG Jones, and "Wee Alex" Stevenson, but I honestly can't claim that I did.

I have compiled a list of notable events that have occurred in my time of witnessing the vagaries of football.

1948-49

  • Notts County, with Tommy Lawton rampant, scored 76 goals in 25 matches, including putting 9 past Ipswich, hitting another 9 against Exeter (6 of them in 12 minutes) and hammering 11 against Newport.
  • Derby County broke the British transfer record when they bought Johnny Morris from Manchester United for £24,500 in March.
  • Joe Mercer scored his first own goal in 18 years when Arsenal lost to Newcastle United in May.
  • The rules were changed to make obstruction an offence.
  • A crowd of 30,000 watched a pre-season practise match between Newcastle United's first team and their reserves.

1949-50

  • England lost their first international match to non British opposition when they were beaten by the Republic of Ireland.
  • The player's union formed a closed shop, to fight the Football Association and Football League over player's restrictive contracts.
  • Neil Franklin, the England and Stoke centre-half was one of several players to walk out on his club and go to Colombia.
  • Sheffield Wednesday [1.395] just edged out Sheffield United [1.387] and Southampton [1.333] on goal average, for promotion from the Second Division.

1950-51

  • The League was expanded by four clubs, Colchester United and Gillingham, joining the Third Division South, and Scunthorpe United and Shrewsbury Town joining the Third Division North.
  • Leslie Compton became the oldest player to make his debut for England when he played against Wales aged 38 years and 2 months.
  • Trials with a new type of ball were scrapped when two of the design went flat in a few minutes during a match in Southampton. However, the FA did sanction the use of white balls which were easier to see in poor light.
  • Neil Franklin, the Stoke centre-half, returned from Colombia and was banned for 4 months by the FA for walking out on Stoke.

1951-52

  • Sheffield Wednesday, struggling near the foot of the Second Division, switched Derek Dooley to centre-forward. He scored 46 goals as Wednesday recovered to win the Championship.
  • Workington made their debut in the Third Division North, in place of New Brighton.
  • The admission charge was raised by 3d to 1s/6d (7½p in today's money).
  • Stanley Matthews scored for Blackpool in December, his first goal in almost 3 years. His last had come on New Year's Day in 1949.

1952-53

  • The government increased entertainment tax on football, which raised the cost of going to a match by another 3d to 1s/9d (less than 10p in today's money).
  • Jimmy Glazzard scored 5 goals as Huddersfield beat Everton 8-2 in the Second Division, they were all headers and all came from crosses from Vic Metcalf.
  • Nat Lofthouse scored 6 goals in a row when the Football League XI beat the Irish League in September.
  • Brian Close, the Yorkshire cricketer, scored 3 goals for Bradford in two FA Cup matches before he was injured. Close had trials with Leeds and Arsenal, but both clubs turned him down.

1953-54

  • Alf Ramsey scored a penalty in the last minute to spare England's blushes as they came back from 3-1 down to salvage a 4-4 draw with the Rest of Europe, in a match at Wembley, as part of the FA's 90th anniversary celebrations.
  • Arsenal, despite saving a penalty in the 2nd minute, and then taking the lead, were beaten 2-1 at Highbury by Third Division Norwich in the 4th Round of the FA Cup.
  • Sam Bartram set a League record when he made his 500th appearance for Charlton in March.
  • The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) was formed during the World Cup Finals in Switzerland.
  • Arsenal signed 34-year-old Tommy Lawton from Brentford to bolster their first team, and to coach their younger players.

1954-55

  • Harold Bell, the Tranmere Rovers centre-half, finally missed a League game in September, after playing a record 401 consecutive matches since the start of the 1946-47 season.
  • UEFA started the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, for teams from cities that staged industrial fairs and trade shows. The idea was that the football matches would complement the exhibitions. The first tournament took 3 years to complete.
  • Accrington Stanley fielded a team of 11 Scotsmen in the Third Division North several times during the season; all but four of their squad were born in Scotland.
  • Derby County, who had slumped into the Third Division after winning the first post-war FA Cup Final, were beaten 6-1 at home by non-League Boston United in the 2nd Round of the FA Cup.


Reader Comments (35)

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John McFarlane Snr
1 Posted 05/01/2021 at 19:06:43
Hi all, I somehow omitted the original 1954/55 season and submitted details of the 1955/56 campaign, I'll submit the correct details in part two. To tell the truth I flung my papers into the air when I learned that Danny Ings had scored for Southampton, and it appears that's the reason for the confusion, I will be more diligent in future.
Tony Shelby
2 Posted 05/01/2021 at 19:11:51
“Sky TV Confirms: No Evidence of Top-Flight Football Pre-1992”

Link

John McFarlane Snr
3 Posted 05/01/2021 at 19:31:54
Hi Tony, earth shattering news to me, to think that for all these years the formation of the Football League consisting of 12 clubs rising to 92, and producing some famous players, was a second class organisation. We live and learn.

It's nice to know that Sky have moved in to rescue football when some, like myself, think that they've played a major role in doing the complete opposite. God bless Sky.

Will Mabon
4 Posted 05/01/2021 at 19:46:05
Thanks, John - very interesting. Some previously unheard facts too.
Will Mabon
5 Posted 05/01/2021 at 19:47:51
That Sky link not working for me. I'll find it another way.
John McFarlane Snr
6 Posted 05/01/2021 at 20:02:45
Hi Will, [4] it's just a sample of the football world as it was in my boyhood days, leading up to the formation of the Premier League. I don't doubt that the fans of today who decry the nostalgia expressed by my generation, will indulge in the same manner when they reach the 'Senior Citizen' stage.
Alan McGuffog
7 Posted 05/01/2021 at 20:10:20
There was, John... and when a student at Manchester University, I would often go to Maine Road and watch a player called Colin Bell. RIP.
Will Mabon
8 Posted 05/01/2021 at 20:10:30
You might be right, John. Gradually though, I think many younger people are realizing that some things in life probably were a little better in the past. Change does not always equate to progress today.
Dave Abrahams
9 Posted 05/01/2021 at 21:52:38
John, re Jimmy Glazzard scoring 5 for Huddersfield in that 8-2 game, now I know how good you are with the facts of games but I've always thought he scored 4; I remember Jimmy O'Neill was our goalie in that game.

Glazzard was a very good centre-forward, well past his best when we signed him for £5,000, and he didn't last very long with the Blues. He had the distinction of scoring the winning goal in an FA Cup game versus Preston North End and saving a penalty by Tom Finney in the same game after he went in goal after the Huddersfield shot-stopper went off injured; no subs in those days.

I hope the younger fans on here get loads more great memories from the next few years than they've had up to now!!

John McFarlane Snr
10 Posted 05/01/2021 at 22:15:28
Hi again Dave [9],

Like yourself, I always believed that Glazzard scored four against us but, when I read it, I doubted myself. What I do know is that it was an Easter fixture and we won 2-1 at Goodison and the following day they beat us 8-2 at Leeds Road. I should have trusted my memory.

Dave Abrahams
11 Posted 05/01/2021 at 22:44:28
John (10),

Either way. it was a very good achievement, four or five goals in one game, all headers, Vic Metcalfe was an English international left-winger, I remember him well.

That Arsenal v Norwich cup game, no recollection of it in 1953-54 but I wouldn't mind betting Terry Bly scored one of the goals for Norwich. I think he holds the record for the most league goals in one season since the Second World War: 52, in the Third Division South; nevertheless, still some feat.

By the way, we, The Blues scored 20 goals in three games that season, vs Plymouth, Derby County and Brentford. I'm not sure if they were three successive games, possibly two of them were away games.

Tony Heron
12 Posted 06/01/2021 at 17:43:57
Fascinating read as always John. Being born in 1950 my football memories don't go back as far as yours.

The first game I can recall attending would have been probably mid to late '50s when my brother took me on the crossbar of his bike to Anfield. He was a Red and we went to watch a Liverpool Senior Cup game v Everton, which, as Liverpool were in the old 2nd Division, was the only way there could be a derby game.

My brother sat me on the wall by the goal at the kop end where I was hit by the ball and knocked off during an attack but I don't know which team was responsible.

It wasn't till 1961, I think, that a friend took me to Goodison and I was hooked. The game was against Arsenal with Jack Kelsey in goal for the visitors.

We had Bobby Collins at inside left with Alex Young and Roy Vernon up front. Albert Dunlop was our custodian, Alex Parker and Mick Meaghan full-backs. Labone, Jimmy Harris and Jimmy Gabriel were also involved I think.

So, unless I've dreamt all this, football definitely did exist before 1992, only not as we now know it. Before, it was actually entertaining!

John McFarlane Snr
13 Posted 06/01/2021 at 19:15:11
Hi Tony [12],

I don't know if you were able to access the link that Tony Shelby [2] posted, it would appear to be a sarcastic windup to me. I could put it up as a post if you require, and you could then decide what you make of it.

Andy Crooks
14 Posted 06/01/2021 at 19:47:18
John, it seems to me that Tony's post @2 was an excellent and clever endorsement of your original article. Hope you are well, by the way and that we will be meeting up soon.
John McFarlane Snr
15 Posted 06/01/2021 at 21:01:24
Hi Andy [14],

It annoys me when I hear "That's an all-time record for the Premier League" – technically they're correct, but I think to disregard the achievements of clubs from 1888-89 to 1991-92 is disrespectful. I particularly dislike the comments, "It's fair to say then, that the First Division was just an amateur League that, although entertaining, could not be considered a proper English top-flight League like the Premiership." I still believe that it was a windup, if not it's arrogance of the highest order. I'm quite well Andy and I too look forward to another get-together.

Tony Heron
16 Posted 06/01/2021 at 21:36:54
Hi John. Yes I read that link. I've taken it as a wind up, if it isn't then I don't believe it's worth spending a second commenting on it. I honestly believe that the way the game is going and the way it prostitutes itself with TV that it will eventually suffer to the point of killing itself.
Ron Marr
17 Posted 07/01/2021 at 01:27:54
Great stuff, John. Good to see you back. I was surprised to read that Brian Close played football.
Ian Jones
18 Posted 07/01/2021 at 08:02:00
The link is to a satirical website publishing spoof articles. Sometimes these are actually well written and funny!

There was one sometime ago that a friend who supports Liverpool sent through to me. The ward was:

TV Pundits Vote Liverpool FC “Greatest Football Club Of All Time”

He was taken in by it and refused to believe it wasn't a true award. I did point out that all the pundits voting were ex Reds. :)

Back to the original article, great read. Not my era but really interesting. Look forward to the next part.

John McFarlane Snr
19 Posted 07/01/2021 at 13:39:52
Hi Tony [16] and Ian [18],

My first instinct was that it was a windup, but in the crazy world of the modern media one can never be certain.

Hi Ron [17],

There have been many cricketing footballers but, like yourself, I was unaware of Brian Close being one of them. The most notable were Willie Watson (Huddersfield Town) and Denis Compton and Arthur Milton (both of Arsenal). All three were capped by England at both sports.

I take a chance in submitting my articles because I know that fans are, quite naturally, immersed in the topics and problems of today. I just feel that my posts can remind older fans of bygone days, and can give younger fans an insight into the game as we knew it.

Ian Jones
20 Posted 07/01/2021 at 14:21:12
John, Jim Cumbes was the only cricketer / footballer I can remember... and now I come to think of it, perhaps Ian Botham gets an honorary mention, both from eras later than the years of your post.
Alan McGuffog
21 Posted 07/01/2021 at 14:46:54
Ian... didn't Man Utd have someone, in the sixties / seventies who played for Lancs?
Chris Williams
22 Posted 07/01/2021 at 14:48:02
Ian and John,

I think Jim Standen of West Ham was another who played both. Another goalkeeper.

Never capped, but a decent player at both.

Terry White
23 Posted 07/01/2021 at 15:09:20
John and Dave, #s 9-11, according to Steve Johnson's excellent site, Everton Results, Glazzard's 4 goals in Huddersfield's 8-2 defeat of us did come the day after we beat them 2--1 at Goodison with Ted Buckle scoring 2 for us and one of John McF.'s favourites, Jock Lindsay, putting the ball past Jimmy O'Neill to open the scoring.

I find it interesting that there were over 48,000 in attendance at Goodison and that our opponents were actually in 2nd place in the old First Division while we were toiling around 14th and 15th.

Ed Fitzgerald
24 Posted 07/01/2021 at 15:13:02
Hi Alan

I think you are recalling the wonderfully named Arnold Sidebottom who played for Man Utd and cricket for Yorkshire. I think he may have a cap for England too and I have a feeling he was born in Scotland.

Ed Fitzgerald
25 Posted 07/01/2021 at 15:16:38
Bit of research reveals Arnie Sidebottom was born in god's own county/country – Yorkshire.
Chris Williams
26 Posted 07/01/2021 at 15:32:44
Ed,

Well remembered. Arnie played one Test for England I think, and his lad Ryan, played a lot for England in all formats.

A few decent cricketers played for Everton once upon a time. See the recent George Sharples article and I remember there was an annual fixture between Everton FC and Bootle CC back in the 60s. I think Brian Harris was pretty useful.

Alan McGuffog
27 Posted 07/01/2021 at 15:32:46
Sidebottom... that's the fella, Ed. I imagine he just wished he played for Lancs, wouldn't you agree?
Don Alexander
28 Posted 07/01/2021 at 15:41:29
Harry Makepeace played over 300 games for Everton and won four England caps. He played cricket for Lancashire for over 20 years too, again winning four England caps.

More recently Chris Balderstone played cricket for Leicester and England and football for Carlisle United when they were in the first division.

Good article John, thanks.

John McFarlane Snr
29 Posted 07/01/2021 at 15:48:00
Hi all, I've done a little research and there are multiple footballers/cricketers, too many to give career details, but they include Raich Carter, and Ray Swallow [Derbyshire] and Jack Dyson [Lancashire], along with the players already mentioned.

There are so many that it would be possible to construct an article on the subject, if anyone had the inclination.

Ed Fitzgerald
30 Posted 07/01/2021 at 15:55:08
I've just remembered another Jimmy Cumbes thinks that how you spell his name – goalie at Villa, Tranmere and played for Lancashire and perhaps Warwickshire?
John McFarlane Snr
31 Posted 07/01/2021 at 15:58:01
Hi again [all], I meant to add as a footnote, the annual match between Bootle CC and Everton FC, held Wadham Road, older fans will recall those fixtures.
Tony Heron
32 Posted 07/01/2021 at 16:18:58
Hi Don @28, I remember Chris Balderstone well. He was, I think, a midfielder with Carlisle. He played cricket for England and later became an umpire, can't remember if he did a Test Match but certainly an ODI.
Derek Taylor
33 Posted 07/01/2021 at 16:46:12
In 1975, Balderstone became the first (and only?) man to play both County Championship cricket and League football on the same day.

He was 51 not out for Leicestershire at the end of a day's play and then travelled to Doncaster to play soccer against Brentford. Returning to Leicestershire the following day, he continued his innings to complete a century and went on to take three wickets!

Later that season, he gained an England cap for cricket and later completed his sporting career as a First Class Umpire.

Andy Crooks
34 Posted 07/01/2021 at 16:48:31
Tony, I recall Chris Balderstone playing for England. He was of the Chris Tavare school of run getting; scoring, I believe, 11 runs in an afternoon of scintillating bat throwing.
John McFarlane Snr
35 Posted 08/01/2021 at 16:02:36
Hi Tony [32] Derek [33] Andy [34]

As I stated in an earlier post, there have been many who have played both cricket and football, but the most famous in the Merseyside area is the ex-Everton player Jack Sharp, who played for England at both sports. When he retired he opened a sports shop on Whitechapel, and his logo featured a sportsman dressed in football gear down one side, and cricket gear on the other, with the words "Jack O' Both Sides"

I have no doubt that a lot of fans who played street football will be familiar with the frustration experienced, if you wanted join in and you couldn't, because the sides were equally matched. You had to wait for someone to come along when you could both go 'Pudding or Beef'.

Those of my generation could go 'Jack O' Bo' but that had it's drawbacks, because you could pass the ball to 'Jack O Bo' inadvertently, and he would punish you by scoring against your side. Happy Days!


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