Did you know, the season before Dixie Dean scored his famous 60 goals in a single campaign to set a record which – excuse the cliché – may never be beaten, the league scoring record was set just one notch lower?
George Camsell is not a name etched into common footballing folklore, despite being perhaps the deadliest goalscorer in that English footballing era, arguably more so than Dean. In a 14-year career at Middlesbrough, he scored 345 goals in 453 games (can even Messi or Ronaldo match that ratio?), with his heyday being the 1926/27 season, where in just 37 games he struck 59 goals. I know for a fact not even Messi or Ronaldo can match THAT ratio.
Of course, in the 1927/28 season, Camsell was downgraded from record holder to fascinating curio thanks to Dean’s 60 goal haul. Camsell could have matched him, except for a missed penalty, probably not dwelled on at the time or perhaps even after, but the sign that on such tight margins, history can be made or destroyed.
Why am I talking about this? Why do I even know this? Well, earlier this year I competed on the BBC’s flagship terrifying quiz show Mastermind, with specialist subject Middlesbrough FC. The episode aired last night – if you want to watch it, turn off after the specialist subject round. No need to see my attempts at general knowledge.
In order to prepare, I had to work my way through a lot of histories, miscellanies, books of facts and stats on the history of the Boro. I wasn’t sure there would be that much – Boro’s only trophy in 125 or so years was the 2004 League Cup, after all – but I was very surprised.
Did you know that the first professional team in the city was not FC, but the majestically named Middlesbrough Ironopolis? Or that in 1910, manager Andy Walker and chairman Lt. Col. Sir Thomas Gibson-Poole – another cracking name – were banned for life for offering bribes to Sunderland players? Or that Middlesbrough’s 65 points when getting promoted from the Second Division (from 42 games) was a record at the time?
My point is club history. We hear fans bang on about club history all the time, some more than others. Not naming names, but certain teams playing in red in the North West of England spring to mind, and I’m not talking about Altrincham.
Yet all teams have extraordinary history. There is no exception to that rule. Go back far enough and you will find swashbuckling goalscorers, tales of a certain lassitude towards financial fair play, and huge shining moments of success, no matter how bleak the surrounding decades might have been.
I would urge anyone who considers themselves a proper football fan not to just live in the moment and believe that football was invented in 1992, or that Jamie Vardy is England’s greatest goalscorer, but to get acquainted with your club’s history, properly. It would help you win a few more arguments in the pub too.