McGregor, McKenna, Sutcliffe – Men Who Made the Game
Football –Official by W.C. Cuff
Let us give thanks to the fates that the great game of football had as its headstone men of sterling worth and football concern and interest. The Football League’s birth is one of the romances of the game. It was born in Birmingham where a Pickwickian character named William McGregor conceived the notion that friendly football matches were all quite well in their own stolid way but a\ gathering of all the football clans could formulate a scheme whereby each them would tackle each rival, home and away, and then –here came his biggest golden thought for the day –a league could be created. Played, won, lost, drawn, goals for, goals against, points –just as simple as that. And from that day to the present every form of sport (except cricket, which could not enter the frame-work owing to abandoned in completed and drawn matches) had founded its meetings upon that excellent plan, and league for every manner of sport have been unable to add or take away from the McGregor plan which was the Football league plan.
It was a triumphant start to football’s gathering glamour. “Pa” McGregor (“Bee’s god-father in football) was a Scot of piercing eye, discerning brain and goodly proportion of build. He would have passed for a Scottish minister. He was, however, owner of the fent shop in the Midlands. Even in those far-off days some enthusiasts of play were found to be dogmatic –the type that cannot be wrong. To such, Mr. McGregor put on a scorned expression and made practical converts to a state of demureness. As for example the grandstand spectators who vowed. “That ball was over the line; it was a goal,” Mr. McGregor begged him join in ocular demonstration. The dogmatic one kept his grandstand seat while Mr. McGregor had a ball taken to the precincts of the goal-line and the ball was duty paced in six-different portions of the goal. “Mr. Dogma” making his “tic” from afar off. When the check had been completed it was found “Mr. Dogma” had been right but once in six times –which should e a lesson to all of us. Angles and distances are most deceptive, and angels and minsters should defend us from unauthorised refereeing tasks. McGregor was a picture of a president –the first gentleman of football. Second in command as leader of the League came J.I.B which initials were known the country over by reason of the newspaper life –he became the new outspoken, practical football reader and not only did he rule the newspaper lines of the Athletic News of fond memory, but he had association with a Manchester club, being its manager. A fine athletic figure of a man J. J. Bentley was the breeze which floated over football during his reign –a Bohemian a grand comrade, and a learned football man in every phase of the game.
Third on the list was “Honest John, John McKenna, of fond memory. Here was another brilliant personality, a man of large heart body and outlook on the sporting life of our players. He suspended a truly bad football player. For the third time this player’s enthusiasm had run away with him, and he came up for judgment. I can see him now – quite an inoffensive – looking footballer; on looks without vice on the field without a thought of the other fellow’s legs. The sentence of the Commission is that you are suspended for three moths thus President McKenna who added in his breaky attertone I want to see you afterwards, young man.” The player awaited the clearance of the room and then (so the player told me) Mr. McKenna took the player to his heart and told him of his folly, of the future of the possibility that next time he “would be out of the game for ever, d’ve understand me now? “ The player learned his lesson; all was well for ever more. Another typical action of “Honest John” was shown when he was being shaved. He had a horror of the then fashionable football habit of ready-money betting on three homes or three drawn games. He eyed the barber as he raised a coupon as the receptacle for the scraped-off soap. Three papers – Mr. McKenna’s eagle-eye noticed they were all betting papers. Rising to the height during the shave, he cross-examined the barber regarding his traffic in football coupons. “Oh, that,” said the barber “Oh, that’s nothing Mr. McKenna, I buy the surplus coupons not sent out by the bookmaker. Mr. McKenna sank into his chair. Another time for Mr. McKenna’s intervention arose when a Liverpool footballer of rousing style was sent off the field for striking an opponent. The revered Sir William Clegg was at the head of the Commission and was about to rest the footballer for six months, when Mr. McKenna spoke in defence. He claimed the offending player had been called an opprobrious name, which, to Liverpool people, is the greatest insult a man can suffer. He would not have been a Britisher if he had not retaliated. “I would have taken the same action in the same circumstances,” said Mr. McKenna. Case dismissed with a caution!
The fourth president was Mr. Charles E. Sutcliffe, of Rawtenstall –a man hated by many because he would not tolerate hypocrisy. He had been a referee for years, he had been a counsellor, and now as President he was the best brains the Football league ever had or could hope to have. Charles Sutcliffe was “nothing to look at” –he had neither height nor personality, but football owes him everlasting debt for his ability in helping football through its most difficult periods. He had learned to face difficulties. Did he not retire from a scolding football crowd at Sunderland attired as a Police constable – as forecast the same day by Bee, by a cartoon on the Lloyd George escapade at Birmingham Town Hall when he dodged bricks and tiles by attiring himself in a constable’s clothing. Yes, he same week Charles Sutcliffe borrowed Lloyd George’s cloak to escape personal injury. It was Charles Sutcliffe whose fertile brain created the fixture lists for the season –a most difficult task which everyone else thought –easy because they knew not that every fixture had to be clear from neighbouring opposition, if possible and when you had teams like Bolton, Blackburn, Bury, of Villa, Birmingham, West Bromwich and Wolves, the task of splitting the football atom asunder was anything but easy. Charles Sutcliffe managed it, and also managed to be the only authority of the game who foresaw the fiasco that was Wembley in the first Final tie issue. Charles Sutcliffe, in the columns of the Football Echo, wrote for months on end forecasting he debacle. He warned and was unheard or unnoticed. He advised that football authorities should take control of the gate. His words fell on stony ground, and everyone knows how near the first Wembley final was to being abandoned. It crept to its 90th minute with every regulation football knows being broken. The crowds encroached the touchline till one could not see whether a ball was in play or out of play. Some of the players believed the game was being played as a friendly to prevent a riot. West Ham’s captain, the present manager of Liverpool F.C (Mr. George Kay), did not see one goal scored against his side –he was busy picking himself out of the crowd into which he had plunged in one of his desperate efforts. He heard the shout, he knew the worst, but he saw nought. Yes, Charles Sutcliffe was the greatest President –the brains-behind the movements of pay, players control and creation. And this is where I came in as President, very happy to be in line with great men of a great game. I was deeply conscious of the honour conferred on me and, of course, on my club, Everton F.C.
Copyright - The Liverpool Echo- Transcribed by http://www.bluecorrespondent.co.nr