History of the magic sponge

fft245The latest issue of FourFourTwo magazine contains a big feature on football injuries, which includes a piece by me on the history of injury treatment and the football trainer’s miraculous 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. ‘It’s remarkable what that magic sponge can do,” wrote a football reporter in the 1930s. “One dab appears to cure broken legs.'”

Read the full story in the November 2014 issue of FourFourTwo.


All With Smiling Faces

All With Smiling FacesMy new book All With Smiling Faces is out now in paperback and as an eBook. Subtitled How Newcastle became United, 1881-1910, it’s an early history of the club, covering the 30 years from its formation in 1881 to the first FA Cup win in 1910. It pays particular attention to the role of the fans, and explores what it must have been like to support Newcastle in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

The title is taken from the lyrics of Blaydon Races, the Tyneside music hall song that shares its Victorian heritage with Newcastle United and is still sung at St James’ Park today. The cover features an exclusive painting by football artist Paine Proffitt. There’s a dedicated website, featuring more details, images and extracts, at 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.”

All With Smiling Faces is available now from Amazon

Find out more at the website www.allwithsmilingfaces.co.uk.

Casting the net

wsc332The latest issue of When Saturday Comes magazine contains a piece by me on the 125th anniversary of the invention of the goal net, football’s original version of goal-line technology.

“John Alexander Brodie was one of the most prominent civil engineers to come out of the Victorian era. Based in Liverpool, he helped shape the city and its roads, oversaw the construction of the Queensway Tunnel under the Mersey and 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.”

Read the article in the October 2014 issue of When Saturday Comes.

The real Escape to Victory

fftsept2014In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, several of Britain’s most famous footballers were imprisoned at the Ruhleben internment camp, near Berlin. Marking the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the War, my feature in the latest issue of FourFourTwo tells the true story of how the prisoners – including the great Steve Bloomer – used the game of football to survive, and how two of them used it to achieve an amazing escape.

“‘An epic story of the triumph of the British spirit of sportsmanship in a German prison camp!’ Not a tagline for Bank Holiday film favourite Escape to Victory, but a 100-year-old newspaper headline reporting the true-life exploits of a group of footballing prisoners of war. It was 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, and 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 their families and freedom far out of reach, they sought salvation in the thing they knew best: football.”

Read the full story in the September 2014 issue of FourFourTwo.


Also in this issue of FourFourTwo is a feature on goal celebrations, which includes my piece on the early history of celebrations, or ‘the Handshake Years’.

goal celebrations