Pardon me for living!

Geoffrey Green

Geoffrey Green (May 12, 1911 - May 9, 1990) was the first and foremost English football writer.

Geoffrey Green started writing for The Times in the 1930s when football was not afforded much respectability among the paper's traditional readership. He is considered to be the godfather of football reporting and the world's first anointed Football Correspondent, although he remained anonymous in the paper until January 23, 1967. He also broadcast on football for BBC Radio.

Match Of The Century

Most noteworthy of his work was covering the Match Of The Century on November 25th, 1953, wherein the 'Magnificent Magyars' (Hungary) rammed England by 6-3 scoreline under the heading "A New Conception of Football". It was England's first defeat at Wembley, and the inventors of football were described by him as "strangers in a strange world." New Conception referred to the middle ground between "the hard hitting, open" British method and the "more subtle, probing infiltration" of the continental game.

The best goal of the game was scored by Ferenc Puskas; having received the ball from Czibor on the right near the six-yard box when the England captain Billy Wright went towards him for the tackle, Puskas drew the ball back as Wright charged past "like a fire engine going to the wrong fire" leaving the Hungarian captain free to score from his powerful left-foot.

Many football historians in England believe that it was this defeat that made English football thinking again, and the seeds of 1966 World Cup victory were sown. "English football can be proud of its past. But it must awake to a new future". The venerable Times offers this match-report on their site as part of its dedication to the game and for fans worldwide.

Distinctive Style

Geoffrey Green had an uncanny ability to articulate the happenings on the football pitch with such eloquence and fervour gravitating every reader towards the 'beautiful game' eventually turning them into fans.

He poignantly captures the importance of FA Cup in England through early years of football as "The influence of the Cup in all this wonderful growth (football league) is almost incalculable, it was the spark that set the whole bonfire of football alight. .. it altered the whole pattern and the whole purpose of the game."

Consider this description of Sir Stanley Matthews in his prime as "It is by the power to call souls out of the abyss into life that greatness is judged. So can Matthews be judged ... Matthews is a superb artist."

Green outlines the wizardry of wingplay in general & Matthews in particular while introducing Garrincha in the 1958 World Cup as "the Matthews of the New world" thus: "the suggestion of the inward pass, the body-swerve, the flick past the defender's left side, and the glide to freedom at an unbelievable acceleration."

Weigh the method of Matthews arch rival in the 1950's, Sir Tom Finney's expansive coverage of wide-spaces on the field "To watch him show the ball to opponents, then whip it away as he weaves and changes pace, is to experience artistry at its highest level."

Or that unrivalled depiction of Sir Bobby Charlton's play "He always possessed an elemental quality; jinking, changing feet and direction, turning gracefully on the ball or accelerating through a gap surrendered by a confused enemy," which certainly brings back those moments captured by Green's purple prose into our minds and senses.

These descriptions of England's greatest players by Geoffrey Green have become definitions by which generations hence shall recall the treasure trove of legends who cast an indelible spell on this game.

Green retired from The Times in 1976 after nearly 40 years of distinguished service.

Memorable Quotes

1.On Garrincha in the 1958 World Cup: "the one man above all others to turn pumpkins into coaches and mice into men."

2.On Tottenham Hotspur's double in 1960-61: "Their game is to decoy, create and destroy."

3.On England's 1966 World Cup victory: "If England, perhaps, did not possess the greatest flair, they were the best prepared in the field, with the best temperament based on a functional plan."

4.On the architect of England's victory Sir Alf Ramsay: "Given to doctrinaire, puritanical, even apparently humourless, he has nonetheless dedicated himself to one end – victory. A lone wolf, he yet managed to build up a team spirit among his men unknown before in any international squad."

5.On the 1970 World Cup wining Brazilian team: "They have won because their football is a dance full of irrational surprises and Dionysiac variations."

6.On finishing his last World Cup assignment in 1974: "And so, on a personal note a well thumbed book is snapped shut on my last World Cup final."

7.On Bill Shankly's death in 1981: "Football was his religion and Anfield his kirk. Booking into a continental hotel, he wrote 'Anfield' in the address column. On being asked by the receptionist for his home address he replied: 'What the hell do you mean? That is my home.'"

Magnetised by Manchester United

Newspapers were printed out of Manchester until the late 1960s and coincidentally Sir Matt Busby's Manchester United revolutionised the game in the 1950s (Busby Babes) and no wonder that Green like many of his peers who frequented there were spellbound by their young and precocious team. The chief reason for being captivated was the endless line of brilliant young players who came through the Youth Academy at Manchester United - Duncan Edwards, Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir George Best. And it was the inimitable & one and only Geoffrey Green who saw these three legends in their prime.

One of a very few to have experienced the phenomenon called Duncan Edwards, to whom he devoted an entire chapter in his book 'Soccer in The Fifties'. "His talent, his energy, his unselfconscious fun and enjoyment of the chase, his ability to make everything seem possible, all this added up to a volcano of excitement that gripped the crowds and the game wherever he played". Big Duncan would sadly perish in the Munich Air Disaster of 1958, so would eight other celebrated journalists. "Certain it is that Duncan Edwards, had he survived, would have captained England to the World Cup in 1966."

In yet another first, he captured the arrival of George Best against Benfica in the 1966 European Cup quarter-final (modern day equivalent of UEFA Champions' League) in a splendid form "Night a star was born", wherein he described Best's goal as "gliding like a dark ghost past three men, to break clear and slide the ball home - a beautiful goal." Quintessential Best as The Beatle who "was the best of all, as he set a new almost unexplored beat" with his "long dark mop of hair, is known in these parts as The Beatle."

The Red Devils, who would rise after Munich of 1958 and conquer Europe a decade later continued to play imaginative football even during the barren years of 1970's and 80's. Out of those doldrum years of Manchester United came Green's 'There is Only One United' in 1978 where he described the club: "As for United, they stand for something more than any other person, any player, any supporter. They are as was once written in the club programme of 1937 - the soul of a sporting organisation which goes on from year to year, making history all the time. They remain a club with a rich vein of character and faith. Because of that they have no fear of the morrow."

Two Schools of football Journalism

The first was founded by Geoffrey Green through his inspired, illuminating view of the footballing events fully immersed in its present moment thus capturing that true environment for the benefit of posterity. Any disapproval of the game or the methods employed by the teams were conveyed in a subtle manner.

The second school of thought is the Critique, who constantly compares the level of the prevailing standards with that of the past. Echoing similar instances of occurrences in the by-gone era, more often than not ends up painting a negative picture, distilling bare bone details of facts and figures. Another of The Times preeminent writer Brian Glanville is the exponent of this school.


It is safe to say that like the FA Cup, Geoffrey Green set the bonfire of football writing alight with his rhapsodic flow of words that were never used before to describe the simple yet beautiful game of football. His career paralleled the rise of football from a restricted and disjointed following in most countries until the arrival of the World Cup and European Cup, to being firmly entrenched as the king of games with such a popularity to rival even the Olympics. English football and its unique history will always remain secure in the knowledge that Geoffrey Green has cached the folklore of its incipient era.


1.The Official History of the FA Cup (1949)

2.History of The Football Association (1953)

3.Soccer in The Fifties

4.There is Only One United (1978)

5.Pardon me for living - his personal autobiography


1. Geoffrey Green: ‘'A New Conception of Football'’

2. Fabio Chisari: '‘Definitely Not Cricket'’ The Times And The Football World Cup 1930-1970

3. Frank Keating: ‘'Sir Neville's pastoral idyll embraces the high-tech era'’

4. Brian Glanville: Ferenc Puskas

5. Noted football writer David Lacey invariably ends his weekly column by comparing the present state of the game by a parallel in Geoffrey Green’s times and once again reminds us of this greatest ever football writer.

External links

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