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Blog: Mystery Magpies Photograph

18 March 2013

A blog entry from 'A Musing Magpie' about a photograph recently featured in #themag...

As a result of some research I recently carried out for one of my ‘A Musing Magpie’ articles on the Supporters’ Club website, I think I may be able to shed further light on the date of the intriguingly enhanced photograph that appeared in the Carlisle edition of #themag. Indeed, three faces staring out from the now not so dim and distant past make it possible to date the picture and the circumstances surrounding it fairly accurately. 

Anyway, here goes! Whilst reviewing the ‘Twenty Goal’ Men who have catalysed the 13 promotions that the Maggies have achieved in their 125 seasons of League Football I highlighted the 1922.23 Division Two Championship team as being unique in that it lacked a prolific scorer who had netted twenty or more League and Cup goals. In fact a mere 46 goals were required to secure that particular title thanks to a miserly defence that conceded just 34 goals in 42 matches. 

That record was essentially a tribute to the efforts of second-string ’keeper, George Streets, who kept goal more often than the imperious Albert Iremonger, and full backs Ashworth and Cope, who clinically exploited the offside trap at a time when the rules required three defenders to be ‘goal-side’ rather than the present day two. Hardly surprisingly, therefore, the leading scorer that season was Cornishman, Donald Cock, who scored only 13 times in 33 games after joining the Maggies in early October 1922. 

Previously Cock, the younger brother of England international Jack Cock, had averaged a goal in every other game for Fulham and he went on to net 34 times in 96 games for Notts before moving to Arsenal in March, 1925. However, his Gunners’ career was effectively ended after two appearances when he broke his leg on returning to play for his new club at the Lane a week after making his Highbury debut. 

The second significant face in the photograph is that of William ‘Billy’ Death, whose main claim to fame was that he featured in County’s famous 4-2 ‘friendly’ win at Barcelona in May 1922. Unfortunately, a year later Billy completed his rapid ‘riches to rags’ Maggies’ career by moving over to Mansfield shortly after Notts sealed their Second Division title triumph with a 2-1 away win over runners-up West Ham United, who would otherwise have pipped the ’Pies at the post by virtue of their far superior goal average.  

So, it seems safe to conclude that the mystery picture must have been taken between October 1922 and May 1923 whilst both Cock and Death were at Meadow Lane together. However, the presence of Charles Bell in the photograph, albeit misleadingly labelled as the ‘manager’, enables us to be a little more precise because Bell was actually what we would now call a coach under the jurisdiction of long-serving secretary-manager, Albert Fisher, during 1923 and 1924.

Initially that persuaded me to believe the photograph was taken to mark the Division Two Championship win, but I subsequently put my Sherlock Holmes hat on and deduced from the absence of George Streets and the presence of one or two other players that the picture was taken on a dull winter’s day before a specific match, which was probably the First Round FA Cup tie at Plymouth Argyle on 13 January 1923. This view is supported by the fact that closer examination of the partially obscured sign on the right hand edge of the photograph reveals that the players were assembled in front of a hotel, which we could have identified more precisely had trainer Jimmy Iremonger, closed ranks a little at the time. 

Hence, in the absence of further evidence, I rest my case. Unless, of course photo restorer, Brent Di Cesare, can work a bit more magic by removing Jimmy’s image in order to enable the name and location of the hotel in question to be discovered!

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