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Ken Aston Referee Society ~ Football Encyclopedia Bible
Encyclopedia of British Football
~ Coaching and Training : 1870-1918 ~
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Source - References
In the 19th century the main role of the trainer was to ensure that players in the team were fit for the start of the season. This type of training involved a great deal of sprinting, running and fast walking.

George Ramsay, who joined Aston Villa in 1874, was an example of a coach rather than a trainer. Archie Hunter, who joined the club in 1876, later described the important role that Ramsay played in the coaching of the players. Hunter argued that Ramsay introduced what was known as the "passing game" or "combination play" . This was the main style used in Scotland whereas in England most teams relied on what was known as the "dribbling game".

As Graham McColl pointed out in his book, Aston Villa: 1874-1998: "The influence of Ramsay, then Hunter, led Villa to develop an intricate passing game, a revolutionary move for an English club in the late 1870s. It was a style of play modelled on that which was prevalent in Scotland at the time and which had been pioneered by Queen's Park, the Glasgow side. This type of sophisticated teamwork had rarely been employed in England. Instead, individuals would try to take the ball as far as they could on their own until stopped by an opponent."

Jack Hunter, the former England international who joined Blackburn Olympic as player coach in 1882. Hunter, who was a local pub landlord, introduced training methods that encouraged combination play. Hunter persuaded the Blackburn Olympic management committee to enter the FA Cup for the first time. Blackburn beat Lower Darwen 9-1 in the second round of the competition. This was followed by victories against Darwen Ramblers (8-0), Church (2-0) and Druids (4-0). Hunter, who also played at centre-half for Olympic, led his team to a 4-0 victory over Old Carthusians in the semi-final of the competition.

Jack Hunter decided to take his team away to Blackpool to prepare for the Cup Final against Old Etonians. As Marc Keech pointed out in the Encyclopedia of British Football : "This was the first recorded occasion of sustained systematic training, with players leaving home for a period of time to live communally. The planned tactics of sideline runs and cross-field passes resulted in Olympic winning the Cup." Blackburn Olympic had become the first northern team to win the FA Cup.

Billy Gorman, a former sprint champion, trained Aston Villa during their successful 1886-87 season. Like Jack Hunter, Gorman took the team away to stay at a hotel before important FA Cup games. Archie Hunter described the training methods of Gormon in his book, Triumphs of the Football Field (1890): "We got up each morning at eight o'clock prompt and breakfasted. Afterwards we strolled about as we pleased for an hour or so... we were allowed the use of the ground behind the hotel for sprint running and long distance running... Well, so the morning went. Sometimes the team walked along the delightful lanes for eight or ten miles, in charge of one or two of the members of the committee and myself and then we returned to dinner.

Ernest Needham, who played for Sheffield United and England in the 1890s, published a book, Association Football, in 1901 that included a chapter on training: "Well-directed exercise is the chief factor in training for any sport. Here I might warn against a most common error. Too many youths and men play football to obtain exercise, but this is quite wrong: exercise should, nay, must precede match football, or harm from exposure and over-straining is bound to ensue. Still more, the untrained man blunders about the football field, throwing himself blindly into danger, and proving a frequent source of accident to himself and others. This is so well known to professional players that trainers take charge of first-class men at least a month before their first public appearance of the season. To get into condition at the beginning of the season is hard work, for while resting superfluous fat has accumulated, some muscles of locomotion have become more or less flabby, the circulatory system is torpid, and the chest muscles and organs of respiration are slow in their action. To counteract all this, we must at first have plenty of football practice to bring the muscles into obedience to the will, skipping, walking, and running to strengthen them, sprinting to cultivate speed, and three-quarter and mile runs to tone up heart and lungs. Indian clubs and dumbbells are occasionally used. These various exercises, used lightly at first, and gradually increased under experienced direction, will produce the necessary vigour and hardness, and bring the player into condition for match playing."

Tom Robinson, the West Ham United trainer between 1896 and 1912. According to the reports at the time, on the Monday following a match, the West Ham players would go on a brisk walk to free up stiff joints. Later that week they would spend time sprinting and running long distances to build up their stamina. Players also used a punchball and weights to strengthen the upper body. Only a short period was spent training with the ball.

Robinson also believed that diet was an important factor in the training of players. John Powles, the author of Iron in the Blood points out that Robinson "often invited a number of players from both the Ironworks and then West Ham United for breakfast at his home in Benledi Street, Poplar. Whether the fare provided was of any benefit when they took the field is not known, but Tom must have been a popular man at the time."

Trainers and coaches spent very little time was spent on developing the skills of the players. Billy Bassett, the famous England and West Bromwich Albion player, complained in 1906 that not enough was done in training to improve the quality of play. He also expressed the view that it was up to individual players to improve their own game.

Frederick Wall, the president of the Football Association, argued in his book, 50 Years of Football, that British coaches and trainers, took the game to the rest of the world. For example, on the outbreak of the First World War, several former professional footballers were coaching in Germany. This included Steve Bloomer, Fred Pentland, John Cameron, Fred Spiksley and Sam Wolstenholme. These men were interned at Ruhleben Detention Camp until 1918.


Arsenal on a training walk in 1936.
Left to right Tom Whittaker (trainer), Wilf Copping, Frank Moss, Ted Drake and Alex James
In December, 1936, Everton signed Tommy Lawton for a fee of 6,500. One of the attractions of the deal was that Lawton now had the opportunity to play with Dixie Dean. When they met for the first-time, Dean put his arm round Lawton and said: "I know you've come here to take my place. Anything I can do to help you I will. I promise, anything at all." Dean was thirty years old and after suffering several serious injuries, he knew that there was not much time left for him at the top. Dean kept his promise and spent a lot of time with Lawton on the training field. Gordon Watson, who played at inside-left for Everton, later recalled: "Lawton and Dean used to work together under the main stand, Dean throwing up a large cased ball, stuffed with wet paper to make it as heavy as a medicine ball".

John Jones, Everton's young full-back, later argued that it was Dixie Dean who was the main coach at the club: "Dixie was the boss. Young players at Everton had to keep in order otherwise they were pretty soon stepped on... It was Dixie, along with a couple of England centre-halves, Charlie Gee and Tommy White who ran the show. Occasionally they'd call a meeting and they'd be telling the youngsters what to do. It was the best method of coaching I ever experienced." Lawton agreed but claimed that: "All they ever said was make sure you pass it to a man in the same shirt."

Walter Winterbottom was appointed national director of coaching in 1946 and manager of England in May 1947. He attempted to bring in new training methods. Some of the players objected to Winterbottom's approach. For example, Wilf Mannion argued: "All that happened pre-war was they took a trainer to games, basically to look after the kit. The captain used to gather the players together and decided on how to play, but there weren't really tactics." He disliked the idea of Winterbottom working on set routines like free-kicks and throw-ins. "He (Winterbottom) thought it was all going to be dead smooth, the way we were practising on the training pitch. But in a game it's all about the opposition and where they're going to be situated and what they're doing. That's why you need a footballing brain, to adapt to the situation."

However, Stan Mortensen, who was also a member of the England team coached by Walter Winterbottom disagreed: "In recent years there has been a good deal of controversy about coaching. The Football Association have been encouraging the development of a coaching system, but from time to time I have heard criticism of their policy. Was this or that great player ever coached? Didn't the best players learn their own football on waste ground and by hard experience? And so on. It may be true that some of the finest players who ever donned boots never took part in organized football lessons, but I believe that if we could probe their lives, we would find that every great footballer had some lessons in his early days. No matter how gifted a boy may be, it is in my opinion important for him to come under some sort of guidance as soon as possible. But the coach must be a fellow who knows: who can develop the natural ability and guide the young player into the right channels."

In June 1948 Stan Cullis was appointed manager of Wolves. Cullis insisted that his team should play at a higher tempo than the opposition. He believed that this would pressure them into making mistakes during the game. For this strategy to work, the Wolves players had to be fitter than other clubs. Cullis introduced a new training regime that involved tackling commando-like assault courses. Each player was given specific targets. Minimum times were set for 100 yards, 220 yards, 440 yards, 880 yards, 1 mile and 3 miles. All the players had to be able to jump a height of 4 feet 9 inches. Cullis gave his players 18 months to reach these targets. In his first season at the club, Cullis led Wolves to FA Cup victory over Leicester City. The following season Wolves finished in 2nd place in the First Division. Wolves finished 3rd in 1952-53 and won the title in 1953-54 season. He repeated the feat in the 1957-58 and 1958-59 seasons.

In 1949 Peter Doherty became player-manager of Doncaster Rovers. In his first season he led them to the Third Division North title. Doherty had strong opinions on training. He argued that at his previous clubs: "Most training at clubs is a slow form of torture. We need more variation. Altogether too much emphasis is placed on lapping the pitch. Ball practice should figure prominently and often in all training schemes." As manager Doherty used volley-ball, "to promote jumping, timing and judgment" and basket-ball, "to encourage split-second decision-making and finding space".

Cyril Robinson played in the 1953 FA Cup Final. He claimed that Joe Smith, the Blackpool manager "was never very tactical, he was very blunt with his instructions". According to Stanley Matthews he said: "Go out and enjoy yourselves. Be the players I know you are and we'll be all right."

In 1976 the Daily Mail recruited Wilf Mannion as a football journalist. Mannion was of the opinion that modern players were over-coached. In an article on a match between Middlesbrough and Birmingham City, Mannion wrote: "There's so little natural skill and so many manufactured robots out there nowadays. This match was like watching a third division match in the thirties. Why do they keep passing back? They don't seem able to use both feet anymore. Why do they have to stop it every time, instead of keeping the ball running? Why so much bunching? They seem afraid to move into gaps and no one is playing off the ball. Football has brought many problems on itself. In my days there was no coaching or even team-talks on the scale of today. My style of play didn't alter one bit from the day I began playing at school to the time I finished. Now they are over-coached. There should be much more free expression. I get the impression that players now are instructed to such as extent that they don't even think of doing anything different, whatever the circumstances."

Source - References

(1) Archie Hunter, described how the Aston Villa team trained for important games in the 1886-87 season, in his book, Triumphs of the Football Field (1890)

We travelled from Nottingham to Birmingham and obtained the necessary apparel for training and went on the same night to Droitwich. Outside the station a brake was waiting for us and on a pitch dark night a dozen of us rode through the quiet country lanes to a little unfrequented place on the river Severn called Holt Fleet.

Here we arrived at midnight and being tired with the day's exertions and drowsy with the ride, we tumbled off to bed. The hotel accommodation in those days at Holt Fleet was of a limited character and the host was not accustomed to such large parties asking for accommodation. He was not prepared for us and the first night we had to rough it. Six of us slept in a top attic in which three beds had been placed. I say we slept, but this is not quite correct. We were put there to sleep, but the pestilence that stalks by night was opposed to us.

All this, of course, was remedied later on by the obliging host, who did his utmost to make us comfortable. But you will wonder why we chose this place for our purpose. It was not our discovery, but was recommended to us by W. G. George, the champion mile-runner. It was his custom to walk, when training, from Bromsgrove to Droitwich and Holt Fleet lies between these two places. The district is very favourable for athletes. There is a fine stretch of open country and there is the river, which affords every facility for boating and swimming. Then the walks all around are delightful and the brine baths at Droitwich are, of course, very convenient.

Since we were there other football teams have experienced its advantages, the Wolverhampton Wanderers in particular. Well, here we stayed for a week with our trainer, Billy Gorman. He was a famous sprint runner and had won a special handicap; and when he ceased to take part in public contests himself he devoted himself to training athletes and a capital fellow he was.

We got up each morning at eight o'clock prompt and breakfasted. Afterwards we strolled about as we pleased for an hour or so. Then we put our uniform on and by permission, which was kindly granted by Lord Dudley's overseer, we were allowed the use of the ground behind the hotel for sprint running and long distance running. It was curious to observe the difference which practice speedily made in some or our physical abilities. There was Dennis Hodgetts, for example, who was called our slow man. Up to this time he was indeed lacking in that desirable quality of fastness which is so serviceable on the field. But after this training he wonderfully developed into one of the speediest of the set and was only excelled by Richard Davis (late of the Walsall Swifts) who had the reputation of being the fastest player for short distances. All the others were very quick: Albert Brown, Joey Simmonds, Jack Burton, Freddy Dawson, Howard Vaughton, Harry Yates and Albert Allen, but the sprint running improved their form tremendously.

As for me, I went in for long distance running, with Warner our goalkeeper, who had no particular need to go in for this training and Coulton, for my companions. Albert Allen, I should here explain, was our reserve man who was in readiness to take Dawson's place if necessary, for Freddy had seriously hurt his knee and we were very uncertain whether he would be able to play. However, when the right time came the question was put to all the team and they decided that he was fit, so Allen was not needed after all.

Well, so the morning went. Sometimes the team walked along the delightful lanes for eight or ten miles, in charge of one or two of the members of the committee and myself and then we returned to dinner.

After dinner we were allowed to lounge about again and then the team were called together for football practice, a gentleman on another side of the river having placed at our disposal a suitable patch of ground. Here we worked hard for an hour and a half, perfecting ourselves in all the science of the game and mastering every trick that could be thought of. It was sport, but we were very much in earnest and though we enjoyed ourselves we spared no pains to learn everything that was to be learnt.

Returning, we were rubbed down and examined by the trainer and then sat down to tea. After partaking of that meal we frequently took a mile and a half walk; and by ten each evening the Villa team were in bed. Such was our training day by day.

For breakfast we had ham and eggs, or fish and we drank tea or coffee. We had no lunch, except perhaps a glass of beer if we were accustomed to it. For dinner we had fish, mostly, salmon or lampreys. Not infrequently our host would bring us in a freshly-caught salmon and on one or two occasions we enjoyed ourselves by going on fishing expeditions also. Sometimes we had a little roast beef or mutton and occasionally fowl; but fish constituted dinner most frequently. Tea consisted of chops and steaks and we went to bed without supper.

Of course, every day was not alike and we had small adventures which formed an agreeable variation to the routine. It was our special delight to come across our fine old trainer seated by the riverside, rod in hand, waiting patiently for the fish that never came, while there was no lack of diversion at night. Pillow-fights were quite the order of the time and as most of us were used to the advantages of town life it was only natural that we should endeavor to find as much amusement as possible in that quiet out-of-the world spot. On some of the nights we were kept at the hotel entertained by the county hop-pickers out of work, who to earn an honest penny dressed themselves up like Red Indians, stuck feathers in their caps, blacked their faces and performed all sorts of wild antics, dancing and singing.

For breakfast we had ham and eggs, or fish and we drank tea or coffee. We had no lunch, except perhaps a glass of beer if we were accustomed to it. For dinner we had fish, mostly, salmon or lampreys. Not infrequently our host would bring us in a freshly-caught salmon and on one or two occasions we enjoyed ourselves by going on fishing expeditions also. Sometimes we had a little roast beef or mutton and occasionally fowl; but fish constituted dinner most frequently. Tea consisted of chops and steaks and we went to bed without supper.

Of course, every day was not alike and we had small adventures which formed an agreeable variation to the routine. It was our special delight to come across our fine old trainer seated by the riverside, rod in hand, waiting patiently for the fish that never came, while there was no lack of diversion at night. Pillow-fights were quite the order of the time and as most of us were used to the advantages of town life it was only natural that we should endeavour to find as much amusement as possible in that quiet out-of-the world spot. On some of the nights we were kept at the hotel entertained by the county hop-pickers out of work, who to earn an honest penny dressed themselves up like Red Indians, stuck feathers in their caps, blacked their faces and performed all sorts of wild antics, dancing and singing.

(2) James Walvin, The People's Game (1975)

The progress of the FA Cup mirrored the changing social progress of football. The decade of dominance by the public school teams was ended at the 1881 final between Old Carthusians and Old Etonians. In the following year the Old Etonians were back again, this time to face Blackburn Rovers. In 1883 another Blackburn team, Olympic, travelled to the London final, taking the trophy north for the first time. Blackburn Olympic, under the control of Jack Hunter, their player-manager, had trained for the final at the booming seaside town of Blackpool and when they stepped out to meet Lord Kinnaird's Old Etonians, the social contrast could not have been greater. Among the Blackburn players were three weavers, a spinner, a dental assistant, a plumber, a cotton operative and an iron-foundry worker. Having won 1-0 in extra time, the Blackburn team was welcomed home by huge crowds headed by yet another manifestation of the new working-class social life - a brass band. Blackburn Olympic had approached the game in a most professional manner. Financed by a local iron-foundry owner, they had trained carefully for a week and had stuck to a suitable diet.

(3) Ernest Needham, Association Football (1901)

Well-directed exercise is the chief factor in training for any sport. Here I might warn against a most common error. Too many youths and men play football to obtain exercise, but this is quite wrong: exercise should, nay, must precede match football, or harm from exposure and over-straining is bound to ensue. Still more, the untrained man blunders about the football field, throwing himself blindly into danger, and proving a frequent source of accident to himself and others. This is so well known to professional players that trainers take charge of first-class men at least a month before their first public appearance of the season. To get into condition at the beginning of the season is hard work, for while resting superfluous fat has accumulated, some muscles of locomotion have become more or less flabby, the circulatory system is torpid, and the chest muscles and organs of respiration are slow in their action. To counteract all this, we must at first have plenty of football practice to bring the muscles into obedience to the will, skipping, walking, and running to strengthen them, sprinting to cultivate speed, and three-quarter and mile runs to tone up heart and lungs. Indian clubs and dumbbells are occasionally used. These various exercises, used lightly at first, and gradually increased under experienced direction, will produce the necessary vigor and hardness, and bring the player into condition for match playing.

When once a man is "fit," and the season has commenced, less practice is needed, one or two days a week at kicking, more walking, and gentle exercise being sufficient to keep him up to the mark. The intelligent trainer now must see that proper food is used to restore exhausted energy, and lay up for future exertions. He knows that excessive wear and tear of the framework fills the body with worn-out substances. The muscles and blood are overcharged with broken-down tissue, almost to the extent of poisoning. Now, then, comes the time for rest and natural recuperation. Nature's efforts to expel foul matter must be assisted by baths, massage, etc., and only sufficient exercise indulged in to prevent any sudden running-down.

It is exceedingly difficult to strike the happy medium between loose training and over training, while of the two perhaps the latter is the greater evil. Certainly the tendency seems to be to over-train, although it means exhausted vitality, staleness and often a complete breakdown. The conditions vary so much that each

individual requires special study from the trainer. I know several prominent players who need little or no training, and if it were forced on them by bad judgment it would almost certainly be disastrous. Some others are so inclined to put on fat that they require almost a jockey's treatment to keep down their weight. The symptoms of staleness are well known even to spectators, and towards the middle and end of the season they are too often seen. Leaden feet, frequent almost causeless tumbles, hesitating kicks, and bad passes are all due to this cause. It is as though the spirited thoroughbred of a few weeks ago had become a broken-down hack. There would be seconds of difference in the performance of a hundred yards at the beginning and end of the season. All this points to the need of care and fine discernment on the part of the man in charge, and the highest credit is due to him if he puts his men on the field able to start well, and with a reserve of stamina enabling them to keep up the pace to a successful finish. Many are the matches that have been won in this way.

The progress of the FA Cup mirrored the changing social progress of football. The decade of dominance by the publicschool teams was ended at the 1881 final between Old Carthusians and Old Etonians. In the following year the Old Etonians were hack again, this time to face Blackburn Rovers. In 1883 another Blackburn team, Olympic, travelled to the London final, taking the troph} north for the first time. Blackburn Olympic, under the control of Jack Hunter, their player-manager, had trained for the final at the booming seaside town of Blackpool and when they stepped out to meet Lord Kinnaird's Old Etonians, the social contrast could not have been greater. Among the Blackburn players were three weavers, a spinner, a dental assistant, a plumber, a cotton operative and an iron-foundry worker. Ha\ing won 1-0 in extra time, the Blackburn team ,vas welcomed home hv huge crowds headed by vet another manifestation of the new working-class social life - a brass band. Blackburn Olympic had approached the game in a most professional manner. Financed hv a local iron-foundry owner, they had trained carefully for a week and had stuck to a suitable diet.

(4) John Powles, Iron in the Blood (2005)

At the club (West Ham United) there were changes to the training staff where Sam Wright, who arrived from New Brompton, became head trainer, possibly on the recommendation of Syd King, with Jack Ratcliffe dropping down to his assistant. Jack had previously replaced Tom Robinson for the 1898/99 campaign, after Tom had been the Thames Ironworks trainer from the start and had originally been involved with the Old St Luke's, and later Castle Swifts clubs.

Tom however, despite his lack of direct involvement as trainer for a period of time, often invited a number of players from both the Ironworks and then West Ham United for breakfast at his home in Benledi Street, Poplar. Whether the fare provided was of any benefit when they took the field is not known, but Tom must have been a popular man at the time. He was of course, there or thereabouts at the Ironworks being Tom Robinson involved with the training of cyclists at the Memorial Grounds and with local boxers. After his `break' away from football duties he returned as West Ham United's trainer at the age of 55, in 1904/05, the club's first season at their new Boleyn Ground, Upton Park. He remained with the club until 1912 when in gratitude for his services he was granted a testimonial match against QPR.

Training at the time was not quite what it is today. On the Monday following a match, a good brisk walk would be arranged to tone up the muscles and free up stiff joints. A period would be set aside for running, and sprinting for those who needed to improve their speed over short distances. With their facilities at the new ground the Irons had an indoor centre where skipping and the use of a punchball was considered good exercise and the use of Indian clubs (weights) was essential for strengthening the upper body. Actual training with the ball was not given great priority. It tended to be along the lines of the school playground game of "3 goals and in" with a goalkeeper and three defenders attempting to keep seven attackers at bay! When these activities were over the Irons' players were fortunate that the club had modern plunge baths and were able to receive a body massage to complete their training.

Whilst the club trainer was responsible for the physical fitness of the players, there was very little attention paid to the tactical side of the game. When players took the field for a match, they played in their allotted positions; if things went well and confidence grew teamwork usually fell into place. The responsibilities of the manager/secretary of the time chiefly concerned matters of an administrative nature and had little to do with team training. This is very different from the manager of today, who is a track-suited individual with a profile often as high as his top players and whose duties cover a whole range of functions including coaching, training, team tactics, administration, transfers and liaison with the Board, all conducted under the constant eye of the media. The modern manager is ultimately deemed responsible for his club's results, whether his players perform or not. He cannot be compared to his counterpart of 100 years ago.

(5) Charlie Buchan, A Lifetime in Football (1955)

During the summer months, I stayed at work. Then I received notice to report for training at Osborne Road the day after August Bank Holiday. In those days, the season opened on the first Saturday in September, so the whole of August could be devoted to strenuous training. It also ended on the last Saturday in April.

Since then the season has been extended and takes in the last week in August and the first week in May. I think this is one of the mistakes made by the ruling bodies. League football in cricket weather and on bone-hard grounds is neither good for the player nor for the standard of play. It takes too much out of the player, physically and mentally.

That August, in 1910, was my first experience of systematic training. We trained twice each day and trained hard. Much harder than when I came back to London fifteen years later. Then, after the opening month, I went to the ground only once daily.

Though present-day players may have modern appliances to assist them, I still believe the old-timer was physically fitter. Or I should rather say they were a tougher breed of men.

(6) Frederick Wall, 50 Years of Football (1935)

The average man who takes an interest in football has only the faintest idea how the game began to be played on the other side of the English Channel. The "noxious weed," as some of our Rugby friends have called the Association game, was sown and transplanted in various lands and in several ways.

Boys who have been educated in England have returned to their homes on the Continent with some rudimentary knowledge of the winter revel, and a football under their arm.

One of the Rothschilds sent a gardener to England to study the culture of trees and flowers, and he went back with the knowledge he required and another football under his arm.

Do they not say that the Britons working at the Rio Tinto mines in Southern Spain, and others in a somewhat similar business at Bilbao, set the ball rolling in the peninsula? Boys and men in many countries have scattered the seed and this has mostly fallen on fruitful ground. For many reasons football makes a universal appeal.

The Danes and the Dutch certainly adopted what we call "our game" in 1889. Belgium and Switzerland followed their example about 1895, and Italy began in 1898, when foreigners played in the North-that is, in Piedmont and Lombardy. These "foreigners" were mostly English and Swiss.

An Oxford University team visited Central Europe, Bohemia and Austria about 1875. The game gradually grew in various parts, and English club teams, amateur in particular, made many holiday excursions on the Continent, the Middlesex Wanderers being frequent visitors.

The Football Association and the Corinthians sent teams to these countries, but only Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy had taken up the pastime before this century.

(7) Stan Mortensen, Football is My Game (1949)

As young professionals our time-table followed much the same lines as that of the senior players on the staff, but of course we did not train so intensively. Our programme went something like this:

Monday: Very little done unless attention needed for an injury. Or unless one was on the carpet in the office.

Tuesday: Ball practice.

Wednesday: Practice match.

Thursday : Fairly hard training-lapping, sprinting, tuition in correct running.

Friday : Half a dozen spurts and a good rub down.

It will be seen that Tuesday and Wednesday were the important days. We were under the watchful eye of Bill Tremelling, the former Blackpool centre-forward and centre-half, who towards the end of his playing career captained Preston North End and led them to the Cup Final at Wembley, where they were beaten by Sunderland.

Words cannot tell what a debt I owe to Bill Tremelling. He was the ideal man for the job. He knew football inside out, and had unlimited patience, yet at the same time he could be pretty downright in his criticisms. He did not hesitate to give us the verbal lash when he thought it would do good.

I vividly recall to this day one such occasion when I was the target for his criticism. On Wednesdays we usually played a practice match, which might be eight or nine aside, or we might even make up two full elevens. Bill would referee, and he would stop the game from time to time to impress on us any point which occurred to him.

In one of these games I received the ball deep in my own half, and set off at top pace with it. I beat four men. In fact, you might say without much exaggeration that I ran the length of the field. In due course I found myself in front of goal, let fly with my shot, and only just missed scoring the sort of goal-on my own-which would have tickled me. I turned to trot back to the middle of the field feeling well pleased with myself, even if a trifle out of breath, when Bill Tremelling started to tell me quite a thing or two.

"Let the ball do the work," was his great motto (as indeed it must be of every good player); and how he rammed this home to me now, in front of all the other players! He pointed out, with some crispness, that I should have parted with the ball after beating one man, that I could have run into position after releasing it, and that I could still have had my shot at goal if the move had gone nicely. What is more, so he said, I should have had more breath in my body, and more strength in my legs, for making the final shot!

On Tuesdays Bill would take us individually and in groups to teach us how to play football. Yes, this was the school for footballers, and I soon realized I was being put through a very thorough apprenticeship. Correct kicking with the instep, taking corners, working out a little plan to make the most of a throw-in, trapping the ball, shooting, and so on-everything was gone through so that we should be ready, when the time came, to take our places in a higher class of football.

When the average fan sees a League match, he probably imagines that the men play from instinct, so swift in the action, so instant are some of the decisions. Behind that rapid and complex series of movements is much training, and in some cases weary hours of coaching and practice.

On Fridays there was a solemn rite to be carried out before we put on our clothes and went off, fighting fit, for the match on the following day. After a few spurts to loosen our limbs, we had a shower and rub down, and then we had to take a bottle of olive oil and rub ourselves down. This was designed to give our legs strength yet suppleness.

(8) Stan Mortensen, Football is My Game (1949)

In recent years there has been a good deal of controversy about coaching. The Football Association have been encouraging the development of a coaching system, but from time to time I have heard criticism of their policy. Was this or that great player ever coached? Didn't the best players learn their own football on waste ground and by hard experience? And so on.

It may be true that some of the finest players who ever donned boots never took part in organised football lessons, but I believe that if we could probe their lives, we would find that every great footballer had some lessons in his early days. No matter how gifted a boy may be, it is in my opinion important for him to come under some sort of guidance as soon as possible. But the coach must be a fellow who knows : who can develop the natural ability and guide the young player into the right channels.

In my case, the coach was one of the family, a cousin named Freddie Colthorpe. He was the son of my mother's sister, and was as keen about football as his younger cousins. He was not particularly outstanding as a player, but he was secretary of Tyne Dock United team, and he seems to have made up his mind, as soon as I showed some aptitude for the game, that I should be put on the right lines.

I am glad now to pay tribute to the patient care of Freddie Colthorpe. In our small backyard he spent many hours teaching me the fundamentals of the game ; throwing the ball to me for trapping, heading and kicking.

Once I had been grounded in these things, the rest came naturally to me. What I would have done, or become, without that friendly coaching of my cousin, I do not know. Not such a good footballer, I am certain. So when you hear of coaching schemes, don't scoff. They are for the young footballers who were not as fortunate as I.

(9) Wilf Mannion, Daily Mail (December 1976)

There's so little natural skill and so many manufactured robots out there nowadays. This match was like watching a third division match in the thirties. Why do they keep passing back? They don't seem able to use both feet anymore. Why do they have to stop it every time, instead of keeping the ball running? Why so much bunching? They seem afraid to move into gaps and no one is playing off the ball.

Football has brought many problems on itself. In my days there was no coaching or even team-talks on the scale of today. My style of play didn't alter one bit from the day I began playing at school to the time I finished. Now they are over-coached. There should be much more free expression. I get the impression that players now are instructed to such as extent that they don't even think of doing anything different, whatever the circumstances.

(10) Nick Varley, Golden Boy (1997)

There was no clearer example than the selection process and the logistics of international games. Winterbottom didn't pick the team, but merely took a note of his choices to the selection committee meeting. The chairman would start the proceedings with a call for "Nominations for goalkeeper". The committee members, all representing different clubs, would put forward their men - often literally their men, their club's stars. The only time they would be less keen would be if their club had a big match looming and they'd prefer to have the best players at home. In those circumstances the other selectors would realize the scam chairman Jones of Town was trying to pull to make sure his players were picked.

Winterbottom's chances of picking the team he wanted were nil. There would be compromises left, right and centre. Then there was the additional headache of doling out caps as honors. A long-serving professional with a distinguished club career coming to an end might be picked to recognize his contribution.

In those days it was a selection committee which basically rewarded players who were good professionals, Sir Walter says. "It was a question of giving them the honor of playing for England, acknowledging their careers really. They were good players, obviously, who deserved recognition at international level, but not always when they got it. I remember when Leslie Compton, who had never won a cap, partly because of the war, was picked for one game as a mark of respect for him playing so long and so well, generally, for Arsenal. It wasn't on really, but that's the way it was - even though you're not going to build up a World Cup winning squad like that, are you?"

Regional alliances were formed, too - the North versus the South versus the Midlands. The chairmen only saw the players who appeared for or against their side. Only later did Winterbottom manage to convince them of the need to take in a few more matches to assess other players. He also managed to revise the system later, so at least he would nominate a side as the basis of the selection committee's deliberations.

(11) Nat Lofthouse, Goals Galore (1954)

Like everyone associated with our national team, Mr. Winterbottom puts the good of the side before anything else. His intelligent approach to soccer has not only left its impression on the England players, but has been copied by many team-managers abroad.

What is it like at one of Manager Winterbottom's pre-match talks? As I've remarked earlier, many people have the impression that we sit in front of the England manager, and that he proceeds to draw diagrams on a blackboard and treat us as if we were students at the game. This, of course, is nonsense. Since I've been with the England party I've never experienced a tactical talk of this type. What Mr. Winterbottom does is to give us an insight into the team we are going to oppose. He must have a photographic brain, for, after seeing a team, or a player, only once, he can give you a complete assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. After Mr. Winterbottom's talks I have paid particular attention to the teams we have played against.

Comparing them with his "readings", I have always found him accurate. His England team will never go on the field "blind" while Walter Winterbottom acts as the "eyes". English football is fortunate to have him. I also feel I have been fortunate to play in such a grand England "club" side.

(12) Ron Flowers, For Wolves and England (1962)

Let's run through a typical "Wolves Week".

Monday: If the team has played reasonably well on the preceding Saturday, and no inquest is necessary, most of us have a hot soda bath, which brings out all the bruises, aches, and pains. On the other hand, if we've had a poor match the outcome is usually travel by coach to our training ground at Castlecroft, and Bill Shorthouse, the club coach, examines our mistakes.

Our coach attends all the League team matches, and naturally studies, probably more closely than anyone else on the ground, the team and individual displays. Sometimes, when we go to Castlecroft, manager Stanley Cullis also attends. And after our inquest the exercise usually concludes with a practice match under the direction of Bill Shorthouse.

We then return to the ground, have a bath, and the rest of the day is free.

Tuesday : This is an athletics morning, and we train at the Aldersley Stadium under the direction of Frank Morris, a well-known international runner, a qualified coach, and, as it so happens, a very keen supporter of the Wolves. Mr. Morris, however, much as he may admire our club, still puts the emphasis upon hard work once we arrive at Aldersley Stadium.

The morning starts with lapping in our gym shoes, and we usually cover around three miles. This is followed by body exercises, and then we put on our spikes and really enjoy ourselves. Frank Morris, quite rightly, understands the importance of competition to keep everyone interested, and our sprinting, hurdling, and running in general is based upon team competition.

Sometimes we have 440-yard races and relay races, and, let me repeat, the emphasis all the time is on getting superbly fit, but at the same time maintaining interest in our training.

When our morning has been completed at Aldersley Stadium we return to Molineux. In many instances we get into our cars, drive home for lunch, and report back to the club at two o'clock for another training session, this time under Joe Gardiner, the club trainer.

Tuesday-afternoon training consists of circuit training, with our trainer, a former Army P.T.I., really putting everyone on their toes. We include weight-lifting, squats, press-ups, and dumb-bells in our circuit.

Altogether we go round the circuit three times. Afterwards we have stomach exercises, and finish the afternoon with a six-a-side on the car park. We have completed our training by about four o'clock in the afternoon, and, as you may have gathered, following these exertions we are all ready for tea and maybe a rest in front of the fire.

Wednesday: After reporting at Molineux - every player has to sign a book so that the manager is aware if there are late arrivals-we travel by coach to the training ground at Castlecroft. Our first assignment is to loosen up by lapping the ground about a dozen times. Then, with coach Shorthouse, and often manager Cullis, we get down to the very serious business of work with the ball. Coaches such as Bill Shorthouse and his Wolves predecessors, George Poyser and Harry Potts, now Burnley's manager - are men brimful of ideas. They get players talking seriously about the game, and at Castlecroft we often find Bill putting into practice the ideas we may have put forward, which, in all walks of life, makes a fellow feel a little pleased with himself. On Wednesday morning we practice moves; maybe I spend some time working out throws-in with Peter Broadbent or other forwards.

The value of having a former Wolves player such as Bill Shorthouse in the role of coach can be appreciated by a player like me who has been some time with the club. Bill knows just what manager Cullis wants from us. He can guide us into playing the type of game our boss demands. And to a player assisting a club with a set style of play this guidance is of the utmost value.

Although our manager is a straight-speaking character who never hesitates to tell a player when and where he has gone wrong, I always enjoy his presence at a practice match. The former England centre-half has a wonderful eye for detecting what is wrong, and knows how to rectify the problem. When once he starts talking over such problems I always find myself absorbed by his intelligent and constructive approach to football as a whole.

After our work at Castlecroft we have the rest of the day to ourselves.

Thursday: Another athletics morning at Aldersley under Frank Morris's direction. In view of the Saturday match in two days' time the importance of conserving energy is appreciated, so after six laps of the track Morris concentrates upon body and breathing exercises. Once again I should like to stress how I understand why Mr. Morris takes this angle, for there have been occasions in the past when I have felt on a Thursday that we have tried far too hard, and the outcome has been-speaking purely for myself - a footballer who has felt rather tired when match day arrived.

There are Thursdays, I might add, when Mr. Morris takes us over to Cannock Chase for a jog, long walk, and deep-breathing exercises.

From a fitness point of view Frank Morris's athletics training has helped a large number of the players on the staff at Molineux. In my own case Mr. Morris taught me how to use my arms correctly to get "push", and there is little doubt this has added to my speed. Jimmy Murray, the Wolverhampton Wanderers and England Under-23 centre-forward, is one more player who has improved his play because of Mr. Morris's influence and knowledge. At one time Jimmy, whenever he went up to head a ball, landed on one foot. Naturally he was off balance and could not move quickly to join an attack. Once more Mr. Morris stepped in. He put Jimmy through a course of high-jumping, and Murray soon began to land on two feet. This also applied when he went up to head a ball on the football field. To many, following this coaching course, he may have appeared to be a much speedier player, but actually the small but vital point of landing on both feet was the real basis for his all-round improvement.

Friday: This is pay-day, and before reporting for training most of us receive our cheque. At Molineux this practice, which has been adopted recently by many other clubs, has been an accepted rule ever since I joined the Wolves. On Friday, too, this is the only day we stay at Molineux. Usually we loosen up in our spikes on the cinder track surrounding the pitch, perhaps have a kick-about on the car park, or a spell in the shooting-pen, and complete the morning of light work by having a massage. The afternoon is free.

Saturday : The day for which we have been preparing all week. I usually lie in bed until nine o'clock, read the papers, take my son Glen for a walk, and then, after a light lunch, report at the ground about an hour and a half before the start of the game. I'm one of those fellows who prefer to take things easily, and would far rather have plenty of time to spare, so that I can prepare carefully for a game, instead of rushing along at the last moment. After all, as it says on the wall of the Wolves dressing-room: "There's no substitute for hard work." Neither, come to that, does the good footballer go on to the field until he has thoroughly checked over his boots and other gear, and, at the same time, acquired the poise so essential if any sportsman is to produce the best performance of which he is capable.

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