Wednesday, October 31, 2012

comeback comeback all is forgiven

Johnny Summers
Of late there's been a sense of disillusionment brewing with the modern game. The back pages have been filled with stories of diving, racism, and overpaid attitudes as opposed to the actual game of football being played. I agree that standards have to be set, and subsequently reached, but i don't really want to concern myself too much with an analysis of a referee's performance and his drawn out trial and eventual execution. I also have no interest in who shakes who's hand before a game. I, like many others, do seem to have fallen out of love with our national sport, Rich at The Football Attic touched on the subject eloquently this week and almost had me in tears!

Football though is a beautiful game and claws you back like a heartbroken lover when it thinks you may just close the door for good. The League Cup (or COC (snigger) for short) is not necessarily the most attractive of  proposals, yet in a time of Premier League Super Sundays is probably the closet we get to seeing football how it used to be, perhaps due to the resting of the so called superstars and the chance for young lads who want to play?

Last night Arsenal beat Reading 7-5 at the Madejski Stadium, coming back from four nothing down. This is a scoreline that many of us had never witnessed and possibly the greatest comeback of all time? It certainly grabbed our attention and reminded us why we can never fully walk away from football. It was as i tweeted last night, reminiscent of 'make up sex', hence the loan of Kirk Brandon's lyrics for the title.

I say possibly the greatest comeback because there was one game in history that potentially outshines it. It occurred on the 21st December 1957 when Huddersfield Town came to The Valley.

Back in the glorious days of medicine balls and flannelette jerseys football was a much different game. It was far more attack minded with wingers, inside forwards and the traditional centre forward. Playing five up front  does give a team far more opportunity to score, and of course on the flip side concede. Football's a lot more cagey now with so many more potential high profile windfalls available to the winners and let's not forget the almost carefree abandonment with which chairmen will change managers. In the fifties you could afford to lose a few games in a row and still have the clubs full backing.

As is the way with Charlton supporters, as soon as the goals went flying in at Reading, the twitter timeline was full of boastful pride as Addicks reminded their followers that they weren't watching the greatest of all comebacks. The greatest was a lifetime before, a time when 99% of these tweeters weren't even born.

Charlton entertained Huddersfield in this league fixture and with only a quarter of an hour played they were reduced to ten men, Derek Ufton having been rushed off to hospital after dislocating his shoulder. The notion of substitutes was still a long way off, Keith Peacock was only twelve years old at this point.

Huddersfield had the run of the play and were strolling 5-1 with just half an hour to go. Jimmy Seed the Charlton boss played a masterstroke by pulling Johnny Summers off the left wing where he was getting no joy and moving him into the centre. Summers in true comic book style had changed his boots at half time, this new pair were certainly his shooting boots as he would go on to score five goals all in all. A feat made even more remarkable as this natural left footer got them all with his right peg! John 'Buck' Ryan also netted a brace as the Londoners ran out 7-6 winners, the Terriers still hold a record as the only club to score six and still lose a football league match.

So which is the greatest comeback? Not being alive in 1957, it's very hard to give a true evaluation. Certainly in times past goals were far more frequent. If you look at club records for the majority of sides their biggest win, their heaviest defeat and their highest aggregate scoring match were all long ago in the distant past which would hint towards last night's game being the greater achievement. Arsenal did it with eleven men on the field though so perhaps Charlton's was the greatest.

The only thing i can decide for certain is that their are four goalkeepers that have had a game to forget!

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