Hail the 1922 Champions
The supreme event in the Eastertide football was the decision of the League championship. When Liverpool had the honour of defeating last season’s winners, Burnley, and on the same day Oldham Athletic overcame Tottenham Hotspur at Boundary Park, the premiership of the First Division was beyond argument, for the North London club, which alone threatened to wrest the prize from Liverpool, could not do so even if they won all their matches and Liverpool finished their programme in absolute ignominy.
With their visit to Cardiff City merged in the past, the Liverpool eleven have their fixtures with West Bromwich Albion to decide. These will be most interesting, as no doubt the new champions will be eager to prove that their exit from The Association Cup was one of those misfortunes which overtake the best, while the Albion will be keen to keep the champions as far as possible below the record 60 points which the South Staffordshire club established in 1919-20.
This is the third time since this century dawned that Liverpool have been League champions, as they gained this distinction in 1900-01 and in 1905-06, but it is doubtful if they ever had such an evenly-balanced and consistent set of players as at present.
Necessarily the figures are incomplete, but we anticipate that their achievement will bear analysis and comparison with their performances in those years. We congratulate them on their triumph, on their team spirit, on their unity fore and aft, on the armour-plate character of their defence, and on the cleanliness of their style.
An international defence.
It may be that the forwards of Liverpool might have scored more goals. But even goals have a relative value. Their opponents have, no doubt, been satisfied with the achievements of the vanguard.
The forwards of their adversaries had, at the time the championship was decided, only obtained 31 goals in 39 matches, compared with 35 in 34 matches during 1900-01 and 46 in 38 matches in 1905-06.
The defensive divisions of Liverpool – Elisha Scott, Tommy Lucas, Donald Mackinlay, Ephraim Longworth, and Ted Parry – is wholly international in rank. The brilliance of Scott and his mates has only been equalled by their consistency.
When it is known that at the hour the championship was decided Liverpool had played 17 games and kept their goal intact, and just as many more matches involving a forfeit of only one goal each, it will be seen that in only five fixtures had their stronghold been captured more than once.
On April 8 Oldham Athletic beat the defence of the champions four times. That is their heaviest deficit. Sunderland and Middlesbrough obtained three goals, and Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers each two. No other team has had the comfort of more than a goal.
The one League match lost at Anfield was the penalty of success. On March 18, Bolton Wanderers mastered the champions by 2-0, but Lucas, Bromilow, and Chambers were helping The League to smite the Scottish League, and Mackinlay was injured near the interval. Liverpool were entitled to sympathy, and they proved that the form was false when they visited Bolton a week later.
Defence is always the foundation of success in collective games, and even in some forms of sport where the individual has to rely on his own resources. Scott is unquestionably the world’s greatest goalkeeper, and no club has two pairs of backs so reliable and polished as Liverpool.
They are not impetuous, lunging, heavy charging players, but calculating, surefooted in kicking, and just sufficiently forcible in tackling.
Contrasts at half-back.
The half-backs have presented contrasts, but they have all proved valuable in their different styles. The artist has been Tom Bromilow. It has been said repeatedly that team managers have found left half-backs the most difficult position on the field to fill to their satisfaction.
That idea arrived before the famine in centre-forwards. We make no comparisons, but Bromilow is a player of the McWilliam type – that is to say, he achieves his purposes by footwork and the exercise of ingenuity.
Walter Wadsworth is an intervener, a breaker-up of combination, with a more robust method. With Bamber stricken by appendicitis McNabb has been most often seen at right half-back, and he has been very resolute. A footballer of his possibilities will probably become more refined.
As a line these men have been very effective in their dual capacity.
The Champions Attack.
The Liverpool forwards have been subject to considerable change. It is true that Dick Forshaw and Fred Hopkin have never been absent, but with the breakdown of Dick Johnson, the promising young centre-forward of the previous season, a problem arose.
Four men have been seen at centre-forward and three at inside left. Not until early in January was it determined to retain Harry Chambers at centre-forward and keep Harry Lewis at inside left.
That the directors decided wisely is patent, as Chambers scored his nineteenth goal on Easter Monday; whereas Harry Beadles, Billy Matthews (now at Bristol City), and Danny Shone had between them only then accounted for 13 goals.
Dick Forshaw, has developed his scoring capacity, and he shot his sixteenth goal on Monday. Thus Chambers and Forshaw have accounted for 35 out of the 58 goals, leaving 23 among the rest of the team.
Now Fred Hopkin, the outside left, has never scored, and William Lacey, the outside right, only once. They have, however, been fertile providers, and if only that industrious forager and untiring initiator, Harry Lewis, had been a marksman, there would have been no criticism to level at the scoring capacity of the champions.
A model of unity.
No team ever embodied all the talents and all the virtues, in spite of ear-haunting phrases of the past. The success of Liverpool is primarily due to the way the men have blended, have combined to help each other, and have been a happy family.
It is the old, old story of the bundle of twigs. Their strength has been unity. Eleven of the men who have co-operated have shared in the honours which national associations and The League can bestow, and seven of them in international matches this season.
The team-manager, David Ashworth, has every reason to be proud of the 22 men who have worn the club’s red jersey. He has helped them with the fruits of his experience, and they have responded to is advice. Mr. Ashworth has followed up his good work as a referee with much success in club life.
Inexpensive and local colour.
But there are other aspects of Liverpool’s triumph that ought not to be overlooked. The club has not purchased its exalted position by paying extravagant transfer fees. Hopkins is the one man who has entailed any considerable expenditure, and he about £2,500.
The nucleus of the eleven was discovered in the emergency football of war-time. The candidates were carefully assorted, and of the 22 players who have appeared in the first eleven, ten were found in Liverpool or its environs, and are mostly natives, while two others are Lancashire lads.
Three players have birth qualifications for Scotland, three for Wales, and two for Ireland, while three hail from the North-East recruiting ground. It is, too, worth noting that John Bamber, Harry Chambers, Ephraim Longworth, William Lacey, Tommy Lucas, Donald Mackinlay, Elisha Scott, and Walter Wadsworth were on the club’s League list of retained players, as on April 30, 1915. Chambers was then unknown, and Bamber and Lucas were on the threshold of their interesting careers.
The position of Liverpool to-day suggests that money is not indispensable in building a team and that there is material in local areas if it is sought and taught.
Hail, the champions!
(The Athletic News, 24-04-1922) - transcribed by Kjell Hansen at Playupliverpool.com