March 16, 1899
Liverpool F.C. and the English Cup.
Preparing for the semi-final.
The players in splendid trim.
Details of the training.
The brilliant exploits of the Liverpool team, alike in the Cup ties and the League competition during the past few months have established them in popular estimation as strong favourites for the high honour of English Cupholders, which neither Everton nor Liverpool have as yet succeeded in bringing to the city. In these days it is quite a magnificent achievement for any team to play eighteen consecutive matches of an important character, and only be defeated once. This is Liverpool’s superb record since November 19th, and the fact that the club are now fancied as the future cupholders in almost every part of the country, except, perhaps, Sheffield, and moreover have also a capital chance of bringing the League Championship to the Mersey for the second time in its history, has attracted generally sympathetic attention to their prospects.
Almost everybody in Liverpool just now is talking about the Liverpool players, and their chances of victory at Nottingham next Saturday, and with a view to satisfying the popular thirst for information a representative of the “Express” yesterday paid a special visit to St. Anne’s-on-the-Sea in order to see the team and watch the preparations which they are undergoing. St. Anne’s is a delightful little spot on the West Lancashire coast, possesses a charming promenade and beach, and one of the very best appointed golf links in the kingdom. The air is singularly invigorating, and the Liverpool players ought to be thoroughly accustomed to it by this time, seeing that they have been inhaling it with but few interruptions since the early part of January.
The original intention was that the team should fix their headquarters at St. Anne’s Hotel, of which the manager, Mr. Carl Braun, is well-known to Liverpool people, but the hotel is at present undergoing enlargement and renovation, and other arrangements were therefore necessary. The players sleep at a comfortable boarding-house in St. Andrew’s-road South, while they take their meals at a restaurant in St. Andrew’s-road West, and occasional recreation in the way of billiards at the hotel. The arrangement has been found to work admirably, the breath of fresh air which the players are thus compelled to take early in the morning whetting their appetites for breakfast.
Upon arriving at the boarding-house our representative found the cheery, good-humoured secretary of the club, Mr. Tom Watson, busily engaged with clerical work, which has fallen into arrears during his prolonged absence from home. Mr. Watson promptly waived his other duties, and explained to our representative the precise nature of the training which the players undergo. They rise at eight, and partake of breakfast an hour later. At half-past ten they all take a quick walking exercise, and baths are ordered by the Trainer James Chapman according to the physical condition of each man. Dinner is served at one o’clock, and at half-past three the only severe training of the day takes place in the shape of sprinting exercise in a field belonging to the St. Anne’s Cricket Club. The party sit down to tea at half-past five, and the evening is ordinarily spent in quiet walks, billiards, cards, and other harmless amusements. Last night the players enjoyed themselves at a Blackpool Theatre. It is a circumstance worthy of notice that no difficulty is ever experienced in getting the players to bed. The atmosphere of St. Anne’s is potent, oven to drowsiness, and the players are always glad to creep to their rooms at a reasonable hour. Indeed, they find it no easy task to keep awake during the whole day.
In reply to questions, Mr. Watson remarked that he never allowed the players to see a football during the week. Some people, he confessed, considered this injudicious, but his experience was quite the contrary, and in view of the fact that Mr. Watson has been associated with football for twenty years, he may fairly claim to have practical knowledge on his side, particularly as Liverpool’s fine performances of late have been the result of pursuing this method. Our representative made a special point of witnessing the afternoon’s practice, and he was quite gratified to see the splendid condition in which all the men appeared to be. They are bronzed almost like African travellers, and have all benefitted papably by their stay at St. Anne’s. They sprinted like greyhounds round the cricket field, and several of the men have appreciably increased their pace. At the same time no attempts has been made to render the training too severe. The players have rather been held in check in this respect, and the consequence is that any symptom of staleness is altogether absent. The only discouraging feature is that the muscles of Archie Goldie’s leg are again troubling him, and that Billy Dunlop strained himself slightly in the match with Preston North End. Dunlop, however, indulged in sprinting exercise for the first time yesterday, and announced that he felt no ill-effects, while in regard to Goldie, both he and Chapman believe that he will be perfectly right for Saturday. Fourteen players are at St. Anne’s, the regular League team and Thomas Cleghorn, Andy McCowie, and Charlie Wilson in addition, and it is very pleasing to learn that without exception they are most loyally obeying the instructions of the secretary and the trainer.
“What do you think of the prospects of victory?” was one of the queries addressed to Mr. Watson.
“Well,” he replied, “I never like to crow before the event, because football is a peculiar game, and the better team does not always win. But I have no doubts whatever that we are a better team than Sheffield United, and that we ought to win. Our halves will chop up any opposing combination, our defence is splendid, and our forwards are playing a deadly, determined game. You must not forget also that most of our players have youth on their side, and would naturally like to win distinction early in their career. But what encourages me most is the confidence of the men themselves. They know they have a heavy task before them, but they believe they are quite able to accomplish it. And I honestly believe they can and will win.”
It would be particularly grateful to Mr. Watson in another sense if Liverpool are victorious next Saturday. On five occasions he has been secretary of a club which appeared in the semi-final tie, but he has never yet been able to reach the final stage. Liverpool people all hope that the rule may have it exception on Saturday.
The players will leave St. Anne’s at 1:13 to-morrow (Friday) afternoon and proceed to Derby, where they will stay the night, paying a visit to one of the local theatres during the evening. They will remain in Derby both for breakfast and luncheon on Saturday, and then proceed to Nottingham for the match. It is an interesting fact that the Sheffield United players are training at Lytham, only three miles away from the Liverpool headquarters. Mr. John McKenna, one of the Liverpool directors, yesterday visited St. Anne’s and expressed himself as highly delighted with the appearance of the players.
(Source: Evening Express: March 16, 1899; via http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) © 2018 Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited