“Growing up as a boy’s football supporter in the 1960s, I don’t remember coming across the term hitter. Can anyone identify when or where this description of goalscorer was first used?” asks Simon Warner.
It’s a good time for the question, with Erling Haaland and Darwin Núñez joining the Premier League this summer. Let’s start with the relevant part of the definition in Collins online dictionary
An aggressive player, especially one who places himself or herself near the opponent’s goal in the hope of scoring
The story has been around since the beginning of football, but it seems – anecdotally and by combing through newspaper archives – that it wasn’t really popular until the 1970s.
“The term ‘winner’ was certainly in use by 1972,” writes David Warriston. “Jimmy Bone, a man of many clubs including spells at Norwich and Sheffield United, was plying his trade at Partick Thistle while working as a coal miner in his local pit. A news article at the time of the 1972 miners’ strike called him: ‘The striker on strike.'”
Sam Gee has another example from a similar period, involving a man who was at his peak as a striker. “In my copy of Matt Busby’s memoir, Soccer at the Top, published in 1973, he writes about Denis Law, and his hesitation before signing him: ‘It didn’t seem like we really needed a ‘striker’ (to use. -it expression) …’ ‘striker’ is in quotation marks in the text. The use of ‘with-it’ suggests that it was also a relatively new use.”
Sam, Gus Cooper and Justin Hopkins remembered a different type of Striker: the slightly naff alternative to Subbuteo. This tribute to Striker suggests that the first set was produced in the early 1970s, although Justin Hopkins thinks it was played. in 1970.
In one way or another, it ties in with the feeling that the term was popular during that decade. Popularized, but not invented. The first relevant reference we can find anywhere is in the Times report on England 2-3 in Sweden from October 1959, which includes the observation that “Bobby Charlton’s real strength as a striker is in forward areas”.
Most of the early use of “winner” is ambiguous – it can be read as a reference to a goalscorer or a forward who forces his way through the ball; who literally beat him. A few weeks after the Sweden game, Charlton was described in the Times as “a winner and taker of goals in the forward areas”.
The first example in the Guardian archives comes from Eric Todd’s match report of Leyton Orient v Leeds in November 1961. “Goals wouldn’t come. For this Leyton’s excellent defense was as much responsible as Leeds’s woeful starting line-up. [Don] Revie himself distributes the ball as carefully as he did when he was the mainstay of Manchester City’s attack a few years back, but it is not the answer to the big problem. The side needs a batsman, not a ball-striker, and until one is found, the great potential of the likes of Bremner and Hawksby will be diminished.”
The meaning quickly evolved, and by 1963 Todd was making a clear distinction between forward and hitter. He described Manchester United’s Law as “most effective as a striker, more dangerous as a destroyer than a creator”.
The term was used sporadically during the 1960s before becoming an established part of the dictionary in the following decade. In 1970, David Lacey praised the Leeds striker Mick Jones, saying that he was “perfectly cast in the mold of the modern striker, skilful in the tightest spaces and a deadly finisher at the slightest opportunity close to target”.
Score at the old and new Wembley
“Have any players scored at the old and new Wembley stadiums? If so, who was first?” asks Masai Graham.
Let’s begin the legend of Love Island. “A certain Michael Owen scored in the last third international match at the old Wembley (1-1 draw with Brazil in 2000) and again in the second international match at the new Wembley (3-0 win against Israel in the Euros). 2008 qualifiers),” writes Alec Cochrane.
Owen’s goal came against Israel on 8 September 2007, but at least two players have been able to beat that. “Ryan Giggs scored for Manchester United against Chelsea in the 2007 Community Shield at the new Wembley stadium,” writes Paul Weir. “I don’t think he scored for United at the old Wembley, but he scored a penalty for England Schoolboys against Belgium in 1989.”
That goal, on 5 August 2007, does not make Giggs the first. “Mark Bright scored the winner for Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup semi-final Steel City derby in 1993,” writes Jamie Woods. “He then scored the opening goal in the first fan match at the new stadium, playing for the Geoff Thomas Foundation Charity XI against the Wembley Sponsors Allstars to raise money for leukemia research.”
That game took place on March 17, which means he beats Giggs by 141 days.
Remember the huge gap (2)
Last week we looked at the biggest margins between top and bottom, with the 95 point gap between Barry Town and Cemaes Ynys Mon in the 1997-98 Welsh League our best effort.
This week, the gaps are widening. “Darlington won the Northern League in 2013 with the treble – 100+ goals (145), 100+ GD (+110), and 100+ points (122 points),” writes Michael St John-McAlister. “Norton and Stockton Ancients finished at the bottom with 25 points, a difference of 97 points.”
Many of you wrote in to take notice of the 2018-19 Scottish Highland League, where the restless Fort William managed to finish with -7 points, 100 behind champions Cove Rangers on 93.
But James Bolton leads the way with his recommendation, the 2003-04 County League: “Formed in 2002 but without promotion in 2002-03, AFC Wimbledon took no chances in 2003/04, winning 42 and drawing four to win. the league comfortably. Cove finished 104 points behind.”
“Given Stephen Shepherd’s story last week about half of Gillingham’s squad not making the Orient match due to traffic, are there any other infamous cases of not being on time for the game?” asked Kevin Meadowcroft in October 2011.
One reply here from Rob Davies: “This story is not about a team but an individual, Ishmael Demontagnac, who stayed in bed during the 2005-06 Christmas program on Walsall’s trip to Bristol City on 2nd January 2006, instead the team bus. Apparently he thought there was no game that day and it was his day off. Walsall lost 3-0.”
Can you help?
“Sarina Wiegman is the first manager to win consecutive major tournaments with different international teams,” says George Jones.
“I noticed that the England Women’s starting line-up had an almost perfect 1-11 shirt set, with only Fran Kirby wearing 14 as an out-of-sequence player. When was the last time a team played in a big game going 1 to 11?” asks Ben.
“I’m curious if the English starting XI in the Euro 2022 finals is combined for the fewest spells accumulated by a team in a major international final. “There seems to be an unusually high number of single syllable surnames and I wonder if their surnames have the lowest total of syllables ever,” said Daniel Craig.
“Bodø/Glimt thrashed Linfield 8-0 in the second leg of their Champions League qualifier last week, after losing 1-0 in Belfast. Is this the biggest win ever in European competition by a team that lost one of the legs,” asks Karl Reilly.