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Sins Dyed In Blood: In Search of the Newcastle Pirate

Edward Robinson was a British pirate who sailed with Blackbeard during the Golden Age of Piracy in the early 1700s. Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, Robinson was hanged for the crime of piracy in Charleston, South Carolina. But was he really a murderous sea-robber, and did he deserve his brutal fate? This is the true swashbuckling story of the Newcastle Pirate.

“Strange tale of Newcastle’s real-life pirate of the Caribbean” – Chronicle

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Posted 2 March 2015
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All With Smiling Faces: How Newcastle Became United

All With Smiling Faces takes a wander through Newcastle’s early history to discover how the club came to mean so much to so many. Covering the first 30 years, from its foundation as Stanley FC in 1881 to the triumphant FA Cup win in 1910, the book visits the grounds, meets the players, mingles with the fans, and relives the matches that made Newcastle United.

“I loved it! NUFC + history = : )” – Ant McPartlin

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Posted 29 September 2014
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The Victorian Football Miscellany

A quirky and fascinating collection of trivia, facts and anecdotes from football’s earliest years. Delve into an absorbing world of ox-bladder balls, baggy-kneed knickerbockers and outstanding moustaches, and read remarkable tales of the first ever cup final, the invention of the shinpad, the evolution of dribbling, the first own goal and a penalty-taking elephant.

“One of the greatest books ever written about football since Charlie Buchan put down his pen!” – Danny Baker

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Posted 9 April 2013
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Half-Time: A History

Footballers haven’t always had 15 minutes to catch their breath. The original Laws of the Game included no reference to half-time, and instead required teams to change ends after each goal was scored.

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Posted 9 April 2015
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How to Become a Sporting Journalist

BJ Evans was a pioneer of early football reporting, and his 1946 book How to Become a Sporting Journalist reveals some of his methods, which required a bicycle and two carrier pigeons in a basket. His story also involves binoculars, a charabanc, turnips, the Blitz, and the medicinal properties of hot Oxo.

Read at The Guardian

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Posted 12 February 2015
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How to beat the winter freeze

First mooted in 1937 yet only mandatory for Premier League clubs since this season, undersoil heating has endured a chequered history – starring frost, flame-throwers and a fuming Fergie. Also in this issue – strange football tech, including electronic referee’s assistants, footballer brain stimulators, and robotic goalkeepers.

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Posted 8 January 2015
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1881 and all that

A great myth associated with Newcastle United is that the club was formed in 1892 courtesy of a merger between East End and West End. In fact, the club was formed in 1881, and there was no merger. Contemporary sources and modern histories make this clear, yet the 1892 myth still persists. This article looks at reclaiming Newcastle’s lost history.

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Posted 2 December 2014
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Up There book review

My review of Michael Walker’s new book, Up There: The North-East, Football, Boom & Bust, is in the latest issue of When Saturday Comes. The book is a long-overdue social history of North-East football. From the game’s earliest years, Walker shows how the industrial North-East established itself as a football powerhouse.

Read at the WSC website

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Posted 12 November 2014
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Away day heyday

Away days adventures are among the many joys of being a football fan, and have been since the Victorian era. But how did fans travel to or follow away matches in the days before cars and buses, or TV and radio?

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Posted 21 October 2014
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History of the magic sponge

The magic sponge is one of football’s most familiar artefacts, having being variously applied to players’ bumps and bruises for more than a hundred years. Originally used in boxing and athletics to help relieve pain and reduce swelling, the cold wet sponge became popularly regarded in football as an apparently miraculous cure for virtually any injury.

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Posted 6 October 2014
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Casting the net

John Alexander Brodie was one of the most prominent civil engineers to come out of the Victorian era. Based in Liverpool, he was a pioneer in areas as diverse as motoring, prefab housing and refuse compacting. Yet his greatest achievement – by his own reckoning – was the invention, 125 years ago, of the football goal net.

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Posted 12 September 2014
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The real Escape to Victory

In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, several of Britain’s most famous footballers were imprisoned in the brutal Ruhleben internment camp, on the outskirts of Berlin. Surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards, living in squalor and on meagre rations, and with freedom far out of reach, they sought salvation in the thing they knew best: football.

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Posted 15 August 2014
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Burgers with Muhammad Ali

Russ Routledge is a former amateur boxer from Newcastle upon Tyne. In 1984, he spent a week living with Muhammad Ali, the greatest fighter of all time. Russ was down on his luck and far from home, and Ali was attempting to deal with retirement and the onset of Parkinson’s. This is the story of their unlikely friendship.

Read at Medium

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Posted 22 July 2014