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The famous Dynamo Moscow Tour of 1945.


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Dynamo Moscow's 1945 tour of Britain: Was it really 'war minus the shooting?'

By Chris HowellsBBC Wales Sport
BBC Sport Insight banner Scene from Chelsea's 3-3 draw with Dynamo Moscow Fans got in any way they could - Stamford Bridge was packed for Chelsea v Dynamo Moscow

It was a Tuesday afternoon in November 1945 and the streets of Fulham were teeming. Tens of thousands of people were about to witness something most hadn't been able to since 1939, while for some it would be a lifetime first. They were on their way to attend a football match where a British team faced foreign opposition.

Local residents were hiring out their front gardens for bicycle storage, on street corners people were selling toffee apples, oranges and match programmes, while touts were getting £4 for tickets that originally cost 10 shillings - eight times the face value.

The pavements were filled with uniformed armed forces personnel walking alongside shift workers and children darting between gaps among the bustling crowd making its way to Stamford Bridge.

The desire to see the match was insatiable. Some blagged their way into adjoining houses to get a view, others followed rail and tube lines around the stadium to get in unseen. Steeplejacks, the intrepid and the many with military training climbed up the back of stands, sitting precariously 100 feet up on the stadium roofs.

The official attendance was about 75,000. It was clearly way more than that.

A crowd of around 100,000 watching Chelsea play Moscow Dynamo at Stamford Bridge in the first game of the Russians' tour of Britain Some estimates put the actual attendance at over 100,000

The cloud of World War Two had dissipated just 13 weeks earlier with Japan's final surrender. The atmosphere in south-west London was one of joyful celebration, unbridled freedom and keen anticipation.

In a spirit of camaraderie engendered by the Allied victory, a Russian football team had been invited to tour Britain. They sent the league champions of the Soviet Union.

It was a club barely anyone in Britain knew anything about, other than some print journalists who had been permitted to attend a few training sessions once they had arrived in Britain.

At 2:25pm, out of the tunnel at Stamford Bridge walked a group of chiselled, mysterious looking footballers, ready to face Chelsea. This was Dynamo Moscow.

Short presentational grey line

The long fight that both Britain and the USSR endured in World War Two, along with the enormous sacrifices Soviet citizens suffered against the Nazis, had made the Russian people hugely popular in Britain.

But throughout 1945 negotiations over Europe's future deteriorated into suspicion and distrust. The United States was refusing to pass on atomic secrets and the Soviets were occupying most of Eastern Europe.

No Russian side had ever visited Britain before, and the Foreign Office felt that "it would take much more than a football match to break down the real barriers which the Soviet government firmly believe in".

Pressed by its Moscow Embassy, the UK government finally ceded, but distanced itself by presenting the visitors as guests of the English Football Association (FA).

In a matter of weeks, British football fans would be left reconsidering their long-held self-perception as the world's finest footballing nation. And George Orwell was to refer to the tour as simply being "war minus the shooting".

Dynamo players in training Dynamo's players would warm up before matches - a rare thing in English football at the time

The early days of the visit did not go well. The FA had booked the Dynamo Moscow party into Wellington Barracks, St James' Park. They had even neglected to ensure that the beds had sheets and pillows.

Far from impressed, the Russian delegation refused to proceed with anything until sleeping and eating arrangements had been rectified to their satisfaction. Accommodation was found and eventually the Dynamo players were said to be enjoying the Turkish bath facilities in the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square.

The Soviets had a 14-point charter of demands for how the tour would play out, including that all games would be against professional clubs, that one match would be against Arsenal, that their players would not have to wear shirt numbers and they would be allowed at least one substitute.

Following protracted negotiations, a three-game schedule was agreed. After the third match, the FA and the Russians would discuss a possible fourth.

The British press was unconcerned about the ability of their visitors. The Evening Standard wrote: "Don't expect much from Dynamo. They are only beginners, blue-collars, amateurs."

In Soviet Russia, English football was revered. 

In a 2001 documentary, More Than Just Football, Dynamo Moscow forward Konstantin Beskov said: "Until those games, we only knew that England was the motherland of football, that English football was the best in the world."

Leonid Solovyov, the Dynamo half-back, remembered: "They told us that Englishmen are awesome, that they can carry the ball across the fields on their heads."

But even faced with supposedly superior opponents, there was considerable pressure on the players to represent their communist nation in the most positive of ways.

As Beskov recalled: "It would have been a disgrace if we had come back to Moscow defeated. We would have been ashamed to show our faces in public."

Chelsea v Dynamo Moscow

And so, the scene was set for Dynamo's introduction at a packed Stamford Bridge.

The Chelsea crowd was bemused when the Dynamo players came out 15 minutes before kick-off, practising strangely repetitive drills with several balls. Surely wasting energy like that did not bode well for them.

Before kick-off, the Russian players presented each of their opponents with an extravagant bunch of flowers, much to the embarrassment of the home side.

What was a common pre-match courtesy in the Soviet league was received by the home crowd as utterly bizarre. A fan shouted out: "What's this then - Chelsea's funeral?"

In a way, the jibe would turn out to be prophetic.

13th November 1945 Chelsea line up at Stamford Bridge with the bouquets of flowers presented to them by the Moscow Dynamo team before their match (Photo by Topical Press Agency_Getty Images)GettyImages-3309710 Chelsea's players, pictured before kick-off with the bouquets of flowers the Russians had brought

In the early exchanges, Chelsea struggled to cope with the pass-and-move style of the Russians, who in the first 20 minutes had four shots saved and hit the post twice. The home side were on the ropes.

But completely against the run of play, Chelsea took a 2-0 lead, profiting from a defensive mix-up for their second. Then, just before half-time, Dynamo were awarded a penalty.

Up stepped Leonid Solovyov. He had only missed one before in his entire playing career. His shot was cleanly hit, but rebounded off the post. He remembered: "None of my team-mates said a word about it."

Dynamo would come back though. On 65 minutes, Vasiliy Kartsev took a pass from Yevgeniy Archangelski, passed two defenders and from the edge of the penalty area drove his shot into the goal.

And with a quarter of an hour left, Archangelski scored again, with a cross-shot that deflected into the Chelsea net. It was 2-2.

The home side now surged forward, with Dynamo goalkeeper Alexei Khomich making a number of fine saves, before a towering header from Chelsea's £14,000 record signing Tommy Lawton regained the lead on 81 minutes.

In a rousing finish, Vsevolod Radikorsky won the ball and passed to Archangelski who sent over a cross that bounced off a Chelsea player to Vsevolod Bobrov, who would otherwise have been offside. Bobrov smashed it home, the goal stood and the British crowd roared their approval for the Russians.

When the final whistle sounded at 3-3 crowds streamed on to the pitch, picking up some of the Russian players and carrying them to the tunnel.

"Dynamo were one of the fastest teams I have ever seen in my life. They flash the ball from man to man in bewildering fashion, often while standing still," recalled Lawton.

John Harris, the Chelsea captain, said: "At least two of Lawton's kicks were of such a type that no goalkeeper would catch, but Khomich jumped like a tiger and caught them."

The British public embraced that description, having taken the Dynamo keeper to their hearts. Although of average height, Khomich had strangely long arms, explosive physicality and was a fabulous shot-stopper. He was now forever known as 'Tiger' Khomich. He would go on to mentor his Dynamo successor, Lev Yashin.

Cardiff v Dynamo Moscow 

For the second match, because the FA refused to change Saturday fixtures for any of their leading clubs, only third division Cardiff City were able to host the tourists.

Cardiff had received a royal visit three days before the game, so the railway station was already bedecked with bunting and flags to greet the Moscow party.

In the coalfields, steelworks and docklands of south Wales, empathy for socialism was common. So as soon as the royals had left, the hammer and sickle was hoisted above City Hall to complete the welcome. The Dynamo players were given a civic reception and the Russian delegation was delighted. 

With the Soviet state broadcaster, Radio Moscow, covering the match live, before kick-off the 40,000 crowd sang along to hymns played by a uniformed band on the Ninian Park pitch. Each Dynamo player was presented with a commemorative miner's lamp, one of which remains on display in the Moscow club's museum.

Scene from Dynamo's match at Cardiff Dynamo's thumping victory over third division Cardiff caused concern at the FA

Any nerves experienced by the Dynamo players in the first match against Chelsea were absent against the Bluebirds.

The Welsh team were 3-0 down within 25 minutes. They were swept away in the second half, conceding five goals in eight minutes on the way to a 10-1 trouncing.

It was by far the heaviest loss any British side had suffered at the hands of foreign opposition. And the mood of the tour intensified considerably.

The Soviet Union was supposed to be a ravaged nation struggling to rebuild. The fact they were able to field a team of such astonishing quality tore right into the heart of British post-war confidence. Surely the balance would be restored?

Arsenal v Dynamo Moscow 

Arsenal were missing several players who were still stationed with armed forces all over the world. So they drafted in 'guest' players, including Stoke City's Stanley Matthews, Blackpool's Stan Mortenson and Joe Bacuzzi of Fulham, who had turned out for Chelsea in the opening match.

Dynamo complained, saying they were being asked to play against an England team. It was arguably a bit rich, considering they had requisitioned four players from other Soviet clubs.

Further complicating matters was the blanket of fog smothering much of south-east England. Dynamo wanted the fixture postponed but, given the number of tickets sold, the FA was determined to proceed.

Suspecting a fix being put into motion, Dynamo insisted the match be officiated by their Russian referee Nikolay Latyshev, who would go on to take charge of the 1962 World Cup final.

The game was due to be played on a Wednesday afternoon at Tottenham's White Hart Lane because the Ministry of Defence still occupied Highbury, which had been used as an Air Raid Precaution centre.

Queues had started to form at midnight, and by 10:30am the throng was so large the police ordered the ground to be opened. By the time Latyshev inspected conditions at midday there were an estimated 40,000 in the stadium, making cancellation a difficult prospect.

21st November 1945- Part of the queue outside Tottenham's ground for the football match between Arsenal and Dynamo Moscow Fans queueing outside White Hart Lane as fog settles in on 21 November 1945

According to contemporary match reports, Dynamo took the lead within a minute, before Arsenal had even touched the ball - and not that many of the 54,000 crowd saw it. The 'pea-souper' enshrouded the stadium to such a degree that the referee insisted both his assistants run the same side of the pitch. There was plenty to keep the officials busy.

Matthews, who had been ghosting past players with ease, was one targeted for rough treatment. Dynamo's Khomich had to put up with plenty of crude charges and the Arsenal keeper, Welshman Wyn Griffiths, took two blows to the head. He was totally unaware of the score at half-time and was replaced by a spectator, QPR's Harry Brown.

Arsenal had managed to draw level not long after Dynamo's opener and three further goals in four minutes came before the break. Arsenal's second was a powerful right-footed drive from Mortensen. Thirty seconds later, another Matthews dribble and cross was finished off again by the Blackpool striker. Then Konstantin Beskov drifted through the Arsenal defence and shot across the concussed Griffiths to make it 3-2.

In the second half, Sergei Solovyov restored parity early on despite being blatantly offside. Arsenal had a penalty appeal turned down and then Latyshev sent off the Gunners' George Drury for throwing a punch. Drury claimed not to understand and slinked away into the fog.

Action from Arsenal v Dynamo Action from Arsenal's match against Dynamo - visibility was terrible. The detail here comes from contemporary match reports.

With visibility at now less than 30 yards, Solovyov received the ball in an offside position and fed a pass to Bobrov, who put Dynamo ahead.

The farce continued when Arsenal had what was considered a perfectly fair goal disallowed. Ronnie Rooke picked up the ball 40 yards from goal and went on a run at speed. The Dynamo captain, Mikhail Semichastniy, practically rugby tackled him, cutting the forward's head open in the process. Rooke threw off the Russian with an elbow, giving the defender a black eye, and hit a pile-driver from 25 yards that flew past Khomich.

Latyshev whistled and gave a free-kick to Dynamo where the original ruck had occurred.

Arsenal manager George Allison suggested to the Soviet Embassy's First Secretary that they concede the game to stop the nonsense.

His offer was declined. The visitors held on to their lead and won the match. Most of the crowd had to wait until the next day's papers to find out the final score. As the Daily Mail reported: "It was one of the most exciting games 54,000 people never saw."

The fallout put the tour at risk, but a mixture of desperation to beat the Russians and the fact that the matches had generated huge amounts of money saw a fourth match arranged. Dynamo would be heading north.

Rangers v Dynamo Moscow 

In Glasgow, such was the clamour to see the game that tickets worth 21 shillings were going for £10 - almost 10 times their original cost.

Dynamo were awarded a free-kick 20 yards out after two minutes. With no wall to contend with, Kartsev stepped up and fired inside the keeper's right-hand post for 1-0.

Dynamo continued to dominate, but Rangers forward Billy Williamson managed to win a dubious penalty, which Willie Waddell missed by smashing straight at Khomich.

Then, Dynamo scored the goal of the tour. Bobrov, on the edge of the penalty area, drew in two defenders before passing across the box to Beskov. With his left foot, Beskov passed back to the right between retreating defenders, and the unmarked Kartsev smashed the ball low into the opposite corner. The Daily Telegraph said it was "as perfect a goal as has ever been scored at Ibrox".

Five minutes before half-time, Rangers finally had some luck. A hooked ball was falling about eight yards from goal. When it dropped, Khomich jumped to catch it and clashed painfully with Jimmy Smith, the ball bouncing off Smith's midriff into the empty net.

Despite intense effort in the second half, Rangers just could not make another opening.

But then Williamson drove into the box on the left wing and, when he tried to get past the full-back, Rangers appealed for a penalty. The referee waved it away, but changed his mind after consulting his linesman.

George Young stepped forward to take it. He hit the ball firmly to Khomich's left, with the keeper barely moving. The game finished 2-2.

Ticket for Rangers v Dynamo Moscow Tickets for Dynamo's game at Ibrox were going for nearly 10 times their original cost

Arrangements were quickly made to organise a fifth match - a chance to finally beat the Russians. This time Dynamo were to be pitted against an English select XI at Villa Park. But the tie was never played. Just over a month after Dynamo had arrived in Britain, they were summoned back to Moscow.

On 7 December 1945, BBC radio announced: "The Russians have gone." Such was the impact of their visit, listeners immediately knew exactly which Russians were being referred to.

As David Downing, the author of Passovotchka - the brilliant book about the 1945 Dynamo tour - reflected: "They only won two games, but their style of play left a scent of magic in the air."

While Aston Villa were left with 70,000 unusable tickets, British football was left to consider its superiority.

6th December 1945: The Football Association presenting a commemorative pennant to Dynamo Moscow at the farewell party held for the football team after their successful tour of Britain Dynamo's players were presented with a commemorative pennant by the FA on the eve of their departure

The tour might have been heeded as a warning shot, a sign of where the national game was in comparison with emerging countries. But it wasn't until 1953 that British football found itself unable to ignore just how far the rest of the world had advanced when Hungary beat England 6-3 at Wembley, following that up with a 7-1 victory a year later in Budapest.

Following Dynamo's departure, Orwell wrote in his essay, The Sporting Spirit: "Now that the brief visit of the Dynamo football 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... if such a visit as this had any effect at all on Anglo-Soviet relations, it could only be to make them slightly worse than before."

With the onset of the Cold War, affection in Britain for 'Uncle Joe' Stalin was becoming a distant memory and the government could not risk any impression of Soviet superiority, even in a football match. An invitation to the FA to take part in a reciprocal visit to the USSR in 1946 was robustly turned down.

Back home, Dynamo's players landed as national heroes. Several of the party were awarded the Soviet honour of Master of Sport. In Moscow, a popular musical was staged in which an English beauty attempted to seduce Dynamo's best player the night before a match. A book was published, titled 19-9 (goals for and against), celebrating their invincible tour.

For the Soviet state, the tour proved unequivocally to them that sport could be used to portray an image of Communist strength. Before another Dynamo tour, to Sweden in 1947, the players were summoned to the Kremlin. They were ordered to beat the Swedish teams 5-0 to remind them of the Battle of Poltava, a decisive Russian military victory of 1709.

Konstantin Beskov recalled the meeting: "Then the minister thought for a while and said: 'Let them score one goal.'

"We played two matches [against league champions IFK Norrkoping and IFK Gothenburg]. The score in each of them was 5-1, just like he image.gif.605885573daa416bf4df61c63fe4bb9b.gifasked.

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Edited by erskblue
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@erskblue a great article. 

The game between Chelsea and Dynamo Moscow must rank in the top ten (and possibly top five) most famous Chelsea games. Must be the largest attendance at the Bridge despite difficulties in estimating the size of the crowd. I love looking at the photos of the ground especially seeing fans on top of the Shed and old East Stand. As I've mentioned before I knew a guy who was at the game. What a game to be at.

A shame that given the current circumstances that there are no events. I wonder if down the line there will be events.

 

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On 13/11/2020 at 09:28, Boyne said:

@erskblue a great article. 

The game between Chelsea and Dynamo Moscow must rank in the top ten (and possibly top five) most famous Chelsea games. Must be the largest attendance at the Bridge despite difficulties in estimating the size of the crowd. I love looking at the photos of the ground especially seeing fans on top of the Shed and old East Stand. As I've mentioned before I knew a guy who was at the game. What a game to be at.

A shame that given the current circumstances that there are no events. I wonder if down the line there will be events.

 

Yeah no problem. As I’ve stated on here before. One of my Grandfathers was at Ibrox for the midweek game v Rangers. So was his gaffer?

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1 hour ago, erskblue said:

Yeah no problem. As I’ve stated on here before. One of my Grandfathers was at Ibrox for the midweek game v Rangers. So was his gaffer?

There must have been a lot of people "off sick" and "attending funeral" when Dynamo Moscow was playing at the four games in the U.K. Here's one of my favourite pictures of Ibrox. Taken when Rangers played the Soviet team.

No photo description available.

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www.thenorthsection.co.uk

Winter of 1945 saw excitement sweep the footballing public of Great Britain. News that the Soviet champions Moscow Dynamo had accepted an invitation from the FA to travel to England and compete against some of the country’s best sides had caused much speculation as to the quality of football beyond the Iron Curtain. 

Upon hearing the news of the Moscow Dynamo tour, Bill Struth sought to bring the Russians north to face Rangers, enlisting the help of the SFA. Not part of the original itinerary, the Soviets weren’t keen. 

Naturally, given the politics of the time, if there was any notion that this was purely a sporting endeavour, then that was swiftly displaced when the Moscow men were whisked away to meet with Josef Stalin before travelling to England, where the importance of defeating the western sides was impressed upon them. 

Their first port of call was Stamford Bridge, and a match with Chelsea. Unsurprisingly, the match was a sell-out with everyone wanting to catch some glimpse of the mysterious Muscovites. Star of the show was the famous Alexei “Tiger” Khomich whose man of the match display in goal earned Dynamo a 3-3 draw. 

The next stop was Wales to play Third Division side Cardiff City. The neat passing moves coupled with the fluidity in positions that characterised the famous style of “organised disorder” saw the tourists romp to a 10-1 triumph. 

The main event was still to come. The clash with Arsenal was organised at the express request of the Russians, and was to be officiated by a Soviet referee. The Arsenal side was an unfamiliar looking one. No fewer than 5 guest players would appear for the Gunners including Stanley Matthews and Stanley Mortensen in a move that was to attract the ire of the tourists. 

In a controversial thriller, it was the men from Moscow that emerged victorious by 4-3 on an extremely foggy night, Arsenal having a goal disallowed with the scores at 3-3. 

With the pre-arranged part of the tour over, Moscow Dynamo finally agreed to make the jaunt to Glasgow for a match with Rangers to bring their groundbreaking tour to a close. At first extremely hesitant to add another date to their arduous tour, it came with several conditions, adding to the extensive list the Soviets had demanded before even leaving home. These included such things as eating exclusively at the Soviet embassy, rumoured to be because of fears of poisoning. 

A request that was met with particular consternation by Bill Struth was the allowance of substitutes in the game, a concept unheard of in British football. 

It looked as if all hurdles had been overcome when another reared it’s head and threatened to call the game off. Ranges had just recently re-signed winger Jimmy Caskie and as such was available for selection against Dynamo. Having already been on the receiving end of some questionable conduct regarding “guest players” against Arsenal, the Russians specifically wanted Caskie barred from playing. The issue rumbled on with Struth keen to have his new man available. One story of the time was that whilst on a tour of the shipyards of the Clyde, the Moscow Dynamo were confronted with a message daubed on the side of one ship which read “Who’s afraid of Caskie?” 

With the Soviets refusing to blink and threatening to go home without playing at Ibrox, the demands were met and the match was on. 
 

 

Game On At Ibrox

Unusually, the match was played on a midweek afternoon. It didn’t prevent a crowd of 95,000 turning out, in an all-ticket affair, on what must’ve been a record day for sick lines in Glasgow! 

The sides lined up as follows:

Rangers – Jerry Dawson; David Gray and Jock Shaw; Charlie Watkins, George Young and Scot Symon; Willie Waddell, Torry Gillick, Jimmy Smith, Billy Williamson and Charlie Johnstone. 

Moscow Dynamo – Alexei Khomich; Vsevolod Radikorsky and Ivan Stankevich; Vsevolod Blinkov, Mikhail Semichastny and Boris Oreshkin; Yevgeniy Archangelsky, Vasiliy Kartsev, Konstantin Bescov, Vsevolod Bobrov and Sergey Soloviev. 

Two unusual things were practiced by the Russians. Firstly, they came on to the pitch before kick-off for a pre-match warm-up, and secondly each player insisted on gifting their opposite number a flower. 

But when the match started there was no doubt the Soviets were capable. Only two minutes had been played when they went ahead through Kartsev, whose 20-yard free-kick somehow found its way past Dawson. 

The Gers didn’t have to wait too long for an opportunity to respond. Within three minutes, Watkins was upended in the penalty area and the referee pointed to the spot. Up stepped Willie Waddell, but his effort was straight at Khomich who deflected the ball onto the crossbar. 

Halfway through the first period, the Soviets demonstrated again their unique style of football to great effect. A beautiful passing move starting at the back and progressing all of the way through to the attacking third culminated in a pass through to Kartsev who doubled his own and Dynamo’s tally with a low drive beyond Dawson. 

Dynamo controlled much of the play, excellently retaining ball possession. Minutes prior to half-time, Rangers earned themselves a lifeline. Jimmy Smith bundled the ball over the line in a stramash to pull it back to 2-1 at the break. 

By this point, a dense fog had descended upon Ibrox. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the second half occurred at around the hour mark when the Russians paused to make a substitution: Nikolai Dementiev replacing Vsevolod Bobrov. Rangers also made use of the new capability and introduced Jimmy Duncanson in place of Jimmy Smith, who had suffered an injury in an aerial duel with Khomich. However, Bobrov failed to leave the park.

It was only when Torry Gillick drew the referee’s attention to the fact there were now 12 Dynamo players on the field that this was rectified. Remarkably, it wasn’t the first time that this sort of thing had happened on the tour. There had been rumours that the Soviets had attempted a similar trick against Arsenal, but what certainly did happed was George Drury of the Gunners returned to play the remainder of the game after being sent-off for fighting. 

There was still time left for further controversy. With 15 minutes left, the Light Blues were awarded another penalty. The Moscow players felt it soft and forced the referee to consult his linesman.

The protests were in vein and the original decision stood. George Young took over the spot kick duties and made no mistake, scoring the penalty to level the scores. 

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2-2 was the final score. The Soviet football champions departed for home the very next day, with a very creditable showing from their stay in Great Britain. Of the Dynamo XI, it

wasn’t the last Ranges would see of Konstantin Bescov. He was the man in-charge of Dynamo when they were defeated by Rangers in the Final of the 1972 European Cup-Winners’ Cup. 

 

 

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4 hours ago, Boyne said:

There must have been a lot of people "off sick" and "attending funeral" when Dynamo Moscow was playing at the four games in the U.K. Here's one of my favourite pictures of Ibrox. Taken when Rangers played the Soviet team.

No photo description available.

My Grandfather approached his gaffer on the Monday and requested the Wednesday off as he ‘ Had to attend an urgent family gathering.’

His gaffer agreed saying. ‘ I’ll see you there. I’m also attending your family gathering!’ ?

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On 13/11/2020 at 06:33, erskblue said:

Dynamo Moscow's 1945 tour of Britain: Was it really 'war minus the shooting?'

By Chris HowellsBBC Wales Sport
BBC Sport Insight banner Scene from Chelsea's 3-3 draw with Dynamo Moscow Fans got in any way they could - Stamford Bridge was packed for Chelsea v Dynamo Moscow

It was a Tuesday afternoon in November 1945 and the streets of Fulham were teeming. Tens of thousands of people were about to witness something most hadn't been able to since 1939, while for some it would be a lifetime first. They were on their way to attend a football match where a British team faced foreign opposition.

Local residents were hiring out their front gardens for bicycle storage, on street corners people were selling toffee apples, oranges and match programmes, while touts were getting £4 for tickets that originally cost 10 shillings - eight times the face value.

The pavements were filled with uniformed armed forces personnel walking alongside shift workers and children darting between gaps among the bustling crowd making its way to Stamford Bridge.

The desire to see the match was insatiable. Some blagged their way into adjoining houses to get a view, others followed rail and tube lines around the stadium to get in unseen. Steeplejacks, the intrepid and the many with military training climbed up the back of stands, sitting precariously 100 feet up on the stadium roofs.

The official attendance was about 75,000. It was clearly way more than that.

A crowd of around 100,000 watching Chelsea play Moscow Dynamo at Stamford Bridge in the first game of the Russians' tour of Britain Some estimates put the actual attendance at over 100,000

The cloud of World War Two had dissipated just 13 weeks earlier with Japan's final surrender. The atmosphere in south-west London was one of joyful celebration, unbridled freedom and keen anticipation.

In a spirit of camaraderie engendered by the Allied victory, a Russian football team had been invited to tour Britain. They sent the league champions of the Soviet Union.

It was a club barely anyone in Britain knew anything about, other than some print journalists who had been permitted to attend a few training sessions once they had arrived in Britain.

At 2:25pm, out of the tunnel at Stamford Bridge walked a group of chiselled, mysterious looking footballers, ready to face Chelsea. This was Dynamo Moscow.

Short presentational grey line

The long fight that both Britain and the USSR endured in World War Two, along with the enormous sacrifices Soviet citizens suffered against the Nazis, had made the Russian people hugely popular in Britain.

But throughout 1945 negotiations over Europe's future deteriorated into suspicion and distrust. The United States was refusing to pass on atomic secrets and the Soviets were occupying most of Eastern Europe.

No Russian side had ever visited Britain before, and the Foreign Office felt that "it would take much more than a football match to break down the real barriers which the Soviet government firmly believe in".

Pressed by its Moscow Embassy, the UK government finally ceded, but distanced itself by presenting the visitors as guests of the English Football Association (FA).

In a matter of weeks, British football fans would be left reconsidering their long-held self-perception as the world's finest footballing nation. And George Orwell was to refer to the tour as simply being "war minus the shooting".

Dynamo players in training Dynamo's players would warm up before matches - a rare thing in English football at the time

The early days of the visit did not go well. The FA had booked the Dynamo Moscow party into Wellington Barracks, St James' Park. They had even neglected to ensure that the beds had sheets and pillows.

Far from impressed, the Russian delegation refused to proceed with anything until sleeping and eating arrangements had been rectified to their satisfaction. Accommodation was found and eventually the Dynamo players were said to be enjoying the Turkish bath facilities in the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square.

The Soviets had a 14-point charter of demands for how the tour would play out, including that all games would be against professional clubs, that one match would be against Arsenal, that their players would not have to wear shirt numbers and they would be allowed at least one substitute.

Following protracted negotiations, a three-game schedule was agreed. After the third match, the FA and the Russians would discuss a possible fourth.

The British press was unconcerned about the ability of their visitors. The Evening Standard wrote: "Don't expect much from Dynamo. They are only beginners, blue-collars, amateurs."

In Soviet Russia, English football was revered. 

In a 2001 documentary, More Than Just Football, Dynamo Moscow forward Konstantin Beskov said: "Until those games, we only knew that England was the motherland of football, that English football was the best in the world."

Leonid Solovyov, the Dynamo half-back, remembered: "They told us that Englishmen are awesome, that they can carry the ball across the fields on their heads."

But even faced with supposedly superior opponents, there was considerable pressure on the players to represent their communist nation in the most positive of ways.

As Beskov recalled: "It would have been a disgrace if we had come back to Moscow defeated. We would have been ashamed to show our faces in public."

Chelsea v Dynamo Moscow

And so, the scene was set for Dynamo's introduction at a packed Stamford Bridge.

The Chelsea crowd was bemused when the Dynamo players came out 15 minutes before kick-off, practising strangely repetitive drills with several balls. Surely wasting energy like that did not bode well for them.

Before kick-off, the Russian players presented each of their opponents with an extravagant bunch of flowers, much to the embarrassment of the home side.

What was a common pre-match courtesy in the Soviet league was received by the home crowd as utterly bizarre. A fan shouted out: "What's this then - Chelsea's funeral?"

In a way, the jibe would turn out to be prophetic.

13th November 1945 Chelsea line up at Stamford Bridge with the bouquets of flowers presented to them by the Moscow Dynamo team before their match (Photo by Topical Press Agency_Getty Images)GettyImages-3309710 Chelsea's players, pictured before kick-off with the bouquets of flowers the Russians had brought

In the early exchanges, Chelsea struggled to cope with the pass-and-move style of the Russians, who in the first 20 minutes had four shots saved and hit the post twice. The home side were on the ropes.

But completely against the run of play, Chelsea took a 2-0 lead, profiting from a defensive mix-up for their second. Then, just before half-time, Dynamo were awarded a penalty.

Up stepped Leonid Solovyov. He had only missed one before in his entire playing career. His shot was cleanly hit, but rebounded off the post. He remembered: "None of my team-mates said a word about it."

Dynamo would come back though. On 65 minutes, Vasiliy Kartsev took a pass from Yevgeniy Archangelski, passed two defenders and from the edge of the penalty area drove his shot into the goal.

And with a quarter of an hour left, Archangelski scored again, with a cross-shot that deflected into the Chelsea net. It was 2-2.

The home side now surged forward, with Dynamo goalkeeper Alexei Khomich making a number of fine saves, before a towering header from Chelsea's £14,000 record signing Tommy Lawton regained the lead on 81 minutes.

In a rousing finish, Vsevolod Radikorsky won the ball and passed to Archangelski who sent over a cross that bounced off a Chelsea player to Vsevolod Bobrov, who would otherwise have been offside. Bobrov smashed it home, the goal stood and the British crowd roared their approval for the Russians.

When the final whistle sounded at 3-3 crowds streamed on to the pitch, picking up some of the Russian players and carrying them to the tunnel.

"Dynamo were one of the fastest teams I have ever seen in my life. They flash the ball from man to man in bewildering fashion, often while standing still," recalled Lawton.

John Harris, the Chelsea captain, said: "At least two of Lawton's kicks were of such a type that no goalkeeper would catch, but Khomich jumped like a tiger and caught them."

The British public embraced that description, having taken the Dynamo keeper to their hearts. Although of average height, Khomich had strangely long arms, explosive physicality and was a fabulous shot-stopper. He was now forever known as 'Tiger' Khomich. He would go on to mentor his Dynamo successor, Lev Yashin.

Cardiff v Dynamo Moscow 

For the second match, because the FA refused to change Saturday fixtures for any of their leading clubs, only third division Cardiff City were able to host the tourists.

Cardiff had received a royal visit three days before the game, so the railway station was already bedecked with bunting and flags to greet the Moscow party.

In the coalfields, steelworks and docklands of south Wales, empathy for socialism was common. So as soon as the royals had left, the hammer and sickle was hoisted above City Hall to complete the welcome. The Dynamo players were given a civic reception and the Russian delegation was delighted. 

With the Soviet state broadcaster, Radio Moscow, covering the match live, before kick-off the 40,000 crowd sang along to hymns played by a uniformed band on the Ninian Park pitch. Each Dynamo player was presented with a commemorative miner's lamp, one of which remains on display in the Moscow club's museum.

Scene from Dynamo's match at Cardiff Dynamo's thumping victory over third division Cardiff caused concern at the FA

Any nerves experienced by the Dynamo players in the first match against Chelsea were absent against the Bluebirds.

The Welsh team were 3-0 down within 25 minutes. They were swept away in the second half, conceding five goals in eight minutes on the way to a 10-1 trouncing.

It was by far the heaviest loss any British side had suffered at the hands of foreign opposition. And the mood of the tour intensified considerably.

The Soviet Union was supposed to be a ravaged nation struggling to rebuild. The fact they were able to field a team of such astonishing quality tore right into the heart of British post-war confidence. Surely the balance would be restored?

Arsenal v Dynamo Moscow 

Arsenal were missing several players who were still stationed with armed forces all over the world. So they drafted in 'guest' players, including Stoke City's Stanley Matthews, Blackpool's Stan Mortenson and Joe Bacuzzi of Fulham, who had turned out for Chelsea in the opening match.

Dynamo complained, saying they were being asked to play against an England team. It was arguably a bit rich, considering they had requisitioned four players from other Soviet clubs.

Further complicating matters was the blanket of fog smothering much of south-east England. Dynamo wanted the fixture postponed but, given the number of tickets sold, the FA was determined to proceed.

Suspecting a fix being put into motion, Dynamo insisted the match be officiated by their Russian referee Nikolay Latyshev, who would go on to take charge of the 1962 World Cup final.

The game was due to be played on a Wednesday afternoon at Tottenham's White Hart Lane because the Ministry of Defence still occupied Highbury, which had been used as an Air Raid Precaution centre.

Queues had started to form at midnight, and by 10:30am the throng was so large the police ordered the ground to be opened. By the time Latyshev inspected conditions at midday there were an estimated 40,000 in the stadium, making cancellation a difficult prospect.

21st November 1945- Part of the queue outside Tottenham's ground for the football match between Arsenal and Dynamo Moscow Fans queueing outside White Hart Lane as fog settles in on 21 November 1945

According to contemporary match reports, Dynamo took the lead within a minute, before Arsenal had even touched the ball - and not that many of the 54,000 crowd saw it. The 'pea-souper' enshrouded the stadium to such a degree that the referee insisted both his assistants run the same side of the pitch. There was plenty to keep the officials busy.

Matthews, who had been ghosting past players with ease, was one targeted for rough treatment. Dynamo's Khomich had to put up with plenty of crude charges and the Arsenal keeper, Welshman Wyn Griffiths, took two blows to the head. He was totally unaware of the score at half-time and was replaced by a spectator, QPR's Harry Brown.

Arsenal had managed to draw level not long after Dynamo's opener and three further goals in four minutes came before the break. Arsenal's second was a powerful right-footed drive from Mortensen. Thirty seconds later, another Matthews dribble and cross was finished off again by the Blackpool striker. Then Konstantin Beskov drifted through the Arsenal defence and shot across the concussed Griffiths to make it 3-2.

In the second half, Sergei Solovyov restored parity early on despite being blatantly offside. Arsenal had a penalty appeal turned down and then Latyshev sent off the Gunners' George Drury for throwing a punch. Drury claimed not to understand and slinked away into the fog.

Action from Arsenal v Dynamo Action from Arsenal's match against Dynamo - visibility was terrible. The detail here comes from contemporary match reports.

With visibility at now less than 30 yards, Solovyov received the ball in an offside position and fed a pass to Bobrov, who put Dynamo ahead.

The farce continued when Arsenal had what was considered a perfectly fair goal disallowed. Ronnie Rooke picked up the ball 40 yards from goal and went on a run at speed. The Dynamo captain, Mikhail Semichastniy, practically rugby tackled him, cutting the forward's head open in the process. Rooke threw off the Russian with an elbow, giving the defender a black eye, and hit a pile-driver from 25 yards that flew past Khomich.

Latyshev whistled and gave a free-kick to Dynamo where the original ruck had occurred.

Arsenal manager George Allison suggested to the Soviet Embassy's First Secretary that they concede the game to stop the nonsense.

His offer was declined. The visitors held on to their lead and won the match. Most of the crowd had to wait until the next day's papers to find out the final score. As the Daily Mail reported: "It was one of the most exciting games 54,000 people never saw."

The fallout put the tour at risk, but a mixture of desperation to beat the Russians and the fact that the matches had generated huge amounts of money saw a fourth match arranged. Dynamo would be heading north.

Rangers v Dynamo Moscow 

In Glasgow, such was the clamour to see the game that tickets worth 21 shillings were going for £10 - almost 10 times their original cost.

Dynamo were awarded a free-kick 20 yards out after two minutes. With no wall to contend with, Kartsev stepped up and fired inside the keeper's right-hand post for 1-0.

Dynamo continued to dominate, but Rangers forward Billy Williamson managed to win a dubious penalty, which Willie Waddell missed by smashing straight at Khomich.

Then, Dynamo scored the goal of the tour. Bobrov, on the edge of the penalty area, drew in two defenders before passing across the box to Beskov. With his left foot, Beskov passed back to the right between retreating defenders, and the unmarked Kartsev smashed the ball low into the opposite corner. The Daily Telegraph said it was "as perfect a goal as has ever been scored at Ibrox".

Five minutes before half-time, Rangers finally had some luck. A hooked ball was falling about eight yards from goal. When it dropped, Khomich jumped to catch it and clashed painfully with Jimmy Smith, the ball bouncing off Smith's midriff into the empty net.

Despite intense effort in the second half, Rangers just could not make another opening.

But then Williamson drove into the box on the left wing and, when he tried to get past the full-back, Rangers appealed for a penalty. The referee waved it away, but changed his mind after consulting his linesman.

George Young stepped forward to take it. He hit the ball firmly to Khomich's left, with the keeper barely moving. The game finished 2-2.

Ticket for Rangers v Dynamo Moscow Tickets for Dynamo's game at Ibrox were going for nearly 10 times their original cost

Arrangements were quickly made to organise a fifth match - a chance to finally beat the Russians. This time Dynamo were to be pitted against an English select XI at Villa Park. But the tie was never played. Just over a month after Dynamo had arrived in Britain, they were summoned back to Moscow.

On 7 December 1945, BBC radio announced: "The Russians have gone." Such was the impact of their visit, listeners immediately knew exactly which Russians were being referred to.

As David Downing, the author of Passovotchka - the brilliant book about the 1945 Dynamo tour - reflected: "They only won two games, but their style of play left a scent of magic in the air."

While Aston Villa were left with 70,000 unusable tickets, British football was left to consider its superiority.

6th December 1945: The Football Association presenting a commemorative pennant to Dynamo Moscow at the farewell party held for the football team after their successful tour of Britain Dynamo's players were presented with a commemorative pennant by the FA on the eve of their departure

The tour might have been heeded as a warning shot, a sign of where the national game was in comparison with emerging countries. But it wasn't until 1953 that British football found itself unable to ignore just how far the rest of the world had advanced when Hungary beat England 6-3 at Wembley, following that up with a 7-1 victory a year later in Budapest.

Following Dynamo's departure, Orwell wrote in his essay, The Sporting Spirit: "Now that the brief visit of the Dynamo football 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... if such a visit as this had any effect at all on Anglo-Soviet relations, it could only be to make them slightly worse than before."

With the onset of the Cold War, affection in Britain for 'Uncle Joe' Stalin was becoming a distant memory and the government could not risk any impression of Soviet superiority, even in a football match. An invitation to the FA to take part in a reciprocal visit to the USSR in 1946 was robustly turned down.

Back home, Dynamo's players landed as national heroes. Several of the party were awarded the Soviet honour of Master of Sport. In Moscow, a popular musical was staged in which an English beauty attempted to seduce Dynamo's best player the night before a match. A book was published, titled 19-9 (goals for and against), celebrating their invincible tour.

For the Soviet state, the tour proved unequivocally to them that sport could be used to portray an image of Communist strength. Before another Dynamo tour, to Sweden in 1947, the players were summoned to the Kremlin. They were ordered to beat the Swedish teams 5-0 to remind them of the Battle of Poltava, a decisive Russian military victory of 1709.

Konstantin Beskov recalled the meeting: "Then the minister thought for a while and said: 'Let them score one goal.'

"We played two matches [against league champions IFK Norrkoping and IFK Gothenburg]. The score in each of them was 5-1, just like he image.gif.605885573daa416bf4df61c63fe4bb9b.gifasked.

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great article.

everyone knows the 6-3 England defeat to Hungary but the 7-1 thrashing a few months later always seems to be overlooked..

thanks 

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