Top drawer

January 17, 2014

WEBWATCH: Ken Masters



I think that if your club is in any round of the FA Cup draw you just have to listen to it or watch it if you can. So, notwithstanding the small matter of Crawley and then Birmingham away, we were in it, so watching the draw last Sunday afternoon was a have to do. Trying not to get overly excited, the Manchester United v Swansea 3rd round tie, in turn, became compulsive watching. Could it possibly be Rovers v United in the fourth round? A betting long shot perhaps but worth a shout if that way inclined. Two hours later and the dream is shattered, the mighty Manchester United had cancelled the bus, the Mem was not on the route map, all eyes turn to Swansea.

Mighty is a well used and oft times misused word in football over the years, along with other words like outstanding, legend and greatest. It is all too easy to reflect only recent history when placing the respective label on a club, manager or a player. The organised game has been around a long time now and many in the top drawer do not come into the reckoning any more simply because of the passing of time. Web sites around the world had reported the passing of Eusebio and it was right for Manchester to applaud him before the Swansea game. Eusebio must be in the top drawer somewhere was my immediate thinking.

My mind was drawn to other “mighty”, “legend” and “greats” of our game. How about invincible Preston in 1888-89; just one division of The Football League and Preston out of site, played 22, won 18, drew 4, lost 0, goals for 74 against 15, champions, and then the FA Cup final that same season; Preston 3 Wolverhampton 0, winners; top drawer. Remember Steve Bloomer? There is a statue of him at </span>Derby County’s Pride Park. Described as slender and anaemic in appearance Steve scored a total of 352 goals in a career that lasted 21 seasons either side of 1900. Steve played 23 times for England, a lot in those days, and scored 28 goals; top drawer.

Remember Alf Common? Alf Common of Middlesborough, the goal scoring machine remembered as being a character of the game, vastly fond of practical jokes. Alf was the first £1000 transfer player when Boro signed him from Sunderland 1905 and society was shocked; the game had become big business. There are others of note, Harry Makepeace of Everton and on a personal level the first player my Grampy told me was a great player when I was still too young to understand. He also told me about Billy Meredith too, the brilliant “Welsh Wizard”, Bob Crompton of Blackburn and England described as an outstanding full back and a model professional. Harry Hampton scored 213 times for Aston Villa; known as ‘Appy Arry” and remembered as legendary.

I have gone back to the times when none of us can remember and as the time has gone by we will all remember our first recollections of greatness. For me as a little tot, it was Stanley Matthews, truly legendary and the greatest ever; still playing top level football into his fifties, top drawer. For you, well take your pick from stories you have been told, from those you have read about and those you have seen.

In my time at twenty something, well twenty two to be exact. It was 1966, World Cup Year, England had some very good players and stood a chance. They also had a very good manager in Alf Ramsey, a legend who brought new thinking to the game, top drawer. I watched every televised

game and my young mind was open-end up to “world wide” football; if only I could have added the word “web” to “world wide” but that was still a long way off. I have researched very carefully; sixteen teams in the finals, ten from Europe, five from South America, one from Asia, none from Africa. Only two counties included black players, Brazil from South America and Portugal from Europe. How times have changed.

I was seeing Pele, Garrincha, and Jairzinho from Brazil who I had heard of and also Eusebio Ferreir, an African playing for Portugal, who I had not heard of. England ran out winners in a thrilling final game against West Germany but Eusebio, the great Eusebio, was top goal scorer with nine goals and for me the player most remembered from the competition.

This on the World Wide Web 2014:

Leading football figures have paid tribute to Portugal legend Eusebio, who has died at the age of 71.

The former Benfica striker scored 733 times in 745 professional games and was top goalscorer at the 1966 World Cup.”

Chelsea’s Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho said of Eusebio: “I think he is immortal.”

Manchester United and England great Sir Bobby Charlton said Eusebio was “one of the finest players I ever had the privilege to play against”.

Great tributes to a fine player.

Eusebio, the player that opened my eyes to Africa, to black footballers, to black people, to the good that is football, thank you, top drawer.


Eusebio, nine goals for Portugal at 1966 World Cup

733 goals in 745 professional football matches in total.






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