Famous old-timers: Edgar Chadwick (Everton F.C. and Liverpool F.C.)

September 6. 1924
Edgar Chadwick, of Everton, king of dribblers and master of the ball.
There was a personality about the famous “left wing” of the Everton team of the ‘90’s that led people – especially their own followers – to speak and think of them always as a “pair.”

Just as one would speak of something that together forms a “pair” and apart, would be just “odd” ones. So people always spoke of Edgar Chadwick and Alf Milward as the “left wing!” If through injury or illness, or other cause, one or other of the two stood down, then the “left wing” for that day at least, was not playing, and the surveyor had another partner for that match, but the Everton left wing was “away” for the day.

Edgar Chadwick, Everton and Liverpool.
Edgar Chadwick 1893

Yet, individually, each of the pair were brilliant in their respective positions, but when playing together, one could say today, with little fear of exaggeration, their combination and perfect understanding has never since been equally. Of the two Edgar Chadwick undoubtedly had the major share in developing the style of wing play that eventually led to their being the most brilliant left wing pair that Association football had ever seen.

In Alf Milward Edgar Chadwick found that ideal partner with the necessary speed and dash that gave his own play its exact complement. Without Milward’s strategy and impelling forcefulness, most of Chadwick’s midfield work would have been wasted, but equally with any partner but Chadwick-Milward might conceivably never have reached first rank, and most certainly would not have retained a premier position for so long.

To see Edgar Chadwick in play was to realize for the first time what the art of “dribbling” really meant. As a player he never appeared to be speedy; he had not the build or the symmetry of wind and limb that indicates pace. Coming of Lancashire stock, he had rather the lose, awkward build that even when stripped for play is so deceptive in other fields of athletics.

In manner, Edgar was shy and diffident, he had the modest, unassuming manner both on and off the field of play, that one finds so frequently in really great players. Even when some brilliant piece of work, in which he was the mastermind throughout, had been crowned with victory, and thousands upon thousands were rending the heavens that with their plaudits.

Edgar would be the most nonchalant player on the field and would be trotting back to his position for the kick-off again, probably putting Milward on the back for his share in the work, or shouting out encouragement to his fellow player in the centre, Fred Geary – for they were three inseparable – but for himself Edgar Chadwick took it as all in the day’s work. He never advertised.

Now what was the secret of his wonderful masterly of the ball? Those that admired him most could never tell “Command” is but a mild term. It used to be common place in the descriptive accounts of his day to say that: “Edgar Chadwick seemed to have the ball tied to his toe.”

Bob Kelso used to say that Chadwick could dribble the ball round the edge of a three-penny bit. It was certainly an uncommon faculty for judging pace and side, and probably developed to an extraordinary degree before he became a professional at all, then finding its pinnacle of development when the partnership with Milward gave him an understanding attuned to his own, that knew to a yard his pace and direction and could be relied on to be “there” at the instant the “pass” came.

No wing pair in first class football since their day has ever-even faintly – reproduced the style of the Everton “left wing.” To describe it is simple, if one can take into account the difference in pace and style of the two players.

Edgar had – like Johnny Holt – an uncanny knack of anticipation just “where” his opponent would try to pass the ball – and more often he made up his mind before the opponent, and was “on him” before he passed. Then the ball belonged to Edgar, and the “left wing” got going. But, briefly, the style sounds laughably simple. Edgar, with the ball at his toe, set off, sometimes towards his own goal, oftener towards the other fellows.

The man whom he had robbed –or a couple of them –having recovered their shock, set off after him. If they were quick they overtook him speedily. For Edgar was not quick when dribbling; he could be when he was shooting – that was another story!

But being overtaken by the speedier man, what would he do, think you? You know what the modern players do. Part with the ball – one time! Not Edgar! He ran between the ball and the pursuer, and tapped it back a few yards to where he had started. The opponent putting on the brake, endeavoured to turn as do the dogs at Waterloo and lost a few yards, while Edgar perhaps gained a score and drew other defenders on to him.

As they closed on him to rob, or “sandwich” him, another quick turn of the vily “hare,” and at a new angle with the patient ball still bobbing at his toe, he was again off towards goal, with now perhaps a couple of “backs” blocking the way ahead and an angry and speedy half-back line closing in behind.

Another sharp turn and a quick low pass –along the ground –forward, would miraculously find the ball taken (on the run) along the touch line by the waiting Milward with the now free and unfettered “Edgar” sprinting goalwards with his head down and his elbows working like pump-handles, but well behind Milward. Not till the corner flag was reached would Milward trap the ball, and then a back pass to Chadwick would generally find him unmarked and just at the right spot to get it either to “shoot” himself or give it to Geary, if he was better placed.

In play Chadwick was the essence of unselfishness, and never gave less than his best in every match he played. He was more fortunate than other players regarding injuries, particularly in view of the habit he had to keeping the ball so close to his own toes.

One of the reasons for this immunity of kicks was due no doubt to the fact that he had the respect of more opposing players. Never playing a dangerous game himself –it was a rare occasion for an opponent to indulge in teckless play against him, though of course there were exceptions, where a thoughtless player being outgeneraled in the field, might try to recover a lost prestige by ill-tempered and dangerous methods.

In himself Chadwick was of a most likeable disposition. He was cheery and good-tempered and had a kindly disposition to new players, and especially to the young ones coming along.

To his comrades with whom he had made his reputation, Alex Latta, Alex Brady, Fred Geary, Johnny Holt, and Alf Milward, he was ever the happiest of companions. Jealously or bickering were unknown among them. They had practically “grown” together from their early twenties – had in fact grown into one of the most brilliant forward lines that the game had ever produced, and had become famous almost without knowing it.

There were no big transfer fees in those days – and there were no big “benefits.” Consequently there were not the same appraisement of personal value in terms of money. All first class players were League players – not so much in £. s. d. Better than the next best, and that made a difference.

Many players have wore Everton jerseys since Edgar Chadwick doffed his for the last time, but never a case who gave better service for his club and for the game he adorned.
(Liverpool Echo: September 6, 1924)

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