Anorak News | Soldier On

Soldier On

by | 25th, November 2004

‘SUNDAY’S splendid match between Millwall and West Ham United brought to mind matches from days gone by – not least in the era of Sydney C. Puddefoot, the Hammers and England centre-forward, and the Lions’ venerable custodian Fred R. Wood.

Preparing to take a corner in a foreign field

As chance would have it, the library at Anorak Towers contains a copy of the 1920 volume of Young England, “An Illustrated Annual for Boys throughout the English-speaking World”. Both players are given space to reflect upon their respective areas of expertise at some length.

We begin with Puddefoot, depicted here in his army uniform from the Great War. His piece is entitled “How Goals May Be Won”, and provides a fascinating insight into the secrets of top-drawer Association Football.

“I suppose the ambition of every player who takes part in even a tenth-rate Soccer match is to kick goals!” he begins.

“Although it is not at all the duty of the goalkeeper to register goals against his opponents, so far as combined effort of the side obtains, yet I feel perfectly certain that there isn’t one goalie in the land who wouldn’t rejoice exceedingly if he managed to kick a goal for his team by any happy chance!

“Similarly we in a good eleven do not usually anticipate any goals coming from the feet of the two backs, although I will admit that I have heard of such strange proceedings now and then.

“Yet without a doubt the functions of the backs are not really those of kicking goals. Also, whilst the three halves may undoubtedly kick goals pretty frequently during the season, even their particular and most important sphere of action hardly depends on success in goal-kicking for its full recognition.

“Nevertheless, as I said before, there is not one man in any Soccer team who does not like to feel he had kicked a goal for his side during a big match. Goals, then are not so easy to get as talk about; hence every player is keen on their acquisition.”

Right, then. We are now clear that goals are important, and that Sydney finds them easier to talk about than to get. But how DO we get them?

“Although I find goals terribly hard to obtain – and, curiously enough, the more your side needs them in any game, the harder they appear to get! – yet I fancy I can kick goals, even against doughty opponents, far easier than I find it is to write about them or tell you how to get them!”


“But your editor has placed this duty on me, therefore, I must endeavour to fulfil it somehow. So here goes!”


“Let me say straight away that there is no royal road to goal-kicking in matches…”


“It’s easy to talk, to tell a fellow what to do, to give valuable hints. But usually there looms ahead on the actual field of play some troublesome chap, some wretched opponent who seems to make it his sole business to show how absurd was such talk, how ridiculous were such hints, how difficult it is to manage a successful kick at goal!”

We get the picture…

“We may speak of the beauty of combination, you and I, for an hour or two, and I may point out for your benefit how you and other lads ought to combine in your play as an eleven… I might say something to you about how you should contrive to take advantage of every opening, seize every opportunity, take every chance in a stern encounter, and I might lecture you for an hour on this…”

And so on, for another two thousand words. Unfortunately Anorak does not allow for such expansive rumination.

Suffice to say that Sydney does eventually get to the matter in hand – or foot, as he would no doubt quip. And the trick, apparently, is to “send in the ball at an angle if you can, instead of directly from the front”.

However, there is really only one certain way to score, “which is to play up for all you are worth”.

But what if your opponent matches your skill and effort?

“Well, in that case, lads, you will have a particularly fine game… And it is fitting that the close of such a match should be a draw!

For when Greek meets Greek, then not only comes the tug of war, but it is also pleasant to look back in after teams were satisfied and delighted with the splendid part they played in the great game!”

Hear, hear! More vintage soccer secrets anon.’

Posted: 25th, November 2004 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink