After the Olympic Games, the Indian team travelled to the Midlands and played Boldmere St. Michael’s on Wednesday 31st August 1948. An estimated 800 spectators packed into the Church Road ground. Disappointingly the weather in Sutton Coldfield was bad for late summer with constant heavy rain. (so no change there from 2012)
The pitch was sodden and muddy.
Admission to the ground was One shilling for adults (about five pence now) with boys (and presumably girls, although girls were not a common sight at football grounds) at six pence (now 2.5p)
The following day the local Sutton Coldfield newspaper, in their match report, headlined the match as “Football Style Contrast” and “Tourists Excel in Ball Control.” It read, ‘Last night’s match between Boldmere St. Michael’s and the Indian Olympic XI at Church Road, won by the tourists by the only goal, provided an interesting contrast of football styles.'
‘Boldmere did well to hold their visitors to the lowest possible margin but it is no injustice to suggest that the conditions were all against the tourists. Boldmere were dour, ruggedly efficient and their full-blooded kicking suggested that they might easily save the game in the second half. Outstanding for Boldmere was veteran Harold Spencer, recalled to the club for the third time after his official retirement. ‘
‘Their opponents, dismayed by the rain and heavy ground conditions - which persuaded all but two of the team to adopt the unusual practice (for them) of wearing boots - showed remarkable accomplishment in ball control, close dribbling and heading. Allied to every endeavor a speed which suggested that their true main interest in the Olympiad was in the track events.’
‘Some of their juggling feats were entertaining but not over-effective, and their marksmanship, with the heavy ball was indifferent. Another criticism is that the forwards, almost without exception, maneouvered the ball for right-foot shooting from close range. ‘
‘Their combination and defensive covering, however, was of the highest order and had the ground been dry and hard, there is no doubt that the Birmingham amateurs would have been overwhelmed.The winning goal, after 30 minutes, was brilliantly headed by Raman from a low cross from the diminutive right winger Vajjravelu, a youngster whose “wizardry” justified that appellation.’
‘Another local newspaper report, by John Camkin, read, ‘Boots were the cause of a considerable amount of Indian discomfort last night. They caused goals to be missed, passes to go astray and members of that country’s Olympic team to make many violent contacts with the Boldmere St. Michael’s sloping ground at Church Road. The tourists had been compelled to take to boots, an unusual item of football gear to them because the heavy rain that fell throughout the game.’
‘Only inside-left Khan was brave enough to leave the hated boots in the dressing-room, but his partner Sarangapani Raman was soon sitting on the touch-line undoing his laces. The boots discarded he promptly put his head to a centre from Ballsasundara Vajjravelu, a veritable coloured Matthews, to score the only goal of the game.’
‘The Indians were undoubtedly handicapped by wearing football boots and the general playing conditions. One player said afterwards that normally they would have scored another four goals. Their snappy ground passing left no doubt as to their formidable quality on dry pitches.’
“They could make the ball talk.” said Boldmere centre-half Harold Spencer. As usual Spencer was the local hero. His main lieutenant during the match was 16-year-old Harold Wright who played the speedy and clever right-winger in grand style.'
'Boldmere’s performance proved that their previous season in winning through to the the F.A. Amateur Cup semi-final was no fluke. “They were a team of workers, very hard to beat” was the opinion of T. Aao, India’s captain.'
One of the spectator’s on that day was Ken Robinson. Now in his 80s and a D-Day veteran, he vividly recalls that day with the rain, the mud and the attraction of a Olympic team playing at his local club. So much so that Ken became a free-scoring centre-forward for the “Mikes” in the 1950-1951 season. He has had a long association with the club as a supporter, player and coach and has returned to his roots as a supporter and enjoys watching the modern Boldmere players in action.
Click on the link below for some images from that era.
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