Category Archives: Books

The Evergreen book review

When Saturday Comes

wscThe latest issue of When Saturday Comes includes my review of the book The Evergreen in Red and White by Steven Kay, a fictional account of the life of the Victorian footballer Rab Howell of Sheffield United.

“Rabbi Howell was the first footballer of Romany origin to play for England. A slight but skilful half-back, he was a star of the excellent Sheffield United team of the 1890s, alongside the better-remembered likes of William “Fatty” Foulke and Ernest “Nudger” Needham. “A Gipsy by birth, [Howell] perhaps owes some of his inexhaustible vitality to his lucky parentage,” wrote Needham of his team-mate. That “inexhaustible vitality” won Howell the nickname “The Evergreen”. But in 1898, despite his talents, and with United on the verge of securing their first League championship, Howell was hurriedly sold to Liverpool for reasons that remain unclear.”

Read the full review in the May 2014 issue of When Saturday Comes and on the WSC website.

The Evergreen in Red and White is available from Amazon.

New Unofficial Football World Champions


Unofficial Football World ChampionshipsA new revised and updated edition of my Unofficial Football World Champions book is out today, and available from all good book shops, including Amazon and Book Depository.

The book traces football’s unofficial champions from the very first international match in 1872, and tells hundreds of stories involving legendary teams and footballing minnows, classic finals and forgotten friendlies, celebrated players and unsung heroes.

This is the third edition of the book that FourFourTwo magazine called ‘a fascinating history of football’ in a five-star review. The new edition is expanded to include new matches, teams, players and statistics, and is fully up to date to the start of 2014, featuring all 879 UFWC title matches played between 1872 and 2014, and all 48 unofficial football world champions – right up to current champions Uruguay.

The book is available in paperback and on Kindle, with other ebook formats coming soon. You can order it from Amazon, and see a ‘Look Inside’ preview, by clicking on the link below.

Unofficial Football World Champions

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Book Depository

Baker and Kelly’s VSPO

BT Sport

Baker and Kelly's VSPO Victorian Football SpecialI was a guest of Danny Baker and Danny Kelly on Baker and Kelly’s VSPO Victorian Football Christmas Special on BT Sport this week (27 December). My TV debut (and some are already saying finale…) was to promote The Victorian Football Miscellany, which Danny Baker very kindly said on air was, “one of the greatest books ever written about football since Charlie Buchan put down his pen.” Obviously, that quote is going on the cover of any reprint.

In the hour-long show we discussed some of Victorian football’s most colourful characters, looked at how footballs were made from pig’s bladders, saw how shinpads were invented, and then recreated a Victorian football match. There were also tales of bizarre moments in Victorian football, Christmas ghost stories from footballers, Victorian tarot card readings, and toasters powered by a penny farthing. In keeping with the Victorian theme, we were dressed in period costumes with appropriate facial hair, which (thankfully!) rendered me virtually unrecognisable. By the end of the show viewers were no doubt in agreement with Danny Baker when he said Victorian football “makes today’s game look like a lot of fuss about nothing”.

A clip from the show is available to watch via the Daily Mirror website.

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The Origins of the Football League book review

When Saturday Comes

When Saturday Comes November 2013My review of Mark Metcalf’s book The Origins of the Football League: The First Season 1888/89 is in the latest issue of When Saturday Comes.

“In 1888, during the early days of professional football, clubs began to look for a way to secure a regular income beyond that generated by occasional cup ties and friendly matches. It was Aston Villa director William McGregor who proposed the solution, suggesting that ‘the most prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home and away fixtures each season’. 125 years later, as the Football League celebrates its anniversary, Mark Metcalf’s extensively-researched book examines the inaugural season of the game’s oldest league competition.”

Read the full review in When Saturday Comes.

Get the book: The Origins of the Football League: The First Season 1888/89.