September 9, 1922
From time to time the people who are interested in our great winter pastime come up against what the newspapers call a real football sensation in the shape of some well-known player signing on a for a comparatively obscure club – for a side which is not in any of the big leagues of England or Scotland.
Within recent months I have myself been the central figures of one of these so-called sensations by signing on for the New Brighton club, but believe me that act on my part was in no way influenced by the desire to create a sensation. I weighed up the matter carefully and simply came to the conclusion that it was in the best interests of myself and those dependent upon me that I should sign for New Brighton.
And I signed. That is all there is to it. It may not be an ideal sort of world which sometimes compels us to act in a purely selfish way, but it is the world as we find it.
It is all very nice and flattering to be told that you will be missed from the field of big football, and even if it be true that the followers of football have real regrets when this or that player signs for a second-class club, you can take it from that the regrets are not all on the side of the football follower. There are regrets on the part of the player when circumstances compel him to decide against continuing to play for a first-class side, for it is perfectly obvious that there are certain compensations arising from a position “in the limelight.” But I repeat that in the lives of some of us there come occasions when our own personal inclinations have to take a back seat owing to the pressure of some weighty circumstance.
I don’t want to make this an entirely personal article, but just in passing, perhaps, I may refer to my own case briefly. As my readers are possibly aware, I used to play for the Liverpool club, and my friends as well as my immediate family are in that district. Then there came a time when Liverpool had two goalkeepers on their books, both of whom, I think I can say without appearing to boast, were good enough for a first-class club.
But there is only room for one goalkeeper in one side, so I went to Scotland. Unfortunately, there were difficulties in the way of moving my family to Glasgow, and this meant that I had either to be away from home for long spells, or to travel a pretty good distance every time I played in a match for my Scottish club. And that is why I have come back to the Liverpool district to play for New Brighton.
That there are other good players now out of the limelight is well known. Just recently one or two prominent Scottish players have signed on for Torquay, and a club at Maidstone has several really good players on its books, including one James McMullan, who has played for his country as a half-back.
I am not going to worry about the reasons which decided these players to take the step which they take. In each case the reasons were probably considered quite sufficient for the individual concerned, and I don’t see that anybody else has a real right to interfere or two dictate the course of actions of any individual. After all, you must remember that the really big football clubs are in what might be called a very close corporation, and though in theory a player has freedom of action, he can scarcely be said to have it in actual practice.
No player can leave a club in any of the big Leagues in England or Scotland to go to another club in those leagues without the consent of his club, or the arranging of a transfer fee which is satisfactory all round. Let me give a particular example of what I mean.
I believe it to be a fact that one of the really good players who is now appearing “out of the limelight” would have been at the present moment with a first-class club in England but for the fact that it was found impossible for the two interested clubs to agree as to the amount of the transfer fee. For reasons of his own the player did not wish to remain on the staff of the club for which he had played for some time, but in the effort to keep him that club put a transfer fee on his head which the club desirous of obtaining his services considered prohibitive. As no agreement could be reached, it become obvious that the player was left with but two alternatives. One was to continue to play for his old club, which he did not want to do, and the other was to go to some side out of the limelight where the question of transfer fee did not arise. And he took the latter course, though I can scarcely conceive him doing so without many regrets, or before he had given the whole of the pros and cons of the proposition very serious consideration.
It may be argued, and has been argued, that the fellows who desert first-class football to play for minor clubs because of some financial or personal reason are putting individual considerations before the good of the sport. Perhaps they are, but it is rather late in the day to suggest that football is not a business. I will never admit that the average professional footballer does not love the game as a game, for I believe that only by having his heart in it can a player become really successful.
Suppose a professional footballer sacrificed his future for the good of football as a whole, would football recompense him when he was no longer able to earn a living by playing? I very much doubt it. As I said earlier in these notes, things in the world are not as near the ideal as we could sometimes wish they were.
However, for a moment let us look on the bright side of this business of well-known players who are now playing out of the limelight. There ought to be a bright side, and it seems to me possible that the game may eventually benefit. From second-class teams to-day are recruited the first-class players of to-morrow, and it may well be that a seasoned and experienced player, appearing regularly and mixing among the players of a second class team, may do quite a lot towards raising really first-class players. A hint here and there to a young player on the threshold of his career might easily be the means of bringing out the genius that is in him.
Many old players are given jobs as managers in the hope that they will be able to bring on the youngsters in the proper way. And the same effect may be obtained by a sprinkling of first-class players among the so-called second class clubs.
(Fife Press and Kirkcaldy Guardian: September 9, 1922)