Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Annus Mirabilis – Edgar Kail 1929

Annus Mirabilis – 1929

Edgar Kail Capped for the Full England Team

Following regular selection to the England Amateur side, Edgar Kail was eventually chosen as a reserve for the full international squad that travelled to Hampden Park in April 1929. A year had passed since the auld enemy famously destroyed England with a brilliant display from the ‘Wembley Wizards’ that left friend and foe on the terraces stunned. This time the result was the same but the damage was limited to a 1-0 defeat. Kail did not play, but he was an obvious selection following his own brilliant display for the Amateur XI against Scotland in Leeds the previous month.

However, watching from the sidelines as a reserve has no comparison with actually playing the game, and Edgar Kail enjoyed playing football more than anything else. Somehow the genial Dulwich Hamlet captain charmed his way into the team, and within a matter of a few weeks after the Scotland game he gained the first of three full international caps for England.

The FA arranged a short tour of the continent at the end of the 1928-29 season for the England team. These tours had become almost a customary fixture in the nation’s footballing calendar, and was a good opportunity for English players to compare the foreign game with the one at home. Nothing new to Edgar Kail, of course, for some years now he had partaken in a number of tours as one of England’s top amateurs.

Fourteen times already Kail had donned the three lions as part of the England Amateur team, so he was in no way going to be perturbed on this occasion. And despite being the only unpaid member of the whole side, he would hold his own among the best of his professional counterparts. Incidentally, Kail was not the first Dulwich Hamlet player to gain full representative honours either. In 1920 Herbert ‘Tim’ Coleman kept goal for England versus Wales.

If the selection of an amateur player into the full England side was just a ‘token’ gesture by the Football Association, then on this occasion they made the right choice. Of all the amateur forwards Kail deserved to be included in the team on merit. His scoring rate alone was phenomenal. In the previous few months he had been on a goalscoring spree in the Amateur Cup, bagging 13 goals in 5 cup-ties. This run, in the premier Amateur knockout competition, continued into the next season as Kail scored in successive matches. His final tally of 19 goals in 9 consecutive games remained a record until the demise of the Amateur Cup in 1974.

France versus England

The first match of the tour, at the Colombes Stadium in Paris on Thursday May 9th, saw England gain a very comfortable 4-1 victory over France in front of 25,000 fans. It was Ascension Day and up to then the proudest day in Edgar Kail’s life. He had risen to great heights in the eyes of the British public, to become one of the finest footballers in the country.

Against France Kail shared four goals with another prolific marksman, Middlesborough’s centre forward George Camsell, also making his debut for England. Camsell had created his own Football League goalscoring record two years earlier with 59, only to see it wiped out the following season by the great Dixie Dean who rounded it to 60. Dean, who was to gain only three more caps, had already scored 17 of his 18 England goals in the last 13 consecutive internationals.

Just before half time Edgar Kail recorded his first goal, neatly placing the ball into the corner of the net. The French drew level early in the second half when a deep cross was headed in by Devaquez. Camsell put England back in front, and then following a bout of French pressure, the London Times reporter noted in his pad, “Kail gathered up a pass from the right and put in a terrific shot from about twenty five yards out, but the ball rebounded at a tangent from underneath the crossbar into the goalkeeper’s hands. The referee immediately gave a goal.” Much French protest followed the Belgian official’s unpopular decision, but the verdict of the game’s sole arbiter was immutable. Late on George Camsell wrapped it up for England, who had made a successful start to the tour. But the main talking point in les bars et cafés de Paris was Edgar Kail and that controversial second goal – thirty seven years before Geoff Hurst accomplished a similar feat in more significant circumstances.

England team v France:
Hufton (West Ham) goal
Cooper (Derby) Blenkinsop (Sheff Utd) backs
Kean (Bolton) Hill, captain (Newcastle) Peacock (Middlesboro) half backs
Adcock (Leicester) Kail (Dulwich) Camsell (Middlesboro) Bradford (Birmingham) Barry (Leicester) forwards.

Belgium versus England

Two days later on Saturday May 11th 1929, the England team arrived in Brussels. Over 30,000 folks crowded up the hillside to the Parc Duden to witness the Red Devils of Belgium attempt to overcome the tourists. Two changes were made to the England side: Len Oliver came in for Fred Kean, and Joe Carter took the place of Joe Bradford. Like France, the Belgian players would have been pleased that the name of Dixie Dean was not included in the team sheet. He had been the scourge of the side in the two previous encounters, scoring 5 of the 12 goals they conceded. What they were not counting on was that his replacement George Camsell, was going to have a field day and score four times.

The England team were led onto the field by Newcastle captain Jack Hill. Hill was another headline maker. The previous October he had become the most expensive player in English football, when he was transferred from Burnley for £8,000. The transfer market was going mad, only days later David Jack joined the Arsenal for £10,000.

The 5-1 scoreline perhaps flattered England, as the Belgian attack, thwarted by Tom Cooper and Ernie Blenkinsop, squandered a number of chances in the box. Camsell scored the opening goal on the half hour, and within eight minutes he completed a first half hat-trick, the third a conversion from the penalty spot. England’s fourth, midway through the second period, again came from Camsell’s boot. His sixth strike in two games capped a fine display by a striker on top of his game. Carter scored the fifth, whilst Braine picked up a consolation goal for the home side. After the game the party made its way back to Paris en route to the final game in Madrid.

The oppressive heat guaranteed that travelling through France and Spain in a stifling railway carriage was a very uncomfortable one indeed. The players soon became very clammy, and so every time the train stopped to take in water for the engine, they took the opportunity to jump from their compartment in just their football shorts, and soak themselves beneath the hose.

England team v Belgium:
Hufton (West Ham) goal
Cooper (Derby) Blenkinsop (Sheff Utd) backs
Oliver (Fulham) Hill, captain (Newcastle) Peacock (Middlesboro) half backs
Adcock (Leicester) Kail (Dulwich) Camsell (Middlesboro) Carter (West Brom) Barry (Leicester) forwards.

Spain versus England

Wednesday May 15th 1929 is notorious in English football as the date the national team were defeated for the first time on foreign soil. It could be said that a Spaniard had been thrown in the works! The Spanish were taking on England for the very first time in a football match, and the mile long queues outside the Stadium Metropolitano in Madrid proved the high level of interest generated by the game. The 30,000 that packed into the ground for the midday kick-off were in for a treat, and were about to witness the game of their lives.

The English team was on to a loser before the game had even begun. Having travelled a full day in the blazing sun, they changed straight into their togs to begin their third match in seven days, this time in oppressive noontime heat. Forced to wear bandages round their foreheads to prevent beads of perspiration running into their eyes, the players later reported that “as they emerged from the friendly shade of the dressing room they gazed on a well watered ground shimmering like a mirage in waves of heat from a merciless sun.”  [The Mighty Kick by F.W.Carter / W. Capel Kirby (1933)]
George Camsell, the star of the first two games, was out through injury, so Bradford returned to the forward line along with Kean at right half. Like England, the Spanish also had a solitary amateur playing in their line-up.

Despite the conditions and the distinct loss of Camsell, England were still, expectedly I suppose, 2-0 up at half time. The passing was excellent and soon bore fruit; within the first twenty five minutes Carter, leading the line, had scored two. After the break things began to change with some unsound defending, and a Spanish head made it 2-1. A dazzling shot brought the teams level, before England began to apply the pressure once more. A third goal put England back in front. Zamora, arguably the best goalkeeper in the world at the time, given no chance by Joe Bradford.

However, Spain never stopped trying, and eventually Lazcano brought the scores level just before time. The late equaliser provoked havoc around the stadium with hundreds jumping the rails and invading the field of play, insisting on shaking the hands of every member of the Spanish side. The crowds wanted to embrace the scorer, hold him aloft and chair him round the ground. And that is where the game would probably have ended had it not been for the quickness of a company of mounted civic-guards with swords drawn, to bring about order.

As the English players lay prostrate on the turf seizing the opportunity of a much needed rest during the commotion, they did well to keep clear of the thudding hoof beats of the galloping horses. It is a good thing for Spain that the game was resumed, for within seconds of the restart Goiburu became matchwinner, driving the ball past Hufton at terrific speed. It proved to be the last kick of the game, and once more the civic-guards were called upon to escort the players from the pitch and set a watch outside the dressing room. Goiburu, meanwhile, was carried to the very top of the terracing by adoring fans – the hero of the match.

England team v Spain:
Hufton (West Ham) goal
Cooper (Derby) Blenkinsop (Sheff Utd) backs
Kean (Bolton) Hill, captain (Newcastle) Peacock (Middlesboro) half backs
Adcock (Leicester) Kail (Dulwich) Carter (West Brom) Bradford (Birmingham) Barry (Leicester) forwards.

A ticket from the Spain v England game


Edgar Kail had taken part in one of the most thrilling, as well as historic, international matches played by an England team in over twenty years of touring. Yet the ignominious defeat in Spain meant heads would roll, and eight of the players used on the tour did not partake in any further matches for the national team. It also, more or less, spelt the end for amateur players gaining full caps. It wasn’t the final end of Kail’s career with England. Indeed, in the next two home internationals with Ireland and Wales, he was called up as a reserve, and he was to gain a further seven international caps with England’s Amateur XI.

When the party returned to London, they all received the agreed payment for partaking in the foreign tour and earning their caps. All, that is, except for Edgar Kail. Kail alone filled out the various forms to reclaim his expenses. The strict rules regarding payments to amateurs were recorded in the FA minute book: “An Amateur player may have paid to him or refunded to him:-
a) Rail, motor, tram, boat, etc., fares. Or other necessary expenses actually incurred by him in travelling from, and to his home or work, for the purpose of playing in a match.
b) Hotel expenses, necessary meals during the day, and sleeping accommodation, if absent for more than the day, during the actual and necessary absence from home, for purpose of playing in a match.
Extravagant /unnecessary payments must not be paid by the club. Every Amateur player must give detailed statements of expenses with receipts. Club secretary keeps them. Payment for loss of time, compensation, consideration or remuneration of any kind, other than the items included in a) or b) automatically makes a player a PROFESSIONAL, and renders both him and his club liable to punishment.”

Amateur Ideals

It appears that Edgar Kail never received a penny for playing in a football match. And that’s how he wanted it. How far removed from today’s money-grabbers. Instead, he jealously guarded his amateurism, despite having offers from almost every well known professional club. When he began to make a name for himself in the early nineteen twenties he was greatly sought after, some professional clubs tempting him with amateur terms. Indeed, one of his first amazing offers came in the 1919-20 season from a top North London club. They wanted to sign the teenager as an amateur, without financial loss, guaranteeing him first team football! He felt he was under constant bombardment, subjected to much annoyance and the anxiety that went with it. In the end, to ease the continual pestering by managers of League clubs, the youngster signed amateur forms for Derby County for two years. It must be pointed out that even in the middle of the nineteen thirties Kail claimed that he had never even been to Derby! Much later he also spent some time on Chelsea’s books.

This amateurism was undoubtedly instilled into him by Pa Wilson, the Hamlet’s great mentor. Of Wilson, it was said, “He strived to play the game in the spirit of pure amateurism inculcated by a man with whom such an ideal was a burning passion.” Wilson only encouraged those to stay at Dulwich who proved to be sportsmen, playing only for the love of the game. Edgar Kail was his star pupil.

The amount of midweek afternoon commitments; travelling hither and thither to evening games with Dulwich Hamlet or a representative eleven, meant Kail was often absent from his place of business. In fact, his football had cost him a small fortune. But he had a clear conscience, and writing in 1933, could safely say without fear of contradiction, “Never have I taken from the game one penny in expenses to which I was not entitled, and while I have always signed for expenses incurred and paid to me, it is many years since I drew anything from my own club.”

It had been quite an amazing year in the life of Edgar Kail. He was at the peak of his powers, a footballing genius in the public gaze, with a conduct that was exemplary. He featured in every full England squad of 1929, playing in the three continental matches, and chosen as reserve for each of the home internationals (versus Scotland in April, Northern Ireland in October and Wales in November.) Add to this another three amateur caps against the home nations, including a famous victory over Scotland at Elland Road, and you have some idea what a year it had been. But the greatest thrill came in October (22nd) when his wife Irene gave birth to their first and only child, John ‘Colin’ Kail.

World Cup 1930

When the first World Cup took place in Uruguay in June 1930 it was chiefly made up of South American teams. The competition, set to become, arguably, the most important in world sport, included a mere four nations from Europe, two of which were France and Belgium, lately defeated by England. But unlike our friends at Lancaster Gate, the FIFA led governing bodies on the continent were clearly the more forward thinking, and promptly dispatched their teams across the Atlantic whilst the inventors of the game remained at home. Indeed, the only participating Britons in Montevideo were the handful of mercenaries, mainly Scotsmen from Glasgow that appeared for the United States team.

The FA’s refusal to enter the inaugural competition was typical of the Football Association, with their narrow minded blinkered view of the game. Besides it was being held in a far-flung corner of the world, and there was an economic crisis in Europe to worry about. English fans had to wait a further twenty years before the national team took part, and even then they saw them suffer the ignominy of losing to a nation more adept with a baseball bat than a football.

In Montevideo the host nation went all the way to the Final where they met Argentina in a repeat of the Olympic Games Final of 1928. The Uruguayans, complete with a one armed man, won the tie 4-2 to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy for the first time. Were it not for the English boycott, it is highly probable that Edgar Kail would have gone to South America as part of the squad! And who knows, had they bothered sending a team, it is just as likely that England would have been victorious. [I can even picture Edgar Kail doing a little Nobby Styles type jig across the pitch. But I’m romancing again.]

Instead, England made do with a trip to Austria and Germany where they were to encounter a new enemy. This time Kail was not included in the squad – anyhow, it would have been some feat replacing the Arsenal’s David Jack. Later in the year Liverpool’s Gordon Hodgson, Kail’s South African adversary from six years earlier, played in the inside right position. Kail’s full international career had come and gone, and it was good while it lasted.

Original article from HH11 Winter 2003
Copyright © Jack McInroy

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