The thoughts of Sam Hardy

December 2, 1909
Footballers have a good job.
But are not fairly treated.
It would be a difficult matter to describe one’s feelings when his form is not of the best on the field. Be he ever so energetic and willing there comes a time when he can not get there as he knows he ought to. At the interval he occasionally has a few moments to reflect as to the reasons of his mediocre play, but expect it be that he is injured the explanation is not easily found.

A rather amusing incident occurred at one of our recent matches which helped to soothe our feelings, for I assure you we were feeling vexed with ourselves on account of missing the top place in the League, when we played Bury.

On the occasion I am referring to we failed lamentably to reproduce our earlier form. We really played badly, so badly that our manager walked into the room to give us his impressions.

I may say that he always does so in a very friendly way, even when reproving us. It is well known, I suppose, that Mr. Tom Watson cannot stand or sit still while a keenly-fought contest is in progress, and it has been said that on more than one occasion he has betaken himself to the rear of the stand in order to escape the humiliating ordeal of seeing us whipped.

So on this Saturday he came into our dressing-tent when we were all more or less musing and remarked, “Well, lads, you have shown shocking form to-day.”
One of our players (I shall not name him, but he plays on the right wing) meekly asked how our manager happened to know seeing he had been behind the stand.
The joke was thoroughly appreciated on both sides.

I should also mention that some of our players evidently do not think that Mr. Watson’s eyesight is so keen as it used to be, and when one of our number has played a poor game one of his colleagues will try to cheer him by the remark that the manager would not know him from so and so. This, however, proves not to be at all consoling, for Mr. Watson can always describe to the most minute detail what our individual defects were.

There is no escape the question of the hour.

To footballers the question of the hour is the prospective abolition of the wage limit and where we shall find ourselves once that barrier is lifted.

After reading many of the authorities on this subject one is inclined to think, like Lord Rosebery on the Budget, that it will be the end of all things. In my view it is absurd to imagine that we players lack the virtue of commonsense or that we are incapable of discriminating between what is good for the game and good for ourselves.

It is club managers and officials that are going about placing a greater commercial value upon us day by day, and their very own actions are making us think seriously not so much about our usefulness as men but as to our commercial value to that section of the community we entertain. It is not the players who will debase the game by being able to sell their abilities in the best market, but the Directors, who are placing a greater value upon us.

What would not Tottenham Hotspur give for good players to-day now that they can see the jaws of the Second Division open to take them in? In such a crisis the player is of enormous worth, but when an agitation is going on we are worth but £4 per week.

Now, I would throw out a suggestion which, while it may appear as amusing to some, still carries truth. I would propose that the FA should spend more time with the Directors of clubs, and educate them in the economical virtues of the football world, and learn them that whatever value has been placed upon players has been of their own doing.

I can remember the time in my own career when my abilities were perhaps equally as good as they are to-day, when I paid my own expenses away half of the season. After concluding the season with my own village team a neighbouring club offered me £5 to play for them. I refused, and the same season Chesterfield signed me on at 18s per week.

Now, I was not more useful to the community, but at the same time they had placed a higher commercial value upon me, which of course was to my benefit. I really thought at that time I was getting too much, but I was working in a mine three days a week for that amount. But I had placed that value on myself, and had not allowed the community to value me.

Strictly speaking from a labour standpoint we have a good job, but we are certainly not fairly treated under the present system, which I am pleased to say, is fast dying out. It just brings to my mind early experience as a football wage-earner. My honest impressions at the time were that I was not earning my wages.

My contract with the club entitled me to 18s per week. They very seldom played me, and I did feel that I was taking something I was not entitled to. To show your readers that this is no clap-trap I may say I went as far as to ask my transfer. They refused my request, and of course I soon became a regular player. Then I felt I was earning my salary.

Soon after this I could have gone to almost an club if I only had my freedom, but of course I was sold to the highest bidder. It so happened that I found a good home at Anfield. But there is no doubt that the wage limit will go. That is inevitable, because the honour of the FA would be forfeited if the club did not consent. The clubs have placed themselves entirely in the hands of the FA, and to follow their policy they must abide by the view of the FA – that the wage limit is a hardship, and the only cure is abolition.

How will the Parsonage case end?

At the present moment one can only surmise, but I may say I have never doubted for one moment but that ultimately his suspension will be lifted. One cannot conceive any Court of Justice meeting out what in Parsonage’s case is a capital sentence for a minor offence, I have sought opinion on this case from more than one prominent player, and from many spectators. Without one exception they agree that the punishment in this case was sufficiently cruel to justify an eruption in the camp. He has been made the scapegoat of the many.

Most players and clubs before the amnesty have “sinned” as grievously as did Parsonage. The circumstances that prompt me to the belief that Parsonage will get his freedom are these. The FA has acted as schoolmaster in maintaining discipline. We burst the doors and played truant, but we are again being brought into the line where we previously stood in the good old days.

When this comes to pass the FA schoolmaster will stroke his chin and will say, “Now that we have got our house in order, we had better see what has become of that unruly boy, Parsonage. We will give him a good lecture, seek an apology, and tell him not to let it occur again.” He will then be free.

S. Hardy.
(Source: Dundee Courier: December 2, 1909)

Sam Hardy 1908

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