David Calderhead (left) and Bill Anderson (right), two of the greatest managers for Lincoln City

Lincoln City’s unprecedented success in reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals as a non-league team this season has prompted this article on the club’s managers over time. I will consider the careers of three most successful managers in the club’s history: David Calderhead, Bill Anderson and Graham Taylor, followed by a brief resume of the current management team of Danny and Nicky Cowley and where they might fit into this history. Two other managers, Colin Murphy and Keith Alexander, deserve an honourable mention on this context, although neither quite achieved the heights reached by Calderhead, Anderson and Taylor.

David Calderhead had been one of the best centre halves in the game in the 1890s, at a time when the centre half played as central midfield role rather than the defensive ‘stopper’ that developed post-1926. A product of Queen of the South Wanderers, he moved south to join Notts County in 1889 and went on to captain the Magpies team that won the FA Cup in 1894. He also won representative honours for Scotland and the Football League and served on the Management Committee of the Players’ Union.

Calderhead was appointed as secretary-manager of Lincoln City in September 1900 and held the position for seven years. He was a manager at a time when the position had yet to fully evolve. He did not select the team (which was a task for the directors) and was unlikely to have been involved in training and tactics (the trainer and players were generally responsible for these tasks). His role was to manage the financial affairs of the club, to organise travel and, most importantly, to build a successful team.

It was as a team builder that Calderhead was so successful. His great achievement was to lead the club to the most successful season in their history. In 1901-02 the Imps reached the last 16 of the FA Cup and also finished fifth in the Second Division table. They had a minimal squad: only 17 players were used and three of these totalled only four appearances between them. Sincil Bank was something of a fortress and the team were unbeaten in home league games, conceding just four goals. The core of the team was made up of Scots: McMillan, Gibson, Fraser, Crawford, Proudfoot, Hartley and McInnes. Not all were Calderhead’s recruits but his ability to blend experience and youth was a key factor in building a successful team, while his ability to recruit players cheaply and sell them on for a profit helped ensure the finances were relatively stable.

In August 1907 Calderhead moved to Chelsea where he spent 26 years as manager, leading the Blues to the 1915 FA Cup final and two semi-finals. The greater finances available enabled him to become one of the early big spending managers and amongst his many recruits were Willie Gallacher and Andy Wilson.

Moving on some 50 years, the next manager we shall consider is Bill Anderson. Unlike Calderhead, Anderson had not been a star player, although he had played before the war for Sheffield United and Barnsley before injury ended his career. He came to Lincoln as the club trainer after the war and after being appointed as manager in January 1947 he stayed in post until 1965: a period of 18 years. The role of the Lincoln manager had moved on somewhat from the early 1900s but the manager still did not have full authority over team selections, with proposed line-ups being submitted to the board for approval at their weekly meetings. Anderson, however, did play a role in training and was, of course, heavily involved in recruitment of players.

In many ways he was the first of the modern ‘personality’ managers at Sincil Bank. He was not averse to publicity stunts, notably when signing Yorkshire fast bowler Freddie Trueman; the publicity generated attracted around 7,500 to watch Trueman play a reserve game at Sincil Bank, but soon afterwards hewas advised to end his fledgling soccer career to focus on cricket. It was, however, as a great wheeler-dealer in the transfer market that Anderson was best known, particularly in the 1950s. In a series of rather sensationalised articles that appeared in the Sunday People early in 1961 he was labelled as ‘Soccer’s Mr. Magic’. He claimed to have earned the club £100,000 profit in the transfer market since the war, including £30,000 in deals involving star centre forward Andy Graver. His philosophy of “Find ‘em, buy ‘em, sell ‘em” was successful in keeping the Imps in the old Division Two for nine seasons from 1952.

Anderson was the first manager to win two promotions for the Imps. His 1947-48 team was built around the veteran Tom Johnson, a former colleague from his Bramall Lane days, but his teams of the 1950s were generally built around players signed from the North of England. The Imps were essentially a Northern team throughout the ‘50s and rarely recruited players born in London and the South of England. Anderson and his backroom staff all hailed from the North East. Many of the stars of this era were signed from Newcastle United, where the manager was able to exploit his close personal links with director Stan Seymour to pick up many of his bargains. Players such as Andy Graver, John Thompson, Jerry Lowery, Fred Middleton, Bob Gibson and George Hannah all arrived directly from St James’ Park.

City were only relegated from Division Two at the end of the 1960-61 season, coinciding with the ending of the maximum wage. The club had benefitted considerably from this equalising factor as other ‘perks’ came into play when players decided where they wanted to move. Lincoln were able to offer a city with a pleasant environment, good schools for children and new housing with modern domestic appliances. There was also a race course but no dog track (a factor that led to at least one player’s refusal to sign).

There was no way back following relegation and Anderson’s final years at the club were blighted by dismal performances on the field and financial crisis off it, but his feat of keeping the Imps in the second tier of English football for nine seasons on limited resources remains a remarkable achievement.

The next decade proved to be one of very limited success at Sincil Bank (the Football League Cup run of 1967-68 providing a notable exception) before the arrival of Graham Taylor in December 1972. Taylor was effectively the first man to manage the club using recognisable management techniques. Unlike Calderhead and Anderson he was not a player of the transfer market and was generally given sufficient financial resources to recruit the men he needed, providing the price was reasonable.

Taylor had enjoyed a solid but unspectacular career with Grimsby Town and then City, although as a youngster he had appeared in the FA Schools XI in two consecutive seasons. His success at the club, culminating in the record breaking achievements of the 1975-76 season, was built on sound management principles. Shortly after his appointment as manager he presented a six-page document to the board outlining his proposals to turn things round at what was then a somewhat dysfunctional club. This document covers many aspects of the club including self-discipline (of the players), the scouting system, treatment of injuries, the reserve, ‘A’ and youth teams, travelling to away matches, relations with the press and the non-playing staff. The structural changes he introduced to the club were key factors in underpinning his success.

The document also includes his ideas on man management: “It is my intention to treat the players as people first of all and players secondarily. I want to have a group of men in which Lincoln City will be not only proud of them as players but as ambassadors of the Club. In order to get this they must be treated as grown-up adults even though on occasions they may slip from these standards.” Taylor’s ability both to get the best out of his players and to produce a tremendous team spirit amongst a group of players who were not always the best of friends off the field, shows the importance of his man management techniques and how skilled he was in this field.

In 1975-76 the Imps won the Fourth Division title in record breaking style. Their points tally was an all-time Football League record under the two points for a win system (74), they established Fourth Division records for most wins and fewest defeats in a season and in scoring 111 League goals they became the first Football League team in over a decade to score a century of goals in a season.

In the summer of 1977 Taylor moved on Watford where he took the Hornets from the Fourth Division to the First and a place in the FA Cup final. Further success followed at Aston Villa before he was appointed as England manager, holding the post between July 1990 and November 1993.

We move on to the present day and the current management team of Danny Cowley and his brother Nicky, appointed to the post in the summer of 2016. Less than a year into the job they have marked their stay by achieving the club’s best-ever performance in the FA Cup by reaching the quarter-finals following the 1-0 win at Burnley in the fifth round. The Imps are the first non-league team since World War One to reach the last eight of the competition. Significantly, although a number of non-Football League teams reached this stage (or further in some cases) before 1915, in most cases these were Southern League teams at a time when this competition was almost as strong as the Football League’s Second Division, which mostly drew its membership from clubs in the North and Midlands. The ultimate prize for the Imps, however, is not the FA Cup but promotion back to the Football League.

Neither of the Cowley brothers has a background in the Football League, but both have enjoyed success in non-league football in the South of England with teams such as Hornchurch, Romford and Concord as players and in management with Concord and Braintree. More significantly in their former role of PE teachers they were crucial figures in making Fitzwimarc School in Rayleigh, Essex, one of the top state schools for sporting achievement in the country.

Although it is relatively early days in their management career, it is clear that their ability to use sports science techniques to enhance the performance of individual players has been a key feature of their time at Sincil Bank. There is a huge attention to detail in everything the management team does and a much greater flexibility both in tactics and the use of personnel than has been previously seen in the role. The focus is on the future, not the past. Thus the sudden departure of striker Theo Robinson on transfer deadline day never became the issue that it might have been. Above all, however, the progress the Imps have made this season is down to long hours and hard work from the management team.

This brief run through of the Imps’ managers represents how the role of the manager has changed in the wider game. In many cases managers through to the 1960s were rarely great tactical innovators and those at Sincil Bank were essentially organisers and team builders beginning with the unobtrusive Calderhead and progressing to the ‘personality’ wheeler dealer Anderson. Graham Taylor represents a new type of manager, one who actually managed, while the Cowley brothers have moved this on further with their emphasis on sports science techniques.

The best managers are rarely those who enjoyed a successful playing career. Calderhead is an exception at Lincoln, but Anderson, Taylor, Colin Murphy and Keith Alexander (both just outside inclusion here) plus the Cowley brothers made little impression as players. What makes a good manager? One key attribute is hard work from the management team. City have not always trained in the afternoons, for example, but did so under Taylor, Murphy and the current regime. Some of the least successful teams seen in the Imps’ colours over the last 50 years have been managed by individuals living away from the city and with their minds on other business interests. Relative youthfulness helps too, it seems: Calderhead, Taylor and the Cowley brothers were all under 40 when appointed, suggesting energy and hard work are more important than experience in the role. The third identifiable factor is that the manager should be employing modern/current management methods rather than those which are old fashioned. Nevertheless, success never comes without hard work.

“Surely, soccer’s the American word for football”, is a  view commonly expressed by many followers of the game. But, as we shall see, it is a British English word with a history almost as old as that of ‘association football’, from which it derives. In this article I shall consider the origins of the word ‘soccer’ and when it came into use.

Newspaper reports from the 1890s provide clear evidence that ‘soccer’ was in common usage from the middle of that decade and that its origins were in the slang developed by students at Oxford University. In what was almost certainly a syndicated column, ‘Notes from Oxford,’ the North Wales Chronicle for 14 March 1891 reported: “Oxford undergraduates, especially those who are athletes, have passionate fondness for the termination ‘er.’ The number of coined words which are made to end in the termination ‘er’ is quite astounding, and these are absolutely unknown outside the Oxford circle. The following are fair examples, which are added to tickle the reader’s ingenuity: what does he think of: – ragger, fogger, roller, footer, rugger, brecker, soccer, fresher, &c.?”

Towards the end of the 1890s the Football Echoes column of the Yorkshire Evening Post (23 September 1899) informed its readers: “It will perhaps interest readers of these Echoes to know why Association and Rugby football are commonly known as ‘Soccer’ and ‘Rugger’ respectively. At the Universities it is the correct slang to break off the latter syllables of words, double the last consonant, and ad ‘er.’ So ‘Sociation becomes ‘Soccer’ and Rugby ‘Rugger.’ But the former is more frequently spelt ‘Socker.’”

So ‘soccer’, like ‘rugger’ and ‘fresher’ (a word meaning ‘freshman’ or recently arrived student) are words that all entered into widespread usage after being adopted by students at Oxford University. Another sporting word ‘cricker’ for cricket appears to have never featured outside of the slang used in public schools and universities of the late 19th century.


Letter to the South Wales Daily News, 29 January 1891

These words can be traced back even further, to Harrow School. An article in The Globe (22 October 1895) informs us: “The extensive use of the termination ‘er’ is now nearly twenty years old, though, circ. ann., 1875-6 it was confined to certain colleges, especially where Harrow men were in the ascendant. For the suffix ‘er,’ as the editor of ‘Isis’ [an Oxford University journal] correctly observes, hails from Harrow, the parent terms being ‘ducker’ and ‘footer.’”

The online version of the Oxford English Dictionary ( provides us with examples of the first occasions some of these slang words appeared in print: ‘footer’ (1863), ‘fresher’ (1882), ‘socker’ (1885), ‘rugger’ (1889) and ‘brekker’ [breakfast] (1889).

Finally our investigation concludes with a brief review of the contents of the British newspaper Archive. The Optical Character Recognition system offers little help with tracing the earliest usage of ‘soccer’ simply because the presence of ‘soccer’ often appears in print as ‘success’ (or other words). ‘Socker’ is an easier term to search and to date the earliest reference I have traced is from The Star of the East, a Suffolk title, for 12 March 1888. Commenting on the Suffolk Cup final which took place at Ipswich’s Portman Road ground ‘Asterisk’ reported “Many ‘Rugger’ men went home this afternoon with a respect for ‘Socker’ that they had never felt before.” This, significantly, is an earlier reference to the use of ‘rugger’ than currently held by the OED. Note that ‘Socker’ was the original spelling. Almost all late 19th century references were found in one of three geographical regions: South West England (mostly Cornwall), South Wales and London (where most occur in relation university students at Oxford and Cambridge).

More specific searches produce a clearer picture. The Cornishman newspaper provides 12 references for ‘socker’ for 1893, but just one for 1895; in contrast there are no references to ‘soccer’ for 1893 and 17 for 1895. Thereafter ‘soccer’ is the preferred term. The British Newspaper Archive has a gap in its coverage of Athletic News, the main football (both rugby and association) newspaper of the time, between 1887 and 1899 unfortunately. For 1899 the term ‘socker’ is used 21 times and ‘soccer’ just once. From around 1903, however, ‘socker’ is rarely found and ‘soccer’ becomes the recognised spelling. ‘Footer,’ which must originally have referred to the specific game played at Harrow, later became a term to describe football generally and is the preferred informal term of Sporting Life newspaper in the mid 1890s, although ‘socker’ / ‘soccer’ and ‘rugger’ are also found.

In conclusion, we can identify that the first slang word still in modern use for football/soccer derives from Harrow School with the usage of the word ‘footer’ which first appears in print in 1863. The practise of shortening words, particularly in relation to athletic sports, then adding an ‘er’ suffix appears to have transferred from Harrow to Oxford University in the mid 1870s. Almost certainly words such as ‘socker’ and ‘rugger’ were in use before they were committed to print a decade later. The word ‘soccer’ was initially spelt ‘socker’ and as well as being in use amongst university students it was commonly used in geographical areas where the predominant code of football was rugby union (Cornwall, South Wales) in the 1890s. A spelling of ‘soccer’ rather than ‘socker’ became the recognised version of the word by the early 20th century and this word then spread into the general vocabulary of the game. Soccer has remained in the vocabulary of British football, and indeed, when the Players’ Union relaunched their magazine was titled: ‘Soccer: The Official Journal of the Football Players’ Union’. Soccer Star was for many years the most popular British weekly magazine devoted to the association game, and ran from 1952 until 1970.

So ‘soccer’ is a word that derives from the elite classes of Oxford University students in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. It is perhaps not surprising that ‘soccer’ is used instead of ‘football’ in the United States where another version of football (‘American football’) enjoys greater popularity, and probably for the same reasons as those newspapers in Cornwall and South Wales used ‘soccer’ back in the 1890s. It distinguishes association football from other more popular codes of the game in those areas. Nevertheless ‘soccer’ remains a word of British English origin and not American English.


Graham Taylor, who has died at the age of 72, was one of the great club managers of the post-war period achieving success with his first three clubs: Lincoln City, Watford and Aston Villa. He later had a three-year spell as manager of the England national team before returning to club management with Wolves, Watford and Villa. This tribute will focus on the early part of his career and his introduction to management with Lincoln City.

Graham Taylor was brought up in Scunthorpe, the son of Tom Taylor who was a reporter who covered the fortunes of Scunthorpe United for the local evening paper. Taylor was thus immersed in the game from a young age and after passing the eleven plus continued his education at Scunthorpe Grammar School. He achieved representative honours for Lincolnshire Grammar Schools and after attending the FA Schools Week he was selected to play for the FA Schools XI against Scotland U18 Schools in both 1961 and 1962.

He subsequently left school to join Grimsby Town where he broke into the first team in September 1963 and quickly established himself in the side at left-back. He went on to make over 200 appearances for the Mariners but had already begun planning for life once his playing career was over. In May 1966 he achieved his FA Preliminary Coaching Award; at just 21 years old he was believed to be the youngest-ever recipient of the award.

In the summer of 1968 he signed for neighbours Lincoln City and was appointed club captain. Graham proved to be a sound and thoughtful defender at Sincil Bank, scoring on his debut on the opening day of the 1968-69 season. He quickly established an effective partnership with George Peden at full back, flourishing under manager Ron Gray’s leadership and the opportunities presented to the senior players to openly discuss any on the field problems. Significantly several of that team went on to manage or coach at a higher level including Graham, Billy Taylor (who was one of the England coaches at the time of his untimely death in 1981), Jim Smith and Ray Harford.

Graham made over 150 appearances for the Imps, although he was increasingly affected by niggling injuries and was one of a number of players who were highly critical of manager David Herd: he was even referred to as a “militant” by one director. Like several City players of the time he helped out with coaching local teams and from January 1970 he coached the Lincolnshire League club Lincoln City School Old Boys. When Herd resigned in December 1972 he seized the opportunity and he became the Football League’s youngest manager at the age 28; he was appointed on a salary of £50 a week.

His managerial career was slow to take off. His very first game in charge saw the Imps lose a Lincolnshire Cup match at Boston and the next six games saw five draws and one defeat. In fact it was not until the end of February that Terry Branston’s late header against Darlington earned him his first victory, breaking a run of 18 games without a win that stretched back to the previous October. The following season saw the Imps finish in a mid-table but the results of his work over the next three years marked him out as a talented young manager.

The Imps played a high power version of the long ball game battering the opposition into submission. The team was built around a tall, powerful defence, tricky wingers and hard running strikers; the simple tactic of the strikers crossing each other’s paths as the ball was played forward seeming to regularly confuse opposing defenders. The players were physically powerful and super fit, no doubt aided by the fact that they trained in the mornings and afternoons. They were also a thoughtful group, rarely succumbing to loss of concentration and totally focussed on the task of victory. The steel in the side came from skipper Sam Ellis, Terry Cooper and Dennis Booth; Dave Smith, Peter Graham and Dick Krzywicki offered the skill and Percy Freeman and John Ward scored the goals.

Sincil Bank became an impenetrable fortress for most visiting teams with just three defeats out of 69 games between 1974 and 1977. The 1974-75 season ended in huge disappointment. A 3-2 defeat at Southport in the final game saw the Imps drop below Chester and thus miss out on promotion by the narrowest of margins of goal average. In 1975-76 a largely unaltered squad won the Fourth Division title in record breaking style. Their points tally was an all-time Football League record under the two points for a win system (74), they established Fourth Division records for most wins and fewest defeats in a season and in scoring 111 League goals they became the first Football League team in over a decade to score a century of goals in a season.

Taylor spent one more season at Sincil Bank, achieving a creditable 9th place in Division Three in 1976-77 before moving on to Watford and further success. His final legacy for the Imps was to complete the signing of three youngsters from Wearside including Mick Harford who went to become one of the top strikers in the game in the 1980s and gain two full caps for England.
Taylor’s success at Sincil Bank was not just on the field of play. He had inherited a situation where many of the players were unhappy with the previous regime and there were minimal structures in place.

Shortly after his appointment as manager he presented a six-page document to the board outlining his proposals to turn things round. This document covers many aspects of the club but also includes his ideas on how he would manage the players: “It is my intention to treat the players as people first of all and players secondarily. I want to have a group of men in which Lincoln City will be not only proud of them as players but as ambassadors of the Club. In order to get this they must be treated as grown-up adults even though on occasions they may slip from these standards.”
He went on to completely reorganise many of the off-the-field structures. A scouting set-up was introduced (there had been none before). The way injuries were treated was improved (the club previously did not even hold details of players’ medical records). A modern youth policy was also implemented, with a team entered into the Northern Intermediate League for the first time and an arrangement was made with a Sheffield junior club, Sheffield Rangers, to become the Imps’ nursery club. The players were taken on visits to local factories where they learnt about the working lives of the fans who paid to come and watch them. This helped create a tremendous community atmosphere around the club and a bond between fans and players.

By the summer of 1977 it was clear that Lincoln would no longer be able to keep Taylor. An approach from West Bromwich Albion was rejected in favour of a move to Watford. The Hornets were in a lower division than Lincoln but with chairman Elton John providing financial support, they rose from the Fourth Division to the First in five seasons, finishing as League runners-up in 1982-83 and FA Cup finalists the following season. Three seasons at Villa Park followed and more success: he took them back to the top flight in his first season and as runners-up in the League two years later.
His successes on the field earned him the England manager’s job in July 1990. His early record was excellent with just one defeat from 23 games but failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup finals led to his departure in November 1993. He had become something of a hate figure for the tabloid press by this time, perhaps more indicative of a growing trend towards controversy by this section of the press as they sought to increase readership levels.

He subsequently returned to club management with Wolves, Watford and finally Villa once more before becoming a pundit on radio and television.

Graham Taylor passed away suddenly on Thursday 12 January. He should be remembered above all as a thoughtful, honest and decent man, both as a player and manager, and a football man through and through. The game will be all the poorer for his passing.

Primary Sources: Interview with Graham Taylor, April 1997; Lincoln City Directors’ Minutes 1968-1977

The British Newspaper Archive is a website which makes available digital copies of British newspapers from the archives of the British Library (for a fee) and which has become a very valuable online resource for sports historians, including soccer historians. The content now includes copies of several sporting papers from England: Bell’s Life, Athletic News, The Sportsman and even a brief run of the Sports Argus from Birmingham. However, there is currently no specialist sporting from Scotland available and we feel this situation needs to be rectified. Sport in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was as popular in Scotland as it was in England. There were several specialist newspapers in Scotland during this period including the Scottish Athletic Journal, the Scottish Umpire and Scottish Sport (an amalgamation of these titles). However, the longest lasting of these newspapers was the Scottish Referee which appeared from November 1888 until November 1914.

The British Newspaper Archive website allows you to vote for individual newspaper titles that you would like to see included on the database. You don’t need to register on the site or pay, you just need an email address. You can use up to three votes for any title out of 10 votes allocated to you. To access this area you need to go to ‘Help & Advice’ and then ‘Newspapers we should add next’. Currently Scottish Referee, a very important resource for information about Scottish football in the late 19th and early 20th centuries has 294 votes. We urge all readers to exercise their voting powers to increase this number with the aim of seeing it appear on the database in the future. You can do so by clicking on this link, making your vote and adding comments in support.


Three reasons why you should vote for the Scottish Referee:

  • It’s the longest running of all the specialist pre-1914 Scottish sports papers. The Referee was published for 26 years up until the outbreak of World War One
  • It provides a comprehensive record of Scottish football (soccer and rugby), cycling, athletics, golf and other sports for this period, much in the way that Athletic News does for English sport
  • It’s a historic newspaper in its own right: The Scottish Referee is the newspaper which coined the term ‘The Old Firm’ to describe the relationship between Celtic and Rangers in a cartoon published in April 1904.

This week sees the start of the EFL (or more correctly the Checkatrade) Trophy fixtures. The Football League, in its wisdom, chose to restructure and rebrand from the 2016-17 season with the EFL Trophy being one of the outcomes of that exercise.

The competition (formerly the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy) has a new ‘pilot’ format with 64 entries made up of EFL League One and Two clubs, plus an additional 16 Category 1 Premier League and Championship academy/under-21 sides. More significantly, member clubs will vote on an expansion of the current format of three divisions of 24 clubs each to four divisions of 20 clubs at the 2017 AGM, with the changes, if agreed, to be implemented for the 2019-20 season.

The Football League retained the same branding and logo for its first 100 years, altering the logo for the centenary season and again in 2004. However, the most recent rebranding is more significant as it involves not just a new logo but a new identity. ‘The Football League’ is a title that was adopted principally because it was the first organisation of its kind. The clear implication is that it is the first and most important of its kind. Why then change the title to The English Football League and lose that sense of history and uniqueness? According to Ben Wright, the League’s commercial director, the change is because “The three-letter brand name is designed to suit both the smaller screens of mobile devices and social-media’s hashtags, while the emphasis on ‘English’ is intended to give it a greater global appeal; it’s argued that the Football League moniker isn’t necessarily enough to clearly identify it in overseas markets.” (

The acceptance of 16 Premier League and Championship academy/U21 sides into the EFL Trophy for 2016-17 is a major and not necessarily progressive change. Billed as ‘innovation’, a phrase that is not always a good thing, first impressions are that this is a half baked solution to a problem that never existed in the first place and one that pleases no one. Many Premier League clubs have already opted out. If it was hoped that the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal might take part then this was a bit optimistic. All three have declined. Their replacements include Blackburn Rovers and Brighton.

There has for some years been lobbying from some Premier League clubs to allow reserve teams to compete in senior football. The Football League, looking for ‘innovation’ and perhaps some crumbs from the Premier League table has taken the initiative when there was little interest elsewhere for change. I cannot see any winners here. The academy teams are unlikely to prove an attraction at the gate, particularly as the fixtures are due to be played during the international breaks, and so many of the best young players will be absent on international duty. With all due respect to them, it is unlikely that Brighton’s academy team will draw in the crowds when they visit Southend and Stevenage.

Of significance is the fact that while clubs were consulted, one of the key stakeholders in the football industry, the fans, were not. A successful restructuring and/or rebranding of any business is best carried out after consultation with all relevant stakeholders, something the Football League seems to have forgotten.

The two changes proposed for 2016-17 amount to a denial of heritage and tradition. By changing the name to The English Football League, the League has effectively stated it no longer regards itself as being the original and most important competition. The acceptance of U21 teams into the new EFL Trophy is a further denial of the past. One of the key principles of the Football League has been that it is for first teams only, a rule that has been enforced consistently.

Football’s organising bodies need to recognise the opinions of ordinary fans, who care passionately about the heritage of the game, rather than introduce ill-thought out restructuring to attract commercial income from abroad. The commercial possibilities for clubs like Accrington Stanley lie principally within their own community in East Lancashire. How will they benefit from a rebranding that attracts social media followers across the world?


Football had enjoyed a somewhat long-lived presence in India, having been introduced by the British military in the nineteenth century, with a strong early presence in the colonial capital, Calcutta. The three classic domestic competitions the Durand Cup, the Rovers Cup and the IFA Shield date from 1888, 1891 and 1893 respectively. The game was dominated by regimental teams before the First World War, although the first Indian team is believed to be Mohun Bagan (formed in 1891). A pivotal moment came in 1911 when Mohun Bagan defeated the East Yorkshire Regiment to win the IFA Shield.

Football in India was mostly organised on a regional basis, with different associations covering different geographical areas. The game essentially developed in garrison towns and in addition to Calcutta there was a strong presence in Bombay, Madras, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi amongst other cities. In 1937 the All India Football Federation was established to provide a single body to administer the game throughout the country.

The presence of substantial numbers of British troops in the Sub Continent during the Second World War helped boost the game and tours by British Forces teams towards the end of the hostilities provided a tremendous boost at all levels. Indian teams got a chance to test their skills against professional players from Britain and put up some credible performances, most notably in February 1945 when an Indian FA team drew and then narrowly lost to the professional tourists. Towards the end of 1945 an IFA team also conducted a national tour.

India was awarded independence in 1947, followed by a traumatic period of domestic upheaval following the partition with Pakistan but nevertheless, the game was in a relatively healthy state by 1948 when it was decided to enter a team at that year’s Olympic tournament in London. Following a series of trials, a 17-man squad was chosen, with a further three players selected in reserve. The players were drawn from just three areas in the country: Calcutta, Mysore/Bangalore and Bombay and the clubs set out to raise funds with a series of charity games arranged.

The initial squad of 17 comprised the following players:
Goalkeepers: Kenchappa Varadaiah Varadaraj (Bangalore Blues, Mysore), Sanjiva Uchil (Trades India SC, Bombay)
Full Backs: Sailendra Nath Manna (Mohun Bagan, Bengal), Taj Mohamed (Mohun Bagan, Bengal), Mathew Papen [also known as Thomas Varghese] (Tata SC, Bombay)
Half Backs: Talimeran Aao (Mohun Bagan, Bengal), Mahabir Prasad (Mohun Bagan, Bengal), Syed M Kaiser (Bengal), Anil Nandy (Eastern Railway SC, Bengal), Sattar Bashir (Mysore)
Forwards: Balasundra Nataraja Vajravelu (Mysore), Ramachandra Balaram Parab (Trades India SC, Bombay), Sahu Mewalal (Mohun Bagan, Bombay), Santosh Nandy (Eastern Railway SC, Bengal), Ahmed Khan (Mysore), Sarangapani Raman (Mysore), Kadirvelu Ponnwangam Dhanraj (Mysore)

Reserves: Robi Das (Bhawanipore, Bengal), Sunil Ghosh (East Bengal, Bengal), SM Dey

A total of 18 players made the journey, although only 17 travelled on the TSS Empire Brent, with Robi Das arriving separately. The passenger lists provide full names, occupations and ages for the squad. This information reveals that five of the squad were students, four worked in ‘service’ occupations, three for railway companies (two being described as ‘worker’ and one as ‘official’), two were merchants, one was in business, one was employed by the Police Department and one was a motor mechanic. As a group they mostly fell into categories where it would be possible to take extended leave to attend the tournament – thus students, those in public service and those playing for teams associated with large and prestigious companies dominated. This was essential as the squad underwent five weeks special training before their departure from India at the beginning of June and they were absent from the country for around four months before their return.

The squad played a fundraising warm-up fixture against a team drawn from Calcutta’s two great rivals East Bengal and Mohun Bagan shortly after the squad was announced and a further two games after assembling in Bombay for their departure. Despite delivering a 4-0 thrashing to Afghanistan, also en route for London, they were few expectations of the team and the Times of India (3 June 1948) rather gloomily recorded: “On this showing [the exhibition match against Trades India SC] not even the most ardent supporter of Indian football can hold out anything but a slender hope of India surviving the preliminary round of the International contest.”

Along with members of the country’s Olympic squads for other sports, the team left Bombay aboard the TSS Empire Brent on 4 June, arriving in Liverpool almost three weeks later. On arrival the squad was initially based at a camp in Richmond Park, later moving to their permanent accommodation for the games, Pinner County School.

The 1948 Olympic Games tournament was something of a haphazard affair. Five nations withdrew shortly before the tournament started, and the fixture schedule had to be rearranged. India had originally been drawn to play Burma, a game they almost certainly would have won, but their opponents, along with Hungary, Pakistan, Palestine and Poland, withdrew late on and when the draw was made for a second time, India was matched with France.

The first round tie with France was played at Ilford’s Newbury Park where the Indians put on a display well beyond expectations and came close to victory over their opponents. In fact had they been more accurate from the penalty spot they would have won, for two missed spot kicks cost them the game. Nevertheless, they proved to be the equal of their more experienced Western European opponents for much of the game and won over the spectators with their style of football.

Although eliminated the team had put up a good fight and the Official Report of the Games (p.384) noted:

Playing without boots, as did nine of the Indian team, gave them speed off the mark and lightness in their feet. This advantage they often threw away by hesitation in front of goal. Several had their feet bound in bandages to make up for lack of footwear, but not one shirked even the heaviest tackle.

Having been defeated the team’s involvement with the tournament was over. After a short break they made a visit to the Netherlands where they played three games, most successfully defeating Ajax 5-1. Then it was back to the UK, where they played a further five exhibition games including two against Wales Amateurs, representative sides from the Isthmian and Athenian Leagues and also Boldmere St Michael’s, one of the leading amateur teams. Then it was back to Liverpool for a 4 September departure for Bombay on the Circassia. By the time they had returned the players had missed virtually all the domestic season.

The Indian team played in a style favoured by many colonial sides of this period, using the centre half as the pivot of the team rather than as a third back, as was the established formation in professional English soccer.

Their centre-half, the burly T. Aao, was no policeman, he acted as distributor and lent a hand where needed most in defence. The full-backs covered the middle alternately and the wing halves took the wingers.
(Ilford Recorder, 26 August 1948)

The Wrexham Leader reporter ‘Wanderer’ was completely won over by the tourists, describing the first fixture with Wales Amateurs as ‘the game of a lifetime’.

Since League football was first introduced on Wrexham Racecourse, I have never seen a game of such quality and purity as that displayed in the first of the two amateur international games between Wales and India … Eight of the Indians were bootless, but that did not reduce the power of their kicking. Their accuracy was uncanny, their passing immaculate, and what an object lesson they provided in keeping the ball on the ground. Few teams will ever leave the Wrexham ground midst a greater ovation than those Indians received.
(Wrexham Leader, 27 August 1948)

When placing their Olympic performance in context, it should be noted that France met Great Britain in the next round, losing by a single goal. The Indians returned home no doubt wiser and with their first experience of an international tournament behind them, laying foundations for their success in the Asian Games just three years later when they defeated Iran 1-0 in the final.

A longer version of this article appeared in issue 29 of Soccer History magazine and is available as a download from

Fifty years ago today England won the World Cup for the first and only time in history. Hugh McIlvenny writing in the following day’s Observer quite correctly described it as “The greatest moment in the history of English football.” Unfortunately 1966 has also become English football’s greatest burden.

The 1966 tournament had been notorious for defensive football, negative tactics and, on occasions, ill temper, but fortunately the final proved to be an occasion of excitement and honest endeavour, even if there were few moments of exceptional skill. Unlike the matches that preceded it the final was a very open affair. The Sunday Telegraph’s match statistics show an incredible 95 goal attempts over the 120 minutes of play, 47 from England and 38 from West Germany. Apart from the six goals, 28 shots were saved, the remainder being blocked or off target, but there were only 18 corners (and only six to England).

England went one down on 12 minutes when Haller’s shot eluded goalkeeper Gordon Banks. Six minutes later Geoff Hurst equalised with a header and this remained the score at the break. Fifteen minutes from time it appeared that victory for the home team was assured when Martin Peters shot from the edge of the box. Then came heartbreak for England with just two minutes remaining. West Germany were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box and although the initial effort cannoned off England’s wall, the ball eventually passed across the goalmouth where Wolfgang Weber slid home the equaliser.

In extra time England could have folded, but instead provided a powerful response. Ten minutes into the first period came one of the most controversial moments in World Cup history. Alan Ball’s cross was met by Geoff Hurst who powered in a shot that ricocheted off the underside of the bar, down and out into play. The referee did not initially award the goal but consulted his linesman who confirmed that the whole of the ball had crossed the line. Forever known to Germans as the “Wembley Tor” there has been much analysis ever since as to whether a goal should have been awarded or not. Whatever the case, the fact is, for right or wrong, the goal counted. Germany responded with a series of attacks on the England goal then in the very closing stages came Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick goal. A powerful left-foot shot from the edge of the box worthy of winning any match. The goal enabled BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme to enter the collective folklore as an abiding memory of England’s triumph with his comments: “Some people are on the pitch! They think it’s all over! … It is now, it’s four!”

England’s success was built on meticulous planning and hard work. Manager Alf Ramsey worked at his task as a club manager might, taking the players on tour to Scandinavia shortly before the tournament to help focus them on the task. David Miller in the Sunday Telegraph wrote “One cannot but say that England are not a great team, probably not the best team in the world … what matters is that they were the best here in England this July.” According to Soccer Star, the popular weekly magazine, England were “Artisans” whose victory was down to “determination, enthusiasm and sheer guts.”

Most importantly there were no obvious weaknesses in the team. Three of the players, Gordon Banks, Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton, were world class performers, as good as any in their position anywhere in the world. The other eight men offered the components any team requires for success: hard work (Ball, Stiles, Hurst and Hunt), honest endeavour (Cohen, Wilson, Jack Charlton) and silky skills (Martin Peters).

While West Germany recovered relatively quickly from what must have been a huge disappointment, the England team has never really moved on from that 1966 success. West Germany (Germany) won the tournament in 1974, 1990 and 2014 to add to three European titles (1972, 1980 and 1996). England has never progressed beyond the semi-final stage of any major tournament in the last 50 years.

This is remarkably at odds with the success of the Premier League, but perhaps also a reflection of this. Money and power in English football are held with the clubs, not with the FA or the national team. The impression often given (whether accurate or not) is that many players see playing for England as a side show to the main event, success at club level. It is often forgotten that the success of 1966 was not built on exceptional talent throughout the team, it was achieved by a team of 11 men with complementary talents who worked together for a common objective with honest endeavour, believe their manager and a will to work for him, plus some talent as well. If England are to achieve success in the future they need to return to these basic principles.