One of my favourite pieces of “Edwardian” (in this case merely pre-Great War) football films was taken at an FA Cup tie of 1912 between Manchester United and West Ham. It’s been a regular victim of the Youtube Copyright Wars, in which the latest poster appears to be playing the role of kamikaze. Nonetheless, whilst it’s still up, you can see more actual play and skill in these few seconds than in just about any other clip from the period. Nota bene that this is no mean Manchester United side: this was their first “great” team and their last before Busby.
And here we have Crystal Palace’s “team of tomorrow – today!” Venables team from the turn of the eighties. They were an attractive side to watch in the model of Docherty’s Manchester United of a few years before, but the loss of Venables plus a famous refereeing decision disallowing a Clive Allen goal caused them to implode mentally and go down with a record low points total in 1981. Here they are at the happy end of all of that:
At the beginning of the 1960s, their opponents here, Burnley, were in turn “the team of the future”, redeveloping their ground and putting together a bright young team who won a league title in the brief interim between domination by Wolves and domination by Spurs. They’d remain competitive throughout the sixties, their ultimate decline being attributable solely to poor team management and boardroom indecision rather than outside factors.