Amberley Publishing - Transport, Military, Local and General History

Sport History

  • The Year of Four England Cricket Captains 1988 by Neil Robinson

    When Adam Lyth took the field for England at the start of this year’s final Ashes Test match at the Oval in August, his presence served as a potent reminder of how much has changed in England’s cricket team over the past quarter of a century. Lyth, who made his Test debut against New Zealand back in May, has struggled to establish his place in the national team; despite scoring a century in only his second Test, he later found runs against Australia harder to come by and his record of 86 runs at an average of 12.28 in the first four Ashes Tests led cricket fans and commentators alike to question whether Lyth was indeed the right man to open England’s innings alongside captain Alastair Cook.

    Nevertheless, Lyth retained his place, and even one more failure at the Oval did not completely rule out a place for him in England’s party to take on Pakistan in the Middle East this autumn. Lyth is not the only batsman to have benefitted from the England selectors’ new-found sense of patience in recent times. His opening partner and team captain Alastair Cook endured a prolonged barren run of nineteen Test matches without a century beginning with the first Test of the 2013 Ashes and ending only in the final Test in the West Indies this spring. The experienced Ian Bell’s record of 692 runs at under 19 from his last 23 Tests also makes for less than impressive reading.

    Yet both Cook and Bell, as well as Lyth, have retained their places throughout these periods of poor form and under-achievement. The willingness of the team’s management to support struggling players is something that few England cricketers of earlier generations would have experienced themselves. There are countless examples of England selectors’ patience stretching about as far as a dried out elastic band – take Graeme Hick being dropped in 1993 after averaging 57 from his previous four Tests – but few years in the history of English cricket have seen the selectorial axe come down with more crushing frequency than 1988.

    A season that began with such promise – a 3-0 whitewash of the West Indies in the Texaco Trophy series, followed by a creditable draw in the first Test – descended into chaos after Mike Gatting lost the captaincy following a trumped-up tabloid scandal. A total of 28 players gained Test caps that summer, with no fewer than 33 being called up to the England squad across six Tests and four one-day internationals. There were, in some cases, circumstances which mitigated the selectors’ decisions: in axing Gatting they acted under obligation to the Test and County Cricket Board, which had announced a crackdown on player indiscipline that spring.

    There were injuries too, most famously the bruised foot that prevented Chris Cowdrey from leading England for a second match and forced England to appoint their fourth captain of the summer, Graham Gooch. But most of the selectors’ decisions are harder to account for. In the third Test at Old Trafford, David Gower made 34 of England’s meagre second innings total of 93; not his most significant innings perhaps, but more than twice the number of runs made by any of his team-mates. Chairman of Selectors Peter May suggested Gower should be dropped for the next match. Thanks to the persuasive persistence of Chris Cowdrey Gower survived, but one match later when Allan Lamb’s torn calf muscle left him as England’s sole experienced middle-order batsman, May still insisted Gower be dropped.

    Then there was Chris Broad. Broad had scored three centuries in seven Tests overseas the previous winter, while also accumulating fines and censure for on-field petulance. Two Tests into the summer, he was dropped amid accusations that he had muttered – to himself, but captured by TV cameras – his displeasure at an lbw decision, and that he never made runs in England. By the fifth Test at the Oval, England’s accomplished and experienced batting order, which even the West Indies had respected a few weeks earlier, had been decimated, and Gooch led out a team which included four batsmen sharing two Test caps between them.

    England’s inevitable defeat – 4-0 in the series – was greeted by much soul-searching within English cricket. Was the defeat down to the pitches in county cricket? The balls? The excess of overseas players? But staring English cricket in the face was the fact that you are unlikely to succeed against the finest team in the world when fielding your second and third eleven. Selectors, journalists and fans alike had fallen into the trap of thinking that somehow a magic combination of eleven players could be found to take on the West Indies and win. It might even have been possible, had they stuck with the same team they began the series with.

    Twenty-seven years later, English cricket has developed a very different culture. Questions may be raised when a player like Adam Lyth struggles to make runs over the course of a series, but not over one or two matches. The need for a young player to be given time to establish himself, and for an experienced one to battle through poor form without being consigned to the outer darkness of county cricket has been generally accepted. The sort of frenzy that could lead to four captains and three entire teams being picked in one summer is now unthinkable. England fans might yearn for a Gower or a Gatting today; the players themselves probably wish they had played their cricket twenty-seven years later.

    Cricket - 9781445637587

    Neil Robinson's Long Shot Summer The Year of Four England Cricket Captains 1988 is available for purchase now.

  • The Origins of Sheffield Wednesday by Jason Dickinson

    It may seem strange to modern day followers of the ‘beautiful game’ that as relatively recently as the mid-19th Century the game of Association Football was still a pastime only practised in a handful of public schools and universities in England. In fact that early form of the sport was more akin to rugby than it was football with handling, charging and tripping all allowed in a rather crude and somewhat rough early incarnation of today’s multi-billion pound product.

    Sheffield - Microsoft Word - Document1 Wednesday FC team photograph from the late 1880s

    The first shoots of today’s game started to grow in the Northern cutlery town of Sheffield in 1857 when two gentlemen – silver-plate manufacturer Nathaniel Creswick and wine merchant William Prest – formed the club’s first and oldest football club, Sheffield FC. The rise of the game amongst the populous was actually accelerated in that period through two acts of Parliament with the 1847 and 1850 Factory Acts dramatically changing the day to day lives of the working man and woman. In short, the working week became significantly more defined and crucially a Saturday half-day was introduced with all factories expected to be closed by 2pm. Suddenly there was more free time to pursue leisure activities and the main social activity to benefit was the new and exciting sport of Association Football. The new sport was also embraced by the Victorian gentry who had initially supported the game of cricket in the early 19th Century as it pulled the populous away from awful and inhumane sports of yore, such as bear baiting and dog fighting. The new game was also promoted as a pastime that improved both mind and body and as the 1860s dawned clubs started to spring up around the UK, with Hallam FC providing a rival for Sheffield in the town and the likes of Notts County (1862) & Nottingham Forest (1865) being formed. The sport was also starting to thrive in the south and it was not long before the Football Association was formed (1863) with football played under ‘Cambridge Rules’ by the southerners and ‘Sheffield Rules’ by the northerners!

    Sheffield - Microsoft Word - Document1 The Cromwell Cup - the second oldest trophy in world football, won by Wednesday Football Club in 1868 and still in the club's boardroom today.

    The year of 1867 was significant as the first ever football trophy – the Youdan Cup – was competed for in Sheffield (won by Hallam FC) while a year later the Cromwell Cup (won by new boys Wednesday FC) showed there was great interest in the knock out format of the game. In fact the town of Sheffield is rightly lauded as contributing more to the game than anywhere else as in addition to cup-tie football the goal kick, corner flag, neutral referee, throw in, goal kick, half-time, trophies and extra time were all introduced in the town, amongst many others than remain in the rule book today. As the game took root in the nation’s heart, the FA Cup was introduced in 1871 with the Sheffield Challenge Cup commencing in 1876, won by the Wednesday Club – both competitions continue to be played today although the entrants in the respective tournaments do now differ quite considerably!

    The Sheffield and Cambridge rules ceased in 1878 – the sport was played under one defined set of rules from that point forward – and by the late 1880s the game was being played in every village, town and city in England. It was Aston Villa Chairman William McGregor who thought it would a good idea to start a league competition, guaranteeing regular and competitive matches and duly in September 1888 twelve clubs commenced the first season of the new Football League – the game would never be the same.

    Sheffield - 9781445619521

    Jason Dickinson's The Origins of Sheffield Wednesday is available for purchase now.

  • Manchester City Have No History, by Mike Devlin

     

    It matters not that they were created from the ashes on the 16th of April 1894, or that they were in fact around as early as 1880 in some form or another (not that the media of the day could remember what the club was called) – or indeed earlier if we include cricket, but that isn’t a real sport so we can ignore that bit. Neither does it matter that they were the first club in Manchester to get their grubby hands on a major piece of silverware, or be legally (yes, legally) the ‘official football team of Manchester’ as stated by the Football Association. Manchester City, evidently, have no history.

    PrintThat phrase has been bandied about for quite some time. Well, since 1992 that is, as that was the year, as we all know, that football in England was invented, and seeing as though City dropped into the third tier of English football during the 1990s, it must be true.

    So no history. None. Whatsoever. Really?

    Did you know Pope John-Paul II was a follower?
    Was Anna Connell really a pain in the arse?
    If Billie Gillespie is the FA’s 2nd most wanted man, who is #1?
    Why should the City board of directors have kept up-to-date with the goings on of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria?
    Plastic bananas? Pah! I’ve got a dead chicken.
    Who was almost stripped naked and forced to pull a #168 bus down the road by way of their own testicles?
    Billy, or Billie?
    Who was going down faster? City or a two-bit hooker?
    Why Manchester City needed another World War.
    And how they almost started World War III.
    What is the George Town derby?
    Who was Manchester City’s 472nd manager?
    Who supports 艾 ?
    Who was the Maltese Falcon?
    Was Abe Lincoln a Manchester City fan?
    Just how many Big Macs can ADUG afford to buy?

    And it doesn’t stop there. Oh, no Sir (and ma’am), it does not. Major players from every decade, prominent managers, the grounds the club called home, conspiracies, English wars, fans' thoughts, and … umm … threats to Bovril consumption.

    With, Manchester City: The Secret History Of A Club That Has No History you can go on the roller-coaster ride that fans of the club have gone through for over 130 years. Find out when ‘Typical City’ actually became a thing and how Manchester City have continually tried to buy their way out of trouble (and usually failed). Discover the first goalkeeper to ever score a goal, and the league’s very first none-British player who played for the Blues. Read about City’s chairman, Frank Johnson, and his attempts to dissolve the club and remove it from existence, and that Manchester City came to the rescue of Manchester United on more than one occasion.

    This book was born from an official season long blog for Manchester City FC in 2013-14, and the club was happy to laugh at itself, as their fans have done so for decades (and let’s face it, still do). And whilst it is not an all encompassing tome covering everything in minute detail it is a history book that covers all the major happenings at the club and then goes on to attempt to predict the future.

    9781445648101Manchester City: The Secret History Of A Club That Has No History is now available here, elsewhere and possibly somewhere else.

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