Scottish Football Reminiscences and Sketches by D. D. Bone 1890

The modern Association football player is a man of some ability. As a rule he is temperate in his habits, with a good appetite, and sound in limb. Long before he knew what football was, he was blessed with a large share of health. When a boy at school he used to be remarkable for punctuality, but occasionally got into trouble from neglected lessons, in consequence of a weakness for indulging in out-door sports. He loved the rude style of football, then played, dearly (he knew of nothing better), although goal-posts, touch-lines, corner-flags, and other modern appliances were totally unknown. As for "hacking," it was endured by all and sundry with the air of martyrs. Why, if you had not nerve enough to "give and take" in that line, your chance of getting near the "goal score" was remote indeed, and you were looked upon as a coward and the verriest noodle. He, of course, grows older, and by and by joins an average club, and gets on very well. The crack football players, however, have many maturities. They generally come slowly, but surely, and leave behind them powerful impressions. They are like the occasional planets, not the stars which are seen every evening if you care to look towards the "milky way." They are mostly fine-looking fellows, with pleasant countenances and grandly-moulded limbs. They have just passed a severe course of probation in the football field, without even an outward trace of anxiety. The vagaries of the game admit of no distinction of class. The crack player is, in fine, found among all classes—in the gentleman's son, in the clerk at the desk, and the lad in the workshop. There may be different ways of working out the latent ability, but sooner or later it begins to show itself. Some thought it was scarcely fair in the Duke of Wellington to say that "Waterloo was won at Eton." There is not the least possibility of doubt such a remark might be misunderstood, and many feel inclined to charge the "Iron Duke" with ignoring the services rendered by the non-commissioned officers and men of the British army, for everybody knows that none but the sons of the opulent class can ever gain admittance to Eton. It looked, in fact, very like the credit being given to the officers for winning that great battle. Wellington, however, had his eye on the football and cricket grounds when he spoke these words, and no doubt intended to convey the idea that these games went a long way in bracing up the nerve which served so well on the battle-field. Close adhesion to the practice of any game really and sincerely creates fresh possibilities of that perfection and discipline. And why should this not be so in football, particularly as it is a game regulated by sharply-defined maxims? Everyone can't be the captain of an eleven; and as for Wellington's remarks, the most humble member of the team may show the greatest ability. You may belong to the most "swellish" of clubs, and have a fair reputation, but you are not chosen to play in the International. Your father may be the "Great Mogul" himself, but that has no effect. The coveted place can only be attained by merit, and this is one of the most successful and meritorious traits in Scotch Association Football. You don't, as a rule, even get a place now by reputation, and so much the better. When clubs were few and good players fewer, you were not unfrequently favoured with one, whether you deserved it or not, but now the matter is different, and justly so, since we cannot go into a single town or village in Scotland without seeing the practice ground and goal-posts of the now omnipresent football club.

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