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. The story of their unlikely friendship has been published by The Cauldron at Medium.

“Muhammad Ali is a fast driver. He guns his Stutz Bearcat along Wilshire Boulevard, swinging in and out of busy traffic, and throws a hard left onto Rossmore Avenue. Pedestrians point and wave, and Ali lifts his hands from the wheel to throw shadow punches in their directions. Stopped at a red, a driver leans from his car window and shouts, “Hey Ali — you’re the greatest!” Ali bites down on his Louisville lip and offers the driver a comic grimace. Then, as the light turns, the man they call the Champ hits the gas and races toward Hollywood Boulevard.”

Read the full story at The Cauldron, the sports collection of Medium.


All With Smiling Faces website

All With Smiling FacesMy next book is All With Smiling Faces, an early history of Newcastle United. It’s published in September 2014, but the website is online now, featuring content and images from the book, plus a pre-order offer for a special limited edition. The book cover features a painting by Paine Proffitt. www.allwithsmilingfaces.co.uk

“How did Newcastle become United? When was the club formed, and where did it play before moving to St James’ Park? Who were the men who built the club, and how did they turn it into the most successful club in the country? What was it like to support Newcastle in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and why has the bond between the club and its fans remained so strong?

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.”

Find out more and pre-order at the website www.allwithsmilingfaces.co.uk.

Cafe Calcio

Cafe CalcioI was on the Resonance FM radio show Cafe Calcio last week, talking with hosts Chris Dixon and David Stubbs about Victorian football. The chat focussed on the Goal-Post: Victorian Football anthologies, and also mentioned my Victorian Football Miscellany. Areas covered included early football journalism, the evolution of the Laws of the Game, and Victorian attitudes to women’s football. The show is available to stream via Soundcloud. More Victorian football content and information can be found at the Goal-Post website.

A greasy, muddy slope

Northern League programmeThis is a short piece written for the 2014 Northern League Cup Final match programme. The match was played at St James’ Park, where Marske United beat Whitley Bay 2-1 after extra time. The Northern League is celebrating its 125th anniversary years this year.

The first Northern League match at St James’ Park was played 125 years ago in September 1889 between the two Newcastle clubs West End and East End. St James’ was the home ground of West End, and it looked very different to how it does today. There were no stands, and no real facilities of any kind, just a pitch surrounded by soil embankments. Supporters paid sixpence to get in, and the players got changed in a nearby pub.

‘The West End ground is most unsuitable to football,’ reported the Northern Echo. ‘Between goal and goal there is a most pronounced dip… a greasy, muddy slope of the most treacherous nature.’ If you look closely you’ll see that the St James’ pitch still has a slope today. It was the location that made St James’ special, perched above the town walls at the heart of Newcastle. Continue reading