Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Monday June 23 2008
Sports writer, James Corbett is researching a new book that includes Stoke legend, Neil Franklin and is looking for people who remember him.
James writes: In the post war years, Neil Franklin was an exquisite, unruffled presence at the back of the Stoke City and England team, adding to his tally of 16 consecutive wartime and victory caps with a run of 27 full ones that extended up until 1950.
A non-smoking teetotaller and devoted family man, Stanley Matthews later wrote of him, 'Neil won everything in the air, tackled with superb timing and when the ball was at his feet possessed the nous to pass it with all the guile and intelligence of the most cerebral of inside forwards… [He] oozed class and self-control in equal measures. When his legs were kicked from under him he would rise to his feet, look pityingly at the perpetrator of the shabby assault and with a gentle, disapproving shake of his head, turn and trot away to take up his position.`
Yet on the eve of the 1950 World Cup Finals, Franklin stunned English football.
He had been granted the Football Association`s permission to miss the matches against Portugal and Belgium ostensibly on account of his wife`s difficult pregnancy. In reality it was cover for clandestine negotiations with two former internationals: Jock Dodds of Scotland and England`s George Eastham, who were acting for teams in Colombia. Because Colombia had left the auspices of FIFA its clubs were essentially free to poach players from wherever they liked without need to pay a transfer fee. It was a practice that had previously been confined to Argentina where a number of famous players had been lured from their homelands by enormous wages - most notably a young Alfredo di Stefano - and temptation was now thrust the way of British stars bound by such appalling restrictions on wages at home. As one of Franklin`s contemporaries also contemplating the switch put it:
'We are the only entertainers in the world who cannot negotiate for higher wages. We are burdened with a maximum wage. We have contracts which last only a year; and we are not free to move freely when they run out. If there are other countries, besides Columbia not bound by the rules of the International Football Association we will go to them when they offer us extra freedom and more money.`
Compared to England, the sums involved were huge. Franklin was offered a £2,000 signing on fee and wages of £120 per week - ten times what he was paid at Stoke - to join Santa Fe. Along with several others - including his Stoke City team-mate George Mountford and Manchester United`s Charlie Mitten - he accepted. Invariably the FA took a dim view of the affair, banning Franklin for a year, which also ended any possibility of his presence at the World Cup.
The move turned out to be a disaster for the defender. In team dominated by Argentineans, the South Americans hated the newcomers. 'You hit a man over the head with a bottle with the same sort of nonchalance as you would say, 'don't talk rubbish' at home,' he later said. 'The players are just as bad. Their tempers are always at exploding point and it only needs a tiny spark to turn a football game into a brawl.' Most of the 'Bogotá Bandits', including Franklin, returned within months, having failed to make any serious money. Still only 29 years old, he returned to action in 1951 with Hull City but was a pale imitation of the player who had so graced the England and Stoke back lines in the immediate post-war years, and his career fizzled out without distinction. Football's administrators could reflect on his demise with a degree of schadenfreude: the status quo had prevailed; here was a warning to those who might dare challenge it.
Did you see Neil Franklin play for Stoke, England or Hull City?
Did you ever encounter him in his playing days or retirement?
Maybe you played with him or were coached by him in the 1960s?
Or drank at his pub, the Dog and Doublet?
If your answer was YES to any of these questions, James would love to hear from you. Go to his website www.whenthecheeringstops.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Date:Monday June 23 2008
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