Victorian Football

trainThe Saloon
By Henry Leach
An edited extract from Out With A League Team, 1900

Let me say something about what goes on in the footballers' railway saloon, and about the arrangements which are made for the comfort and well-being of the party during league journeys.

Of course the saloon is always engaged, no matter whether the journey to be made is short or long. It is a detail that in the case of a party of such dimensions the railway company makes no extra charge for it. It is necessary that all the men should be together, and under the eye of the trainer and the secretary, who also acts as manager. The latter gets all the tickets (fare and a-quarter for the double journey) and distributes them, gratuitously of course, when the train is in motion.

Each man usually has his bag with him; but, as a rule, the trainer, who always accompanies the team, is largely responsible for shirts and knickers, and keeps them all in his own hamper. Another very important matter to which he attends is the commissariat, for in a large number of cases it is necessary to lunch in the train. Therefore the hamper is laden with goodly things–not fancy things, but good gig joints of roast beef, and loaves of bread, with a few pots of pickles, which have to be consumed very sparingly.

Nobody has such an appetite as your well-trained footballer, and about midday, very fidgety, and tired of doing nothing, his thoughts turn towards eating and fitting himself bodily for the fray before him.

Not till the trainer will it, however, is his hunger to be appeased; but by-and-by this autocrat disappears into the little ante-chamber at the end of the saloon, a clatter of knives and forks is heard, and presently he emerges with a pile of crockery, which he follows up with the big lumps of beef, the loaves of bread, and all the other comestibles which in his wisdom he has provided for his crew. The secretary, or whoever is most skilful with the carvers, promptly commences to deal out the grub, and by the time he gets to No. 7, No. 1 is clamouring for more!

Eventually, however, the hunger of all is appeased, and then, with a happy contentment and an optimism which is the normal result of a full stomach, the men discuss the coming encounter and the number of goals they will probably win by.

At best, however, these outward railway journeys are weary affairs, for there is so much anxiety as to what is going to happen. Coming home, either victorious or beaten, is ever so much easier. The saloon is strewn with the morning papers, all invariably open at the football page, on which is very likely to be printed the names of the opposing team. This naturally becomes the subject of keen discussion, and it is a matter for all-round congratulation if from some cause or other the rivals are a little below strength.

The grown footballer is not infrequently a smoker, but on no account is he allowed to smoke in the saloon on the journey out. This rule is most strictly enforced, not so much perhaps on account of the injury it would do to the smoker himself, as on account of the contamination of the atmosphere which would ensue, for it is one of the first principles of the trainer that his men must breathe pure air. Now and again, however, you see a player get up and evince some curiosity as to what is in that little ante-chamber aforesaid. He looks about for a moment, and then, as if by accident, the door quietly closes. A couple of minutes later another player follows him, and as the door opens you get a sniff of tobacco which tells a tale of guilt, and the little game is promptly stopped. No great harm, however, is done.

This is an edited extract from Out With A League Team, as featured in Goal-Post, the Victorian football anthology.

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