Category Archives: Sport

Edwardian Sports Relief: When the Music Hall stars came out to play at Tottenham Hotspurs

Before the First World War changed society for ever two of the most popular forms of mass entertainment in Britain were Association Football and the Music Hall. In a historical forerunner of Sport Relief, the stars of London’s music halls and Football League Div One side Tottenham Hotspurs met on a muddy pitch in North London on a wet March afternoon in 1914 to brighten the day, raise a smile and some money for charity. One of the Music Hall Artistes that turned out that afternoon was my Grandfather Gus.

Gus McNaughton always kept himself fit. He was a footballer, boxer and athlete – quite apart from being one half of a popular Music Hall Act before First World War. In fact, when war was declared he joined the Royal Naval Air Service, which amalgamated with the Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Airforce. While he served with the RAF Gus was the services Middleweight Boxing Champion. Not surprising then that he was to find himself in the lineup of a football team that would play a charity friendly against Tottenham Hotspurs in March 1914.

Tottenham Hotspur v Music Hall Artists official programme

Just have a read of the front page of the programme above. Imagine it being read in the RP voice of a Pathe newsreader or Harry Enfield commentating on Arsenal’s Charles ‘Charlie’ Charles.

The ‘Artistes’ team included a number famous names of the era including Gus and one Bombardier Billy Wells – the man who banged the gong on the opening titles of many Rank Organisation films.

The teams: Tottenham Hotspur V Music Hall Artistes

The match was played on a miserable Thursday afternoon but the attendance for a friendly at White Hart Lane wasn’t bad. The match report in the local paper the following morning read as follows:

But for the unfortunate breakdown in the weather the attendance at Tottenham Hotspurs ground yesterday, on the occasion of the second annual match with the Music Hall artistes, held in aid of the Variety artistes Benevolent Fund and the Prince of Wales Hospital, would have been considerably augmented, but despite the inclement weather the match drew a tremendous crowd, it being estimated that no less than 15,000 persons were present. Additional interest was doubles created by the presence of the Heavy-weight boxing Champion, who played in the forward line for the Artistes. Punctually at 2:45 Miss Victoria Monks kicked off. Banks at once got away and sending in a fast shot easily defeated the Artistes custodian. Directly afterwards, after some brisk passing, McNaughton broke away, but was intercepted by Walden, who passed cleverly to Steel and the latter had no difficulty in adding a second goal. A penalty for hands was given against Banks but McNaughton sent the ball over the bar. Ten minutes later Cantrell added a third goal for the Spurs from a melee in front of goal, and just before the interval, following some smart work on the part of McNaughton, Carl Lynn reduced the lead with an easy shot. The second half was productive of some interesting play, but no further scoring, although just before time Middlesmiss found the net only to be ruled off side, and the game ended: Tottenham Hotspurs three; Music Hall Artistes one. Teams: TOTTENHAM HOTPSURS: G. Raymond; Clay and Webster; Bowler; Steel and Grimsdell; Walden, Banks, Cantrell, Bliss and Middlemiss; ARTISTES: Tiny Joyce; Albert Raymond and Carl Lynn; Ted Cowan; Gus McNaughton and Bob Wingfield; Sam Mayo, L Houssein, Mark Leslie, Bombardier Wells and Percy Caldwell.

Referee: Mr Peter McWilliams.

The players each received a commemorative medal after the game. This was Gus’.

Boxed football medal by Fattorini and Son. Tottenham Hotspur vs Music Hall Artistes
Gus McNaughton's medal from Tottenham Hotspurs v Music Hall Artistes friendly March 1914.

This match was just one example of how the worlds of entertainment and sport provided some of the glue that held British society and its Empire together in a more ‘innocent’ time. For more on this have a look at Jeremy Paxman’s excellent BBC TV series Empire.

Junior football – It’s not the FA Barclays Premier League…

… but it sometimes feels like it when you’re following the trials and tribulations of your 10-year old son’s team as it progresses up the local FA Junior Alliance League U10’s league. Written off as non-starters at the beginning of the season the boys are now challenging for a top-3 berth. They’ve played some good football along the way but all the issues that are evident in the senior, elite leagues are evident at this the most grass-roots of grass-roots levels – the performance of female match officials, foul play, crowd problems – you name it’s there.

This week the boys suffered the worst defeat of their season to date, which could put their ambitions in doubt. They were outplayed by a team who definitely wanted the win. On a rain-soaked muddy pitch (conditions under which the game should probably have been called off anyway) they all but gave up after the first goal went in. It’s something when a team loses and the best player on the pitch is the goalkeeper. They were beaten by poor  coaching – they were told the game was an easy one and when they went behind their complacency got the better of them.

However, at least two of the five goals were scored as a result of poor refereeing – and it’s impossible to criticise a female ref these days. A throw in was awarded, but the player still made his pass after the whistle. A defender, playing to the whistle, raises his hand to keep the ball from going out of play behind the goal to avoid wasting time. The referee then blows for a penalty – handball in the area – ignoring the fact that she had awarded a throw in seconds before. 2-0.

Shortly afterwards the referee impedes a defender, preventing him from getting to the ball ahead of one of the opposing forwards. He shoots, he scores. 3-0.

And so it went on. I know it’s just a kids match but it is important that we instil a sense of fair play into kids that could become the future of the sport. And in officials who should have the courage to not only stand by their decisions but to recognise when they have made serious mistakes. But it’s important to resist shouting abuse. The officials themselves are young teenagers and are volunteering their time to referee these games.

Still, number one son was delighted with his goal keeping performance. He saved at least four other good shots as the opposition got behind his non-existent defence – often with odds of three against one. The problem comes post match getting a bunch of moody 10 year olds to shake hands.

Spectating parents can also be a problem. It isn’t the Premiership, and the kids are only 9 and 10 years old. Shouting encouragement is one thing, but abuse is something else and can be damaging to developing confidence. There are obvious frustrations but ‘at the end of the day’ it should be fun.

Watch Ray Winstone’s  video. I see one of these almost every Saturday. I find that most post-match blues can be cured by listening and encouraging and being the bringer of a bar of chocolate and a couple of packs of Match Attax.

Ashes to ashes

The Ashes Urn
Image via Wikipedia

Well, England has retained The Ashes. A 3-1 series win. The first time any team was taken a series with two innings wins. The first England team in almost a generation to win an Ashes series in Australia etc etc.

Wisden editors and statisticians will have a field day. So let’s hear it for; Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, James Anderson, Tim Bresnan, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott, Chris Tremlett and the rest of the England squad.