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

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.


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.