James Catton was born in 1860. He began work as an apprentice journalist for the Preston Herald in 1875. He gradual began to concentrate on writing about sport. This included writing about Preston North End, one of the best football teams in England.
Catton got to know Major William Sudell, who was the secretary of the club. The two men became close friends. Catton also became friendly with the players including John Goodall, Jimmy Ross, Nick Ross, John Graham, Samuel Thompson, George Drummond, Bob Holmes, Robert Howarth and Fred Dewhurst.
As Catton later pointed out forty years later: "In days long ago when Association football players wore beards and breeches, instead of being clean shaven and donning shorts or running pants, newspapers, as a whole, took very little notice of matches. The reports were brief, and there were none of the personal paragraphs, garrulous items, and more or less sensational news which are now part not only of weekly periodicals, but of morning and evening newspapers."
In 1886 Catton began to contribute football reports for The Athletic News. He initially used the pen name of "Ubique". Later he took the name "Tityrus".
Catton eventually became the editor of The Athletic News. By the end of the 19th century Catton was acknowledged as the most important football writer in Britain. The sales of the paper continued to grow. In 1891 sales reached 50,000. Two years later he had doubled to 100,000.
The Athletic News continued to prosper and by 1919 it had a circulation of 170,000. As one football historian, Tony Mason, has pointed out in Association Football and English Society, 1863-1915, by the end of the First World War "the Athletic News was the voice of football and the paper of the discerning football enthusiast."
Charlie Buchan was a great admirer of James Catton's work as a journalist. He wrote an account of the man in his autobiography, A Lifetime in Football: "When I moved my home to London towards the end of July 1925, one of the first people I met was the late Jimmy Catton, former sports editor of the Athletic News, the greatest sporting paper of all. He was working as a free-lance in London. He called at my home for an interview and I was pleased to give it to him. It was an uncomfortable business though, because he arrived just as our furniture was being carried from a removal van into the house in Mayfield Gardens, Hendon. We sat on two packing-cases in the bare room and talked. Jimmy was a little tubby fellow, not five feet in height. He was, however, the greatest writer of his day, knowledgeable, benevolent and respected by all the soccer authorities."
In 1926 James Catton published The Story of Association Football. By the late 1920s Sunday newspapers such as the News of the World and The Sunday People devoted about 25% of its space to sport. Most of this involved reporting on football. The Athletic News tried to compete with this type of coverage but in 1931 it accepted defeat and merged with The Sporting Chronicle.
James Catton died in 1936.
In days long ago when Association football players wore beards and breeches, instead of being clean shaven and donning "shorts" or running pants, newspapers, as a whole, took very little notice of matches. The reports were brief, and there were none of the personal paragraphs, garrulous items, and more or less sensational news which are now part not only of weekly periodicals, but of morning and evening newspapers.
While I was in Nottingham Mr. A.G. Hines, now a vice president of the Football Association, was the honorary secretary of a club then known as Notts Olympic. This was often described as the "twist hands' club." A "twist hand" is an operative in the manufacture of lace. Wherever the Olympic played on a Saturday Mr. Hines would bring to the office of the Daily Guardian on Sunday night a carefully-written account of the match and ask for its insertion in Monday's issue.
He did all this work and went to so much trouble without any fee or reward beyond seeing that the Olympic obtained publicity. Nor was he quite alone in his altruism. The honorary secretary of this day is of another variety, as the botanists say, for he often looks to newspapers to compensate him for the time that he gives to football.
Nothing that I know so powerfully illustrates the great change that has taken place in the game. At one time the secretary of an ordinary club would supply gratis all information that he could to get his club's doings into print; now he has to be paid.
When first I attended football matches as a reporter it was necessary to walk about the ground, to keep outside the touchlines, of course, or to stand behind the goal-posts, if the custodian was a genial man and free from nerves and small irritabilities.
I have seen even a modern goalkeeper, who dwells in a nice little sanctum of his own, with the Goalkeepers' Preservation Act to protect him, so worried that he would, when play was far away, pick up tiny stones, little bits of cinder, and little tufts of grass and put them through the meshes of the net-all signs of nervousness.
In the olden times the goalkeeper was generally self-possessed. He had to be, because he was so often bundled head over heels by one forward while another was making a shot.
But up and down the touch-line and round about the goals the reporter had to wander like a restless spirit. He was as much exposed to the weather as the players, but there was rarely any account to do for an evening newspaper.
At last some wooden benches or desks were put up near the middle of the field, and bordering on the touch-line. There was no shelter, and when the day of telegraphing reports arrived the telegraphic forms were often wet through, and sometimes blown away.
Where the first Press box was built I cannot say, but when one secretary was asked for such accommodation his reply was: "Dear me! I suppose you would like nicely glazed windows, an armchair, a foot-warmer, a cigar, and a glass of whisky at intervals." The game was gaining adherents, "gates" were growing, and secretaries were beginning to show what they thought was independence and hauteur. Really it was rudeness. Reporters in those early days often suffered from severe colds and contracted rheumatism. Many a time have I left a match with clothes saturated by rain and with marrow chilled.
Gladwin was one of those full-backs who never read a newspaper or knew whom he was playing against. He was a natural player who went for the ball-and usually got it. Before a game, a colleague would say to him: "You're up against Jocky Simpson today so you're for it." All Gladwin would say was: "Who's Jocky Simpson?" At that time, Simpson was as well-known and as famous as Stanley Matthews is today.
At other times, one would say to Gladwin: "You must be on your best behaviour, Tityrus is reporting the game."
Now Tityrus, the mighty atom Jimmy Catton, was the out standing sports writer of his day and editor of the Athletic News, known then as the "Footballers' Bible".
Yet Gladwin's only remark was: "Who's Tityrus"?
Before every game, Gladwin pushed his finger down his throat and made himself sick. It was his way of conquering his nerves. Yet on the field he was one of the most uncompromising and fearless players I have known.
He stabilized the defence and gave the wing half-backs Frank Cuggy and Harry Low the confidence to go upfield and join in attacking movements.
Sunderland became a first-class team from the moment he joined the side. He was worth his weight in gold; yes, more than the £34,500 paid for Jackie Sewell.
With Gladwin and Butler consolidating the defence, Sunderland gradually crept up the League table until we knew we had a chance of winning the championship-there was only one team we feared, Aston Villa.
It has been my lot, and often my fortune, to watch exciting but fine ties between Everton and Liverpool, Sunderland and Newcastle United (one of these was the cleanest, cleverest, and most sporting match anyone could wish for), Notts County and Nottingham Forest, and West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa, all neighbours' battles, but this particular match between The Wednesday and United of Sheffield was a bit of old Donnybrook.
Unless I am mistaken the match necessitated three attempts before a settlement. The first match had to be abandoned owing to a snowstorm, the second a week later produced a tie at Bramall Lane (1-1), and the third at Owlerton, two days later (February 19, 1900), resulted in the victory of the United by 2-0. Possibly there was never a more onerous task for a referee. Fortunately the controlling official was the late John Lewis of Blackburn. This tie must linger in memory as a very unpleasant affair.
The first game was typical of Cup-tie football, there being many stoppages for small offences. The replay was on the Monday. Before the game Mr. Lewis visited the dressing-room of each set of players, and told them they must observe the laws and the spirit of sport. He intimated that if any player committed an offence he would send him off the field.
In spite of this the tie had not been long in progress when a Wednesday man was sent to the dressing-room for jumping on to an opponent.
Soon after that The Wednesday's centre-forward had his leg broken, but that was quite an accident. No blame attached to anyone. Another Wednesday player was ordered out of the arena for kicking an opponent.
Mr. Lewis has told me that he did not see this offence, and that his line of sight was obstructed, but he acted, as he had the right to do, on the information of the neutral linesman, Mr. Grant, of Liverpool.
With two men in the pavilion reflecting on the folly of behaving brutally, and another with a broken leg, it is no wonder that The Wednesday lost the tie.
Mr. Lewis always said that this was one of the two most difficult matches he ever had to referee. Memories of this kind abide. His task was formidable, and his duty far from enviable. The sequel was the suspension of two Wednesday players.
For years afterwards it seemed as if ill-feeling between these clubs had died completely out until one day there was a sudden flare-up and a round of fisticuffs between Glennon, of The Wednesday, and W.H. Brelsford, of United. Mr. Clegg was sitting near me and he immediately said: "I thought all this animosity was a thing of the past." Still there was the manifestation-quick and vivid as lightning.
When I moved my home to London towards the end of July 1925, one of the first people I met was the late Jimmy Catton, former sports editor of the Athletic News, the greatest sporting paper of all. He was working as a free-lance in London.
He called at my home for an interview and I was pleased to give it to him. It was an uncomfortable business though, because he arrived just as our furniture was being carried from a removal van into the house in Mayfield Gardens, Hendon. We sat on two packing-cases in the bare room and talked.
Jimmy was a little tubby fellow, not five feet in height. He was, however, the greatest writer of his day, knowledgeable, benevolent and respected by all the soccer authorities.
The first time I met him was just before my first international in Belfast. Though I knew him, he did not mince words about my play in general.
After one game he called me a "sand-dancer". I was rather inclined to take exception-remember, I was very young at the time-but a Sunderland colleague, Tommy Tait, a very kindly fellow and a Scottish international, said to me: "Don't take any notice, Charlie. And always remember this. While they write something about you, it doesn't matter what it is, you are somebody in the game. It's when they ignore you altogether you should begin to worry."It was sound advice that every player should take to heart. Criticism can be helpful at times.
When Aston Villa won the League championship and the Association Cup in 1896-97 1 went to their headquarters, at the Tavistock Hotel, London, the day after they had received The Cup. While I congratulated them I rashly remarked that I could not help feeling sorry that they had deprived Preston North End of their unique record of having captured both the same honours in 1888-89.
The Villa players naturally objected to this observation. The discussion became heated and even reached the stage of a threat to drop me out of the window into the courtyard.
The prospect, for a moment or two, was not pleasant, but presumably they remembered that there were twelve or thirteen to one-and such a very little one, so small indeed that even "Fanny" Walden smiled when he first met me and said with his soft voice and winning way that it was not often he had the pleasure of gripping the hand of a man on whom he could look down! Clever.
Probably the "Villans" relented and repented when they looked me up and down and considered my miniature proportions in relation to my daring. So they did not pitch me out of the window, but one of them, I think it was John Campbell, the Scotsman and the centre-forward, retorted: "Preston? Ha! Football was in its infancy then. They had no one to beat."