Revisiting Danny Baker’s Sunday League football TV show The Game, featuring hungover players and forgotten boots, potato-patch pitches and taped-up goal-nets, half-time cigarettes and full-time cans of lager, and plenty of swearing, plus at least one ball that ends up under a passing London bus.
Britain may not have invented football, but it did knock it into shape – drawing up rules, forming clubs, organising competitions, and sending the association version out into the world via travelling migrants who became football missionaries. A review of Keith Baker’s book Fathers of Football.
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. A short piece on the history of half-time for FourFourTwo.
A review of Michael Walker’s Up There: The North-East, Football, Boom & Bust. 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.
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. This is the story of how a cold wet sponge became regarded in football as an apparently miraculous cure for virtually any injury.
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.
A 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. Howell was the first footballer of Romany origin to play for England, and a star of the excellent Sheffield United team of the 1890s.
A review of Mark Metcalf’s book The Origins of the Football League: The First Season 1888/89. As the Football League celebrates its anniversary, this extensively-researched book examines the inaugural season of the game’s oldest league competition.
Goal-Post: Victorian Football Vol 2, a second anthology of 19th century football writing, is out now. I edited the book, and wrote the introduction.
The Witches’ Circle is a ring of oak trees around 60 feet in diameter, next to the ancient village of Winlaton, four miles west of Newcastle upon Tyne. For centuries the circle has been associated with stories involving the activities of witches from the surrounding area.