Thursday, 5 January 2012

Did you hear the one about the Englishman, the Irishmen and the Coleman?

By Jack McInroy

Edgar Kail was a mere teenager when he made his international debut for the England Amateur team. Just two weeks off his twentieth birthday, it should have been very daunting for a debutant of such youth, but Kail was already a Champion and a Cup Winner, a feat which had eluded even some of the great veterans of the amateur game. Alongside him in the team that day was his team-mate from Dulwich Hamlet, E.H. Coleman.

‘Tim’ Coleman was the outstanding amateur goalkeeper of his day and like his young friend gained several amateur caps and full honours with the England team. He had also been chosen for the Olympic team in the summer games in Antwerp, but for some reason was unable to play. His association with Dulwich Hamlet began before the Great War when he played second fiddle to Jack Thompson. Yet such was his outstanding ability that within a matter of only a few months he had taken over the Hamlet keeper's jersey permanently.

The England v Ireland game was an annual fixture that dated back to the 1905-06 season stopping only for the war period. It was resumed in 1919 at Derby County’s Baseball Ground, and was next due to be played at Cliftonville in Belfast in November 1920. But this had become something of a worry as the Sinn Fein uprisings were now at a height, and the authorities, expecting protests from the Irish fans, were concerned for the safety of the English players. However, hundreds of armed policeman were drafted in to enable the game to go ahead.

In fact Ireland was a dangerous place to be altogether after the First World War. Irish nationalists fought against British rule, engaging in a bloody civil war that eventually led to the partitioning of Northern Ireland and the Republic the following year. There was no guaranteed safety at sports events either, and only a week after the England v Ireland international a dozen or so people, including one player, were shot dead at a Gaelic football match in Croke Park, Dublin, by the British Black & Tans in retaliation to some assassinations earlier the same day.

In Belfast England’s Amateurs won the game 4-0, but the scoreline flattered them. The man of the match was not the gifted teenager or one of the famed Corinthians, but the brilliant custodian who put on a breathtaking display of acrobatic goalkeeping that kept out the Irishmen.

As soon as the referee blew the final whistle things began to get out of hand as the crowds broke through the police cordon and swarmed onto the pitch. The English players fearing for their own safety quickly made their way towards the sanctuary of the dressing room. One English player, however, was caught by the multitude, and for a few moments the rest of the players had their hearts in their mouths.

But they needn't have worried, the crowd having caught the man they were after – Tim Coleman – lifted him aloft and carried him from the field shoulder high in great esteem. He must have been the proudest man in town. The remarkable incident made a great impression on the England side and the young Edgar Kail especially, who never forgot the event.

Coleman makes a save for the full England side
versus Wales at Cardiff in March 1921.

Original article from HH21 Spring 2009.
Copyright © Jack McInroy

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