Thursday, 30 April 2020

The remarkable story of how Sunderland attracted a million fans to Roker Park in 1949-50 but lost the title due to a crucial injury to their top striker

In 1949-50, Sunderland AFC for the only time ever had over a million fans at their home League matches. The Wearsiders would almost certainly have won the title if not for an injury to the top scorer that season. Here is Dickie Davis's story for the season. Davis scored 25 League goals and was in great form as the season moved towards its climax. 

Adolf Hitler’s attacking ambitions delayed Birmingham-born Richard ‘Dickie’Davis’s League debut for Sunderland until he was aged twenty-four. He didn’t get on the scoresheet away to Leeds in December 1946, but when the Wearsiders returned to Roker Park he grabbed his first League goal against Liverpool. It proved to be one of five during the season. 
However, with manager Bill Murray preferring Cliff Whitelum at centre-forward, Davis was forced to bide his time at the start of the following season, being switched to inside- forward before finally appearing to make the number 9 shirt his own. 
The 1948–49 season was therefore a frustrating one as Davis found himself sharing the centre-forward spot with Ronnie Turnbull in a side in which record signing ‘Clown Prince’ Len Shackleton was the undoubted star. Davis was missing when Sunderland sensationally crashed out of the FA Cup when beaten by non-leaguers Yeovil Town. Having scored just seven times during the 1948–49 season, there was little to suggest that Davis, standing 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighing just over 11 stones, was about to set the First Division alight at the start of the 1949–50 season. 
Yet within 41 minutes of the opening match, Davis had knocked home his first of the season, and although Liverpool had beaten Sunderland 4-2 at Anfield, there was enough in Sunderland’s performance to suggest they were going to have a decent season. This was confirmed in the next game at Burnley, when the sides shared four goals, one of which Davis struck home on 12 minutes. It was reward for a fine performance that had the Journal reporter at the game stating, ‘Davis proved a constant menace to the Burnley goal. Cummings did a good job against him but could not prevent the centre forward putting in some dangerous shots.’ 
Shackleton was at his magnificent best when Sunderland played their first home game of the season, notching up two in a 4-2 victory against Arsenal, the Wearsiders’ first against the Gunners in fourteen years. Davis failed to get on the scoresheet and after five games without a goal, he was under pressure to deliver when Sunderland ran out to play Derby at the Baseball Ground in the eighth League game of the season. When he notched up Sunderland’s second just before half-time the away side seemed set to run out easy winners, but three second-half goals by the home side saw The Rams capture both points. 
Sunderland’s indifferent start to the season looked like it might continue when, with just 13 minutes of the home game to play against WBA, the score was tied. Then Davis, receiving a pass from Jack Stelling, pivoted sharply and shot past Jim Sanders to ensure a 2-1 victory. It was just the tonic he and his side needed, and the following weekend the man who’d guested for Aston Villa during the war was in impressive form against Manchester United at Old Trafford. First, on 9 minutes he hit a powerful shot that was going past ’keeper Jack Compton, only for Johnny Carey to get the last touch. Today such a goal would recorded as the striker’s, but if Davis was disappointed he didn’t show it as 6 minutes later, he eluded Allenby Chilton and met a perfect Tommy Reynolds centre first time, Sunderland eventually running off 3-1 winners. 
Sunderland’s next away game was at Newcastle and Davis was again to add his name to the scoresheet. There were doubts about whether his shot had crossed the line in a 2-2 draw, but there were no doubts about the quality of the finish, a back-heeler in a crowded goalmouth from 15 yards out. It was the sort of goal only a player in form would have attempted and Davis followed it up by opening the scoring in the first minute of the following weekend’s 2-1 home victory against Fulham.Two further goals followed in the next game at Roker Park, a header and then a tap-in after the Charlton legend Sam Bartram inexplicably dropped a simple cross at the centre-forward’s feet. 
With Sunderland and Davis maintaining their form into the New Year, the Wearsiders travelled to face Birmingham City in mid-January. The Blues had in goal one of England’s greatest ’keepers in Gil Merrick, but on 67 minutes he was to be left helpless by a magnificent Davis goal. Shackleton had crossed, but with the ball going away from both Davis and the goal, there seemed little danger before the Sunderland man leapt backwards to flick the ball over his head and past the startled Birmingham number one. 
It proved to be a crucial match winner and with his confidence now raised to new heights, Davis struck his first hat-trick when he scored half his side’s goals in a 6-1demolition of Derby. If there was then the shock of being well-beaten 5-1 at Second-Division Spurs in the FA Cup, it was not enough to prevent Sunderland continuing their League progress. 
Cup holders Wolverhampton Wanderers had a fine defence with England international Billy Wright at the centre and the man many feel is the best ever between the sticks for the Black Country side, Bert ‘the Cat’ Williams. Dickie Davis, though, was now in sparkling form and on 11 March 1950 he notched his second hat-trick of the season as Sunderland won 3-1 at Molineux. Centre-half Bill Shorthouse gave his much smaller opponent a right battering, but it failed to prevent him running off at the top of the First Division goal scorers’ chart with a total of twenty-three. It soon became twenty-five, as having hit the equalising goal at Fratton Park against reigning champions Portsmouth in a 1-1 draw, Dickie Davis then grabbed Sunderland’s second in a 2-2 draw at the Valley, nodding home a Tommy Wright cross with just three minutes remaining. 
Davis was off the scoresheet in the next two games. Both were played at Roker Park and it was the man playing at inside right, next to him, who was the star. Ivor Broadis had been Carlisle’s player-manager when Sunderland had enquired about employing his services, and so he duly became the first man to transfer himself when he moved from the west to the east coast at a cost of £18,000 in January 1949. After hitting both goals in a 2-0 win against Villa, Broadis again got both goals as Middlesbrough returned down the north-east coast beaten 2-0. The result, though, had come at a cost, Davis being injured in a collision with Boro ’keeper Rolando Ugolini that saw him limp out the second half on the wing. 
There were thirty-six games of the season gone and Davis had played in thirty-three of them and notched up twenty-five goals. He had scored 11 in the last twelve League games. 

Sunderland were just coming into form, and since losing to Stoke City at the Victoria Ground in late December had played twelve League games unbeaten, winning eight of them. 
Len Duns had been a fine servant for Sunderland, playing at Wembley when Preston were beaten in the FA Cup Final in 1937 and earlier collecting a League winner’s medal. He hadn’t, though, played a League game in over a year. Drafted in to play outside right, Sunderland reshuffled with Tommy Wright moved to play centre forward. Fulham were easily beaten 3-0 at Craven Cottage, but with Middlesbrough fighting for their lives a derby match at Ayresome Park was always going to be a difficult test. So it proved, as Sunderland went down 2-0. 
The performance saw further changes in the starting line up for the must-win home game with Manchester City. Bert Trautmann twice saved one of Stelling’s penalty kicks as Sunderland flopped 2-1. When Sunderland subsequently lost a third consecutive game, at Huddersfield, they were out of the title race even after they beat Everton 4-2 at home in the penultimate match of the season before what was easily the smallest home crowd of the season at 23,519. This dropped the Wearsiders average gate to 47,785, which is still the highest in the club’s history. 
Davis returned for the final match of the season and scored twice as Chelsea were beaten 4-2 before a Roker Park crowd of just 21,567, the lowest of the season. This was slightly fear than the 23,519 who had watched the Everton match. Yet despite these paltry attendances the 1949-50 season is when Sunderland recorded their highest average gates at 47,785. There were 21 League home games meaning 1,003,485 fans passed through the turnstiles during the season. The average home gate for the first 19 matches of the season was 50,442. 
Davis’s absence in the five of the last six games of the season had proven crucial and although he ended up with the honour of being the First Division top-scorer, he would surely have traded it for a League winner’s medal. Sunderland finished in third place just a point behind Champions Portsmouth. One more victory and a seventh title would have been recorded. 
Dickie Davis was to go on and make a total of 154 first team appearances for Sunderland before departing to play for Darlington in May 1954 after having hit seventy-nine goals on Wearside. The 1949–50 season was clearly the finest during his relatively short career. Sunderland were the League top scorers with eighty-three and Davis hit twenty-five of them. They included a beauty at St Andrews and two hat-tricks during a season in which Davis demonstrated his all-round goal-scoring abilities with goals from both left and right feet and his head. By finishing three goals in front of second-placed Stan Mortensen and Derby’s Jackie Stamps, Davis had shown that on his day he was up there with the best. 

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

29 April 1911 and Manchester United win their second League title

29 April 1911 saw Manchester United win their second First Division title in four years when they beat Sunderland 5-1 before a crowd of 12,000 at Old Trafford, where Manchester United had first played a match against Liverpool on 19 February 1910. Like many future affairs with the Scousers this proved to be a thrilling occasion in which the away side took both points home in a 4-3 win. The opening goal of the match was scored by home forward Sandy Turnbull who hurled himself forward to head the ball from just a foot off the ground beyond Sam Hardy, one of English football’s greatest ever keepers. 

Sam Hardy was a great keeper 

Inside left Turnbull was brilliant in the air and regularly got on the end of the crosses from outside right Billy Meredith. Both men had played for Manchester City at the 1904 FA Cup Final against Bolton at the Crystal Palace which City won by a single Meredith goal. Five season later, 1908/09, Turnbull had been the player to score the only goal in an FA Cup Final as Manchester United beat Bristol City at the Crystal Palace to win the famous trophy for the first time. 

In the previous season, 1907-08, Manchester United had also won the Division One title for the first time ever. Ernest Mangnall’s side virtually blew the opposition away at the start of the season by winning 13 and losing just one of their first 14 League fixtures. Away to League Champions Newcastle United on 12 October 1907 they scored three in each half to win 6-1 with Meredith scoring the sixth, collecting a fine pass from centre half Charlie Roberts before smashing it past Jimmy Lawrence from 20 yards out. When the final whistle sounded, Newcastle fans cheered the away side from the pitch. 

George Wall 

In the second half of the season, Manchester United, perhaps because they were so far in front, lost focus but they still had the title as good as wrapped up when they won 3-1 away to Everton with six matches remaining. Outside left George Wall was one of the scorers at Goodison Park and he netted 19 League goals during the season, just six less than Turnbull. 

The Manchester United side had a formidable half-back line up of Dick Duckworth, Alec Bell and Charlie Roberts, an imposing 6’ tall figure weighing over 13 stone who could cover 100 yards in 11 seconds. Roberts’ heading, tackling, and positional play and his passing was unmatched in the First Division at this time. Darlington born Roberts though was to make just a handful of England appearances. He was kept out of the side by Bristol City’s Sam Wedlock, a fine player it is true but what did not help Roberts cause was that he objected strongly against his poor pay and also his working conditions that meant he could not move on to anther club unless his employers agreed to release him. When they finally did in 1913, Roberts was past his best and yet Oldham Athletic were still happy enough to invest £1,000 in him. The large expense nearly paid off as the Latics almost - probably should have - won the League title in 1914/15.

Charlie Roberts 

Roberts and Meredith were key men in the fight by professional players and trainers to establish a trade union of their own in the first decade of the twentieth century. A maximum wage of £4 a week had been imposed on the players and considering that some of the top ones had been getting paid £10 a week at the turn of the century they naturally felt embittered. 

Players knew of the case of James Trainer, the brilliant Preston North End and Wales keeper from the 1880s and 90s, who was later forced to turn to begging when his company went bust and he could find no other income. Incidents where players had died whilst playing for the clubs, including Thomas Blackstock at Manchester United in April 1907 and Dai Jones in 1902 at Manchester City, was bad enough but when their grieving families also had to fight for any form of compensation then revolt was in the air.

A union was formed at the Imperial Hotel, Manchester on 2 December 1907. Initially the players had the support of some of the clubs but this quickly changed such that the FA told all the players they must leave the union by 1 July 1909 or be sacked by their clubs.

Manchester United players decided to do their pre-season training at Fallowfield, home to Manchester Athletic Club. Reporters arrived to interview the rebels and Roberts helped create a legend when he obtained a piece of wood and wrote on it ‘Outcasts Football Club 1909.’

Billy Meredith 

A shabby compromise that neither Roberts or Meredith was party to then saw the FA recognise the new union, which in return agreed not to take  strike action. Pay went up by just a £1 a week and it was to be decades before players got the rewards they were entitled to.

Meredith, who played an incredible 48 times for Wales, himself had sought additional means of earning a living. He had revealed in 1904 that at Manchester City he was being paid £10 a week, way over the maximum wage allowed and when this led to an enquiry the Citizens were ordered by the FA to sell all their players. This they did in December 1906 when Turnbull, Dick Duckworth, James Bannister all moved to Manchester United along with Meredith, who had already been provided with sufficient finance by the Manchester United owner John Henry Davies to allow the Welsh international to open a city centre sports outfitters. 

Meredith’s first game for his new club was on New Year’s Day 1907. Away to Aston Villa< Manchester United won stylishly by 4-1. Meredith netted two although Roberts was man-of-the-match. United steadily rose up the table to finish the campaign in eighth place. The following season they won the League, started the 1908/09 season by winning the Charity Shield and topped it by winning the FA Cup.

Although 1910 proved a barren year the arrival of centre forward Enoch West from Nottingham Forest, where he had finished as the League top scorer in 1907/08, at the start of the 1910/11 season again gave Manchester United a cutting edge up front. All-action West was to score 19 League goals in his first season at Old Trafford, topping Turnbull by one. West was also top scorer at Old Trafford in the following two seasons. 

When the season started, Manchester United and Sunderland were tied in a race for top spot. When the sides clashed at Roker Park on Christmas Eve, the away side won courtesy of a last minute goal by Meredith as the Wearsiders dropped from top spot. In January, Everton took a two goal lead at Old Trafford but the home side rallied and after Duckworth scored with a great drive, Wall hit a last minute equaliser. 

Against Bristol City at home, ‘keeper Hugh Edmonds, signed from Bolton and where he was a reserve keeper, made his debut as Harry Moger, 6’ 2’ tall, was out injured for the rest of the season. Edmonds played the final 13 League games and by doing so collected a League Championship medal. The Robins were beaten 3-1 and then Newcastle United were beaten 1-0 on their own ground with Harold Halse scoring for Manchester United who were now tied in a race with the title with Aston Villa.

The Birmingham side appeared to have take a big advantage when before a 51,000 home crowd they beat Manchester United 2-1 in a game in which West and George Hunter were dismissed after they tangled with one another. 

Enoch West 

The victorious side traveled to Blackburn Rovers knowing that victory would as good as give them the title. The game ended goalless after Charlie Wallace missed a penalty, a feat he repeated two years later at the 1913 FA Cup Final against Sunderland. That failed to stop Villa taking the trophy in a 1-0 success.

Villa now faced a trip to Anfield on the last day of the season. Victory would give them title, whilst a 1-1 draw would open the race to Manchester United to win the First Division with Mangnall’s side then needing a victory by three goals or more to finish top on goal average. 

Many Manchester United fans were pessimistic about their title chances. In an era when to catch a cold could be deadly, heavy rain kept many supporters away from the match and just 12,000 attended. Despondency quickly set in. West missed two chances and then George Holley put the Wearsiders in front. Turnbull was a never say die competitive player and he soon headed his side level. 

Just before the interval West, craning every muscle, headed Meredith’s corner into the net and then Halse quickly made it 3-1 before half time. All eyes now turned to the half time scoreboard which had been introduced at the start of the season to coincide with the launch of the programme. Villa were losing 2-1.

On their return to the pitch, Halse, from a Meredith centre made it 4-1 before an under pressure Albert Milton, who like Sandy Turnbull was to later lose his life on active service during WWI, put the ball into his own net to make it Manchester United 5 Sunderland 1.

At Anfield, Villa gave it a real go in the second half but when John McDonald netted for Liverpool on 89 minutes the title was now Manchester United’s who finished the season on 52 points, 1 ahead of Aston Villa and seven ahead of third placed Sunderland. 

Manchester United were to later win the Charity Shield for the second time when they beat Southern League side Swindon Town 8-4 at Stamford Bridge at the beginning of the following season with Halse scoring six. 

The 1910/11 success was, if anything, a greater feat than the one in 1907/08 when Manchester United had been fortunate in largely avoiding injuries to their players. In 1910/11 just five players made more than 30 League appearances and just two more exceeded 25 from the total of 38 matches. Mangnall was constantly having to make changes and his signing of Edmunds to replace the reliable Moger proved to have been an astute gamble. 

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Procurator Fiscal considers death of Lesley Whitfield in a forest near Castle Douglas

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), which is responsible for the prosecution of crime in Scotland, has received a report from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in connection with the death of Lesley Whitfield, aged 42, who died on 28 November 2018, in an incident involving a quad bike in a forest near Castle Douglas.

A COPFS spokesperson said: "The HSE investigation into the death is being considered by the Crown’s Health and Safety Investigation Unit (HSIU) and the family will continue to be kept updated in relation to any significant developments."

A year previous to the tragedy, Unite had warned through its Forestry Commission lead rep Neil Grieve that in Scotland: “Private companies are doing some of the harvesting, road repairs and replanting. This could reduce the direct workplace and we are aware that, just like in Wales, the employees are not enjoying decent terms and conditions.

“They are being exploited by being employed on zero-hours contracts. For the first time in my 30 year career I have seen planting contractors who are living in tents in the forests.”

Whitfield was one of 32 killed across the agricultural, forestry and fishing sector, around 22% of the total deaths of 147 at work across the UK, in 2018/19. This sector is the most dangerous one and as of early November 2019 another 9 workers within it had lost their lives. 

When the lockdown is over come see how land can be used to grow more food

Many thanks to Mark Harvey of ID Photography for allowing me to use his photographs with this article. All photographs are copyright Mark Harvey. 

Come enjoy a beautiful walk whilst seeing how even difficult locations can be used to grow food 

Let’s be straight, sitting in the house, no matter how well intentioned, is not going to be good for most of us. It will be smashing to get back out into the great outdoors. Fresh air and a chance to walk up on the hills will never feel so good. 

With this in mind please accept an invite, when things get back to something resembling normal, to come along one Sunday to the Croasdale Valley, near Slaidburn, Lancashire and see the landscape like you have never seen it before. We will follow the road originally made by Romans in order to bring salt to their troops - moving between Ilkley and Ribchester; hence it is now called 'the Salt Road'.

Fact is we can do all sorts of things with land - or rather the soil that makes the Earth what it is. It often needs a lot of toil to make the soil work well. Soil and toil. Land and labour. If we want to change the food we eat, it starts here as we are going on a tour. 

Your guides will be renowned soil scientist Charlie Clutterbuck and his assistant, Mark Metcalf. 

You’ll get an opportunity to see how even the most difficult of locations can be used to harvest different types of trees and food, whilst providing perfect pasture for sheep and cattle and many species of birds and insects. 
Photo copyright of Mark Harvey 

Clutterbuck can speak with authority as he will be back on the site where he farmed over four decades ago. As Britain is clearly going to need to rethink its food and farming policies after the CV19 crisis has exposed some major faults then this day out will not only be a chance to take in some remarkable scenery but an opportunity to discuss how to recapture the countryside so it can be more effectively used for all. 

Here’s a little taster of what you’ll hear of:-

Oats:  from 1870 the area growing cereals in England and Wales dropped about a 1/3 from about 3,500kh to 2,500kh. Most of this loss is due to less oats, which would have been grown mainly for horses, but would now do wonders for reducing cholesterol levels. Wheat land dropped by half from 1870 to the start of WW2, as British Agriculture was pushed into recession due to increased food imports from all over the world.

Swede can be grown as a fodder crop for cattle and sheep..better than buying in maize or soya as many do now. We import £800m worth of soya - why? Most is for animal feed. 

Sheep can graze on the moors and so to can cattle such as Belted Galloways, that require virtually no bought-in food and graze lightly.

Skylarks - in lots of moorland locations little has changed significantly in over a century. What has changed is the sounds. Many were renowned for the birds that breed there, including curlews, skylarks, golden plover, peregrines and merlins. Their calls and the music they have inspired evoke our classic countryside.  You would have seen flocks of lapwings falling out of the sky. Between mid-March and mid-July these birds court, make nests in the heather and grass, lay eggs and raise chicks. 

These birds have all but disappeared. You may hear an occasional curlew but that is about it.
The reason for this can be seen in the number of farms nowadays with great piles of black plastic bags.

When Charlie farmed, he took 'hay'. This was usually cut in August often finding it hard to get a few dry days together, which is what was needed to dry the hay properly - or 'sweet' as we'd say. The hay was often stored damp leading to its giving off fungal spores that caused 'farmers lung' - a very disabling disease especially for farmers getting older. 

Those piles of black bags store 'silage'. This is grass cut much earlier - starting often in June and allowing 2 or 3 cuts each year. While not quite as good as hay, it is nevertheless much more reliable crop. But in the process of taking more, earlier cuts, it means many birds nests - and their chicks, get cut down too. 

Birch - Much fell land was originally forest, till we cut it down several hundred years ago to build warships that could colonise the world for spices and exotic  foods.  But that land that was forest could today grow forests again, some of which could be used for biofuel and some for fruit and nuts. Not impossible. Afforesting (growing forest where once it grew) grouse moors would improve carbon footprint more than any other single action. But landowners are not going to like it. 

There will also on the day be a chance to see just how the large landowners are being subsidised by the rest of us because the walk will also take in a section of the hillside that has been set aside for grouse shooting. Marvel at the millions spent through public subsidies on providing a nice new shiny road for those willing to spend thousands slaughtering those defenceless birds. Then lets see if we can spot a hen harrier, a species that is perfect for the environment we will be walking on but who seem to hardly exist these days and who keep mysteriously disappearing. 

 Finally, you will be able to honour those poor wretches, the Pendle Witches, ten of whom were forced to trudge the 11-mile long walk in 1612 from Slaidburn to Wray, then on to Lancaster prison, where they were hung. The Salt road looks out over Pendle - how must those poor women have felt as they trudged this same path all those years ago. You will see that the Grand Mansions of the landed gentry still exist whilst the hovels of those accused are harder to find.

Find out how today’s large landowners, including the Bannister family that spawned the famous 4 minute mile runner Roger, are descended from those who slaughtered the Pendle Witches 400 years ago. 

Now if that isn’t enough to dig out walking boots out then I don’t know what is, especially as there are quite a few great hostelries to go and have a pint or two in afterwards.   

For more details contact either myself on 07392 852561

07809 571612 

Shifting gears - will the pandemic lead to a new era for labour relations?

Big Issue North magazine, 27 April - 3 May 2020

Trade unions have done much to bring about protection for workers during the pandemic, sometimes in co-operation with employers. Mark Metcalf assesses workplace conditions and asks whether this heralds a new era for labour relations

“We worked fast and hard when the penny finally dropped for the government that it needed to work with the unions.”

Trade unions have found it difficult on many building sites to get employers to close down and pay furlough

The government’s radical action to pay employers to furlough staff at the start of the coronavirus epidemic shocked many observers. The sight of Conservative ministers effectively nationalising large swathes of the economy showed the scale of threat to the economy. Less noticed was the role of trade unions in bringing about this protection for workers.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC), made up of unions representing around 6.5 million workers – about 25 per cent of the UK workforce has also sought safety equipment for vulnerable workers and the adoption of distancing among staff to restrict the spread of the deadly virus. In some cases unions have agreed deals with companies that mean employees receive full salaries, not just the 80 per cent underwritten by the government.

Co-operation with employers has been such that the CBI, Britain’s biggest business lobby group, believes the pandemic shows how business and trade unions “can find common ground in the interests of employers and workers”, according to its policy director Matthew Fell. “We both fed ideas to the government on ways to support workers and businesses.”

Schools were the first public body closed by Boris Johnson. “The National Education Union (NEU) was campaigning for action as we knew schools were key circulation points for the virus,” says an NEU rep who wished to remain anonymous. “The NEU has members who are cleaners and we have sought PPE for them. Vulnerable staff with underlying medical conditions and those with elderly parents have not been asked to come to schools that are open for the teaching of children of key workers.”

At shop floor level, elected workplace reps have looked to find common ground with bosses. But where this has proven impossible there have been tensions. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has promised to lodge unfair dismissal claims in support of members if employers have chosen not to use the furlough scheme but instead to lay them off.

“We worked fast and hard when the penny finally dropped for the government that it needed to work with the unions, to get the Treasury to turn away from business loans and into job retention scheme routes, as well as measures for the self-employed,” he says. “We worked with the TUC on an alternative mechanism to pay wages, not stack up company debt.”

According to Daren Ireland, North West organiser for the rail union RMT, agreed government policies have been interpreted very differently by companies. “Good employers immediately furloughed their staff,” he says. “We were very concerned at the attitudes of the SSP group that runs outlets such as Burger King and pasty shops on railways. Through national discussions we managed to get them furloughed.” 

Experienced paramedic Debbie Wilkinson is a Unite rep at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service. “We have a Unite national ambulance teleconference regularly to share best practice and ensure our PPE is effective,” she says. “Training ensures it is fitted properly. 

“I have members asking me about childcare. I raise these with management, with whom we generally have a good relationship.” 

Wilkinson says that locally the NHS has agreed to pay staff usually employed on zero hours contracts. 

Other union reps also speak positively about a closer working relationship with management. At First Bus in Middlesbrough the usual annual pay battle was not needed when management offered an above inflation rise of 3 per cent that was quickly accepted. Eighty drivers have been furloughed. Those still working have their cabins sealed off from passengers. 

“We are all on the same page. The virus is a very scary thing. No one really knows what is going to happen,” says Tan Abdul Rashid, a Unite equality rep.

Relationships are though not always so harmonious. Trade unions have found it difficult on many building sites to get employers to close down and pay furlough. Dave Smith, who as a blacklisted construction worker heads the Blacklist Support Group, has urged building workers to strike “at greedy employers by walking off sites”. 

The majority, many of whom are self-employed and not covered until government support for them starts in June, have ignored the plea, needing their wages to pay their bills. Meanwhile, the GMB has 2,000 members from around 4,500 employees at the Asos distribution centre outside Grimethorpe but union pleas for it to close have been ignored. Staff who go on the sick would get £95.85 in weekly statutory sick pay. 

Looking to the future, Ireland said there had been fears that once the pandemic has passed, many workers on the railways and buses might find themselves unemployed so he welcomed the renationalisation of the railways that took place without any fanfare in March. “We need state control of rail and buses to ensure good, well paid and secure jobs,” he says. 

Many teachers, however, are not looking that far ahead, according to the NEU rep. He pays tribute to teachers who have died as a result of coronavirus and says: “The NEU is not convinced that schools should be reopened at this time.” Thousands of NHS staff have agreed by signing an open letter saying they should remain closed until widespread testing exists for Covid-19 along with “rigorous contact tracing and scrupulous adherence to quarantining”.

In addition to their workplace activities, trade unions have been able to provide welfare and mental health support for members and their families stuck at home. In some regions, members have done the shopping for those who can’t go outside. 

It is this aspect that has caught the attention of labour movement academic Seth Wheeler, who is active in the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union, which organises migrant workers. “Unions originated before the welfare state. Early unions fought for better pay and greater safety but also organised workers, plus their families, laid off at work. Can unions ensure the state continues to provide funds for basic services but that they are coordinated by them to create a revitalised union form of life?” 

If that sounds ambitious, so too is McCluskey. “I am hoping it might be time to reset our economy, reset our society and how we approach work.” 

How one player's death in 1907 created today's all-powerful PFA union

Sunday Mirror 26.04.2020

IT has never been confirmed how old Tommy Blackstock was when he died playing for Manchester United.

Some records say 24. Others claim that the Scottish full-back had just celebrated his 25th birthday when he collapsed after heading a ball during a reserve game against St Helens Recs in April 1907 and never regained consciousness.

Blackstock played just 38 senior games for United in four years.

He was regarded as a squad player, not in the same class as men like Billy Meredith, Sandy Turnbull and Charlie Roberts, who would form the backbone of United's first great team.

But his tragic death became a watershed moment for football.
Blackstock's family were not compensated for their loss after an inquest ruled the defender had died of natural causes.

And the club's miserly stance compounded the fury of the players he left behind.

Blackstock had played for United's first team just 48 hours earlier.
He had only gone to offer vocal support to the reserve side but was persuaded to play by club officials.

The game continued after he was carried from the pitch.

And when Blackstock's team-mates returned to the dressing room at half-time, shock turned to outrage when they were informed his body had already been taken to the morgue.

To the men earning the maximum wage of £4-a-week, the episode put into sharp focus the reality of their status - they could be discarded at any time.

By the turn of the year, a meeting was held at Manchester's Imperial Hotel to discuss forming a players' union.

Meredith, Turnbull and Roberts were there. So were United team-mates Herbert Burgess, Charlie Sagar and Herbert Broomfield – and around 500 others.
An earlier attempt to form a representative body lasted just three years.

This time, after a meeting of southern-based players at the Charterhouse Hotel in London two weeks later, the Association of Football Players' and Trainers' Union was established.

And the powerhouse that is now known as the Professional Footballers' Association was born.

More than 112 years later, the suspicious relationship between players and the clubs that employ them continues.

When the Premier League called for an across-the-board 30 percent cut in wages to help meet the financial challenges of the coronavirus crisis, PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor resisted.

Players now hold the upper hand – and Taylor could see no sense in bailing out clubs owned by billionaires when individual members could give money directly to the NHS.

The PFA's headquarters in Manchester is less than a mile away from the original union offices in St Peter's Square.

Taylor has been in charge since 1981 and earns around £2.3million-a-year for presiding over an organisation that banks an annual £23million payment from the Premier League.

Players pay a one-off joining fee of £20 to become members and a yearly subscription of £150.

Back in 1908, the joining fee was five shillings (25p), with a further sixpence (2.5p) payable weekly.

The main aim of the union was to get the maximum wage abolished.

Initially set by the FA in 1900 in a bid to prevent the top players chasing cash, it had been raised to just £20 by the time the threat of a PFA strike put paid to the practice 61 years later. Initially the union had the backing of many clubs. But when the players seemed certain to take industrial action in 1909, the FA’s response was to issue the threat of suspension to anyone who refused to cancel their union membership.

United captain Roberts had lifted the FA Cup just a few months earlier - and he arranged for team-mates subsequently banned to train away from the club. 

This group became known as the Outcasts FC and their stance won the day when the FA backed down over the suspension threat. 

But it was to remain a huge regret to Meredith that he was never able to get a full financial return on his talent. 

A star for both Manchester clubs during a playing career that ended just 120 days short of his 50th birthday, the Welshman knew that football was a dangerous game. 

Protection was never forthcoming from referees, so he recognised the importance of giving players financial compensation and legal recourse if their careers came to a premature end. Or worse.

In 1889, William Cropper, a talented sportsman who played Derby County at football and Derbyshire and county cricket for Derbyshire, was kicked to death while taking part in a game for Staveley against Grimsby.

Cropper died of peritonitis after taking a knee to his stomach from Dan Doyle. It is believed the incident led to the phrase "coming a cropper" to describe someone's misfortune.

Thirteen years later in 1902,  with professionalism now an acceptable part of the game, Meredith was a Manchester City player when his Welsh international team-mate Di Jones died of blood poisoning after suffering a gashed knee in a friendly.

City arranged a benefit game to raise money for Jones' family, but there was still some anger at the way the club dealt with the matter after claiming the incident was not work-related because it happened in pre-season.

Almost 120 years on from that sorry tale, it is fair to say the tables have been turned.

Monday, 27 April 2020

125 years ago today Sunderland were crowned World Champions

Heart of Midlothian 3 Sunderland 5 
A slightly revised piece written by Paul Days and Mark Metcalf for Roker Report back in 2018. 

Since 1887, and the Hibernian v Preston North End game in Edinburgh, an unofficial world championship had been played for between English and Scottish clubs with both countries then pre-eminent in the game of football. Sunderland’s victory in their 1895 game gave The Black Cats the crown of World Champions, a unique double as Sunderland also won the English League title that year as well. There are no known pictures of Sunderland with the “World Cup” although it’s doubtful that a trophy was presented.
The next World Championship was in 1901 when Tottenham and Hearts played out a 0 v 0 draw in London, so I suppose you could say that we were the reigning world champions for 6 years!
FIFA would not be formed until 1904 and the first World Cup finals did not take place until 1930. Famously, however, West Auckland, another north east of England side would win the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy, some years after Sunderland’s “World Championship” victory, by beating Juventus to claim another “World” Crown for our region.

This match had an international flavour as the respective champions of England and Scotland met in Edinburgh. Unfortunately the weather was wretched for after a foggy morning a nasty drizzling rain began to fall. It did not deter spectators, however, for around 10,000 turned out and they were treated to some capital football. Sunderland left home shortly after 8am and arrived in Edinburgh at 12:45. All the first team travelled including Scott and Wilson, who was injured, with Scott fit enough to run the line. 
The Sunderland side was an all Scottish one. This was frowned upon by some Wearsiders who felt local lads were not getting to play for the club and that too many foreigners had been recruited. Unlike in England, where professionalism had become allowed under the rules in 1885, Scotland, just days after they were thrashed 5-2 by England at Richmond Park, had waited until 1893 to agree to allow players to be paid. By then many top class Scots had taken the road, first travelled by James Lang, who was paid to play football by the Wednesday in 1876, south.
Unsurprisingly, Scottish fans remained annoyed at losing their best players and in a case of cutting your nose off to spite your own face, the Scottish FA for many years after 1893 stuck to its policy of not playing Scots who played their football in England. As a result, Johnny Campbell, three times top scorer in the First Division with Sunderland in 1891/82, 1892/93 and 1894/95 never represented his country. Goalkeeper Ted Doig, almost certainly Sunderland's greatest ever, was more fortunate as he played six times for Scotland. 
Doig is buried in the Anfield Cemetery. He had moved to play for Liverpool in 1904, joining up with his former boss at Sunderland, Newcastle born Tom Watson, who lies next to him. Watson did well at Anfield, capturing the top flight title on two occasions to add to his record of three titles at Sunderland
After lunch at the Douglas Hotel there was plenty of time to stroll round Edinburgh before the 4pm start. McCreadie was absent from the Sunderland side and Russell, Begbie and Walker from the Hearts team. 

Hearts won the toss and Campbell started the game for Sunderland who were the first to show. Taylor then took play to the other end to get in a hotshot that Doig saved well. Hearts attacked again and Chalmers got the ball to Michael who had Doig leaping to a shot which he just managed to catch. End-to-end stuff that must have been a truly riveting watch. 

Hearts obviously meant business and set about Sunderland in capital style. Hogg robbed Hannah and sent the ball well down field, but a free-kick against Hearts stopped their gallop. They were soon back and Scott had a grand shot turned round the post by Doig for a fruitless corner. Auld had a sharp chance at the other end, but shot hopelessly wide. Hearts swept down on the Sunderland goal and, yet again, Doig saved his charge. So far Sunderland had hardly been in the game whereas Hearts were at their best.At last Sunderland came out of their shell and some grand passing ended with Millar banging in a hard shot that Fairbairn saved. Taylor took play to the visitors end again and Chambers and Michael looked very menacing until Doig cleared away. Moments later, Doig was tested again with a shot from Scott. Hannah then rushed up field and centred to Campbell who banged in a stinging shot that shook Fairbairn rigid before he got the ball away. Sunderland were playing better now with Hannah and Campbell working hard.

They forced a corner that was cleared by McLaren who got the ball up to Chambers whose shot was saved by Doig. Sunderland attacked again and Battles and McLaren were put under severe pressure and forced to concede a corner. Danger was looming for Hearts. 
When the ball was swung in Johnston met it and sent a high shot over a crowd of players and into the net for Sunderland’s first goal. Sunderland continued to dominate the play for several minutes and some bad feeling crept into the game with frequent free kicks for trips by both sides. Hearts had a look in and Gow saved splendidly after neat passing by the home side. Were they close to finding an equaliser? 

Sunderland swept back downfield, however, and the home goal had another narrow escape. Hearts pushed the visitors back and Michael was inches from an equaliser when his hotshot went just wide. Johnston was doing some grand work against the speedy Chambers and Taylor on the Hearts right wing. Sunderland attacked again and forced a corner; the delivery was cleared, but McNeill got the ball up to Dunlop who sent through to Campbell who scored a fantastic goal with a fast, long shot.
Stung by this reverse Hearts retaliated and Doig saved splendidly just afterwards. Campbell got in a shot that Battles blocked and then Auld sent a fine shot just over the bar. Close on halftime Hearts won a free kick and Chambers and Taylor were probing the Sunderland defence when the halftime whistle went. 
On the restart Scott missed a chance for Hearts and then Campbell had a goal ruled out for offside. Nice work by Gillespie and Harvie took Sunderland into Hearts territory where Mirk halted their progress.
Michael and Scott tried to force a breakthrough but failed to make much impression. They struggled on, however, and after Michael had put a shot wide Chambers got the ball up to Taylorwho scored rather easily for Hearts. They were back in the game!
Encouraged by this, Hearts forced a corner off Dunlop and Baird managed to find the net, but the whistle had already gone for offside. Hearts continued to press and got a free kick for a foul; McLaren took it and had a pot at goal where Doig’s fumble allowed the ball to slip into the net off his hands.

Scenting victory, Hearts put even more vigour and dash into their play, and it was no surprise when Scott raced away to shoot the home side ahead. Doig stood appealing for offside and made no attempt to stop the ball. Urged on by the wild cheers of their supporters, Hearts continued to press for several minutes. Sunderland wilted visibly under the pressure and their play was poor. Eventually, they rallied, slowly forced the home side back, and began to trouble the home defence.
Millar raced through and waving Campbell aside took the ball a few yards before cracking it out of Fairbairn’s reach to level the scores at 3-3. Almost from the kick off Scott ran nearly the full length of the field with Dunlop snapping at his heels to drive in a hard shot that Doig saved. A dangerous throw by Hearts was cleared as the home side tried all they knew to regain the lead. Sunderland had a brief look in but Hearts were soon back assaulting the visitor’s goal until a free kick gave Sunderland some respite.
McNeill’s long kick into the home goalmouth was perfectly judged and Campbell had only to glance the ball past Fairbairn to put Sunderland ahead. Baird and Scott retaliated for the home side, but Gow and McNeill defended splendidly and Hearts were kept at bay. A tricky run from Hannah took Sunderland well into Hearts’ territory where Campbell had a great chance, but shot far too high. The home side were not done yet, though, and made another spirited effort, but found the Sunderland defence were far too good for them.
The crowd were beginning to head for home when with only two minutes left when Sunderland scored again. Harvie got possession near the halfway line and beat Hogg in a fine run towards goal. Fairbairn advanced but Harvie coolly slotted the ball past him to wrap things up for the visitors. The game had barely been restarted when the final whistle went. 

Hearts: Fairbairn, Battles, Mirk, Hall, McLaren, Hogg, Taylor, Chamber, Michael, Scott, Baird.
Sunderland: Doig, McNeil, Gow, Dunlop, Auld, Johnston, Hannah, Gillespie, Harvie, Campbell (2) Millar, Hannah.
Ref: Mr. Dickson. Attendance: 10,000.

Ryehill Football still has available a small number of the book: World Champions, Sunderland AFC 1894/95. Written by Paul Days, the writer of the club’s very first official history book - this is a gem of a story. Read about that event and a full account of The Black Cats trials and tribulations from what became a monumental season. The red and whites not only became world champions but won the League title and missed on a first FA Cup triumph through a narrow defeat at the semi-final stage.
Using original material taken from the British Newspaper Archives, including rare pen pics from The Sunderland Daily Echo & Shipping Gazette, this 200 page limited edition paperback publication is packed with stats, full match reports from all matches from that season, as well as rare images from the Ryehill Football archives!