Tuesday 30 March 2010 5.40pm
The perenial argument will no doubt continue as to whether today's athletes, racehorses, football teams etc., are as good or better than those of yesteryear. The argument can never be conclusively proved one way or the other, except in the field of athletics where the world records speak for themselves. For example, Roger Bannister was on the verge of collapse when he crossed the finishing line after breaking the four minute barrier for the mile back in 1954, in a time of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. The current record stands at 3 minutes 43.13 seconds. Over sixteen seconds faster. Poor old Bannister, even at the peak of his powers, would have finished the length of the straight behind today's top milers. Bannister once stated that in order to prepare for that race he had cut down on his smoking from fifteen cigarettes a day to three a day. Good effort!
I won't have a word said against my childhood football heroes, (even when I see old footage of them on the team coach, smoking and playing cards,) but the other day I bought a DVD of the 1957 F.A. Cup Final, Aston Villa v Manchester Utd., and I'd forgotten how much the game has changed. The reason I bought that particular DVD is because it was the first football match I ever saw. We'd just moved to a prefab from an old tenement and, with the new luxury of electricity, my dad lost no time in hiring a tv set. As I watched that DVD I sat there shaking my head. To be brutally honest, niether of those teams could have lived with even a mid-table League-One side in this day and age, but in their own time they were the cream of the crop. There wasn't much chance to appreciate Duncan Edwards' skills because after six minutes the United 'keeper was carried off with a broken jaw, the result of, according to the commentator, a "perfectly fair" shoulder charge from the Villa forward.(Today it would be a 'straight red.'for the forward, a lengthy ban and a possible law suit for assault.)There were no substitutes in those days, so the United centre half went in goal and Edwards dropped in to the middle of the defense. One thing though, the young Bobby Charlton was a joy to watch. In 1966, Alf Ramsey said that Martin Peters was ten years ahead of his time. He'd obviously not seen the young Bobby Charlton. Different class. Incidentally, Ray Wood, the United 'keeper, came back on in the second half and played on the wing, broken jaw and all. Can you imagine today's multi-millionaire prima donnas doing that?