Sunday, November 23, 2008

War Time Bomb Damage

In this photo of a wartime game between West Ham United and Arsenal at Upton Park in August 1945 the damaged stand is clearly visible in the background. With the Hammers ground situated in East London, near the docks, it was inevitable that it would sustain bomb damage. It wasn't just in London either that grounds were hit. In March 1941 Old Trafford was severely damaged and it was not be repaired for eight years. United returned to Old Trafford in August 1949, having shared City’s Maine Road ground.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Who Are They?

In the archive there are, maybe, 100,000 football pictures, most of them are clearly labelled and if they are not there's usually something that gives a clue to the identity of the players. Every now and then there's bafflement, which is the case with these two pictures from a much larger set of images. Does anyone know who they are? The guess is 1950s, but that's about all. Click on either image to make it bigger.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Some Things Never Change. . .

This is what writer J.B. Priestley had to say about football back in 1933.

‘Nearly everything possible had been done to spoil the game: the heavy financial interest; the absurd transfer and player-selling system; the absurd publicity given to every feature of it by the press; the monstrous partisanships of the crowds.’

Then again. . .

This was the scene at Highbury in August 1933 when Arsenal played Birmingham. It was a very different scene at the Emirates Stadium last night and what would any one of those people in the crowd have thought if they had been there? Scarcely believable is how they would have found Arsenal's new ground compared to their old one...and there's the small business of the result. Almost everyone in the crowd was wearing a hat back in 1933.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

White Hart Lane – July 1916

With little football being played at the major football grounds some were converted into makeshift factories. Tottenham Hotspurs’ ground, White Hart Lane, was just off the High Road in Tottenham and was formerly the site of a market garden. This factory was used to make gas masks and other protective equipment; almost all the workers were women. This picture shows some of the women modelling the leather hoods with the eyeholes cut out. There's no truth in the rumour that this is a recent photograph of Spurs supporters who are currently going down the Lane incognito.

Friday, October 24, 2008

When Football Was Football

"Millwall lost to Middlesbrough on Saturday by 2 goals to nil in the First Round of the English Cup… 'Sandy Brown' scored the 2 goals for the winners, of which one was freely considered an 'off-sider'" - Daily Mirror, February 8th, 1904

You have just read the first ever – and possibly the briefest ever – football match report to appear in the Daily Mirror, which appeared under the headline 'Muddy Football Grounds and Heavy Going'.

Over a century later, we're still moaning about dodgy pitches and diabolical decisions. But so much else has changed, and not necessarily for the better.

Our beautiful game – the one the great Danny Blanchflower said was about about glory and doing things with style – has become a results-focused business, with an emphasis on physicality and speed over individual skill. Decaying old grounds and the hooliganism they bred have gone, but they have been replaced by sterile, biscuit-cutter stadiums where corporate customers are prized and huge sections sit in silence. Working-class fans and youngsters, once the lifeblood of the game, are being priced out of it. A generation is growing up with no experience of shouting for their local team in a cramped ground; why bother when you can watch your big four club every week from your front room?

This book is about a rougher but better time, before the satellite TV cameras, the prawn sandwiches and the £100,000-a-week salaries. It's about a time when the British appetite for football was just being whetted, when the Daily Mirror's innovative match reports and photography helped to spark the national pastime of football debate. An era when the football writer and the match photographer became the ears and eyes of the thousands of fans who couldn't get to the match.

Within these evocative images you'll find dirty shirts, team baths, lace-up boots, one-club men, supporters wearing flat caps and fedoras. And somewhere in the pages you'll find the real heart of our game.

Quite simply, this book is about a time when football was football.

From the foreword by Steve Anglesey, editor