Did Liverpool “lie down”?

March 31, 1913
Liverpool Football Sensation
Did team “lie down”?
Commission to hear grave charges

“In the interests of the game and of the clubs concerned I shall at once ask the Football League Management Committee to inquire into the grave charges.”
This is Mr. John.McKenna’s statement. He is chairman of the Liverpool Football Club, and we give his reply to the grave charges made against Liverpool F.C. in connection with the Chelsea match.

Did certain Liverpool players “allow Chelsea to win”?

That’s the question.

The football air has been charged with electricity for some days, and the “current” has been caused by the Cup-ties and exceptionally keen matches at the head and at the foot of the League. Unfortunately, there has also been much comment over a match played on Easter Monday at the Liverpool Football Ground. The Liverpool men have been practically invincible at Anfield this season, the month of November excluded and they had a capital chance of gaining some of the talent money that is allowed by the governing body had they continued in their “homely vein.” Suddenly the club lost its form, and the match against Chelsea was the climax. Letters from correspondents have been published in the “Echo” columns, and plainly nearly every one of the 30,000 spectators believed that Liverpool didn’t show their true form, and, further, laid themselves open to the grave charge of “allowing Chelsea to win.”

State of the League chart
The position was this: Chelsea, by beating the Reds, gained two most valuable points. Had the London club failed at Anfield Notts County would by now have had a very fair chance of scraping through and retaining their membership of the First Division – which is something of a habit with the Notts club. However, Chelsea’s gain of two points at Anfield looks like proving of mighty important to Chelsea. With football form admittedly unreliable one might say, “The result was just what one could expect.” But there are other matters concerned with the game. Certain players, it is alleged, were not trying to do their best. And to-day, Mr. H.G.Norris, who like Mr. John McKenna, is a member of the Management Committee of the Football League, has made a statement which coincides with the statements heard from Liverpool supporters for some days. Hence, the allegations of Mr.Norris do not cause the sensation in Liverpool, but elsewhere in the football firmament. Mr.Norris practically accuses Liverpool of allowing Chelsea to win the game.

The complaint
This is what Mr. Norris says in the “Fulham Times”: –
“Would that I had stayed away (from the Liverpool and Chelsea game at Liverpool), for I should then have been spared the infliction of witnessing the worst game of football it has ever been my misfortune to see.
“It was early apparent to me what was happening, and the final result of a win for Chelsea by the odd goal in three occasioned no surprise either to me or the many thousands who left the field in disgust.
“I have no hesitation in saying that many matches played as this one was would effectually kill professional football in this country as surely as professional running and cycling were killed in the olden days.
“I was told by certain of the Chelsea officials that I was talking nonsense, and was prejudiced. Was I prejudiced, and was I talking nonsense?
“If I am prejudiced, the same charge can be levelled at the critics of the Lancashire papers. One of them wrote: –
“ ‘ Liverpool terminated their Easter holiday engagements by one of the worst exhibitions of football during their career in the Premier League. They allowed Chelsea to defeat them by the odd goal of three, after a display which must assuredly cause their faithful followers much food for genuine complaint. It was not merely the fact that they were beaten that aroused dissatisfaction, but the manner in which their defeat was brought about, that led to universal condemnation of their methods.
“ ‘ Never before have the Liverpool first team been guilty of such palpable inefficiency as was the case in this game.
“ ‘ Liverpool never appeared desirous of obtaining goals, whereas they allowed their opponents every opportunity of so doing. Never in their career have they given a worse exhibition, and few of the team will emerge from the contest with added reputation. Genuine performers on the Liverpool side could be numbered on the fingers of one hand. Their opponents were feeble in the extreme, yet they won.”

“My own view is that, had the Liverpool team, as a whole, desired to win the match, they could have done so quite readily. It is not for me to suggest reasons for this display on the part of a section of the Liverpool team. One is, however, tempted to ask why they acted in the way they did, and echo answers, “Why.”

“Such of the Liverpool directors as were present did not hesitate to express their heartfelt disgust at the whole wretched business, their faces during the second half of the match were a study. Knowing them intimately as I do, I felt sorry for them in having to see what they did; sorry for Notts County who should have been one point nearer their opponents, instead of one point further away; sorry for the genuine triers in the Liverpool team; sorry for the 30,000 holiday makers who had to pay their sixpences and more to witness a football match, instead of which they saw -.”

League commission
In an interview with Mr.McKenna, chairman of the Liverpool club, and President of the English Football League, I learned that the club had not allowed Easter Monday’s match to pass without inquiry. Three directors were present at the match, but Mr.McKenna and Mr. Watson were not present. The match and the play of the team were considered for some time, and the directors present, with one exception, were of the opinion that “they had never seen such a display before.” Certain players were called before Mr.McKenna, and were requested to make answer to certain charges, and their reply was an emphatic denial that they had done other than their best. It was significant that the Reds attack on Saturday contained but one member of the attack that played against Chelsea. I have reason to believe that certain forwards were not dropped because of their want of form, but because the directors feared the crowd might become restive. The effect of the game played on Monday was seen on Saturday, when the crowd was unusually small for an attractive match.

I pointed out to Mr.McKenna that one of my correspondents had hit the nail on the head when he said “an inquiry should be held.”
Mr.McKenna said: “In the interest of the game, and of the clubs concerned, I shall at once ask the Management Committee to inquire into the grave charges made by Mr.Norris.”
“I am determined,” said Mr.McKenna, “that the obnoxious matter shall be sifted to the bottom.”
“Faked matches” have been absent from football in recent years, and this si well, for a greater death-blow to the popular game than players “lying down” cannot be found.
(By “BEE” in Liverpool Echo: March 31, 1913)

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