This is has been siting in my Hard-drive for a month. For fans who haven't read the old copy of FourFourTwo back in December (I think.) It was late September 1945, and World War II had finally rumbled to an end. The bunting was up, Dame Vera was warbling on, and after six years Britain could finally set about rebuilding its flagging morale. To play their part, a collection of football’s most powerful suits convened in London to discuss how best to celebrate the return of the national game. After much deliberation, the collective Football League and FA brains agreed that only a show-piece event featuring an England XI would suffice. But against who? Suitable opponents, seemed to present themselves on October 1st when a Soviet armed forces XI turned heads by beating their British counterparts 2-0. By the time the Russian Army beat a French XI by the same margin a week later, talk of a match was growing louder. A Soviet spokesman was quick to play up his nations chances. “We like football very much”, he said. “Everybody plays from the age of 10. Every battalion and regiment in our army has a team.” The British public was suspicious of Stalin’s Russia, however unsure quite what to make of its new ‘allies’ and their mysterious moustachioed leader. On a football level, an international fixture was viewed as a mismatch - England’s strength was expected to be too much for a Russia side, even if their armed forces had proved they could play a bit. Frank Butler, the renowned football correspondent for the Daily Express envisaged a problem. “It is possible that the Russians do not consider that they could do themselves justice in such a game”, he sniffed, and on his occasion his superiority complex was in many ways understandable. Russian football had hardly set the world alight before WWII, with the nation’s footballers best known for a whopping 16-0 defeat at the hands of Germany in the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games. England, meanwhile, had yet to be beaten on home soil and boasted the world’s most celebrated players. In short, football had yet to leave home. Yet despite the concerns about the standard of Russian football, at the end of October an announcement was made that leading Russian outfit Dynamo FC of Moscow would be arriving to play a series of games against Britain’s finest teams. Public excitement was immediate and understandable. A Russian team had yet to visit Britain and pundits and fans alike debated how a side from the Soviet union would approach the noble art of association football. A decade after their visit, journalist Brian Glanville wrote in his book, Soccer Nemesis, about the level of interest and “sympathy” gleaned from the tour by Britain’s footballing public. “Mingled with these qualities, one suspects was a strong element of curiosity, sustained by the hoary Russian myth,” wrote Glanville. “Communism had not dissipated the mystery in which Russia seems to the Englishman to be shrouded; Peter the Great, descending abominably on London, ogling the ladies in waiting; Russian soldiers, reported in England ;with snow on their boots’, and now a Russian football team.” Curiosity and excitement were not solely monopolised by the British. The tour offered Russian football the chance to show off their skills, and where better to do that than at the home of football? Dynamo’s coach Mikhail Yakushin, was under doubt about the importance of his team’s rare opportunity. “England is the birthplace of football,” he declared. “There is no doubt that the best players in the world were English.” It is hard to say whether Yakushin’s past tense description was meant to antagonise, or whether he was predicting a new order slowly being formed in world football. What was clear was that Dynamo were the perfect visitors, the team best suited to underline Russian football’s credentials. That season they had run away with their championship (athletes had been exempt from active armed service in Russia), winning 19 of their 23 games scoring 73 goals in the process. The Russian authorities were keen to administer their own agenda, however; one that would ensure the needs of their team and, ultimately, their country were met. Before their arrival , Dynamo officials sent the English FA a 14 point charter. The demands led to a frosty start to the tour but the Russians were adamant that their requirements must be met to ensure a fair and worthwhile visit. The FA choked on their gin, but had to concede on many of their points. Dynamo would not play any of Britain’s national sides. A game at Wembley against an England team would no doubt be a money spinner for the FA but Dynamo were a club side and therefore would only pit their skills against teams of similar standing. One of the club sides they faced must be Arsenal. The Gunners had dominated English football between the two world wars. Under the expert eye of Herbert Chapman, players such as Alex James, Cliff Bastin and Ted Drake had brought a hatful of championships to Highbury, giving an initial sheen to the club’s marble walls. Their form had not gone unnoticed abroad, especially after a famous victory in 1933 over the renowned Austria side who had given England a good game at Wembley a year earlier before losing 4-3. Arsenal beat the Vienna XI (English clubs were prohibited from playing national sides, hence the name) 4-2 to underline their status in the game. The Russians wanted to play the very best, and that meant facing the Gunners. As their coach Yakushin said: “To come to London and not play Arsenal would be like visiting Cairo without seeing the pyramids.” The charter also highlighted the Russian’ concerns over the perception of the laws of the game, especially regarding the body charging of players - legal in England but not in the visitors’ game. They also stated the necessity of substitutes - permitted in the Russian game but not the British - and informed the FA they would be bringing their own referee who must be permitted t adjudicate at least one game. Amid lesser demands, such as a request to eat all their meals in the Soviet Embassy, the Russians were perturbed that, other than an ultimately ill-advised fixture at Third Division Cardiff City, no game would be played on a Saturday afternoon. Dynamo officials were insulted that the tour was not being taken seriously enough. If an English club was to visit Russia, all other games would be cancelled, they argued, and after their arrival in England they wasted no time in taking up the subject with FA secretary Stanley Rous. - “Which is the big day for playing football?” asked one irate official. - “Almost any day”, Rous declared, but this was not quite true and the Russians would not be deterred in his line of questioning. - “But on which day are all the big matches played? On which day do all the people go to watch?” - “Saturday” replied the FA secretary, somewhat sheepishly - “Then why can’t we play our games on a Saturday?” It was an awkward situation for Rous and the FA, but one on which they would not be bulged. The concern was that playing these games on a Saturday, especially in London, would have a damaging effect on other attendances. Their stubbornness was strange considering that the 1945-46 season was one of transition - many players were still to return from the armed forces and normal competition was far from fully underway - but the FA had made up its mind. The start of the tour designed to improve relations and morale was hardly off to a good start. Meanwhile Bob Crisp of the Daily Express was voicing his misgivings over the tour happening at all. To him such an event so close to the end of such a destructive war was inappropriate. Crisp cited the 1936 Olympics, which had given Hitler the notion that the British as a race were “athletically pathetic”, and noted that England’s 2-2 draw with in Italy in 1938 had only convinced Mussolini that the British were “nothing but a decadent race.” To Crisp, using sport as a tool of international relations was dangerous. “Sport in Europe is achieving a significance out of all proportion to its true position,” he wrote. When Dynamo eventually arrived in London, it was to a cool reception lacking any razzmatazz. Ill-feeling appeared rife between the tourists and the English FA. The army barracks that were to house the Russians were hardly the lap of luxury, with the Daily Express first to point out that the shabby quarters pre-dated the Crimean War, “when men were men and soldiers weren’t expected to have hot beds.” The Russian radio commentator who was accompanying the party told comrades back home how under-whelming the tourists’ arrival had been. “In England, the fatherland of football, we were met according to the English fashion: rather dryly without flags, music or flowers. Officials of the British federation coldly shook our hands and then threw us to the journalists to be torn to pieces. But we also have our customs. We don not like to talk in vain, so we decided to keep quiet for the time-being. The players were taken to the Guards Barracks to be housed, but we discovered mould on the walls, cobwebs and hard bolsters instead of pillows. We did not like this, and we went to the Soviet Embassy, where we stayed the night. If the tour had started acrimoniously, the hope was that the football would ease relations. The tour would kick off with a match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and ahead of the game, the Russians trained at the White City Stadium. But if they had been met with frosty acclaim on their arrival , Dynamo were in for an even colder reception from some quarters of the press who witnessed those first training sessions. Paul Irwin of the Sunday Express was the most fervent in his dismissal of the visitors. “They are not nearly good enough to play our class of professional teams,” he snapped. “Their players are simply a set of very earnest amateurs… I say this confidently. In three hours’ football….they look an ordinary lot. Now it may be argued that they are reserving their real form for the Chelsea match. I won’t have that. No set of players is clever enough to hide its form over three hours/ There must be a flash of form, but none arrived from the Russians. They have a fairly good idea of passing, but nearly all their work is done standing still. And I they are so slow that you can almost hear them think.” Despite such negativity, November 13 saw crowds flock to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea had embarked on a post-war spending spree. Rather as today, the board was desperate to build a new team that would replace Arsenal as the capital’s glamour club. An outlay of £25,000 on Johnny Harris, Len Goulden and most importantly Tommy Lawton was not to be sniffed at and 85,000 expectant fans crammed into the ground, overflowing onto the pitch before settling right up to the touchline. Hundreds more found spots on the roof of the main stand. Lawton was one of the biggest names of English football and his transfer from Everton a week before the game was a matter of some contention with the by-now-suspicious Russians. Moscow’s Izvestia newspaper accused Chelsea of having a “strengthened” team. “Determined to beat Dynamo at all costs, the club has spent thousands of pounds to secure some of Britain’s best footballers. For instance [they] paid £14,000 for the famous Tommy Lawton, [just] so that he could play against Dynamo.” Lawton scoffed at the suggestion, citing his wife’s illness as a reason to move south, where the air was deemed cleaner. (How times have changed…. ~ ganu) As well as the new players, the mysterious Russians fascinated Chelsea’s public and even before the game they had a few surprises up their sleeves. They warmed up with a couple of balls 10 minutes before kick-off, something never seen before, and having lined up for the national anthems each player handed a bunch of flowers to an English opponent. This was greeted by a thunderous roar from the crowd, while the FA officials squirmed in their seats at their shameful lack of hospitality. The game began with Chelsea wearing an unfamiliar red strip with while their visitors wore smart blue shirts engraved with a white ’D’ and a particularly baggy shorts, generous even by their era’s standards. If Dynamo had failed to impress in training, they soon began to underline their strength, skill and pace when it mattered. Passes nonchalantly found their target and Lawton was policed comfortably by the Russians centre-half and captain, Vitali Semichastniy. But despite their skills, and having slowly won the hearts of the crowd, the visitors were twice hit by sucker-punches, goals from Goulden and Reg Williams giving Chelsea a 2-0 lead. It was harsh on Dynamo, who also missed a penalty before half-time, but the second half continued in the same vein, the Russians flowing forward. With little over 20 minutes remaining the visitors clawed their way back into the game when inside right Kartsev drilled the ball home to make it 2-1. It was a tremendous goal that no doubt warmed his comrades back in Moscow. “Steady, comrades, steady,” came the cry from their commentator Vadim Sinyavsky as the Dynamos moved towards goal. “Take a glass of water…. Yes…yes… he’s through , he’s scored. Yes comrades, you can kiss him.” Seven minutes later, the same player laid on a deserved equaliser for the outside right, Evgeny Archangelskiy to spark further embracing. The drama hadn’t peaked, however, and Tommy Lawton underlined his quality with a trademark header that seemed to have won the game. But then Dynamo’s Vsyevolod Bobrov plundered another equaliser - from a clearly offside position. To the crowd’s delight and amusement, the goal stood and it was no less than the Russians deserved. They had arrived and shown themselves to be more than capable. Brian Glanville summed up their performance when he wrote: “From first to last their football remained cogent and incisive, a triumph of socialism over individualism, for the ball was never held by one man, but transferred bewilderingly and immediately to another.” The Russian commentator was eager to let his countrymen know how well the team had done. “Listen comrades in Moscow, Leningrad and Berlin. We have passed our first exam with honour.” They certainly had. Their captain Semichastniy was a revelation, Kartsev had proved a real handful and the goalkeeper Aleksei ‘Tiger’ Komich delighted the crowd, as he would do for the rest of the tour, with both the haircut and his unique acrobatic style. The English press were forced to eat humble pie with the Daily Express’ Frank Butler describing the game as “one of the most entertaining exhibitions of football ever seen on an English football field.” With heady praise ringing in their ears, the same Dynamo team took to the field in Cardiff to face the part-timers, many of them coming straight from their work down the pits. Queues started to form at 4am, while streetwise youths sold pirate programmes at twice the official price. But a crowd of 60,000 saw a complete mismatch as the Russians ran out 10-1 winners. Cardiff manager Cyril Spiers reflected that, “[Dynamo] are the finest team I’ve ever seen. They are a match for nay side in Britain. They are a machine, not an ordinary football team.” And as the machine rolled into the press and public consciousness, soon there were cries to field a national side against these strange, but skilful newcomers. LV Manning in the Daily Sketch was in no doubt. “They are already firmly established as the greatest club side ever to visit this island from overseas and are set for a triumphant tour, during which I doubt they will ever be beaten by a full English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish XI. Whatever difficulties are in the way, they must be given full internationals - preferably at Wembley or Hampden.” Nevertheless, Dynamo were still adamant that they would only face club sides. And now they began to focus on the fixture that meant most to them - Arsenal. With Highbury out of action due to its role as an air-raid control centre, the Russians were again offended as their plea to play at Wembley was rejected due to a greyhound meet. Tottenham’s White Hart Lane was instead chosen as the venue. Accepting the offer to play the Russians had not been easy for Arsenal. Many of their usual team were still on active service leaving George Allison without stars such as England captain Eddie Hapgood and both the Compton brothers, Leslie and Denis. Measures would have to be taken , so Arsenal persuaded ‘guests’ to turn out for them. But the inclusion of Stan Mortensen from Blackpool and Stoke City’s Stanley Matthews did little to impress the Dynamo team. Why, at the last minute had they chosen to field England’s nest players? Allison was quick to answer their concerns. “I regard this match as a sporting encounter,” he reasoned. “I hope that the Russians would welcome an opportunity of testing their skill against a more experienced team of English players rather than the privilege or pleasure or toying with immature material.” With ill feeling on both sides, the game on November 21 would eventually descend into farce. In keeping with the unclear and untrustworthy nature of the tour, a pea-souper fog descended upon north London and seemed certain to end the tie. But incredibly, the Russian referee, M. Nikolay Latyshev, ushered the players out to play. More than 54,000 spectators had filled the ground, but catching any of the action at the opposite end of the field was impossible. The game was only 30 seconds old when Dynamo managed to poke an early lead. Like many, LV Manning , in the press box, missed the goal. He could only describe the crowd: “A thousand men lighted a thousand cigarettes and it looked like a thousand bonfires.” Arsenal’s own fire was soon stirred and Mortensen and Matthews quickly helped the Gunners establish a 3-1 lead, but a goal by Beskov made it 3-2 at half-time. To those in the crowd and on the pitch it seemed inevitable that the game would be abandoned. But it wasn’t, and vague shadows appeared to contest a farcical second half. Serge Soloviev restored parity early on despite being blatantly offside, even in the fog. Somewhat bizarrely, the Russian official had placed both of his English linesman on one side of the pitch and himself on the other. His decisions were perplexing the hosts and it wasn’t long before Dynamo scored a winning goal through an again-offside Bobrov. Having had what appeared to be a perfectly valid goal ruled out, Allison suggested to the Soviet Embassy’s First Secretary that they concede the game to stop the nonsense. His offer was politely declined. The final straw came when several Arsenal players noticed that the Russians seemed to have an extra player on the field and it was established that due to a mix-up in the fog during a substitution. Dynamo had been playing with 12 men for a good 20 minutes. With the numbers evened up, the visitors held on their lead to record a 4-3 victory. Post match, Arsenal captain Cliff Bastin claimed that, “so long as the Dynamos got the ball in the net, even if they carried it there, the referee was going to award them a goal.” His manager Allison was also quick to accuse the Russians of foul play. He stated that at half-time, when the game should have been abandoned, he overheard the Russian coach ordering the referee to call it off if Arsenal retained their lead. Should the Russians were having none of it and defended their win by accusing Allison of telling their officials that the game must be played as bets had been placed. Having seen his team take the lead, Dynamo said, Allison suggested the game should finish there and then. Clearly disgruntled, Dynamo were ready to return home. But before they could go, there was a date with Rangers to be met. Ibrox was packed as 92,000, the biggest crowd on the tour, watched a 2-2 draw. It was a tetchy, physical encounter that left its mark on a number of Russian shins. But Dynamo had left their own mark on the British game. The manner in which the Russians often outclassed their British opponents should have been heeded by the game’s hierarchy, but to many, England was still the cherry on top of football’s cake; Johnny Foreigner could teach them nothing about the game they had invented. It would take a painful lesson from Puskas and his Hungarian team-mates less than 10 years later to finally wake them up. Meanwhile, Dynamo returned to Russia as national heroes; a 90-page booklet with photos, reports, cartoons and autographs was rapidly produced. The visit had not been the diplomatic success it set out to be, but for the delighted Russian authorities their unbeaten stars had met the country’s propaganda and needs. On the whole, however, a sense of mistrust was the legacy of Dynamo’s historic visit. George Orwell was to have the final word, writing in Tribune: “Now that the brief visit of the Dynamo team has come to an end it is possible to say publicly what many thinking people were saying privately before the Dynamos ever arrived. That is, that sport is an unfailing cause of good will, and that if such a visit as this had any effect at all on Anglo-Soviet relations, it could only be to make them worse. PS: Any Tiger Komich photos to go with this would be nice. I can't find any decent ones.