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Say What You See: 1950s Team photo

Olly Wicken examines a photograph, with the brief to...


"I see rolled-up sleeves. Quite right too. We’d had to apply for re-election at the end of the season before. There was a job of work to be done to keep Watford in the League.

Quite right too, too, because short-sleeved football shirts are a modern-day nonsense. In hot weather, proper footballers wear rolled-up sleeves with dark sweat patches spreading from the armpits.  

I see knitwear. Geoff Morton [the goalkeeper, back row, centre] is wearing a chunky roll-neck with a fisherman’s rib-stitch pattern. Makes him look like he was expecting to find a few mackerel in his net. At home to Swindon in September he found seven footballs. It’s still the most we’ve ever let in at home.

Pat Molloy [back row, far right] seems to be wearing a mid-16th century ruff under his tracksuit. I know he always looked old, but that old? Four hundred years?

Blimey. Look at the ball. Untreated leather. On the upside, maybe, the ball helped soak up excess rainwater in the days when pitches didn’t have good drainage. On the downside, chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Not funny.

Ah. This is more like it. I see shin pads. In the 1950s, shin pads took no prisoners. You could have opened the batting for Surrey in them. Seventy years on, shin pads are tiny — the size of a cream cracker, and about as much use. These players look like they’ve been out shoplifting hardback books.

Best thing of all? No one minds there’s a ladder in the background of the team photo."