The life-and-death history of the message in a bottle

Written in support of the Messages from the Sea book, this feature explores an archive of 100-plus-year-old messages from the sea, revealing clues to the fate of missing vessels, poignant farewells from stricken sailors, and other mysterious and fascinating tales.

 

Football hustlers: British players in the ALPF

It was a Victorian football sensation. Five British players were missing, presumed poached by a mysterious agent for a brand new American League of Professional Football (ALPF) – the first professional football league outside of Britain, and soon regarded as “a huge mistake, a fiasco, and a total failure”.

 

Football Wikipedia

When your club is linked with a player you’ve never heard of, Wikipedia’s 350,000+ football pages are likely to contain all the information you need. But who updates those goal tallies? And more importantly, why? For FourFourTwo, I met the men who keep football Wikipedia bang up to date.

 

Messages from the Sea

Based on the Messages from the Sea website, a new book collects letters and notes from a lost era of seafaring found floating in bottles and washed up on beaches across the world. I compiled the book and wrote the notes and introduction. It will be published in September 2016.

 

The birth of the fan podcast

Why did Victorians flock to watch 22 men kicking a pig’s bladder about? Episode 45 of The Blizzard Podcast features my story on the origins of the football supporter, The birth of the fan, from 2014’s issue 12.

 

Islington Corinthians: Football’s first world tour

Islington Corinthians may not be a famous name, but these footballing Phileas Foggs left their mark on history with an extraordinary 1930s round-the-world jaunt involving leopards, cocaine, cobras, crocodiles, and a bullet-strewn carry-on up the Khyber.

 

Pember’s code: How Arthur shaped football’s rules

Arthur Pember titillated Victorian New York with his muckraking journalism. He wrote about crime, corruption and a bizarre search for mermaids. But there was one episode he never wrote about: serving as the first president of the Football Association and setting out the Laws of the Game.

 

Still with us: Gainsborough Trinity

Gainsborough Trinity have always overachieved, despite the best efforts of their local rivals. With a population of around 20,800, lower than the likes of Glossop, Accrington and Fleetwood, Gainsborough is one of the smallest towns to have had a Football League club.

 

Football chants

As part of FourFourTwo’s 50 Best Football Chants special, why do Liverpool fans sing You’ll Never Walk Alone, why do West Ham fans sing I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, and why on Earth do Stoke City fans sing Delilah (a creepy murder ballad about an insane voyeur who knifes his cheating lover to death)?

 

Elephant football

In the summer of 1899, football’s most famous goalkeeper took on a Sanger’s Circus elephant in what was billed as ‘The Greatest Novelty in the World’ – an elephant-versus-man penalty shoot-out. This is the story of one of the the great football sensations of the Victorian era.