As county cricket is taking its now traditional midsummer break, let us turn our attention to football. The eyes of the world are on South Africa, and looking forward to the next three months or so 0f the World Cup. So let us – in the usual manner of this blog – look backwards – to 1894, and a subject I’ve touched on briefly before (see here).
This lot are an outfit known as the Geddington Stars. The boy in the front row holding the ball is my great-grandfather, the man with the beard in civvies at the far left of the back row is his father and the other chap in the Derby hat in the back row is one of his brothers. My great-great grandfather was a Scotsman, and was, at this point, employed as the Head Gamekeeper at Boughton House in Northamptonshire. He was clearly a man of several parts. Apart from his day (or – often night – job) as the Hammer of the Navvies, he played the mandolin (which we still have somewhere, though, sadly, it’s now unplayable) and – as we see here –
he was also Geddington’s answer to Sir Alex Ferguson.
So what would he have thought of the current World Cup? Obviously we can only speculate – and I’m slightly reluctant to use long-deceased relatives as sockpuppets for my own views – but I think we can guess that he would have been shocked not to see Scotland among the final 32, for one thing. He might have found the melodious tone of the vuvuzela strangely reminiscent of the skirl of the pipes.
But I imagine he would have been most pleased to see that the more cerebral short passing – or combination – game – pioneered by the Scotch Professors (the professional players, usually Scottish, who had begun to dominate the game in the 1880s with sides such as Preston North End) has achieved world domination, as opposed to the more individualistic dribbling, kick and rush style of the Southern public school sides who had dominated in the early years of the Association code.
I could, of course, continue with more of this incisive historico-technical analysis, but after tonight’s draw with the United States I’m afraid I feel too emotionally drained (are you sure you don’t mean “pissed”? – ed.) to continue. But, of course, there’s a long way to go yet in this tournament … and, when I have composed myself, I am sure I shall return to this subject.