1953 by Marvin Close – Review
By Karl Hornsey
A couple of generations is a long time in any walk of life, but in football, the events of 1953 seem set in the depths of history, light years away from the all-singing, all-dancing sport that it has become today. Seventy years ago, the world was a very different place and, by extension, so was the world of football. Author and screenwriter Marvin Close’s simply titled ‘1953’ is his follow-up to last year’s ‘1923’, which makes sense chronologically, especially as 1953 proved to be such a remarkable year in football.
Close makes a salient point in his introduction to this book, pointing out that while everything on the surface seemed rosy in the game, scratch the surface and it really wasn’t. There’s always an element of ‘rose-tinted glasses, looking back so far and that’s certainly the case with football in the 1950s, when the country was still recovering from the Second World War, and footballers were still just normal members of the public and not distant superstars. Close does the events of that year full justice and offers up both a potted history of what happened on the field, in conjunction with societal changes and how the winds of change were also starting to blow for all involved as financial riches started to be offered up. It’s to his credit that he tells an honest tale and not one that could so easily have been sugar-coated.
Naturally, the two on-field events for which 1953 is most synonymous are given plenty of exposure but, even though the two subjects have been covered in depth elsewhere on many occasions, Close still breathes new life into them and offers up a fresh perspective. The ‘Matthews’ FA Cup final is one of those, and Sir Stanley has his own exalted place in the annals of British football, and the remarkable England v Hungary international is the other. The two matches stand in wonderful juxtaposition to each other, with the former being perhaps the last great romantic story of the age, and the latter being the moment that the veneer of English superiority was completely and utterly shattered.
It would have been all too easy for Close to focus too much on these seismic events but, to his credit, there is just as much attention devoted to the likes of the growing commercialisation in the sport, the devastating effects of injuries on leading players and how tactics were developing under some of the most famous and influential coaches in the history of the game. All of which happened in just this one year, and is a much better read than the endless hyperbole that surrounds the sport today.
‘1953: Life in Football Seventy Years Ago’ by Marvin Close is available to buy from Pitch Publishing. RRP £14.99