When was the term ‘striker’ first used to describe a football striker?

“Growing up as a male football fan in the 1960s, I don’t remember coming across the term striker. Can anyone identify when or where this description of a gunner was first used?” asks Simon Warner.

It’s a good time for the question, with Erling Haaland and Darwin Núñez joining the Premier League this summer. Let’s start with the relevant part of the definition in the Collins online dictionary

An attacking player, especially one who usually positions himself close to the opponent’s goal in hopes of scoring

The position has been around since football’s inception, but it seems – both by chance and through digging through newspaper archives – that it didn’t really become commonplace until the 1970s.

Related: Watch out for the gigantic gap: big point differences between top and bottom | The knowledge

“The term ‘striker’ was certainly in use in 1972,” writes David Warriston. “Jimmy Bone, a man of many clubs including stints at Norwich and Sheffield United, was working at Partick Thistle while also working as a coal miner at his local pit. A report from the time of the 1972 miners’ strike called him: ‘The striker on strike’”.

Sam Gee has another example from a similar period, involving a man who was the epitome of an attacker. “In my crumpled copy of Matt Busby’s memoir Soccer at the Top, published in 1973, he writes about Denis Law and his hesitation before hiring him: ‘We didn’t seem to urgently need a ‘striker’ (to use the -it expression) …’ The quotes around ‘striker’ are in the text. The use of ‘with-it’ also suggests that it was a relatively new use. ”

Sam, Gus Cooper and Justin Hopkins remembered a different kind of Striker: the slightly silly alternative to Subbuteo. This tribute to Striker suggests that the first set was produced in the early 1970s, although Justin Hopkins thinks he was playing inside 1970.

The table football game, Striker. Photography: Marc Tielemans/Alamy

In any case, it is related to the feeling that the term was popularized during that decade. Popularized but not invented. The first relevant reference we can find anywhere is in the Times of England 2-3 Sweden report from October 1959, which includes the observation that “Bobby Charlton’s real strength is as a forward in forward”.

Most of the early usage of “striker” is ambiguous – it can be read as a reference to a striker or attacking player who places his lasso on the ball; that literally hit him. A few weeks after Sweden’s game, Charlton was described in the Times as a “striker and goalscorer in forward”.

The first example in the Guardian file comes from Eric Todd’s report of the Leyton Orient v Leeds game in November 1961. “The goals just wouldn’t come. For this reason, Leyton’s splendid defense was as responsible as the pathetic over-enthusiasm of the Leeds forwards. [Don] Revie himself handled the ball as carefully as he did when he was Manchester City’s attacking boss a few years ago, but he’s not the answer to the big problem. The side needs a striker, not a batsman, and until one is obtained, the tremendous potential of Bremner and Hawksby will languish.”

The meaning quickly evolved, and by 1963, Todd was drawing a clear distinction between a striker and a striker. He described Manchester United’s Law as “more effective as a striker, more dangerous as a destroyer than as a creator”.

The term was used occasionally throughout the 1960s before becoming an established part of the lexicon during the following decade. In 1970, David Lacey praised Leeds forward Mick Jones, saying he “has become perfectly molded into the mold of the modern striker, operating deftly in the tightest of spaces and a lethal finisher given the slightest opportunity close to goal”.

Scoring at the old and new Wembley

“Have any players scored in the old and new Wembley stadiums? If so, who was the first?” asks Masai Graham.

Ryan Wilson/Giggs in action for the England Schoolboys.

Ryan Wilson/Giggs in action for the England Schoolboys. Photography: Action Images/Reuters

Let’s start with a legend of the Island of Love. “A certain Michael Owen scored in the penultimate international match at the old Wembley (1-1 draw with Brazil in 2000) and again in the second international match at the new Wembley (3-0 win against Israel in the European Championship). 2008 qualifiers),” writes Alec Cochrane.

Owen’s goal against Israel came on September 8, 2007, but there are at least two players who can beat him. “Ryan Giggs scored for Manchester United against Chelsea in the 2007 Community Shield at the new Wembley Stadium,” writes Paul Weir. “I don’t think he scored for United at the old Wembley, but he scored a penalty for the England Schoolboys against Belgium in 1989.”

That goal, on August 5, 2007, still doesn’t make Giggs his first. “Mark Bright scored Sheffield Wednesday’s winning goal in the Steel City FA Cup semi-final in 1993,” writes Jamie Woods. “He then scored the opening goal in the first game with fans at the new stadium, playing for the Geoff Thomas Foundation Charity XI against the Wembley Sponsors Allstars to raise money for leukemia research.”

That match was on March 17, which means he beats Giggs by 141 days.

Watch out for the gigantic gap (2)

Last week we looked at the widest margins between top and bottom, with the 95-point gap between Barry Town and Cemaes Ynys Mon in the 1997-98 Wales League our best effort.

This week, the gaps are getting bigger. “Darlington won the Northern League in 2013 with the triple ton – 100+ goals (145), 100+ GD (+110) and 100+ points (122 points),” writes Michael St John-McAlister. “Norton and Stockton Ancients finished last with 25 points, a difference of 97 points.”

Several of you wrote to point to the 2018-19 Scottish Highland League where the hapless Fort William managed to finish at -7 points, 100 behind champions Cove Rangers at 93.

But James Bolton leads with his suggestion, the 2003-04 Combined Counties League: the league comfortably. Cove finished 104 points behind.”

knowledge file

“Looking at Stephen Shepherd’s story last week about half of Gillingham’s team not being in the East game due to traffic, are there any other infamous cases of a side not making it in time for the game?” asked Kevin Meadowcroft in October 2011.

An answer here from Rob Davies: “This story does not concern a team, but an individual, Ishmael Demontagnac, who during the 2005-06 festive program lay in bed for Walsall’s trip to Bristol City on January 2nd 2006 instead of receiving the team bus. Apparently, he thought there was no game that day and that it was his day off. Walsall lost 3-0.”


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