The outlook – changes and revisions. (by Sam Hardy, Aston Villa)

Saturday, September 7 – 1912
The powers that be – those who decide how the game of football shall be played so far as the rules are concerned – do not favour changes. The rules have been gradually evolved until many people are of opinion that they are quite as good as they can be made, and the lawmakers seem inclined to agree.

Anyway, nothing is changed without plenty of thought being given to the matter, and hence it is not surprising to find that we are now entering upon another season with very few alterations to be noted.

Hands off.
In fact there is only one really important change so far as actual play is concerned, and that happens to affect the position in which I operate – goal.

In the past a goal-keeper has been allowed to use his hands anywhere in his own half of the field, but starting from this season his sphere of operations is restricted.

In future the goal-keeper may only handle the ball in his own penalty area.

I have been asked more than once during the last few weeks whether I think the change is a good or bad one. Now, as a matter of fact, I think very little about it, because although I am a goal-keeper, it will affect my play very little-

Minding the baby.
I have always held, and still am firmly of opinion, that the less a goal-keeper leaves is charge the better for his side. When a goal-keeper dashes out beyond his own penalty line he is, in my opinion, running a very serious risk and because of the nature of his position it does seem to me that a goal-keeper ought to take risks at all.

I am not advocating that the goal-keeper should stay on his line all the time, for there are occasions when his only hope lies in a dash from his charge; but really the call to go beyond his own penalty area comes so seldom that it might well be ignored so far as I am concerned. But all good goal-keeper do not think alike on this matter – do any two persons think alike about anything?

I wonder.
Some goal-keepers I know never seem so happy as when they have gathered the ball and are going bouncing it up and down almost half-way between their goal and the middle of the field. It is these men whom the new law will affect, and I do not think a law has been made too soon in this direction.

Granting that it is worth the risk, it is obviously somewhat unfair that a goal-keeper – being allowed to use his hands to defend his eight yards of space – should use the privilege half-way up the field.

I wonder who will be the first man to have a free-kick given against him for breaking this rule. Possibly I shall myself – who knows?

Perhaps those in authority have an idea that this new rule will lead to fewer goalless draws, but I doubt if it will have this effect.

Goalless games.
Anyway a step has been made during the close season to minimise the possibility of the cup-final having to be replayed. If the teams are level at the conclusion of the first meeting it has been decided that they shall play an extra half-hour in an effort to decide the best of the two.

As the last three games at the Crystal Palace have ended with both teams on equal terms, some such legislation as this might safely have been prophesied. The public likes to see a definite finish to a game – a winner and a loser – and although some people will not believe it – so do the players.

I have no patience with those who suggest that these drawn cup-ties are arranged – they can have no idea of what strain is to the men taking part, or they would realise the absurdity of it.

Players are not fond of replays, and very often drawn games mean no more and no less than that the teams are as evenly matches as it is possible for teams to be.

New quarters.
These two changes I have mentioned are about the only ones in their line, but as usual the close season has seen some revisions in other directions.

About the usual number of players have changed their quarters since last season – some because they wanted to and others because they were not wanted. It is all a part of the footballer’s life, I suppose, and this time around it has been a part of mine.

It is something of a wrench to leave a club you have been with for years, and I know I shall feel strange when I come to defend my goal against the red shirts of the Liverpool players, behind whom I played so long. I can only that the people of Birmingham will be as charitable to me as the people of Liverpool always were.

Aston’s anticipations.
I am giving away no secret when I say that the Aston Villa directors will be disappointed if the team does not do very well this season – and so will the players.

A Liverpool colleague of mine in Harrop has also joined the club, and the side will undoubtedly be strengthened by the inclusion of such good men as Andy Ducat and Harold Halse.

Ducat is one of the best of players and the best of fellows, while my experience of the shooting of Halse makes me not sorry that henceforth he will try to kill some other goal-keeper and leave me alone.

Back to Scotland – unthinkable.
There have been other changes too, which have caused a little flutter in the dovecotes of the towns most directly concerned.

Like Liverpool, Everton have parted with their goal-keeper, William Scott, who has gone to Leeds, the Evertonians having secured Caldwell from Reading. Tottenham Hotspur supporters will miss Steel from the half-back line, Danny having done what it is commonly supposed that nobody ever does – gone back to Scotland.

Evan Jones, a deadly shot when the fancy takes him, has joined another Oldham man at Bolton – Jimmy Fay, while Jimmy Turnbull has left Yorkshire for London town, where he will be seen in the colours of Chelsea.

And so I might go on.

A mighty battlefield.
Mention of Chelsea, however, reminds me that we again have them back in the first division, which, when you thing of the players and the ground they have, may rightly be said to be their proper station.

There is something about the Chelsea ground which one does not quite get elsewhere in this county; it is so huge and the crowd is always so generous to the visiting team.

I hear that the ground is being made to hold one hundred thousand, and even then it will not be surprising to find that it is not big enough when the international with Scotland comes to be played next April.

Bloomer of the magic feet.
Like Chelsea, Derby County are welcomed back to the sphere to which they seem to have a just claim, and I suppose that once again goal-keepers in the first division will be called upon to pit their skill against that of Bloomer of the magic feet. When will he get too old to play as well as the best? I wonder.

But while we welcome the old friends back we must spare a word for the unfortunates – Preston North End and Bury – two clubs with no end of football history behind them. But football – or the league system – takes its dues, and sentiment enters not into its calculations.

Wait and see.
And what of the season upon which we are just entering? Everybody is optimistic, players, directors and spectators.

I have just been reading in a newspaper some prospects of the various clubs, and from these I gather that at least a dozen clubs in the first division have the men good enough to win the championship, and the remainder are quite satisfied that their team will do much better than it did last season. It is just as well that we should start off thus.

In which direction those hopes will be realised, and in which will most be disappointment be felt nobody can tell. The only thing to be done is wait and see.

In football it is not wise to prophesy till after the event. For you can never tell.
(Tamworth Herald, 07-09-1912)

Sam Hardy

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