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  • Proud to be a Baggie: A Pictorial History of West Bromwich Albion Fans by Dean Walton

    WEMBLEY 1968 – 50 YEARS ON

    Ten-year-old Ray Jackson and supporters from Barratts & Baird set off for Wembley. (Proud to be a Baggie: A Pictorial History of West Bromwich Albion Fans, Amberley Publishing)

    May 18th 1968, Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World was at Number 1 in the charts and Harold Wilson was the pipe-smoking Prime Minister. Indeed it was a ‘wonderful world’ for everyone associated with West Bromwich Albion football club, the FA Cup was coming back to the Black Country.

    In front of almost 100,000 fans against Everton at the old Wembley Stadium, the ‘King of the Hawthorns’ Jeff Astle became the first player to score in every round when his left foot rocket in the third minute of extra-time proved to be the winner – his 35th goal in an incredible season. Albion’s Welsh international skipper Graham Williams lifted the trophy and a part of the West Midlands went absolutely crazy.

    Although hardly anyone owned a colour television in those days, the ’68 final was actually the first to be broadcast in colour, this meant that both teams had to wear their change strips – Everton in gold & blue and the Baggies wearing their lucky white shirts & shorts with the now legendary red socks being worn with the kit for the first time. The match ball was also yellow for the benefit of colour TV. Dennis Clarke also became the first substitute to be used in a final when he came on for the injured John Kaye at the end of the 90 minutes.

    Everton were hot favourites, they had thrashed Albion both home and away that season. Baggies captain Graham Williams proudly declared before the game that ‘no team ever beats another three times in the same season.’ This statement stuck in the players’ minds and helped spur them on to success.

    A crowd of 250,000 in West Bromwich town centre with the Star & Garter pub on the right. (Proud to be a Baggie: A Pictorial History of West Bromwich Albion Fans, Amberley Publishing)

    The next day, the streets from Birmingham city centre all the way to West Bromwich town hall were packed with an estimated 250,000 people who turned out to welcome the team back with the Cup for the fifth time.

    West Brom have never made the final since, despite getting to four FA Cup semi-finals, in fact it was the last major trophy that the club won. The FA Cup was very special in those days, fans would gather around the TV from 9am in the morning to watch the build up to the match itself – it was always the highlight of the season.

    Now we look back nearly 50 years later and every one of those players is still a household name amongst the Baggies’ supporters: Osborne, Fraser, Williams, Brown, Talbut, Kaye, Collard, Lovett, Astle, Hope, Clark C and Clarke D. Sadly three of the team are no longer with us; goalkeeper John Osborne, winger Clive ‘Chippy’ Clark and ‘King’ Jeff Astle have all passed away, Astle’s premature death was a result of brain damage caused by continuous heading of the old leather case balls.

    Fortunately the remaining nine players still get together regularly and at least three of the Cup winning team will be at the launch of Proud to be a Baggie – a book chronicling the history of West Bromwich Albion fans. The launch and signing takes place in the Fanzone at The Hawthorns before the forthcoming Albion v Spurs game on 5th May. Dean Walton’s book features many never-before seen photos of the fans heading to Wembley and at the homecoming on the Sunday.

    Albion may well be heading for the Championship but the boys of ’68 will be remembered forever.

    Dean Walton's new book Proud to be a Baggie: A Pictorial History of West Bromwich Albion Fans is available for purchase now.

  • The Hooligans Are Still Among Us by Michael Layton

    The Hooligans Are Still Among Us 1 British Transport Police officers, outside Arsenal tube station, 1980s. (Tony Thompson, The Hooligans Are Still Among Us, Amberley Publishing)

    The scourge of football-related violence has been with us since the 1960s, and came to the fore during the 70s and 80s, before the use of CCTV and other pro-active measures started the fight back by police and the authorities. The so-called ‘beautiful game’ has served to enrich the way of life for many generations in the UK and abroad, but for a relatively small, but significant, mindless minority football provides a platform for organised acts of mindless violence at its extreme, whilst spontaneous incidents of disorder, often fuelled by alcohol, remain a reality.

    ‘The Hooligans Are Still Among Us’ was released on the 15 May 2017, co-written with Bill Rogerson. It seeks to provide readers with a resume of those early years, using recollections from retired police officers, before examining in some detail the risks that such violent individuals pose whilst travelling on the rail networks, and at, and around stadiums in the UK during the 2015/2016 season.

    The authors draw on material, much of it ‘open source’, which clearly indicates that, whilst we have not returned fully to the ‘bad old days’ of the 80s, the problem of football hooliganism still exists to this day. As police tactics have been honed over the years through better use of intelligence, legislation and technology so too have the tactics of determined hooligans. One has only to look at ‘social media’ to see how readily material of an anti-social nature can be found.

    This latest book also explores problems in the sport relating to sectarianism and racial abuse in the UK, as well as the impact that ‘travelling’ English supporters have at international ‘away’ games. Sometimes, ‘more sinned against’ than being ‘sinners’ themselves, the historical reputation of English supporters often goes before them, sometimes leading to violence and confrontation, as groups vie for supremacy.

    The Hooligans Are Still Among Us 2 Monitoring football traffic at Wembley Park Station in 2014. (British Transport Police Media Centre, The Hooligans Are Still Among Us, Amberley Publishing)

    This behaviour is vividly described in accounts of violence by eye-witnesses at the European Championships in France in June 2016, and, in particular, at the Old Port in Marseilles on the 11 June 2016. It is clear that, to the ‘combatants’, status is everything, and reinforcing their position in the ‘hooligans hierarchy’, all important.

    After a review of the history of some of the UK’s better-known hooligan ‘firms’, the book moves on to look at some of the latest measures that the police are taking, and also takes an academic view on one of the ways forward, where such issues as ‘fan engagement’ are highlighted.

    There is no doubt that history plays a huge part in the mind-set of hooligans and ‘local derbies’, and high-profile tournaments always feature highly in their planning.

    As some of the older hooligan elements have taken a ‘back-seat’, there are some indications that ‘youth groups’ are filling that vacuum, particularly at non-league football games, where there are normally no police in attendance, or there is a lack of effective stewarding and CCTV.

    As former police officers, Bill and I have no desire whatsoever to vilify the many thousands of decent football supporters who travel to games each week, or indeed to glorify the actions of those who seek attention from the media through their perverse actions.

    Without doubt however, this is a problem that remains in our society, so much so in fact that less than two years ago the British Transport Police put tackling football hooliganism at the very heart of their operational priorities – indeed it was second only to tackling terrorism.

    The irony of this directive will not be lost on many, as we witness the recent terrorist attacks in the UK, and without doubt, as the police seek to balance finite resources, the challenges to tackle football related violence will become even more demanding.

    To some extent, ‘The Hooligans Are Still Among Us’ acts as a sequel to ‘Tracking The Hooligans’, which was also published by Amberley in 2016. Whilst it is specific by way of its reference to football violence on the UK rail network, nevertheless, the principles of research remain the same.

    I refer to a statement made by the BTP Chief Constable Mr Gay in 1972, which remains with me to this day: “On an average Saturday, some thirty trains carried police escorts of between two to eight officers. They sometimes reached their destination with their uniforms spoiled with spittle, and other filth, burnt with cigarette ends, or slashed….”

    This is how it was, and often still is, for the very thin blue line of officers who have to deal with such issues week in, week out, whether on transport networks, or in city centres and stadiums.

    This is the sort of behaviour that innocent members of the public still have to endure on a regular basis – in short, ‘The Hooligans Are Still Among Us’.

     

    9781445665887

    Michael Layton and Bill Rogerson's new book The Hooligans Are Still Among Us is available for purchase now.

  • Trevor Ford: The Authorised Biography by Neil Palmer

    It was a March evening in Cardiff City’s 1992/93 season, a season in which the Bluebirds won Promotion out of footballs bottom tier and also added a Welsh Cup under the excellent stewardship of manager Eddie May. I sat in the grandstand at Ninian Park with my father to watch an evening game against Scarborough, (yes following football is not all glamour). The game will always stay in my mind, not for the 1-0 win by the Bluebirds but around 10 minutes after kick off my dad nudged me and pointed out that a couple of rows away sat next to the aisle was Trevor Ford. When he told me the game suddenly lost some of its interest, as I would glance at the match whilst constantly keeping an eye on this grey haired gentleman in a light brown overcoat who was constantly asked for his autograph by a whole array of supporters.

    My mind drifted off to my childhood as the name Trevor Ford will always be synonymous with how my father judged any center forward of worth during the 1960s through to today, Dad tended to do this with singers also claiming “They're not as good as Sinatra”. Well for him no center forward was “As good as Trevor Ford”. The comparison was a little lost on me as I was brought up with the football sticker and Esso coin era of players of the 1960s and 70s and to be honest my only knowledge apart from my fathers cast iron opinion of him being the best was a photo in an old Charles Buchan football book that showed him in a Aston Villa kit that fascinated me as the shirt had a laced up neck.

    trevor-ford-1 Aston Villa squad of 1949. Trevor is in the middle row, second from left. (c. Trevor Ford, Amberley Publishing)

    However I watched Ford throughout the game and when it ended my father and I made our way out of the stand, which just happened to mean passing Trevor Ford. As we did my father said ‘Hello Trevor” and offered his hand which Trevor then shook. Although I was in my thirties I felt like a child, rooted to the spot on meeting a famous person, as I just nodded in return for Trevor’s smile. All the way home we talked about his career. My dad explained how he was the big star at Cardiff City when my dad was on the ground staff and what a player he was, all of which I had heard many times from dad but to see the man in the flesh seemed too give these stories even more merit.

    Trevor was a player that always stayed in my subconciese, when I started writing sports books I had the honour of interviewing various football players from the 1950s and I would always ask them, for my own curiosity more than anything else ‘What was Trevor Ford like?’. To the public they would always talk affectionately about him, yet anytime he was mentioned in the media he was always referred to as “Fiery Ford” or “Terrible Trevor” which I thought was a little unjust. Even when he passed away the main bulk of any obituary in the newspapers tended to be based on his book “I lead the Attack” rather than the prolific goal stats for his clubs and Wales. And with the upsurge in Welsh football I started to think he was forgotten about by sections of the media as they talked about “greats” like John Charles, Ian Rush, Ryan Giggs, Ivor Allchurch and Gareth Bale, all of whom are quite rightly great Welsh footballers but I always felt there was room for one more.

    Unfortunately this was the same when pundits talked about great center forwards. It appeared that the modern generation of media with its seven days a week football, Internet forums and Radio talk shows only went as far back as Gary Lineker and Italia 90. I make no apologies for my continued frustration at this, even at the cost of being called a “Grumpy old git”. It is a title that when it comes to the recognition of “Old” footballers I wear with pride.

    trevor-ford-2 FA Cup, 1951. Sunderland beat Norwich City 3-1. Trevor (airborne, right) is in the thick of the action, as always. (c. Trevor Ford, Amberley Publishing)

    So with this in mind I started on path of finding out about Trevor Ford in detail with a view for a book .The writer LP Hartley memorably began his novel The Go Between with the words “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” And that has never been truer when you look at a football world in the 1950s, which has now become unrecognizable today.

    Trevor was at the very center of the struggle for players to earn a better deal out of the game. It has been said many times that he was a player who knew his own worth. He knew early on, even in his Swansea Town days that he was the main attraction when it came to putting bums on seats, and football club directors knew it, other wise why would they pay for the very best players to enhance their football clubs. After all nobody said “I can’t wait for Saturday to see the left back play”. Trevor knew as a center forward he had a certain cache that clubs would pay for. Problem was in the eyes of the football authorities everybody got their £20 a week and that was their lot. In truth this was never going to work, nor did it. It insults our intelligence to think that a young 17 year old at Wolverhampton Wanderers would be paid the same £20 per week Wolves and England captain Billy Wright would get or would another 17 year old at Preston North End get the same as Legend Tom Finney. The answer is obviously no. The reality was that your Billy Wrights and Tom Finney’s were, like every other top player given various gifts that would make their stay at a club more confortable. The players knew what was going on and so did the Directors. But it took strong individuals like Trevor to stand up for change in the game whilst others kept silent.

    trevor-ford-3 Greats reunited at the Vetch, Swansea. Trevor and Ivor Allchurch hold up their favourite shirts. (c. Trevor Ford, Amberley Publishing)

    This resulted in a stronger PFA who were able to negotiate an end to the maximum wage and the ability for players to be in control of their own contracts. Trevor’s subsequence confrontations with authorities tarnished him with the tag of being “trouble” and not one to touch in terms of bringing to a club, yet his goal scoring record sits alongside any of the greats in the game past or present. The most damming of part of his career being his treatment by the Welsh FA with them not taking him to Sweden as part of the Welsh 1958 World cup squad. A decision that saw many Welsh selectors flex their muscles towards Trevor, making sure they taught him a lesson for what they deemed as embarrassing the organization rather than do what was the best thing for the country. It panned out the lack of preparation and amateurish attitude by the Welsh FA in the finals reconfirmed that many of the so-called “selectors” should never have been within 100 yards of running a football team in the first place.

    During the research for the book I was honored too meet Trevor’s son David who gave his support to the project. David’s honesty and enthusiasm to tell his fathers story, warts and all has been a real driving force of the book and I know that he has allowed me too share with you, the reader everything about his father and the Ford family. David allowed me the chance to see Trevor the man whilst numerous ex colleagues allowed me the chance to see Trevor the player and I will always be thankful to them for that.

    So for me the idea of taking just a name from my childhood memories and turning it into a book about what I believe to be one of the most influential footballers the game has produced has been a labour of love and one which I hope you will enjoy through the pages of this book.

    9781445640563

    Neil Palmer's new book Trevor Ford: The Authorised Biography is available for purchase now.

  • Stack Stevens: Cornwall's Rugby Legend by Steve Tomlin

    As the stories emerge of Britain’s medal-winning heroes and heroines returning from the Rio Olympics a common theme has been the self-sacrifice, weary of hours of travel, grinding training routines yet that they still emerged retaining an engaging joy in their chosen sport, modesty and sportsmanship.

    stack-stevens-1 Lineout at Coventry. Alvin Williams jumps for the ball with Stack and Bonzo Johns behind him eager to help (Stack Stevens, Amberley Publishing)

    Forty years ago life was very much tougher still. Rugby Union in England was then a totally amateur sport even at the very highest level and was characterised by public and grammar school young men who were at (or had been to) an Oxbridge college, training in a London medical school or serving as young officers in the Armed Forces. The top clubs carried all the kudos and were generally centred around London and the Midlands with a few outposts like Bristol and Leeds. England teams consisted almost entirely from that somewhat narrow pool of talent.

    Brian ‘Stack’ Stevens left school just after his fifteenth birthday to work seventy hours a week on his father’s farm which was situated in a remote village in the far Southwest tip of the country in West Cornwall just a few miles from Land’s End. His village school had played no real organised sport let alone rugby and he was sixteen before he was introduced to his first game for his local Young Farmers Club.

    stack-stevens-2 Meeting the Queen before England play a President's XV at Twickenham, 1971 (Stack Stevens, Amberley Publishing)

    Cornwall has frequently been described as a ‘hotbed of rugby’ and certainly the local towns and villages always followed the game keenly especially when the Cornwall team took the field in the County Championship and this was the only tiny crack in the door when an England selector might just take some notice. Furthermore, living in the far-flung locality of Penzance in the depths of winter - long before the motorway system had been completed - was a massive challenge just to get the chance of playing at the top level. On many occasions he would hitch a ride through the night to a senior match or a squad training session on a broccoli lorry heading for Covent Garden.

    His story is how he overcame all this, often in the face of a dominant father who wanted him on the farm 24/7 to finally emerge as one of the leading lights of the England team. Moreover, this team was one which defeated South Africa and New Zealand on their own home soil for the very first time in history and indeed he scored one of the tries in the triumph over the All Blacks in their own back yard. He held his place for five years, was called out to New Zealand to join the 1971 British Lions in what is still their only series victory in that rugby-crazy country and then had to refuse a second Lions tour three years later due to his crushing farming commitments.

    stack-stevens-3 Going over for a historic try in Auckland with Ian Hurst (13) and Sid Going (9) unable to do a thing about it (Stack Stevens, Amberley Publishing)

    This book covers all the twists and turns, highs and lows, triumphs and setbacks of a remarkable rugby player which took place in the face of anti-apartheid demonstrations, IRA death threats and a near miss from being involved in a major fatal air crash. Above all this was achieved with an irrepressible sense of fun and enjoyment of the game for its own sake. Thus the book is littered with dozens of hilarious anecdotes from an age in rugby which has probably now gone for ever.

    His courage is now being put to the test even more in recent years by his contracting a debilitating neurological condition which has made normal speech impossible. Hence this book has been written largely through the eyes of his contemporaries many of whom were the very top rugby stars of that era who not only admired him as a rugby player but clearly loved him as a person.

    His was one hell of a journey!

    9781445652917

    Steve Tomlin's new book Stack Stevens; Cornwall's Rugby Legend is available for purchase now.

  • Ryan Giggs Fifty Defining Fixtures by Tony Matthews

    Ryan Giggs, OBE, was born in Cardiff on 29 November 1973 and made his senior debut for Manchester United in 1990. He became a first team regular at Old Trafford during the 1991-92 season and went on to score 168 goals in more than 960 competitive games for the club, as well as gaining 64 caps for Wales and playing in four Olympic Games matches for GB, before retiring (as a player) in 2014.

    Ryan Giggs pic 1 Ryan Giggs in action during the friend;y match between Singha All Star XI and Manchester United at Rajamangala Stadium on 13th July 2013 in Thailand (mooinblack/shutterstock.com)

    Renowned for his tireless running, ball control, ability to create chances and scoring goals, he is one of the most decorated players in British football history, and during his playing days, he helped United win 13 Premiers League titles, the FA Cup four times, the League Cup on three occasions and the Champions League twice, as well as collecting several runner’s-up prizes.

    The first footballer in history to win two consecutive PFA Young Player of the Year awards (in 1992 and 1993), he was also named PFA Player of the Year in 2009 and is the only player to score in every Premier League season, starting in 1992-93

    Chosen in the PFA Team of the Century in 2007, the Premier League Team of the Decade in 2003 and the FA Cup Team of the Century, he was, being the youngest player to represent his country (Wales) when making his debut in 1991, and he captained Team GB at the 2012 London Olympics

    Made an OBE in 2007 for his services to English football, he was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2009 and in January 2011, was voted Manchester United's greatest ever player.

    Ryan Giggs pic 2 Ryan Giggs, again during the Singha All Star XI v. Manchester United friendly at Rajamangala Stadium (mooinblack/Shutterstock.com)

    After acting briefly as United’s interim manager at the end of the 2013-14 season, he was subsequently appointed as Louis van Gaal’s assistant (May 2014) and is also co-owner (with some of his former Manchester united team-mates) of non-League club, Salford City.

    Ex-Ajax Amsterdam, CF Barcelona and Holland legend Johan Cruyff said: "Eric Cantona was a great player, but he was not as good as Ryan Giggs."

    To choose fifty out of the 1,000 plus football matches Ryan has played in was mighty tough… I can tell you that for nothing. In fact, 200 who have been hard going, even 100, but to narrow it down to just fifty was nigh on impossible. But with the help of some diehard supporters I got there in the end and although I know for sure that I have upset a few people simply for not including their ‘favourite’ match, I just hope that the ones I have reported on, bring back some find memories.

    9781445646787

    Tony Matthew's Ryan Giggs Fifty Defining Fixtures is available for purchase now.

  • Don Kenyon His Own Man by Tim Jones

    Don Kenyon was a ’leader of champions and a champion of leaders’ for good reason; he was his own man and did things his own way.

    Known as ‘Braddy’ at school - like Don Bradman - he would bat for long periods without getting out. He still holds the record as the youngest player to score a century in the Birmingham League first division aged just 14.

    For 19 seasons he scored over 1,000 runs and captained Worcestershire’s first championship winning side in 1964, (retaining the title in its centenary year of 1965). He remains the record holder with 589 appearances and 34,490 runs for the County.

    Elected to the Test selection panel while still a player, he fearlessly supported the inclusion of Basil D’Oliveira for the Tour to South Africa in 1968/69, the outcome of which ultimately led to their sporting exclusion.

    It was in the ‘Kenyon Room’ at Worcester – named after him – where he died in 1996 just as he was about to show a video of Worcestershire’s World Tour from 1965. He died as he lived his life, surrounded by cricketing friends and family.

    ‘His Own Man’ details the life of a devoted family man who did everything within his capabilities to provide for them. It was this devotion which drove him to be the best in his chosen profession.

    ‘His Own Man’ asks the question why one of the outstanding batsman of his generation did not play more Test cricket? Both team mates and opponents provide opinion. What made Don such an outstanding captain and leader of men? Former players give an insight into what ‘made him tick.’

    ‘His Own Man’ celebrates the back-to-back triumphs in the County Championship, looks in detail at the joyous World Tour of 1965 (supported by rare archive material) plus the disappointment of agonisingly missing out on a third consecutive Championship title in 1966.

    His Own Man’ covers Don’s three year term as Worcestershire President which coincided with the return of the glory years in the late 1980’s when the likes of Ian Botham and Graeme Hick were in their pomp.

    9781445647562

    Tim Jones book Don Kenyon His Own Man is available for purchase now.

  • 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.

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