July 12, 2013 3:38 AM   Subscribe

1931's top investigative journalist, Mr Chomondley-Warner, aims to find out whether professional players are a good thing for association football by pitting Liverpool's 1991 team against Arsenal's 1931 squad.

Of course, this is a spoof of old newsreels, filmed for the BBC TV show Harry Enfield's Television Programme in the early 90s. But you can still enjoy his insighs on the proper place of women, the working class, and what life might be like in 1990. Before long, developments in science will allow you to watch these in colour.
posted by mippy (8 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
"I say Mr Cholmondley-Warner - what's that queer fellow you're holding?"
"Why, it's a cat."
posted by GallonOfAlan at 3:46 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also responsible for Sir Norbert Smith - A Life
posted by IndigoJones at 5:11 AM on July 12, 2013

I do love a bit of Chomondley-Warner but even at the time I remember thinking that, most likely accidentally, they'd probably picked the worst team they could have for the 1931 part of that football joke!

Arsenal in 1931 were arguably the most forward-thinking team in football, as that was slap-bang in the middle of the legendary Herbert Chapman era. Chapman practically invented the modern professional game as we know it, starting at Huddersfield Town and then at Arsenal throughout the twenties and into the thirties before his tragic early death in 1934.

You can watch footage of Chapman introducing his Arsenal team of that time here. Going by the squad names I reckon its from about 1930ish, so roughly that period.

Chapman was the man who pioneered genuine team meetings, positional play and tactics, brought physiotherapy into the game, introduced floodlights, shirt numbers, clocks in grounds - the list goes on.

His profile on the Football Ramble's Dean Windass Hall of Fame really highlights just how influential he - and that Arsenal team - were and his collected newspaper columns on football are still worth reading today, and are shockingly modern in thinking.

Beyond Chapman as manager, that Arsenal team of 1931 included three players ranked as being in the top 50 players ever to play for Arsenal, which given that the club has been around for 127 years is quite an achievement.

The first of those players was Scottish passing wizard Alex James. The second was Cliff Bastin. Only Ian Wright and Thierry Henry have scored more goals than Bastin, his record standing until 1998. Indeed had War not cut Bastin's career short in 1939 he would probably still have it. Finally there was midfield general David Jack, scorer of the first ever goal at Wembley who Herbert Chapman paid £10,000 to sign - a figure that caused a huge uproar at the time.

Finally, that team also included Jack Lambert, who would score 38 goals in just 34 games in the 1930/31 season, and future Arsenal and England captain Eddie Hapgood - generally recognised as one of the best defenders ever to play the game.

In 1934 Hapgood would be Captain in the England vs Italy "friendly" that was anything but, and would become known as the infamous Battle of Highbury.

Italy were World Cup Winners, but England (and the other home nations) had not taken part in the tournament. This game was thus seen as by many as the one that decided who was really the best in the world at the time - and Mussolini had piled further pressure on by offering the Italian players big bonuses if they won.

The result was a game that turned brutally violent after England went 3-0 up, with the Italians lashing out with elbows and fists both on and off the ball and the England players responding in kind. During the course of the match Hapgood, who wore the captain's armband for the first time in that game, took a brutal elbow to the face. With no substitutions allowed, and not wanting to let his teammates down, he played out the rest of the game with a broken nose.

Basically Arsenal in 1931 were at a peak in footballing terms that they would arguably not reach again until the arrival of Arsene Wenger in 1996 heralded a similar revolution in English football. Visit the Emirates Stadium in North London today and you'll find its outside is covered by an enormous image showing some of the great players from the club's history standing shoulder to shoulder. Among them you'll find many of the players listed above from 1931 and more.

So yeah, Arsenal 1931 vs Liverpool of 1991? Probably a far closer game than you might initially think. I think there's a not insignificant chance that Chomondley-Warner would actually have been wrong...
posted by garius at 5:31 AM on July 12, 2013 [14 favorites]

garius, comments like that are why I read MetaFilter threads :)
posted by Dysk at 5:34 AM on July 12, 2013

Oh, and in a weird bit of overlap between the fake thirties comedy stylings and reality, the thirties (and Arsenal) also gave the world possibly the most batshit insane sports/crime movie of all time - The Arsenal Stadium Mystery.

Clips on YouTube here and here.
posted by garius at 5:56 AM on July 12, 2013

I love this sketch.

garius is absolutely right (and reminds me of one of my worst moments as an Ipswich Town supporter, when know-nothing elements in our crowd shouted "you've never won fuck-all" to Huddersfield's away support).

But watching this today, the thing that strikes me is how unfit that Liverpool side look: their warm-up is as old-fashioned now - post Arsene Wenger, post Sam Allardyce, post the whole footballers-should-probably-be-athletes revolution of the 90s - as the cigarette smokers.
posted by bebrogued at 7:03 AM on July 12, 2013

"You've never won fuck-all" is accidentally correct, though, surely?

Also, thanks garius! To me, who doesn't know a huge amount about football, the Arsenal team just look comic with their big shorts. I can't actually remember if LFC won anything in '91 (though I know they beat Sunderland to the FA Cup in 1992). It's hard to tell if that's the actual team or just Ian Rush and some lookalikes to avoid scheduling conflicts.
posted by mippy at 7:36 AM on July 12, 2013

garius, truly it is. I only saw it once, never, never forgotten it
posted by quarsan at 12:31 AM on July 13, 2013

« Older “It's exactly what you think it is—a tornado full...   |   Bertrand Russell had it right Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments