Association Football and How to Play It/Introductory
Then strip, lads! and to it though sharp be the weather,
And if by mischance you should happen to fall,
There are worse things in life than a tumble in heather,
And life is itself but a game of football.
From the above quotation by Sir Walter Scott, it is evident that football is quite an ancient game. Time alters everything, and it has undoubtedly done so in football. Where one used to play with half the village on one side and the same on the other, it is now restricted to sides composed of eleven players. As I have been requested to write on the modern game it is not worth while dwelling upon how it was played a hundred years ago. Football is really supposed to be a Scottish game, but it was in England that a proper Association with defined rules was first started.
This was in the early sixties, and since then the F.A. has grown to be one of the most powerful bodies connected with sport of any shape or form. They are a most wealthy association, and their power is paramount. It must be said that they have had everything to do with making the game what it is at present. Although autocratic, they deal thoroughly and honestly with both clubs and players, and it will be a bad day for the game when any body of clubs break away. At the time of writing rumours are very rife, but it is to be sincerely hoped that once again "rumour is a lying jade." Friendly matches were the order of the day in the early stages of the game. Then came the establishment of the English Cup Competition for all clubs in the Kingdom. This was in the year 1871, and it was only after eleven years had elapsed that the Cup went to the North, when Blackburn Olympic were the winners. May we say en passant that a Scottish club, namely, the Queen's Park of Glasgow, took part in the final contest in 1884 and 1885, but were beaten by the Blackburn Rovers in both cases. After that the Cup had a long sojourn in the North, and it was not until 1901 that my old club, Tottenham Hotspur, managed to bring it back to the South. Again, since then, the North have had a monopoly of it, and Southern enthusiasts are longing for it to have its resting-place somewhere in the South.
Another epoch in the game was the starting of the League system of playing matches. The idea came from the fertile brain of Mr. W. MacGregor, who is familiarly known as the Father of the League. This system undoubtedly proved a great success, and although loyal amateurs still play in the same friendly style the public took to it immensely, as is well shown by the difference between the attendance at league and friendly matches. Senior, junior, and school-boys' are the names of the leagues now existing, not to mention tradesmen's and shopkeepers' Thursday afternoon associations. The mere fact that at Cup-ties and International matches the attendance has been over 100,000 is convincing testimony to the winter pastime's popularity. A record crowd assembled at Hampden Park, Glasgow, last April to see England v. Scotland, the attendance reaching 130,000, and the sight was a most magnificent one. Before the close of my preface I should like to express my regret at the separation of a portion of the Amateur Element from the Parent Body last year, and, personally, I could see no reason for their so doing—I can only say, "The pity of it." Again, football and charity are synonymous, and it would surprise many critics if the total amount of money collected by clubs and associations was reckoned up. The last match in aid of charity was played at Stamford Bridge, between Manchester United and Queen's Park Rangers, and realised over £1,000, and I think that speaks for itself.