My First International by Redfern Froggatt

The following article first appeared in FA Book for Boys 1953: 

In November 1952, two young footballers – one a professional, the other an amateur – played for their country for the first time. Redfern Froggatt, inside forward of Sheffield Wednesday, was in the England team against Wales, at Wembley, on 12th November; and Gerry Alexander, of Cambridge University and Pegasus, played for the England Amateur XI against Holland, at Hull, three days later. When they had had time to settle down and reflect on the thrills and excitement of their first international we got Redfern and Gerry together to swap impressions and experiences.

FROGGATT: The first I heard about my selection was when I recieved a telegram. How did you get to know youd been picked?

ALEXANDER: I was having tea with the Cambridge captain. We were trying to build a team to beat Oxford in the Varsity match in December. Suddenly, the telephone rang and a voice asked for me. It was a London newspaper reporter. He told me I had been chosen to play for England Amateur XI against Holland, at Hull. I was very surprised. Were you?

FROGGATT: Well, I had dared to hope a little. My club was doing well in the League, and I had been playing better than I had ever played before.

ALEXANDER: A lot of the newspapers suggested you were in line for a cap?

FROGGATT: Yes, the critics had been very kind to me. But I still could not believe my luck, even when I had the telegram in my hand. For me, it meant all my hopes coming true. I had gained my schoolboy ambition and I was quite overwhelmed. I was lucky, I suppose, in being the son of a professional footballer. My father used to play for Sheffield Wednesday, and I learnt everything I know from him. I worked my way up into the team from the local Y.M.C.A. club, but I was a Wednesday supporter from the moment I left the cradle! They call us “The Owls.”

ALEXANDER: But hadn’t you played in a representative match before this international?

FROGGATT: Yes, I played for the England ‘B’ team two seasons ago against Switzerland. From that day on I’d been striving to get a full ‘cap.’ For about a week I couldn’t think about anything else.

ALEXANDER: I think I must have played against Holland a hundred times before the day itself. I used to go through every move of the game. I dreamt about it as well. Sometimes I had a good game, but often I put on a nightmarish display.

FROGGATT: I remember I had an awful time in the last few days before the match. I was very keyed-up. I suppose it is the feeling that so much is going to depend upon you. I felt responsible to the selectors. I felt responsible to my club – I could not let them down, either. And there was the responsibilty towards myself – I so wanted to do myself justice and play well enough to get picked again. It really was an ordeal.

ALEXANDER: Did you have any pre-match practice? I found meeting the rest of the chaps a great help.

FROGGATT: Yes, we had a five-a-side at Chelsea two days before the game. The rest of the team were very good to me, particularly the captain, Billy Wright. He made me feel very much at home. We had a kick-around and a tactical talk with Walter Winterbottom, and gradually I began to get some confidence back

ALEXANDER: I was very thankful for our pre-match practice. We had a game at Highbury, and it gave me a chance to measure myself up against the rest of the chaps. It was an enjoyable game, but it didn’t convince me by any means that I was going to make the England grade.

FROGGATT: What did you feel like on the day of the match? I don’t mind admitting I felt scared.

ALEXANDER: Well, I suppose I was helped by the fact that the odds were supposed to be against us. Someone read out a newspaper report which said that the Dutch team would be too strong for us. It was a good way to start. It built up our confidence in one another. Actually, I think I felt better every minute.

FROGGATT: In the changing room before the match I just wanted to get the match started. I told Billy Wright and Tom Finney how worried I felt, and they said they felt just the same. They had always felt keyed up before an international and expected they would go on feeling keyed up until the end of their days.

ALEXANDER: I was really impatient rather than anxious to get on to the field and start the game.

FROGGATT: I didn’t feel so bad when we walked out of the tunnel on to the Wembley pitch. The crowd was a bit different from the Hillsborough crowd. They didn’t seem to be quite so partisan, I knew there was going to be some feeling before the match had been on long. We were presented to the Duke of Edinburgh. All I wanted was a good start, and I was lucky. The rest of the boys gave me a lot of the ball in the first five minutes and I soon lost my nervousness. The ball ran well for me, and the things I tried to do went right. I felt I was fitting in, and was overjoyed when we got a quick early goal. I was even more overjoyed when we got a second soon afterwards.

ALEXANDER: You had a hand in that one, didn’t you?

FROGGATT: Yes. Billy Elliot took a corner on the left wing, and drove it in hard and low. I walked across it and side-footed it to Nat Lofthouse. And he hit it so hard from close in that I was worried for a second that he might mis-hit it. He likes hitting the ball hard; I think it makes him feel good. It’s surprising what a tonic effect it has on the rest of you. After that second goal we felt on top of the world. I missed a sitter at one point in the game. Fortunately it didn’t matter very much. Apart from that, the ball ran very kindly for me throughout the game. And especially when I switched with Roy Bentley and went to my club position of inside-left. We were 3-1 up at half time and ran out winners, 5-2. Your game was much closer, wasn’t it?

ALEXANDER: The score was closer! We drew 2-all. But we had much more of the play and were on the attack throughout the whole of the second half. We were 2-1 down at half-time after missing a penalty and hitting the post. We felt cheated. In the second half we simply rained shots at the Dutch goal, but their goalkeeper was first class and he held out until we were awarded a second penalty. This time Jim Lewis made no mistake.

FROGGATT: I’m sorry you didn’t get the satisfaction of starting your international career in a winning side. I suppose I was lucky.

ALEXANDER: Don’t worry, you deserved it. It must have been a big thrill to learn after the match that against Belgium a fortnight later the team would remain unchanged!

FROGGATT: Yes, that gave us all such confidence that we went into the match with Belgium – again at Wembley – with our tails right up. We got five more that day, but could have scored a dozen. We eased up a lot in the second half, and the rest of the boys wasted chances teeing up my first international goal for me. I think more than anything else in my first international I enjoyed the actually footballing pleasure of playing with ten such good players who were also able to blend so successfully together.

ALEXANDER: Yes, that’s an extra special thing you always get in an international match. Everything seems to be so much easier. Nevertheless, I think my biggest moment came after the game when I received my ‘cap.’ It is a different one from yours – its red with a yellow Tudor rose on it.

FROGGATT: Yes, it was a big moment, though I suppose for some of the lads it was just another occasion, but I was the only new boy in the team, and it was the first time for me.

ALEXANDER: I don’t know whether you are right. I think they all get a kick out of it – even Billy Wright, with his fifty-odd caps. I know it will always mean a lot of me – that is, if I get any more! But I am going on hoping.

FROGGATT: You can say that for me!

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