Two West Indies Bowling Timelines

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I saw a ‘Cricket’s Greatest’ centred around Michael Holding the other day, and it got me thinking about the timeline of West Indian bowlers. Holding, I felt, was before my time – the great West Indian bowlers were Curtley and Courtney when I was a lad, with the likes of Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner just names they would use in commentary to give David Gower the willies (or Willeys, as any cricket student would have it).

So I thought I’d have a quick look at how they all fit together, Holding and Garner, Walsh and Ambrose, and which of them overlapped and when. Nothing scientific, just the years they played tests. My first cut-off was 20 wickets. That was too low, too busy (right click and view to see it in full)WI1So I adjusted the filter to 50 wickets and that was a much more satisfying end product. What troubled me is that Viv Richards was on that particular list. It didn’t feel like a list of bowlers for having Sir Viv on it.

Here’s the reimagined one with the bar raised a further thirty wickets. Even the pattern indicates the decline of the bowlers; so many more West Indian bowlers have been called upon as time goes on and, though this isn’t entirely clear, the bars are shorter towards the bottom too. Nowadays, you try, you fail, they move on without you. Best of luck to you, Jomel Warrican.

WI2

What did I learn? Holding and Ambrose never coincided, nor did Roberts and Walsh. Of course, everyone already knew this, especially those who were there at the time, but they’re pretty shapes and now I know too.

 

 

Time and Christmas in 1918 Austria

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If our paths have crossed recently, you’ll likely have heard me talking about Austrian time-telling.

It started before Christmas but my confusion remains and, despite asking as many people as I’ve been able to, I have yet to find a satisfactory answer.

Everything began when I found that there is an excellent archive of Austrian newspapers available online – the appropriately titled AustriaN Newspapers Online. They are broad in their scope and even though I have only scratched the surface, I cannot recall being more impressed with an archival project.

My attention, and thought, naturally, turned to football. I believe I was initially drawn to the archive looking for information for some games played by the likes of Torino against Austrian opposition in the early part of the 20th Century, but that’s not where this particular tale ends up.

Such times bring visions of the Wunderteam, naturally, and one can read much about Mathias Sindelar amongst the papers, though precious little about his demise, which I had considered might be a subject for speculation in the press of the day. The looming presence of Adolf Hitler in those self-same volumes perhaps accounts for the lack of idle hypotheses.

Yet the Nazi jackboot for all its many detriments is not the thing I have taken most interest in throughout these newspapers. My eyes and mind have been drawn in by the festive competitions arranged in the cities of Austria in the immediate aftermath of World War I.

AUT1

Played on Christmas Day and Boxing Day 1918 and featuring in the Vienna-based SPORTBLATT AM MITTAG (archive is here), you will note the round-robin nature of the tournament and the teams involved.

You will also note the time of the games, which is where my mystification comes in. Should ¼2 be 13:45, then the game would finish at 15:30 (allowing a 15 minute half time, but no injury time) which would tally with ½3 being 15:30. Why is the quarter to the hour it is affiliated with, in this case, and the half past? This must be the case, because the other eventualities would not pan out.

If the fractions were always ‘to’, then the first game would finish an hour after the second was due to start (impossible) and if it were always ‘past’, then the overlap time would be half an hour – see the table below for representation of that.

AUT2

There is a second issue here. Sunset in Austria at this time is around 16:00 (a little after, if recent years are any guide). As far as I can tell, the W.A.C. Platz was no illuminated at this time, and so games would have to finish before dark.

In this context, I wonder if the two games were just 45 minutes long – one half of football in each; as a friendly tournament this is perfectly possible and allows the continuation if the times are ‘to’, as the two games would run into one another fairly exactly (there would be a half hour gap in ‘past’ – see above).

There was another Weihnachts-Rundspiel in Vienna that week, at the W.A.F.-Platz, which throws no more light on the situation (though this was better reported in the Sportblatt am Mittag the following week – they arranged it, as you can see below.

AUT3

I’m fairly the problem there is self-evident. ¾3. Again, applying the same criteria to the games, it is tricky to work out exactly what was going on, and exactly what time games were kicking off, but using the same style of chart as above, it seems reasonable to assume that ¾3 was actually 2:15 – three quarters of an hour to three.

AUT4

Those kick-off times, if we assume they are in the green column as above, allow for a forty-five minute encounter between each set of teams which seems about right. If you, like me, are wondering who won, I’ve done a little chart of each set of matches for 1918, allocating them points as they would be today, though I have no doubt that they were decided another way (probably on a straight ‘who won both their games’ rubric) so at least I can cover that.

AUT5

The Christmas games were quite a feature of Austrian football at this time. I’ve found evidence of them going forward a fair few years – the snowy photographs of 1920 are something to behold and read, or at least looked through reports of a number of them.

AUT6

There is, however, one thing that still troubles me. In one of the 1918 reports, there is a reference to a first half and a second half. On the basis that I’m assuming a 45 minute game, I wonder if they were actually 2 halves of 20 minutes.

Whichever way it went, and I’m going to continue trawling this fascinating archive, I think the only possible option is that, in Austria in the early part of the century, one would always work ‘to’ the next hour.

Anyway, its three quarters to six here, so I’ve got a train to catch.

Disclaimer and serious bit here in praise of ANNO. I cannot recommend their site highly enough – there are newspapers and journals going back as far as 1568, back to the days when they were hand-written, and currently as far forward as 1945. Its not just Austria, too, I’m sure I’ve seen some Czech and Hungarian titles in there. I hope I haven’t violated anything by excising two adverts from one of their titles – it was done out of love.

David Wagner and the Speed of Change

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I’m a Huddersfield Town supporter. A lot of you will already know that, and those that didn’t do now. I am a supporter in that I want the team to succeed, but perhaps moreso in that I recognise the importance of the work the club do, both with footballers and around Huddersfield as a whole.

I am not a fan(atic), at least any longer, I simply offer my support to things I think are good around both the team and the club rather than seeking to lambast what doesn’t work (Huddersfield Town are, of course, a Championship team, they are working within certain constraints. For me, so long as they are making decisions for the right reasons, I am happy. They may be the wrong decisions, but human beings can make mistakes).

Recently, Huddersfield Town elected to relieve Chris Powell of his duties as club manager. To some outsiders it must have looked a peculiar decision. While Powell’s Terriers had not pulled up any trees, the side were solid and he had achieved his goal of safety.1

Football has changed, however. The Championship remains a results business, as the old cliché goes, but Powell did not leave because of results. He left because the results were not being achieved in the way the club want.

This aspect of the modern game does not seem to have permeated the media yet, except in a very vague way, yet on the ground it is very real.

Football is entertainment. To those paying £25 and (far, sometimes) more for a ticket, as they have to do at Championship level, it is a commitment that needs to be worth their while.

Supporters are not idiots. Had Dean Hoyle said in the summer that he expected a title push, the supporters would not have believed him, and reasonably so. The financial disparity in the division means that while a Burnley or a Swansea City situation could occur, there is no way it can be guaranteed.

Dean Hoyle, and his staff, had to sell the season they were going to have. It would have Chris Powell at the helm. The Terriers would likely stay up. They would probably have a good run or two. They would get a few tonkings, one probably at Derby.

It is not the stuff dreams are made of. At least not the stuff £50 afternoons are made of.

Supporter numbers have dropped off since the initial return to the Championship. Steady ships do not make for great viewing. This becomes a Catch 22 situation. Without excitement over league position, a season can stagnate quickly, this is why playoffs exist.

Yet, as the only guaranteed positional excitement would come in peril, it is not ideal. How, then, to instil excitement without sacrificing stability?

This question exists within a Catch 22 of its own. In order to improve, better players are needed, with money coming from increased supporter revenue.

Because the improvement has not yet been made, supporters stay away because they don’t want to watch an inferior product.

I’ve been guilty of it myself. I’ve sat on Saturday afternoons not missing going to Huddersfield because I find them boring. I have resolved not to do so again.

Dean Hoyle is not a man to fiddle while Rome burns. He took decisive action, dispatching Powell with a thank you, and installing David Wagner, formerly of Borussia Dortmund (Borussia Dortmund II coach, if you hadn’t heard).

On the surface, at least, it worked.

Immediately there was a buzz about the club. Immediately, an excitement about what might come about with this man at the helm. There have been two defeats so far under Wagner, but supporters remain positive about the move.

This positivity will be finite, I would imagine, should results not improve, but in hiring a man who insists on his side playing a high intensity attacking style, Hoyle has given the supporters what they want. He might not be able to fund a title push, but he can ensure a memorable trip to wherever in the table the Terriers do end up.

This is the aspect of football that is bypassed when talking about the Championship. For all its ups and downs and inconsistencies, there are a number of similarly able teams bunched behind the best and ahead of the worst.

Their seasons, while the details may be unconfirmed, are largely sketched out at the start – those clubs that would admit that ‘playoff push would be nice’.

Huddersfield Town are a small provincial club. Their glory days are too long ago to suggest they are a ‘sleeping giant’ and they were never even a giant then, just a very successful David.

It is worth sitting up and taking notice, then, that such a club – a footballing backwater and unfashionable entity (the club have been used as a ‘rainy Tuesday night in’ statement in the past) should fire a manager for, essentially, being out of keeping with the ethos the club wishes to follow. Not his results, nor the league position, but the way he set up his team and the actions they made at his behest.

To the outsider, a division in which everyone can beat everyone else and does might be the most exciting thing in the world, but the reality is somewhat disappointing. When it becomes clear that promotion is off the cards, and relegation is somewhere over one’s shoulders, seasons drag. Knowing that you might lose to Charlton or beat them, and the same with Bolton, doesn’t make the drag any less tedious.

So with results pretty much guaranteed, the club have taken a different step.

Even writing it sounds pretentious, and of course, it may end up being a gamble that doesn’t pay off.

That such a club can legitimately sidestep the ‘results business’ side of managerial opinion and fall so heavily on the side of sport entertainment is only further indication that football has progressed to a point that what happens on the field can be relegated behind the way it happens.

It is present at Manchester United, where Louis van Gaal’s patient style is lambasted by those who watch it only to be lauded by those who see the results.

It was present at Huddersfield Town, too. In that, perhaps, it is the first ‘big club’ move they have made in a good while.

The move put me in mind of Brian Clough, as it goes, wanting not just to win the league but to “win it better”.

All in all, what has happened has been a lesson in that a club can only be judged on their actions when one is aware of the reasoning behind them.

All those who said it was wrong to dismiss Powell because his results were good have been negated, their opinions washed away as if written in sand.

There is an excitement around the club that it is important not to lose. There is a man in charge who promises much, but will need time to deliver it. There is a chairman who has made his biggest statement in the last five years.

They might never reach the level of ‘successful David’ again, but they can at least aspire to it under the stewardship of another successful David.

In short, football is a results business. Sports entertainment is not. The Championship, to those ensconced within it, is now caught between those two stools.

1Chris Powell is a classy, intelligent man. I wish him all the best in his future endeavours and I feel that Huddersfield Town are a better club from him having been there.

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