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|Ken Aston Referee Society ~ Football Encyclopedia Bible|
Administrators and Managers
|Source - References|
|Source - References|
(1) Peter Lupson, Thank God for Football (2006)
The same year that Beecroft became president of Aston Villa FC, a 31 year-old Scotsman who was to change the whole course of football history became a member of the committee. William McGregor had left his native Perthshire in 1870 to take advantage of the business opportunities that Birmingham presented. He bought a linen draper's shop on the corner of Brearley Street and Summer Lane (in Aston) where he was to remain in business for the rest of his life. McGregor had got to know fellow Scot George Ramsay and the two men had become firm friends. Ramsay managed to persuade McGregor to become involved with Aston Villa. It proved to be an astute move because McGregor was a visionary and energetic leader and he helped make Villa the most successful and prestigious club in the country. Even today there is a visible reminder of his influence: it was at his suggestion that the Scottish national symbol of a lion rampant was adopted as the club's badge. But his name in football will forever be associated with something even greater than the famous club itself. He was the creator of the Football League.
McGregor was a committed Christian widely respected for his honesty and integrity. The Reverend W. G. Percival, a pastor at the Congregational church in Wheeler Street, Aston, where McGregor worshipped for over 40 years, said at his funeral service that the best thing about him "was not so much the genial, kindly, honest sports man, but it was the Christian behind it all". He described him as "a man of absolutely unblemished personal character". Charles Crump, president of the Birmingham County Football Association, stated in the local press that he `stood for all that was best and cleanest in the great game of football: People found it impossible to dislike him even if they disagreed with him, and it was said of him that he never made an enemy and never lost a friend.
It did not take long for McGregor to make his presence felt at Aston Villa. One particular problem that faced the committee was the players' drinking habits. Many of them were regularly giving training a miss, preferring to spend their time in local pubs, and some even turned up drunk for matches. Something had to be done. Determined to instill new habits in the players, McGregor, a lifelong teetotaler, decided to rent a room at a coffee house in Aston High Street and to compel them to attend social gatherings and musical events each Monday during the season. It might be more than just a coincidence that Villa enjoyed considerable success not long afterwards.
McGregor and Ramsay were a formidable partnership. Within three years of McGregor's arrival they had established the club as a force to be reckoned with in local football. A 22-0 win against Small Heath (the forerunners of Birmingham City) gives some indication of their strength at the time. The recruitment in 1878 of 19-year-old Archie Hunter, another Scot who had come to Birmingham in search of work, was a particularly inspired move. Hunter, whose impressive playing style and sense of sportsmanship made him a favorite with the fans, was considered to be the best centre-forward of his day and he was one of football's first superstars. His influence in the side was considerable and when Ramsay retired from playing in 1880 through injury, Hunter took over the captaincy.
(2) William McGregor, letter (2nd March, 1888)
Every year it is becoming more and more difficult for football clubs of any standing to meet their friendly engagements and even arrange friendly matches. The consequence is that at the last moment, through cup-tie interference, clubs are compelled to take on teams who will not attract the public.
I beg to tender the following suggestion as a means of getting over the difficulty: that ten or twelve of the most prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home-and-away fixtures each season, the said fixtures to be arranged at a friendly conference about the same time as the International Conference.
This combination might be known as the Association Football Union, and could be managed by representative from each club. Of course, this is in no way to interfere with the National Association; even the suggested matches might be played under cup-tie rules. However, this is a detail.
My object in writing to you at present is merely to draw your attention to the subject, and to suggest a friendly conference to discuss the matter more fully. I would take it as a favor if you would kindly think the matter over, and make whatever suggestions you deem necessary.
I am only writing to the following - Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Preston North End, West Bromwich Albion, and Aston Villa, and would like to hear what other clubs you would suggest.
I am, yours very truly, William McGregor (Aston Villa F.C.)
(3) J. A. H. Catton, The Story of Association Football (1926)
Several have done fine work for The Football League. Mr. William McGregor, the Father of the League, long ago entered into his rest, but his portrait is ever with us in the handbook of this organization.
A Scotch lad, born at Braco, in Perthshire, he only saw rough, crude football, without rules, as a boy. When he took up his residence in Birmingham, he eventually became identified with Aston Villa.
He saw the difficulties clubs were placed in and the only way out of them. Above all things Mr. McGregor was practical, and from what he told me years after the League was a success, his one regret was he did not insist upon a territorial qualification for all the players. He said: "It's too late now."
But if he had taken that view, and his notion had been incorporated in the rules, I doubt whether such a regulation would have endured to this day.
When he was young the late Mr. J.J. Bentley accomplished much valuable work for this federation of clubs, and followed Mr. McGregor as President of the League. He was, moreover, one of the keenest and cutest judges of a player I ever knew. At heart he was a generous man.
His successor, Mr. John McKenna, has always appealed to the public as the personal embodiment of John Bull, as straight as a ramrod, as blunt and as frank as a man can be, and yet full of the milk of human kindness and of Irish humor. It is the universal opinion that, like Mr. Clegg, he is the right man for the Presidential chair. He had a helpful and loyal lieutenant in Mr. John Lewis.
Mr. John Lewis was very much of the same disposition as Mr. Clegg. I can pay him no higher compliment that I can conceive. Generally known as "the brains of the League," Mr. C.E. Sutcliffe, another Lancastrian, carries great weight in the chamber of the Management Committee and at the annual meetings of the League, for he has an inventive mind and finds a solution for nearly every football problem.
Such have been the leaders of the people's game. Is it any wonder that Association football is the people's pastime?
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