Versus: England v Scotland in European Club Competition

EnglandWhilst many a Scotsman like myself will admit to enjoying watching Premiership football, few of us would even attempt to make an argument that its unstoppable rise in popularity in modern times has done any favours for the Scottish game. After decades of fighting above its weight in European competition, the past two decades living in the shadow of the Premiership behemoth has brought little apart from comprehensive financial and competitive marginalisation for Scotland’s once proud clubs.

Scotland‘Battle of Britain’ ties when English and Scottish clubs were drawn together used to be really big occasions and classic, full-blown face-offs like Celtic’s defeat of Leeds United in the 1970 European Cup provided gripping drama. Despite Celtic’s noble efforts in eliminating both Blackburn and Liverpool from the 2002-03 UEFA Cup, Anglo-Scottish ties have tended to be more low-key skirmishes than great battles over the past couple of decades. With standards in Scotland plummeting as quickly as they’ve improved in England; even in this age of hyperbolic football marketing no-one can muster much enthusiasm for using the Battle of Britain label anymore. 1992 marked the turning point with the Rangers v Leeds United Champions League qualifying games probably the very last Anglo-Scottish tie that was a true battle of equals.

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Southampton Vintage 1966-73

EnglandThe years featured in this second Southampton Vintage post mirror almost identically the club’s first spell under Ted Bates in Division One.

Martin Chivers scored the goals that took Southampton to promotion in 1966 and Ron Davies scored the goals that took the club to several respectable top ten finishes, and even European football on two occasions. Bates stepped down late in 1973 and under his successor Lawrie McMenemy, Southampton suffered relegation in 1974.


Umbro Sportswear 1958-60

A Word From Our SponsorsThe historic Manchester based sportswear company Umbro features today in our latest look back at football advertising through the years. Umbro first emerged as a significant entrant in the kit market way back in 1934 when they supplied the strips for both FA Cup finalists Manchester City and Portsmouth.

With the company’s long running FA association as both sponsor and official kit manufacturer of the FA Cup, England’s premier Cup competition naturally featured extensively in Umbro advertising as these late 1950s adverts show. We’re pleased that among a generally tasteful and effective set of ads, one errant effort showing men in trunks gazing off into the middle distance somehow managed to get approved for publication.

Real Madrid’s Galactico Lesson From History

SpainWith its successful League of Nations squad crammed full of world-class players, Real Madrid revels in its official status as European champions and self-awarded status as World’s Most Glamorous Club™. The World Cup is a glorified player recruitment expo for the club’s publicity-hungry President and he duly moves to expensively acquire a couple of the competition’s stand-out performers. One is South American and the other European. One is a World Cup winner, a highly effective midfielder and sublime passer of the ball, the other a young and skilful goal-scoring forward with an outstanding future ahead of him. Both are ostentatiously anointed as the club’s newest galactico signings. Welcome to the world of Real Madrid in 1958.

Di Stefano, Didi & Puskas - Real MadridThe club President back then was Santiago Bernabéu, the World Cup had taken place in Sweden and the big-name signings were a Brazilian, Didi, and a Swede, Agne Simonsson, but broadly the parallels between 1958 and 2014 are uncanny. Fifty six years on and it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same at the Spanish giants. The story of those 1958 deals should offer a cautionary history lesson to modern-day Madrid as to why expensively acquiring players because of a handful of good World Cup performances often makes poor football sense. This appears a lesson stubbornly unlearned.

Projecting an illusion of glamour, grandiosity and power was as important for Real Madrid in 1958 as it is today, albeit for quite different reasons. Contemporary Madrid is a frightening eleven-headed hydra that devours the souls of brilliant footballers for marketing-driven sustenance. It’s not the most noble of existences but it does just about represent a step-up from being a co-opted sporting and cultural tool of positive foreign diplomacy for the Franco regime.

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Health & Efficiency – The Embrocation Issue

A Word From Our SponsorsYes, it’s here, that blog post about embrocation advertisements from the 1960s and 70s you’ve been waiting ages for. Hey wait, come back…..

In layman’s terms embrocation is simply a heat cream that’s rubbed in to the skin to relax muscles and ease joint pain. Unlike many of the charlatan products on the market at the time that claimed to aid and abet sportsmen in some spurious way, embrocation at least brought physically benefits for a player. It was a popular product and there was a strong market for competing companies pushing their own variations – as featured in the gallery below.

Still not convinced? Well I bet you would take the word of Harold Shepherdson over mine on the subject. Yes, the self-same Harold Shepherdson who was England’s trainer in the 1966 World Cup and gave his endorsement to the market leader, Ellimans. I’ve pulled out the big guns here and if Harold’s presence in this post doesn’t make you feel a lot more enthused about the subject of embrocation now than you did when you started reading this post, then I just give up. Really I do.

The Munitionettes Vintage 1917-18

WW1While the advent of ladies football in Britain can be traced right back to the 1870s, it was only towards the end of the First World War that it became an accepted and popular alternative to the male game. This was through necessity as much as choice. With millions of British men abroad fighting on the Western Front, women took traditional male roles in both the workplace and increasingly in leisure. By 1917 there were 900,000 women working in factories directly supporting the war effort.

The work that the Munitionettes did was repetitive and dangerous, so factory welfare officers encouraged ladies teams to be created to aid health and wellbeing. Teams sprang up the length and breadth of the United Kingdom and the most famous of them all was Dick, Kerr’s Ladies. Resplendent in their trademark bubble hats, this Preston based side drew large crowds and played charity fixtures up and down the country raising money for injured servicemen during and after the war.

Another famous side was Blyth Spartans from the north-east who were taught to play by naval ratings on a local beach and remained unbeaten during their two-year existence. The team won the first Munitionettes Cup held in 1918, beating Bolckow-Vaughan of Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park in the Final in front of a crowd of 22,000. Blyth’s star centre-forward was Bella Raey, the daughter of a local coal miner, who scored a hat-trick in the Final, 133 goals in one season, and even went on to play for England.

At the end of the First World War most women lost their jobs in the munitions factories but retained their interest in playing. Some works teams reformed as civilian sides and others, like Dick, Kerr’s retained the support of their employers. Crowds of more than 50,000 would turn out to watch games until the FA banned women’s football from being played at the grounds of its member clubs in 1921, ostensibly to protect the male game.

As part of out WW1 series this Vintage post collects up team shots of some of the most notable ladies Munitionettes team of the era. Do also visit which is a wonderful online resource for women’s football.

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Southampton Vintage 1958-63

EnglandThis first of three Southampton Vintage posts features images of some of the club’s top players from the late 50s and early 60s.

Southampton had tried in vain for many years to gain a first promotion to the top flight of the English League, but when we join them in 1958 they’re languishing down in Division 3 South. The goals of Derek Reeves fired them back into Division 2 in 1960 and as a second tier club Southampton would come within 90 minutes of Wembley in 1963. Their FA Cup dreams were ended that year in a packed semi-final at Villa Park by Manchester United.


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