In 1893 an Anglican vicar in Leeds claimed that "football is a fascination of the devil and a twin sister of the drink system." In the 19th century there was a close relationship between football and the brewery industry. Some of the football teams got changed in local pubs as they played on pitches close-by. For example, Sunderland played their early games on a field owned by the Blue House Inn, whereas Everton played on a pitch provided by Liverpool brewer, John Houlding. When the club fell out with Houlding he established Liverpool football club.
As Tony Collins pointed out in the Encyclopedia of British Football : "In addition to the facilities offered to teams, regular updates of games in progress and match results were sent by telegraph to pubs on Saturday afternoons. Pubs also displayed trophies won by local teams, and savings clubs were set up in pubs so that their patrons could save money to travel to important away matches."
In his book The People's Game (1975), the historian, James Walvin, argues that one of the " main institutions which spawned football teams in these years was the local pub. This, after all, had been the traditional centre for a host of plebeian pleasures for centuries past. Pubs offered a place to meet, somewhere to change, a venue for news and information; a place where teams, management and supporters convened"
Footballers got a reputation for spending a lot of their free time in local pubs. However, Archie Hunter, who played for Aston Villa, argued in 1890 that: "There is an impression abroad - especially among those who don't know anything about the game and the players - that after every match the members go to the nearest tavern and drink as hard as they can. Well, you may find them in a tavern, because it is usual to reassemble in some convenient place; but I deny that footballers on such occasions go beyond proper limits. On the contrary, they are very moderate indeed in this way. The fact is they are obliged to be, or they would be no good.... Any recklessness in drinking and smoking would soon tell upon a player, and you wouldn't see him playing very long."
It is true that some clubs like Aston Villa did try to persuade their players not to drink alcohol. William McGregor, who was the most important member of the management committee, was a committed teetotaller, and did what he could to enforce his views about the dangers of drinking alcohol. As Peter Lupson points out in his book, Thank God for Football : "It did not take long for McGregor to make his presence felt at Aston Villa. One particular problem that faced the committee was the players' drinking habits. Many of them were regularly giving training a miss, preferring to spend their time in local pubs, and some even turned up drunk for matches. Something had to be done. Determined to instill new habits in the players, McGregor, a lifelong teetotaller, decided to rent a room at a coffee house in Aston High Street and to compel them to attend social gatherings and musical events each Monday during the season."
However, it did not stop William McGregor paying large sums of money for Jack Reynolds (1893) and Jimmy Crabtree (1895). Both men had serious drink problems and although they helped Aston Villa win the Football League in the 1895-96 season.
Arnold Hills was an active member of the Temperance Society. When he created the Thames Ironworks team in 1895 he insisted that all the players were teetotal and non-smokers. This was something that he found difficult to maintain and therefore imposed fines on any player caught drinking alcohol.
It was becoming increasingly difficult to persuade men to play for the Thames Ironworks team. A major problem was the fear of an injury that would result in them being unable to work for the Thames Iron Works Company. The club committee therefore decided to insure the players against loss of wages that might follow an injury sustained during league and cup fixtures. However, the club committee issued the players with a warning that anyone who had been injured in a match had to be home by 8.p.m. every evening. They were obviously concerned that they did not try to ease the pain by spending their time drinking in the local public houses.
In September, 1900, The Morning Leader reported that Arnold Hills was changing the name of Thames Ironworks to West Ham United: "The directors propose to make the following charges, to shareholders only, for season-tickets for the football season 1900/01: admission to ground and open stand, 7s 6d, admission to ground, enclosure and grand stand 10s 6d and 12s 6d respectively.... Mr. A. F. Hills who will most likely to take up £500 worth of shares, is very keen on playing a teetotal eleven next season, and the experiment is worth trying if only to vindicate the rights of football employers to call their own tune after paying the piper." As a result during the club's early history, the team was referred to as "The Teetotallers".
In 1902 Newton Heath was £2,670 in debt and faced a winding-up order. At a shareholders' meeting in the New Islington Hall, Harry Stafford announced that the Manchester brewer, John Henry Davies, was willing to takeover the club's debts. The Football League approved the plan and Newton Heath now became Manchester United.
A large number of footballers became pub landlords when they retired from football. This included William Foulke, who ran The Duke public house in Sheffield. It was the heavy consumption of alcohol that contributed to the weight problems of Foulke while he was playing professional football. When he retired from first-class football in November 1907 he weighed over 25 stone.
Hughie Gallacher was another outstanding player who was a heavy drinker. During one game Gallacher was accused of being drunk and disorderly on the pitch. He defended himself by claiming that he was using whisky and water as a mouthwash.
Gallacher continued to have problems with alcohol after retiring from the game. On 12th June 1957 he was due to appear in Gateshead magistrate's court on charges alleging assault and maltreatment of his 14-year-old daughter. He did not appear in court as the previous day he stepped in front of the York-Edinburgh express and was decapitated.
Herbert Chapman, the manager of Arsenal, did what he could to stop his players from smoking or drinking alcohol. In October 1927, Chapman signed Eddie Hapgood, a 19 year old milkman, who was playing for non-league Kettering Town for a fee of £750. In his autobiography Hapgood describes his first meeting with Chapman: "Well, young man, do you smoke or drink?" Rather startled, I said, "No, sir." "Good," he answered. "Would you like to sign for Arsenal". Hapgood later wrote in his autobiography, Football Ambassador, "That remark of Mr. Chapman's about smoking and drinking impressed itself on my mind, for I have never done either during my career, with the exception of drinking occasional toasts at banquets and other functions."
Alexander Latta, of the Everton team, whom I well remember taking a notable part in the International contests, Scotland versus Wales and Scotland versus England. He is a Dumbarton man and the next remarkable thing to his play is that he doesn't drink or smoke.
Now don't think that I mean to suggest that the majority of football players are intemperate, or that they are given to over-indulgence either with ale or tobacco. There is an impression abroad - especially among those who don't know anything about the game and the players - that after every match the members go to the nearest tavern and drink as hard as they can. Well, you may find them in a tavern, because it is usual to reassemble in some convenient place; but I deny that footballers on such occasions go beyond proper limits. On the contrary, they are very moderate indeed in this way. The fact is they are obliged to be, or they would be no good. When in strict training they can't be too careful; and though a man who is accustomed to having a glass of ale at his dinner is not forbidden to take it, yet if he can do without it he is told to abstain. Any recklessness in drinking and smoking would soon tell upon a player, and you wouldn't see him playing very long. Though it is unusual to find a man both a teetotaler and a nonsmoker, yet it is not uncommon to find a man either the one or the other; and I should like my experience in this respect to be known.
The same year that Beecroft became president of Aston Villa FC, a 31year-old Scotsman who was to change the whole course of football history became a member of the committee. William McGregor had left his native Perthshire in 1870 to take advantage of the business opportunities that Birmingham presented. He bought a linen draper's shop on the corner of Brearley Street and Summer Lane (in Aston) where he was to remain in business for the rest of his life. McGregor had got to know fellow Scot George Ramsay and the two men had become firm friends. Ramsay managed to persuade McGregor to become involved with Aston Villa. It proved to be an astute move because McGregor was a visionary and energetic leader and he helped make Villa the most successful and prestigious club in the country. Even today there is a visible reminder of his influence: it was at his suggestion that the Scottish national symbol of a lion rampant was adopted as the club's badge. But his name in football will forever be associated with something even greater than the famous club itself. He was the creator of the Football League.McGregor was a committed Christian widely respected for his honesty and integrity. The Reverend W. G. Percival, a pastor at the Congregational church in Wheeler Street, Aston, where McGregor worshipped for over 40 years, said at his funeral service that the best thing about him "was not so much the genial, kindly, honest sports man, but it was the Christian behind it all". He described him as "a man of absolutely unblemished personal character". Charles Crump, president of the Birmingham County Football Association, stated in the local press that he `stood for all that was best and cleanest in the great game of football: People found it impossible to dislike him even if they disagreed with him, and it was said of him that he never made an enemy and never lost a friend.It did not take long for McGregor to make his presence felt at Aston Villa. One particular problem that faced the committee was the players' drinking habits. Many of them were regularly giving training a miss, preferring to spend their time in local pubs, and some even turned up drunk for matches. Something had to be done. Determined to instill new habits in the players, McGregor, a lifelong teetotaller, decided to rent a room at a coffee house in Aston High Street and to compel them to attend social gatherings and musical events each Monday during the season. It might be more than just a coincidence that Villa enjoyed considerable success not long afterwards.
McGregor and Ramsay were a formidable partnership. Within three years of McGregor's arrival they had established the club as a force to be reckoned with in local football. A 22-0 win against Small Heath (the forerunners of Birmingham City) gives some indication of their strength at the time. The recruitment in 1878 of 19-year-old Archie Hunter, another Scot who had come to Birmingham in search of work, was a particularly inspired move. Hunter, whose impressive playing style and sense of sportsmanship made him a favourite with the fans, was considered to be the best centre-forward of his day and he was one of football's first superstars. His influence in the side was considerable and when Ramsay retired from playing in 1880 through injury, Hunter took over the captaincy.
At first Thames Ironworks did not join a league. It is not known if this was a conscious decision, but Thames' first timetable of matches was much closer to the schedule of a professional club than that of a typical works team. It included matches against one First Division team and two clubs from the Southern League.
With Thames now ready for their first season of football, Dave Taylor stood down from his position to concentrate on refereeing and was replaced by A.T. (Ted) Harsent, another Thames Ironworks employee who lived close to the Works in Mary Street, Canning Town. Harsent became the first secretary of Thames Ironworks Football Club. Francis Payne was the chair of the new club; he worked as a company secretary in the Ironworks. Payne was involved in several of the other works associations, most notably as vice president of the Temperance League. The existence of this particular group, alongside Arnold Hills' personal commitment to alcoholic abstinence, might go some wav to explaining why the first Ironworks teams were teetotal and also non-smokers. Five years later, when Thames Ironworks FC had become West Ham United, the East Ham Echo still referred to the team as "The Teetotallers".
After a dozen games, Bill Collier, the Kettering manager, called me into his office and introduced me to a chubby man in tweeds, whose spectacles failed to hide the shrewd, appraising look from his blue eyes. I didn't know it then, but I was to see this man many times before he died so tragically seven years later.
"Eddie, this is Mr. Herbert Chapman, the Arsenal manager," said Bill Collier. "And the other gentleman is Mr. George Allison." And so I met two of the men who were to play such a major part in my future football career.
Herbert Chapman didn't say anything for a few seconds, then shot out, " Well, young man, do you smoke or drink?" Rather startled, I said, "No, sir." "Good," he answered. "Would you like to sign for Arsenal" Would I. I could hardly set pen to paper fast enough. I believe Mr. Chapman paid Kettering roughly £1,000 for my transfer - £750 down and a guarantee of about £200 for a friendly match later on. But I didn't worry about that at the time.
That remark of Mr. Chapman's about smoking and drinking impressed itself on my mind, for I have never done either during my career, with the exception of drinking occasional toasts at banquets and other functions.