May 19, 1944
Like the little boy who keeps the almond paste from his cake to the end, because it’s the best part of it, the tit-bit of this season’s Merseyside football competition has been reserved for the last day.
This is the charity game at Anfield tomorrow between the Army side, chosen by Colonel Brocks, of Western Command, and the RAF, selected by Wing-Commander Ranson, who ran the Blackpool team a couple of years back.
This game is the direct outcome of last year’s “Wings for Victory match” which I helped to run a on a village field at Irby, when Matthews, Lawton, Stevenson, and a host of stars helped Wirral’s saving effort. So enjoyable was that evening out that I suggested there and then, circumstances permitting, a return at either Anfield or Goodison Park. Hence tomorrow’s game, which ought to draw something like a 40,000 crowd, for the two teams are the most attractive we’ve had on Merseyside this season, not excluding the Army international last December.
Since the Western Command eleven was announced Busby has taken the place of Joe Mercer, and there has been a switch in the attack. The main points of interest are the wizardry of Matthews, whose box office power alone pulls in a big crowd apart from all the other stars; the shooting power of rival international forwards in Lawton and Dodds, the directive genius of Beattie, the quicksilver Doherty, always here, there and everywhere, doing two men’s work; the elusive Pearson on the wing, whose ball control and dribbling are tip-top, and a host of other compelling points of public appeal.
With such array of talent this should be a classic. Exhibition football there will be in overflowing measure, plus the keenness which will sharpen it up to competitive level, for both sides means to go all out for victory. Which will win is another matter. Man for man the RAF seem to have a slight pull in attack, but whether their individualists will be able to match the team-work of the Army lads remains to be seen. In defence there is not a great deal in it.
Anyhow, the result is not of great moment. The game’s the thing, and tht promise to be a real treat.
Proceeds go to Service Welfare funds. There will also be a collection, members of the W.A.A.F. will act as programme sellers, the kick-off is 3.15, and if you’ll go early and tender the right admission money there should be no delay getting into the ground. All turnstiles will be open. Here are the teams: –
Army: Frank Swift (Manchester City), Bert Sproston (Manchester City), Frank Taylor (Wolves), Hugh Wales (Motherwell), Bob Pryde (Blackburn Rovers), Matt Busby (Liverpool), Charlie Leyfield (Doncaster Rovers), Andrew Black (Heart of Midlothian), Tommy Lawton (Everton), Ronnie Dix (Blackpool), Alf Williams (Aberdeen).
RAF: Jimmy Strong (Portsmouth), Alf Pope (Heart of Midlothian), Jeff Gulliver (Liverpool), Sammy Jones (Blackpool), Eric Hayward (Blackpool), Billy Hughes (Birmingham) or Berry Nieuwenhuys (Liverpool), Stanley Matthews (Stoke), Robert Beattie (Preston North End), Jock Dodds (Blackpool), Peter Doherty (Manchester City), Tommy Pearson (Newcastle United).
(Liverpool Echo: May 19, 1944)