NICK SMITH – BUILDS A TEAM
taken from The Rover No. 1280 –
Too Much Training.
Tabbs, Kingsbury Rovers’ left-half, strolled into my office a couple of days
before the third round of the Football Association Cup, writes Nick Smith, the
international inside-left, in another story of the season in which he was
player-manager of the Third Division club, Kingsbury Rovers. Though I was boss,
you know what pals we were, and I was glad to see him. The phone rang just as
he came in – it was the motor-coach firm confirming arrangements for Saturday –
The Rovers v. Ramboro’.
were in Ramboro’, a big industrial city, by on Saturday, and had lunch at a hotel.
The ground was not far away. While the others were taken along in the coach.
Arnold and I decided to walk. I think we both liked mingling with the crowd. We
were old cup-tie warriors, and we liked the atmosphere of it all. We worked
through the crush to the grandstand. I heard my name called and turned to see
Sir Henry Tuxford approach with his visitor, Dr Hiram Dyke. “Are you going to
surprise the football world to-day?” Sir Henry asked. “We suddenly went stale,”
I said. “On Thursday afternoon everything went cock-eyed. I stopped all
training immediately.” “I think you were wise,” Sir Henry declared. I was glad
to have Sir Henry’s support, but the truth was of course, that the sudden
breakdown had worried me a lot. Ramboro’ had five internationals out that
afternoon. Harrington, the centre-half, Mansell, the right-half, Llewellyn, the
outside-right, and the left-wing pair, Moloney and Imrie had all been “capped”
within the last season or so. I discovered that some of my lads were looking
round the huge dressing-room with wondering eyes. The impressiveness of the
place, with its lavish equipment, seemed to overawe them. I saw Slim Gerrity
turn back and wipe his shoes on the mat. The white coated attendant asked
Stumpy for our togs so that he could put them in the airing rack. Gil Booth,
the Boro’ manager came in to shake hands and to see if we had everything we
wanted. I had a glance at a programme. The teams as printed were:- Ramboro’ –
Harlock; Willoughby; Syston; Mansell; Harrington; Russell; Liewellyn, Searle,
Hopton, Moloney, Imrie. Kingsbury Rovers – English; Anvil, Harper; Foley,
Boland, Tabbs; Brind, Gerrity, Ketley, Smith, Mareen. The togs were nice and
warm when we put them on. A moment or two later the bell rang and I picked up
the ball., “Whatever happens, no wild kicking,” was the extent of my pep talk.
“The ball can move faster than we can run, so let it do the work.” We were the
first out into the great arena. There were Kingsbury people in the crowd,
plenty of them, but they made little noise. I think that, like Brace, they
regarded it as a day out. Harrington led out the Boro’, and the cheers were
loud. They were magnificently turned out. Their shirts had blue colours that
rose high at the back; their stockings were white with blue tops. They looked
powerful and self assured. They had the poise that matched their reputation.
There was a brief pause while they formed a group to be photographed. We were
not asked to pose. While we went on shooting in, Bull skied the ball halfway up
the bank. I won the toss and the Boro’ lined up facing a wild breeze. There was
a hush, and then before 65,000 spectators the whistle put the Boro’ in action.
Searle put the ball back to Russell. The left-back came along till Gerrity was
on to him, and then glided the ball ahead of Imrie. The fast left-winger beat
Arthur Anvil and smashed the ball across the goalmouth. Hopton got his head to
it, nodding the ball down. Joe English made no vain attempt to reach the ball;
he would have needed a fishing rod to touch it. It skipped into a corner of the
net and so, within twenty seconds, we were a goal down. The crowd roared, but
the Ramboro’ players hardly bothered to compliment one another. I suppose they
thought it was too easy.
held that lead up to half-time, and we held it easily. Then we were out for the
restart and almost at once seven of us shared in a passing movement started
when Joe English tossed the ball out to Harper. I was unmarked when the ball
reached me. Mareen was slightly better placed, so I pushed a ground pass to
him, and he crashed the ball home. With forty minutes still to go it was
apparent that only a miracle could save the Boro’. The Boro’ became so rattled
that after six of us had brought the ball through, Gerrity had his own jersey
clutched from behind by Mansell. It was a penalty. Gerrity took the kick, and
that was our sixth goal. The seventh was one of Bull’s specials. He chased the
ball nearly to the goal line, and screwed it in from what the newspapers would
inevitably describe as “an impossible angle.” Still it went on. We could do
nothing wrong. We had the ball working for us all the time. Our most intricate
movements came off. I scored our eighth goal from a header, and five minutes
The Atomic Theory.
I had some hint of what was working up, but on Monday I had a surprise. When the newspaper came through the door I turned at once to the back page to find Horton’s report on the game. To my amazement it wasn’t there. When I turned to the front page I found out why. It had been made the main news of the day. The headline printed right across the top of the page was: - “Was Atomic Energy Behind Amazing Cup-Tie Win?” “Is this a gag?” I muttered and started to read: - “Was the astonishing 9-1 defeat of Ramboro’ by Kingsbury Rovers due to atomic influence? Football has never known such an amazing victory. The Rovers exhibited speed, craft and precision of such bewildering perfection that their win is to-day the subject of serious discussion by scientists. “The new atomic research station is within three miles of the ground, and within recent weeks the new atomic pile has been put into operation. Is it by some force generated by the atomic pile that is responsible for the display put up by Nick Smith and his players? “In an interview Sir Henry Tuxford, chief of the establishment, admitted that this might be so. “‘The study of radio-active substances is still in its infancy,’ he said. ‘We are dealing with forces about which there is a great deal to be learned. We know that harmful effects may arise from the use of atomic piles, and against these we take precautions. But it may be possible that there are beneficial effects, and that radiations, of which at the moment we know next to nothing, are, so to speak, escaping from the atomic pile and influencing people who live in the vicinity.” “Sir Henry emphasised that this was surmise. But he admitted the possibility.” There was a lot more about it, but these were the main points. It was on Thursday of that week that the following speech made by Mr Goss-Harris, President of the Kingsbury Chamber of Commerce, was printed in the papers:- “From enquiries I have made and figures obtained this week, there is evidence that radiations from the atomic pile is influencing not only footballers, but also industrial workers in the town. ‘The managing director of the Kingsbury Weaving Company informs me that on the first three days of this week production had risen by twenty-three per cent, over the corresponding days of last week. ‘A coal ship was unloaded in seven hours at the gas works wharf as compared with the average of ten hours.
I have given you only two newspaper extracts, but believe me, I could have quoted scores. Scientists all over the country were getting hot under their collars about the subject. Meanwhile the draw for the fourth round of the cup had been made. We had a home game. Our opponents were to be Wroxford Albion, the Second Division team with a long tradition as cup fighters. But before that match came along we had two league games to play. Our Saturday’s League match was with Penstone, who lay two places below us in the table. The first thing that struck me was that I was getting astonishing demand for press tickets. On the Saturday afternoon the turnstiles worked so fast it was a wonder they did not get red-hot. Half an Hour before the kick-off we knew the gate record had been broken. Dodd paid a call on me in the dressing room just before we went out. I had never seen him so worked up. “We’ve had to close some of the gates, Nick,” he said. “Lummy, what a crowd! D’you know that when Penstone came here last season we only had seven thousand spectators.” “You can thank Sir Henry Tuxford and his atomic pile,” I said, spotting an opening. “I put it to you, Mr Dodd – don’t you think it would be a good idea now to have him on the Board? He’s known all over the country. He would give us a lot of prestige.” “We could do worse than that,” he said. I need not go into details about the game. For the first quarter of an hour there was not much in it. Penstone, a bustling side, had as much of the ball as we did. Givens, their centre-forward then put in a stinging shot that would have beaten most goalkeepers. Joe English leapt to the side, and caught the ball cleanly. He bounced it, caught it again, and ran. From the edge of the penalty-box he bowled it along the ground to Foley. The right-half square-passed to Arnold, who switched the direction of the attack again by a long lob to Brind. The winger beat the back and let Gerrity have the ball. Gerrity in turn gave it to me. I had a clear shot, and I couldn’t miss. That set the crowd roaring. We touched the form that had licked Ramboro, and pluckily as they fought Penstone did not have a chance. We won the game 9-0. When the other results came through we discovered that we were at the top of the Third Division. I was in the Board-room with the directors when we worked this out. They were all keyed up with excitement. “It’s that atomic pile that’s done it,” Brace exclaimed. “I’m sure of it,” said Cassey. “There’s no other explanation.” I caught Dodd’s eye. He took the hint. “I reckon we ought to have Sir Henry Tuxford on the board with us,” he said. A fortnight previously Brace and Cassey would have fought the idea tooth and nail, for if there had had to be an extra director they would have wanted one of their business friends. The astonishing events I have described swung them round completely. “Ay, let’s make him a director,” Brace said. “We ought to have him with us.” “Grab him before somebody else gets hold of him,” urged Cassey. I took prompt steps to get the business settled. I had the atomic pile to thank for this. But I can promise you that the sensations were not finished.
It’s Goals that Count 27 episodes appeared in The Rover issues 1119 - 1145 (1945 - 1946)
It’s Goals that Count 8 episodes appeared in The Rover issues 1158 - 1165 (1947)
It’s Goals that Count 24 episodes appeared in The Rover issues 1180 - 1203 (1947 - 1948)
Football is my Job 24 episodes appeared in The Rover issues 1218 - 1241 (1948)
Nick Smith’s Ragged Rovers 5 episodes appeared in The Rover issues 1260 - 1264 (1949)
Nick Smith’s Rovers 1 episode appeared in The Rover issues 1265 (1949)
Nick Smith Builds a Team 20 episodes appeared in The Rover issues 1266 - 1285 (1949 - 1950)
It’s Goals that Count 10 episodes appeared in The Rover issues 1286 - 1295 (1950)
It’s Teamwork that Count 6 episodes appeared in The Rover issues 1316 - 1321 (1950)
It’s Teamwork that Count 10 episodes appeared in The Rover issues 1341 - 1350 (1951)
It’s Goals that Count 15 episodes appeared in The Rover issues 1365 - 1379 (1951)
It’s Goals that Count 14 episodes appeared in The Rover issues 1390 - 1403 (1952)
All Over the World It’s Goals that Count 15 episodes appeared in The Rover issues 1677 - 1691 (1957)
The above list has not included the various repeats.
© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd
Vic Whittle 2004