“The best British football manager ever” – Alf Ramsey

Photograph copyright David Kindred www.kindredspirit.comAlf Ramsey celebrating winning the Championship in 1962. Photograph copyright David Kindred kindred-spirit.co.uk

The World Cup finals are always accompanied by a glut of retrospectives, and it seems inevitable that there will be references to the only man who ever guided England to win that trophy, Sir Alf Ramsey. Unfortunately it’s equally certain that those references will for the most part be clichéd and predictable: Ramsey’s accent, the elocution lessons, his reputation as a private, uncommunicative man with little sense of fun and no ability to relate to others. Worse still, though, it appears that many writers consider his achievements on the football field to be insignificant or that they’ve been overrated in some way. Somehow, it seems, golden boy Bobby Moore won the World Cup all by himself or England won the World Cup despite Alf Ramsey rather than because of him. His achievements in club football  are often overlooked too but I suspect that, for many reasons, he will forever remain the only manager of Ipswich Town ever to achieve the highest award in English football.

Sadly the first two mentions of Sir Alf that I’ve seen in the run-up to Brazil 2014, both by writers I admire very much – Barney Ronay of The Guardian and the incomparable Danny Baker, in Brushing Up on the World Cup, a comedy clips show – resorted to this lazy stereotype. Ronay even failed to mention that Ramsey had won the trophy in 1966, as if it’s some minor detail, while praising Alf’s predecessor as England manager, Walter Winterbottom, who – not to put too fine a point on it – won, appropriately enough, sweet FA.

Researching for a chapter on Sir Alf Ramsey for my book about the history of Ipswich Town FC, I read everything that I could find about the man and also spoke to a number of people who had met or knew him: someone who as a small boy knocked on the door of Alf’s house in Ipswich to ask for his autograph, the woman who was his secretary for his entire time at Ipswich Town, ex-footballers who played for him. Every one spoke of his kindness, courtesy and love of the game.

The contrast between the Alf that they spoke of and the cold, detached and rather unknowable figure depicted in the books and newspaper articles that were written during his lifetime is remarkable. Yet frequently, as well as invariably talking about Ramsey’s shyness, his detachment, the regret that they could never quite get to know him, people also spoke warmly of the respect and love they felt for him – and in several cases they actually used the word love. These were (mostly) men of my father’s generation, men who would rarely, if ever, speak openly about their feelings especially towards other men. One example – and it’s quite typical – is Alan Ball, who was in Ramsey’s England squad for many years, and said: “I loved him to death. He was very, very special in my life.”

Most biographies and articles about Ramsey, however, portray a quite different individual. One in particular, by Max Marquis, is a clear and obvious attempt to destroy the man’s reputation and it was published while Ramsey was still alive. I enjoy a good hatchet job as much as the next woman (see Taylor Parkes on Tim Lovejoy in When Saturday Comes for one of the best) but Marquis seemed to have an agenda to bring Ramsey down. Perhaps it’s just that thing foreigners notice about the British, that we have a need to destroy anyone who is successful, to point out that they have feet of clay. Perhaps it was more personal than that. Whatever, his motivation, it makes painful reading.

Alf Ramsey was born in Dagenham, then a small village, in 1920. When interviewed he said that his family “were not exactly wealthy.” This was a characteristic understatement on Ramsey’s part, and like his much-quoted reply to a question about where his parents lived (“I believe they live in Dagenham.”) is often used as evidence of an almost eccentric desire to hide his origins. I don’t believe that this was an attempt on his part to cover up the poverty of his background or some kind of snobbish dismissal of his folks by a self-made man. Ramsey was a diffident person who disliked speaking to the press, and some of the things that he said may simply have resulted from a desire to protect his family from unwanted intrusion.

There may be more to it, however. Ramsey’s grandparents came from Suffolk and Essex and were agricultural labourers. His father had a smallholding and sold straw and hay. Like many farmworkers, they moved around quite frequently. People had to go where the work was. This may be the reason that as a young man, including when he was a professional footballer, Alf had been given the nickname of Darkie, which apparently referred to the fact that many people thought that he was from a Romani (or gypsy) family. There is no evidence that the Ramseys, or his mother’s family, the Bixbys, were Romani, but nevertheless this may have caused him to be a little more reticent about his background than he might have been. Let’s not pretend that attitudes towards travellers were particularly liberal in the 1950s and 1960s.

There is another reason, however, why Alf Ramsey may have wanted to be a little bit discreet about his family background. He had three brothers, Len, Cyril and Albert. Alf learned to play football with his brothers as a schoolboy in Dagenham. Albert, was a little older than Alf, according to the Leo McKinstry in his biography, was usually known by his nickname “Bruno,” and was a heavy drinker and gambler, who kept greyhounds. “Bruno’s disreputable life would cause Alf some embarrassment,” according to McKinstry.

There’s a further possible reason for Alf’s growing detachment, and this is speculation on my part, but like many professional footballers in the days when they played with those leaden old footballs, he would eventually suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. His mother, Florence had the same illness. Although Alf was only formally diagnosed with the disease in the 1990s, who knows what effect it might have had upon his personality and behaviour?

How the Alf Ramsey of the media stereotype managed to get along with the notoriously bibulous Cobbold family when he went to manage Ipswich Town at Portman Road is uncertain. He was never an unsociable man during his time in football though, and was often photographed at parties. One of Alf’s former players at Ipswich told me that Ramsey always wanted his players to have fun, even though he didn’t want to join them himself. He felt that encouraging his players to go out and have a good time was an important part of building team spirit. Latterly, Ramsey has been criticised for coming down hard on his England players for over-indulging, but it has since transpired that some of them had serious problems with alcohol. It would have been odd if he had turned a blind eye to that as the manager of a national football team.

What’s clear is that Ramsey always wished to ensure that his players were protected from the attentions of the media but also given all the credit for any success that they might have. When Ipswich Town won the Championship in 1962, the football correspondent of The Times wrote: “The players, called from their humble dressing room, did a lap of honour almost embarrassed by all the attention; and an incessant chant rose for the man who had quietly planned this remarkable feat in the background.”

One of Ramsey’s best players at Ipswich Town, Jimmy Leadbetter, said: “He did not want any praise. When people congratulated him, he gave all the credit to the players.”

A story that has often been told but is still endearing is that when all the celebrations of that great Championship victory for Ipswich were over and everyone had gone home, Alf’s chairman John Cobbold found him sitting alone in a completely deserted, dark Portman Road, staring out over the pitch. Without a word, Ramsey handed Cobbold his jacket, walked down onto the pitch and ran a silent lap of honour, alone.

When researching my book almost all the photographs that I could find of Alf showed him smiling. He seems to have been particularly happy when coaching, or with his players. He mistrusted the media and this may not have helped him, particularly after he fell foul of the Football Association and the ridiculous Harold Thompson who appeared to have had a vendetta against him following an incident when Ramsey – once again trying to protect his players – asked him not to smoke a cigar in front of the England team.

To this day, the media continue to use a stereotypical – and I think innacurate – portrayal of Alf Ramsey and that makes it difficult for many people to see beyond the suit and the clipped, artificial accent. He should be judged as a man of his time, the era of National Service, of post-war austerity, of overt and often cruel class distinction. It’s unhelpful to impose the attitudes of our own time. A quiet man from a working-class background, in a society where there was a great deal of snobbery and deference, might be forgiven for taking elocution lessons, or for being a little bit reticent about his origins. The men in blazers at the FA were very powerful people and, indeed, they never quite accepted Alf Ramsey – partly because of his background but also because he did something that someone from his class was not supposed to do. He stood up to them.

In the end, Thompson had his revenge. Ramsey was treated so shabbily by the Football Association that when he died there was no FA representation at his private funeral at St. Mary-le-Tower in Ipswich. According to The Guardian, his widow had “in effect told the Football Association… to go jump in the Thames.” It did not add that Lady Vicki’s  instruction – had it actually been uttered – would have been accompanied by the loud cheers of every Ipswich Town fan in the country. Typically, the BBC – part of the same Establishment as those officials at Lancaster Gate – reported this as Sir Alf’s “last snub” to the FA.

The prevailing view in the 21st century appears to be that Ramsey’s achievements were not so remarkable, that perhaps after all he was only building on the work of his predecessors at Ipswich (Scott Duncan) and England (Walter Winterbottom) but as any Ipswich Town fan will tell any Norwich City supporter: it’s what’s in the trophy cabinet that counts in the end. Bobby Robson who also achieved great things for both Ipswich Town and England, declared that Sir Alf Ramsey was the “greatest British football manager ever.” Who are we to demur?

 

Poor, murdered woman – a refugee’s story

Ruth  Towards the end of the Second World War, a murder hunt took place in north Staffordshire. Mrs. Annie Lovatt was blackberrying with her 12-year-old daughter, Pamela, in a quiet, rural spot called Counslow when she found a young woman’s body in a gravel pit. According to her post mortem, the woman, Ruth Schmerler, a Polish refugee, aged 20, had died from “shock and internal haemorrhage due to stab wounds in chest. Murder by person or persons unknown.” Her clothing was torn and dishevelled and one of her stockings was missing. Police did not think that robbery was the motive for her murder. They had recovered one of her shoes and her necklace, a gold cross which perhaps indicated that she had converted to Christianity – who knows? -  and her black leather suitcase was missing.

I know about this story because my mother grew up in a small market town nearby and her family knew the people who had found the body. My mum would tell me about it, and – as she often did with the family stories she would tell  – she gave it an air of mystery as if she knew that there was something more to the tale (she didn’t). My mother had a big heart and – even though she only knew the story second hand – many years afterwards she would still feel emotional and have such empathy for a young woman who had come to this country as a refugee and died, abused and alone, miles away from home that her eyes would fill with tears.

I researched the background of the story a while ago and couldn’t discover any evidence to support any kind of cover-up or conspiracy about Ruth Schmerler’s death as some writers have alleged. It seems to me that it is simply the old, old story of the “poor murdered woman laid on the cold ground” as the folk song has it. This is as much of Ruth’s story as I can manage to find out.

Ruth Schmerler was born in Poland in around 1924, probably in Galicia. Her family were Jewish, the Schmerlers seem to have been a religious, even Rabbinical family. It seems that most of Ruth’s family were wiped out in the Holocaust. She and her younger brother Kurt, came to England in 1939 as part of the Manchester Children’s Refugee Movement. At some point she worked as an assistant in a pharmacy in Manchester but  - according to some reports – she left her job,  joined the Women’s Land Army and was working in Worcestershire in 1944. Others say that she was taking an “agricultural holiday” with a Jewish group in Bromsgrove. Whichever it was, Ruth decided to travel back to see Kurt, who was by then an apprentice optician in Manchester. He may well be the same Kurt Schmerler who had an optician’s practice in Harley Street after the war, in which case he died in 1999.

During the Second World War, it was common to hitch hike and presumably, this was how Ruth planned to travel to Manchester. She was last seen accepting a lift from a soldier: the Nottingham Post reported on 3rd October 1944 that she was picked up by an “Army touring model motor car” in the outskirts of Birmingham at 1pm on the 21st of September. The police were looking for the driver, a soldier “about 30 years of age, rather tall and of slim build.” Another report described him as “aged 30, height 5ft 10ins, slim build, rough complexon with a full moustache.” When he came forward, he told the police that Ruth had got out of his vehicle and into another that was heading north.

Ruth’s suitcase and her missing stocking were found near Shap Fell in Cumbria where they were probably thrown from a vehicle. A soldier was interviewed at Thornhill, Dumfries in Scotland but no charges were ever brought.

The police made strenuous efforts to find Ruth’s killer. They sent squads of police officers to interview soldiers in barracks around the country, used mine detectors in the quarry at Counslow and even grafted a photograph of Ruth’s head on to a picture of a policewoman dressed in her clothes and carrying a similar suitcase in an attempt to create what they called “a walking picture” of the victim and jog people’s memories.

At a time when there was all kinds of movement around the country and tremendous upheaval, when people of all kinds of backgrounds and characters had been conscripted into the British, US and other military forces, burglaries, rapes and murders were all committed during the war by soldiers away from their home areas who were almost impossible to trace and identify. Ruth Schmerler was one of the victims. It is all the more poignant somehow that this woman, who had fled such persecution and survived the Nazis when most of her family had not, should die in such a lonely, violent and unnecessary way.

I think my mother wanted me to write about Ruth Schmerler, so that she would not be forgotten.

 Schmerler 1

Toby Gill: this is not a ghost story

Slander, Blythburgh church

Slander – a bench end in Blythburgh parish church

One of the highlights of television for me this Christmas was Mark Gatiss’ adaptation of M. R. James’ chilling ghost story, The Tractate Middoth as A Ghost Story for Christmas. James was brought up in Great Livermere in Suffolk. Many of his best stories are set in the county, particularly in east Suffolk and that area – with its mists, marshes, innumerable medieval churches and ruined priories – seems the perfect setting. The young Montague James may well have heard about some of the apparitions that populate the darker corners of East Anglian folklore, including a well-known story set in the village of Blythburgh, about the ghost of “Black Toby,” a drummer boy hanged in chains for the murder of an innocent young woman. This story, however, isn’t a ghost story at all but a true one, which gives us a brief, fascinating glimpse into history.

At Blythburgh, a small village near Southwold that’s surrounded by marshes, heathland and ancient sheep walks, there’s an area known as Toby’s Walks where the ghost is supposed to appear. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I have been intrigued by the identification of a black soldier in east Suffolk in the middle of the eighteenth century. Toby Gill, aka “Black Tob,” existed. He was a drummer in Sir Robert Rich’s Regiment of Dragoons, and as the following report in the Derby Mercury of 14th September 1750, shows, he was no ghost but a man accused of the rape and murder of a local girl who was executed in a most brutal way, by being hanged in chains:

“Our Paper has taken some Notice of the Condemnation of one Toby Gill, a Black, at the last Assizes [at Bury St. Edmunds] … but the Enormity of his Crime which was Murder, has not been sufficiently made known; He was a Drummer in Sir Robert Rich’s Regiment, and a very drunken profligate Fellow. He met, or overtook, the poor Woman he murdered on the Road, and on refusing to comply with his lewd Proposal, strangled her with her own Handkerchief, and then abused her dying and dead. Overcome with Liquor, he was found asleep by the Body, and immediately sent to Prison. He was convicted on clear Evidence, and ordered to be hung in Chains. The very worthy Person who tried him, expressed himself in passing Sentence thus: ‘I never before desired a Power of extending the legal Penalties, but if I had such a Power, I should exercise it in this Case.’ “

One hesitates to imagine what punishment this “worthy person” would have liked to have exercised, given Gill’s fate.

The eighteenth-century press was just as addicted to sensation as our own and – although it’s very difficult to ascertain what really happened – the known facts suggest that the Derby Mercury was reporting the prosecution case. In fact, after Gill’s execution there was a great deal of disquiet, particularly because it became known that the Coroner had not found a mark on the victim’s body.

Sir Robert Rich was a local aristocrat, whose family home was Roos Hall near Beccles. His troop of dragoons had nearly been wiped out during the battle of Dettingen in the War of the Austrian Succession and had fought against the Jacobites at Culloden, where Rich had been badly injured, according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: “his left hand being clean cut off and his right arm almost severed above the elbow.” Rich was known to be a severe disciplinarian. Exactly a year before Gill’s arrest, in August 1749, Rich became Colonel of the 4th foot, Toby’s regiment and “there appeared a satirical print, The Old Scourge Return’d to Barrels. It depicts Rich, who had a reputation as a disciplinarian, ordering the mass flogging of his men.” (Oxford DNB).

Rich’s troops, who may well have been brutalized by experience of battle and a harsh disciplinary regime, were evidently brought to the area because smuggling was rife on the Suffolk coast and they were unlikely to have been popular. It’s impossible to know if the fact that Gill was black also contributed to his fate. It appears that he may simply have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Contemporary accounts constantly refer to him as “black” and are a little stereotypical, but they mainly refer to his supposed reputation for drunkenness or “lewdness.” There’s no mention as to his age or his origins and it may well be that Gill was recruited along with many others from the sizeable number of black people in England at that time. It’s estimated that, in 1750, there were between 10 and 20 thousand black people out of a total population of around nine million.

There’s an interesting reference, though, in a contemporary newspaper account which describes Gill as “one of the Black Drummers belonging to Sir Robert Rich’s Regiment of Dragoons” which led me to the following passage in Paul Fryer’s brilliant history of black people in Britain, Staying Power (Pluto, 1984):

“The use of black musicians as military bandsmen in the British army, a tradition that reached its height towards the end of the eighteenth century, seems to have started in the second half of the seventeenth. Black drummers were first acquired by English regiments serving in the West Indies. There are several seventeenth-century records of a colonel ‘presenting the slave’ to his regiment to act as drummer. According to Sir Walter Scott, six black trumpeters were attached to the Scottish Life Guards in 1679. He describes them as wearing ‘white dresses richly laced’ and ‘massive silver colours and armlets.’ A black kettledrummer can be seen in the background of Sir Godfrey Kneller’s portrait (c.1689) of Frederick, 1st Duke of Schomberg, who served at a cavalry general in the English army. This drummer wears a scarlet coat with gold-laced seams, embroidered back and front with the royal cipher and crown, and a small white turban bound round a blue cloth cap with a hanging hood or bag.

Kneller

“At least one black drummer was present at the battle of Bleinheim in 1704, serving under Marlborough in the English army that defeated the French and Bavarians. … A contemporary account of a parade of the 4th Dragoons at Stirling in 1715 said: ‘this was a show we could not pass by without looking at and to say truth I scarse think there is the most showy regiment in Europe.… The six drumers were mores with bres [i.e. brass] drums… and they roade upon gray horses.’ In 1755 [5 years after Toby Gill's execution] the 4th dragoons inspection returns recorded that ‘the drummers are all Blacks.’”

Hanging in chains or “gibbeting” was a brutal punishment which was only recognized by law in England in 1752. It involved hanging someone, usually in a cage-like structure made of hooped iron bands, from a gibbet, often at a crossroads. Death could take a very long time and the body would remain exposed to the elements and passers-by until it deteriorated to nothing, or presumably was taken away by birds and other animals. In 1785, the Reverend Thomas Kerrich made a sketch of two men who had suffered this method of execution at Brandon Sands in Suffolk (reproduced below from Hanging in Chains by Albert Hartshorne, published by T. Fisher Unwin, 1891). In the legend that surrounds the execution of Toby Gill, it’s always said that he begged to be dragged to his death by being tied to the local mail coach in preference to the fate awaiting him, but that particular mercy was denied.

Hanging in chains, 1785

Rev. Kerrich’s sketch of two men hanging in chains.

Gill”s transformation into a ghostly legend is thought to have been found useful by the area’s smugglers. The story is still told and has become commonplace on the websites of those who love the supernatural and Tourist Information organizations. The real horror, though, may well be in the true story of Toby Gill and how cruelly human beings can behave towards one another.

Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy – also in Blythburgh church.

Between the Wars – Alf & Ada Salter of Bermondsey

When I read the broadcaster Danny Baker’s autobiography, Going to Sea in a Sieve, last year, I discovered that we had both lived in the same council-owned tower block in south east London, Maydew House, albeit not at the same time. At least, I don’t think so. I’m sure that I would have recognised him in the lift.

view from maydewThe view from my flat

I loved living in Bermondsey. The area around Rotherhithe and Surrey Docks is full of history and most of the people who live around there are lovely. After years of struggling to find an affordable home in north London, and as a young person without a family, I liked living in a tower block too. Someone came to do a survey of tenants once and went away shaking his head in disbelief as I told him how great it was to live way above the noise and dirt of the city, with the south London railway system as my own personal train set and a well-built, light, warm, airy flat about ten minutes walk from Tower Bridge and the City. Well, it was great when the lifts were working anyway.

bermondsey

Bermondsey slums, early 20th century

That part of London was badly bombed during the Second World War and before that had been an area of great hardship and social deprivation. People lived in unhealthy, dilapidated slum dwellings and the Dockers’ Shelter – where men stood waiting to be taken on for a day’s work – was still on the corner of Redriff Road when I lived there. It was knocked down when the area was redeveloped to be replaced by a bog-standard shopping centre with a very big Tesco, called “Surrey Quays.”

There were memorials all around the area to Dr. Alfred Salter and his wife, Ada, Christian Socialists (Quakers), who believed that they had been called to work in the Bermondsey slums. Members of the Peace Pledge Union and founders of the Socialist Medical Association – which began the campaign for a National Health Service – they worked hard to improve the lives of the families of south east London before the Second World War. Alf became involved in politics and was elected to Bermondsey Borough Council in 1903 and London County Council in 1906. The death of their 8-year-old daughter Joyce from scarlet fever only reinforced their commitment to try to help other people in the area, especially children, lead better, healthier lives. As a GP, Salter could have afforded to send Joyce to a different school but he never wavered in his commitment to equality, sending her to Keeton’s Road School where infectious diseases were rife.

lf & Joyce

After the First World War, Alf Salter was the Labour candidate for Bermondsey in the General Election but lost to the sitting MP, a Liberal. He and Ada both served on the LCC for many years and Ada was the first woman mayor of Bermondsey. Alf was eventually elected as MP for Bermondsey in 1922 and he remained in Parliament until he stood down because of poor health before the 1945 election. Their work is described in detail in a fascinating book, Bermondsey Story, written by another Christian Socialist, Fenner Brockway, whom I was privileged to see giving a speech when he was nearly 100-years-old.

Alf with Joyce

Among the things that stood out for me though were the Beautification Committee which Ada chaired for eleven years from 1923. It’s agenda was “Fresh Air and Fun.” Meanwhile Alf opened a health centre, where local children were given free “sun-ray” treatment to combat diseases such as rickets – a disease which is returning to Britain according to a news item that I read recently. From 1924 Bermondsey council reserved six places each year in a pioneering Sun Clinic at Leysin in the Swiss Alps. Five of the first six patients sent there went on to make a full recovery and many local people benefited from the treatment.

Nothing was too good for the people of Bermondsey, according to the Salters, and quite right too. All the green spaces, the beautifully planted up flower beds and pleasant parks, were down to the Salters and people like them. We live in less idealistic times where the bottom line of profit (for some) is everything and I was reminded of the work of the Salters when I read about Shelter’s campaign to help the 80,000 children who will be homeless this Christmas. Britain is one of the wealthiest nations on earth but it is also one of the most unequal.

AdaAda Salter

Seagulls, Hatters & Brand Protection Managers

This is another piece of writing which has been moved from an old website, so it isn’t new.

Amongst many old games that I’ve acquired from various family members over the years is a card game called Goal from around 1959/60 made by the firm Pepys. I like the cards because they remind me of looking through my grandfather’s football pools booklet at the beginning of every season. In the back of the booklet there was always a list of the teams, illustrated by pictures of the strip and details of the club’s history, the ground and so on.

Coming across the cards made me think about how much history is being lost with the modern predilection for re-naming and rebranding everything. Like the constantly changing livery on the nation’s same old clapped-out trains, it’s a very superficial kind of continuing revolution.

Sometimes things juxtapose themselves nicely. Yesterday’s FA Cup 4th round matches provoked a conversation with friends about Portsmouth’s club crest (the sun and crescent on a blue background goes back to Richard I & the Crusades), then on to the history of club and ground names. Shortly afterwards, I heard a match report from the Amex stadium and was struggling to remember what it used to be called. It is, of course, a new stadium, the home of Brighton & Hove Albion. Its full name is the American Express Community Stadium. I love the use of the word “community.” The more football clubs (and politicians) talk about community, it seems to me, the less likely things are decided communally.

Brighton & Hove Albion FC has a long history (from 1901) but, just as it has changed its home, from the Goldstone to the Withdean to the Amex (with ground-sharing in between), some aspects of the club’s history aren’t very – er – historic. The Brighton & Hove Albion badge has gone through several design changes, and the nickname “the Seagulls” only dates from 1977. They were briefly known as “the Dolphins” before that. According to a potted history of B&HA on the website http://www.footballcrests.com/clubs/brighton-hove-albion-fc “the previous crest [to the current one] was introduced in 1998 following a takeover of the south coast club. It is believed that new chairman, Dick Knight, wanted to sweep away all the remnants of the old, disgraced regime and saw an updated crest as a sign to supporters of new beginnings and happier times ahead.”

Incidentally, the footballcrests.com site lists the clubs which refused them permission to reproduce the club badge. http://www.footballcrests.com/noper.php

I thought the list would include the Arsenals and the Manchester Uniteds, keen to protect their intellectual property, but Barnet FC and Belper Town came as something as a surprise. The club badge has become the club “logo” and its ownership is no longer with the supporters.

There is a great deal of information available online about the history of football clubs, so here are some links:

Badges/crests.

As this article from the Guardian website points out, clubs are fast modernising their club crests and chucking out their history: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/football-league-blog/2010/sep/06/football-league-new-crests

Here are links to 3 of the clubs mentioned in that article:

The Chelsea badge has an interesting history: http://www.chelseafc.com/page/HistoryDetail/0,,10268~1328582,00.html

I was especially impressed by the quotation from Chief Executive Peter Kenyon (formerly of Manchester United): “We are incredibly proud of Chelsea’s heritage. The design of this new badge is based on the one from the 1950s and it was a conscious decision to do this… As we approach our centenary year, and the club embarks on a new and very exciting era, it is appropriate that we have a new identity that reflects our tradition and can represent us for the next 100 years.”

Leeds United. http://www.wafll.com/leeds-united-badges.html

Oxford United FC http://www.oxkits.co.uk/club_badges.htm

Grounds.

Lots of information is available on this fascinating website: http://www.oldgrounds.co.uk/

Nicknames.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_football_club_nicknames_in_the_United_Kingdom

Not everyone is interested in such things and I imagine most people look at the lamb on Preston North End’s badge or the swan on Wycombe Wanderers’ crest without a flicker of interest. Nor do they wonder why Wycombe Wanderers are known as the Chairboys or Luton, the Hatters. Yet there is some interest because I often see fans’ forum posts by people asking what the Hotspur in Tottenham Hotspur means, or about the origins of the nickname “Posh” for Peterborough United. Posh has been used by the football club or its fans, since the 1920s, but in 2002 Victoria Beckham tried to stop the club from using it, by lodging a counter-claim with the Patents Office. PUFC said that they would fight the claim fiercely in the courts. They did, and they won – which is pleasing, but the club’s reason for doing so was not the defence of the club’s traditions but as the then chief executive Geoff Davey warned, the club faced serious financial implications if they were prevented from using the ‘Posh’ name on merchandising.

In 2004, the then Chairman of the Football League, former Tory minister Brian Mawhinney, defending the rebranding of the second division as the Coca-Cola Championship, said:  “We have reclaimed our history. … The championship is a historic term dating back to 1888.” Perhaps, but history had less to do with it than sponsorship, hence the involvement of a soft drinks’ company.

Sponsorship, rebranding, the constant need for clubs to acquire more money, just to be able to compete, or even exist, are eroding the history of clubs and their supporters. Many clubs employ a Brand Protection Manager. In an enlightening interview with CPA Global, intellectual property lawyers, Ronald Crawford, an American who became BPM for Arsenal in 1997, explained how he misunderstood what tradition meant to the fans: “Not growing up in the UK, I didn’t appreciate quite how passionate football fans are about what we as management do with the Arsenal assets. … Many fans have long-standing loyalties to the club that have been passed down from generation to generation. They feel as if it belongs to them, as indeed it does. That means they can also be sensitive about what we do – and how we go about it…. I didn’t appreciate the history of the name or its importance to our fans. … From an IP perspective, it made absolute sense to register it as a trademark, so that the club could protect it. But the fans felt differently. …  If the club chooses to change the colour of its shirt or the style of its team kit, then it will be discussed and debated on the fans’ forums… so we need to keep in mind the different stakeholders.”

Tradition is an important part of football clubs. The clubs as businesses know it. That’s why they’re selling it – or a version of it – back to us.

Three Football Clubs and a Funeral

I wrote this in January 2012 for another site but I’m transferring everything to one place so apologies to anyone who’s already read it.

My friend and brother-in-law died suddenly from a brain haemorrhage just over a year ago. I could write an entirely different piece about him because he was a very interesting man who made the world a better place, not least because he did great work in opening access to higher education up to people from disadvantaged backgrounds. I’ve been thinking a great deal, though, about a small aspect of his life to do with his love of football.

Keith was an Ipswich Town fan for decades. Born in West Suffolk, he moved to a village just outside Ipswich when he was a small boy. He was lucky, in that he was a Town supporter during the club’s glory days and saw the F.A. Cup Final victory over Arsenal in 1978 and the home leg of the UEFA Cup Final win over AZ Alkmaar in 1981. Work took him to live in Devon though, and although he was a Town fan until the end, he became disenchanted with what was happening to football with the advent of the Premier League, like many of us. He started to go to watch his local club, Exeter City and after a while, he and his mate Andy joined the Exeter City Supporters’ Trust.

I think he enjoyed watching the football at St. James’ Park, he certainly enjoyed the lack of commercialism and he was definitely attracted to the fact that the Supporters’ Trust own the club. He also had the very great pleasure of watching the last days of Marcus Stewart as a professional footballer.

Here’s a link to the Grecians’ Supporters’ Trust website: http://www.ecfcst.org.uk/constitution/ which explains the constitution and how they own the club.

When Keith died, he had a non-religious funeral in Exeter and one of the people who spoke was his fellow Supporters’ Trust member, Andy. Andy was from Norwich and as much of a life-long supporter of City as Keith had been a Town fan. He spoke very movingly about his friendship with Keith, their heated discussions about their teams in the pub, their shared love of the game and their equally shared hatred of the way that football seemed to be heading.

Many supporters of Ipswich Town and Norwich City won’t be interested in the Exeter City way of doing things. It probably isn’t exactly the right model for either club to adopt. City’s success probably means there isn’t much appetite for change at Carrow Road and the prospect of eventual success (looking increasingly delusional, in my humble opinion) for Ipswich Town probably also means few ITFC supporters would be interested either. It would, for a start, mean we’d have to forget the idea of playing with the big boys for a long time to come.

The last time I went to Portman Road with Keith, we beat Bristol City 6-0. He left the ground beaming. None of us knew that it would be his last visit there. I wish that he was still here for lots of reasons. He’d still be a Town fan but a very disgruntled one. And he’d still be a member of Exeter City Supporters’ Trust.

One hundred per cent Anglo-Saxon with perhaps just a dash of Viking…

Hearing that a small group of far-right racists are planning a march in Ipswich this weekend, I thought I’d remind myself of Suffolk’s history of incoming migrants. We exported a lot of people over the years too, of course, via convict ships, voluntary emigration and the “overpaid, oversexed and over here” USAAF who were stationed all over the county during the Second World War and took a lot of Suffolk women back to the United States as “GI Brides.”

Ipswich has had a thriving port since medieval times and as a consequence has always been a place of entry and settlement for migrants. It was known as a welcoming place for incomers, many of whom settled in the town. As an example, from a brief look through the records of the 1901 census of Ipswich, there were more than 20 Italians, 13 people described as French subjects, 64 people who had been born in Ireland and one Russian. Many people in Ipswich will be descendants of these and other immigrants. Since then, there have been significant arrivals of people from the West Indies, the Indian sub-continent and most recently from Eastern Europe, all adding to the vibrant and cosmopolitan nature of the town and enhancing its culture.

Without immigration, there would have been no Jason Dozzell or Keiron Dyer playing for Ipswich Town Football Club, no Emeric Pressburger (who is buried at Saxtead near Woodbridge), the Hungarian refugee who, with Michael Powell, made brilliant films such as A Matter of Life and Death, One of our Aircraft is Missing and The Red Shoes, no Aspall cider (the Chevallier family were originally from the Channel Islands), no Ickworth House (designed by Italian architect, Mario Asprucci, and two Italian craftsmen, Casimiro & Donato Carabelli, were brought over to live in Little Saxham and create the frieze that runs around the dome, no Peter’s ice cream (produced by Ipswich’s Zagni family). Perhaps the Aldeburgh Festival would not have survived as its success was very much the result of the work of its artistic director from 1956 to 1977, Imogen Holst, daughter of the composer Gustav Holst and of Swedish, Latvian and German descent. There are, of course, countless other examples. I have chosen just three more, all eminent people whose families came here from other countries and either settled in Suffolk or lived there for for some time.

Edward Ardizzone, the artist, was born in French Indo-China in 1900, and was the son of Auguste Ardizzone, an Algerian-born, naturalized Frenchman of Italian origin, and his wife, Margaret. Ardizzone spent his childhood in East Anglia, including an idyllic period at his grandmother’s house in East Bergholt from 1905, which he described in his autobiography. Unfortunately he was sent to be educated at Ipswich School where he was bullied so badly that his memories of the town were tainted for the rest of his life. He’s best remembered for his illustrations in children’s books, including The Otterbury Incident and Stig of the Dump, but he also drew a great deal that was inspired by his boyhood memories of the rougher part of Ipswich, including a famous sketch of two women fighting one another outside an Ipswich pub in about 1912.

Ardizzone

Cor Visser    The Ipswich Society placed a blue plaque on the front of 44 Fore Street, Ipswich in memory of Cor Visser, a Dutch artist who spent much of his life living in Suffolk. Attracted by his love for sailing and, presumably – like many painters who settle in East Anglia – because of the landscape and the light, he arrived in 1937. Many of his watercolours are of the River Orwell. He was the official war artist to the Dutch Royal Family during the Second World War and his works are in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam as well as in various British galleries, including in Ipswich. He died in 1982.

Sophia Duleep Singh (full name: Princess Sophia Alexandra Duleep Singh) was born at Elveden Hall in 1876, the daughter of a Maharaja and his first wife Bamba Müller, who was of German and Ethiopian descent. Sophia and her sister Catherine were suffragettes and she was a member of the Pankhurst’s militant suffragette organization, the Women’s Social and Political Union. She spent most of her life fighting for minority rights, including as a leading member of the Women’s Tax Resistance Campaign which argued that women should withhold paying taxes until they were given the vote. You can find more information about her by visiting the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography website (and most public libraries will offer you free access).

Sophia Duleep-Singh

The whole agricultural economy of East Anglia has been based on using the toil of travelling people (many of whom would have had Romani or Irish ancestors) and migrant labourers such as the Eastern Europeans who are still working on the land to this day.  It’s worth reminding ourselves sometimes that none of us are – to use the gloriously funny words that Galton and Simpson put into Tony Hancock’s mouth in The Blood Donor, in which he indignantly answers June Whitfield’s question about his British nationality with the assertion that he’s “one hundred per cent Anglo-Saxon with perhaps just a dash of Viking… .”

I doubt that it’s possible to find someone in East Anglia who has a family tree that is exclusively made up of indigenous Britons and many of us, thankfully, have people in our family from all over of the world. It’s good for our health both in terms of genetics and in the huge number of migrants who have come here, temporarily or permanently to work in the NHS, for example – and as the OECD  [links to the Daily Telegraph] has reported recently it’s good for our economy too.