The rugby and cricket men of our Club would have settled down expecting a eulogy about the other game – the one with overpaid and under skilled youngsters, falling down and complaining to the referee. However the “nostalgia” of Colin’s talk implied thinking about and respecting the great and the good – players, managers, classic goals, the heroes of 1966 or even the glory days of Arsenal and Dixie Dean – so it could be enjoyable.
In fact we heard two stories, the one unknown, I guess, by most present, and the other, a familiar narrative about one who was , at the time, seen as mixture of the bad and the good about football.
Story 1 was about a cup presented to mark club football amongst the steel industry trades of the Middlesbrough area in the 1920s. The Furness Company was the major employer in the industry at that time. The donor of the trophy was Lady Furness, wife of the head of the business. The competition was, for example , between sides from the platers, the welders or the boiler makers. For all the insignificance of the competition ( except to those playing or supporting the teams) the trophy was magnificent – heavily ornamented silver, a foot and more in height, as befits the wealth and title of the donor.
The industry declined , as indeed did the trades and the competition. The trophy disappeared until the 1940s when it was adopted, no longer the Lady Alice Furness Cup, but as the prosaic Football League Cup. It has changed sponsors over the decades, and whilst the competition is regarded as a poor second to that of the FA Cup, the trophy itself puts the other in the shade.
The second story told by Colin was that of one of football’s greatest managers who for a time appeared to make the cup his own. Brian Clough was born in the northeast, learnt his football at Hartlepool before joining Middlesbrough F.C. as a professional at the age of 19. His skills made him the foremost striker in the country before injury put an end to what would have been a brilliant career. However, Clough matured to become one of the truly great managers. He demanded total fitness and self-discipline of his players, he built teams of ambitious youngsters, and led through his personal charisma, his aggression and creativity. He managed Derby County and then Nottingham Forest, where he achieved greatness by winning the Football League Trophy three times. Clough was a cult figure, unpopular with the hierarchy and never achieved, what he thought was his right, to be the Manager of England.
Colin‘s linkage of the two stories was clever and well-researched The story of the Cup was intriguing, but the Clough material was familiar. The presentation was pedestrian, read from a script, Colin dropping his voice as he strove to read it. A good subject for followers of football, but for the rugby and cricket fan, a bit tedious.