Football’s uniting friendship

Liverpool’s footballing exploits are strong but just off the City Centre is another piece of footballing folk lore at  ‘The Bombed Out Church’, St Luke’s. A memorial to the devastation of the bombings in the Second World War which is now used as a space for gatherings as a venue of all sorts it also now the home of the statue ‘Truce’ by Andy Edwards.


Talking to the security guard at the church, a function was just about to take place, he let us take photos  and explained that a quarter sized version of the statue sits at The FA’s St George’s Park National Football Centre, Burton-upon-Trent and the original life size version is in the Belgian town of Mesen, also known by its French name Messines, the closest to where the Christmas Truce of 1914 is believed to have started. The Security Guard said that there had also been talk of one being made and sited in Germany.

Whether a football game actually took place can not be totally corroborated although diary entries of German soldiers state it did. There may also have been more than one game along the whole length of the front. What is definite is that a truce lasting roughly a week did take place in 1914 and songs, gifts and hand shakes were exchanged. The statue brilliantly portrays the friendship of mankind towards one another and that humanity triumphs in the darkest of times. Unfortunately the guns resumed and continued for nearly 4 years with the loss of so many.

Thank you Andy for a truly inspiring piece of art.

The Art of Football


On my recent visit to Sunderland I enquired about seeing the iconic Painting of Sunderland V Aston Villa that hangs in their reception and is recognised as the oldest painting of an Association Football match anywhere in the world. The painting by Thomas Maria Madawaska Hemy was painted after the end of the 1912/13 season when Sunderland won the Division 1 title and Aston Villa beat them in the FA Cup final at Crystal Palace in front of 120000 fans. This followed a 20 year period when the two teams dominated the First Division Championship, Villa winning it 4 times and Sunderland 3.

The painting is of an exciting 4-4 draw at Newcastle Road on 2nd January 1895 with a sprinkling of snow on the ground. It appears to depict a corner with all players in the painting except for the opposing goalkeeper.

Unfortunately I was unable to see the painting as I was informed that I would have to pay extra and return on a tour day.

My disappointment lasted a day as while leaving Sunderland I saw the above painting on the side of the Blue House pub. The painting is of Horatio (Raich) Carter who was regarded as the finest inside forward of his time. The painting is by local Sunderland artist Frank Styles and was completed in 2015.

A brilliant piece of local folk art.

Village Voice by Ian Cusak

Village Voice – The Story of Percy Main Amateurs 2009/2010 Season written by Ian Cusak and published by Ian Cusak Publishing 2010.


What a find, this book was £1 on a book table at Stocksbridge Park Steels and is the best read of the year so far.

Ian Cusak a long time Newcastle United fan and a part time follower of the local Non-League scene finds that his disillusionment  with the big time leads him to Percy Main Amateurs. The book tells of Percy Mains season 2009/2010 and his election onto the committee and his involvement in time, energy and emotion. It also gives an insight into how the club survives and the characters who make up the team, management, committee and fans (all of which are known by name). The book was written to chronicle the event and to raise funds for the club. My secondhand purchase won’t help this but it has meant that I will visit them in the future. The club comes across as very friendly and welcoming of ground hoppers.

During the season in question Percy Main attempt to gain promotion from Division 1 of the Northern Alliance a league that is based mainly in the North East but due to historical reasons has teams from as far away as Berwick and Carlisle. I will not give away what the outcome is and spoil it for other readers.

If you see this book buy it and enjoy the pleasure of football at this level and wander why the powers that be do not filter down more money to keep this life blood of the game in better health.


‘Those Feet’

‘Those Feet’ written by David Winner and published by Bloomsbury Press in 2005 and this paperback edition in 2006.

This book was written by David Winner who in 2001 wrote Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football ,a book about the Dutch mastery of football at the time with their ‘Total Football’. The book was acclaimed as a must read to understand how dutch history, life, people and society in general had all come together to create a style that swept all before it.

Those Feet looks at the English game from its Victorian outset, values and how they set a pattern for footballers, fans, clubs and officials that still influence English football in total.

The swash buckling centre forward epitomised in Roy of the Rovers, the never give up military attitude, the we know better than anyone else and our slow take up of new designs and tactics seem to show why we have only been successful at one World Cup. Since the book was published the game has changed with the spread of non UK players and the introduction of the worlds greatest managers with methods, tactics and strategies at the cutting edge of the sport. This has helped the national team to develop a more youthful outlook that gives great hope for the future. We are also now, due to the success of our Olympians, ready to accept and pioneer new techniques, equipment, clothing and diet to get those small incremental gains that make you world leaders.

The most outstandingly interesting paragraphs in the book are about how Sir Stanley Mathews adopted the new style football boots that were lighter and more flexible and gave him an edge. He saw the development of the new boot in South America and Europe and persuaded the Coop to make and sell the boot. This gives me even more respect for this footballing genius but his new boot was treated as a gimmick rather than the revolution it was.

The detail of the book is really good and gives as it intends an understanding of how the English game developed its own style and in a way held it back form being more competitive on an international stage. Many would say that was great in that it created a fast, competitive, end to end style that we have all enjoyed and loved. At what cost, the forever under achievers of a game that we helped to invent and fashion into today’s   global super sport.

A good Read


Thank God for Football!

‘Thank God for Football’ by Peter Lupson was another Oxfam bookshop find. The book was published in 2006 and explains that of the 38 clubs who had at that time played in the Premiership 12 could trace their origin directly to a church.


The book is well researched and at only 163 pages was easy and quick to read and thoroughly enjoyable.  It throws light on the fact that many clubs that were formed in Victorian times were as a result of belief of the senior local church hierarchy that they could reach the local community through education and physical activity that would also be linked with spiritual needs. In the Chapter on Southampton FC is the passage “All connected with the club are believers in muscular Christianity, and think that the advantage of strong developed limbs, a supple frame, and a quick eye, cannot be over estimated.”

Many of these teams were also adjunct to the cricket team who were looking for a sport to keep them fit in the winter. The clubs were also often stated in deprived areas as an alternative to the daily monotonous grind of work and a social life that was alcohol based. Some of the teams formed had a temperance culture. Not only is it a book about football but is also a great social reference of the times.

The Teams in question are:-

Aston Villa FC – The Aston Villa (Wesleyan) Football Club

Barnsley FC – Barnsley St Peters Football Club

Birmingham City FC – Small Heath Alliance  (Out of Holy Trinity Church)

Bolton Wanderers FC – Christ Church Football Club

Liverpool FC and Everton FC – St Domingo Football Club

Fulham FC – St Andrew’s Cricket and Football Club

Manchester City FC – St Mark’s (West Gorton) Football Club

Queens Park Rangers FC – St Jude’s Institute Football Club

Southampton FC – The St Mary’s Young Men’s Association Football Club

Swindon Town FC – Swindon Town Football Club  (Out of Christ Church Swindon)

Tottenham Hotspur FC – Hotspur Football Club  (Out of All Hallows Church Tottenham)


Thank God for Football by Peter Lupson 2006. Published by  ‘Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge’



Sheffield Library’s in the Premier League

Sheffield Library’s do a lot to promote football history in Sheffield and involve the community along the way. As well as having a good depth in books about football both in the general and reference library and a very helpful team to help you they also offer other services to help many who may be lonely, fighting depression or dementia through sport.

Sporting Memories Group

They have set up sporting memories groups in 5 libraries to help older people unlock  sporting memories  whether they be football, cricket, swimming, Olympics etc. Regular sessions are now held at, Crystal Peaks, Ecclesall, Firth Park, Stocksbridge and Central libraries and they have been a great hit often with full groups and a waiting list of people wanting to go along.

Walking Tour App

Another initiative is the ‘Walking Tour App’ of the places that give Sheffield a rightful voice in saying it is the ‘Home of Football’.20181102_125837.jpg

The best way to describe the App is how the Library themselves describe it.

“Between 1857 and 1889 Sheffield had 95 football clubs and the app explores locations associated with these early clubs and the development of the modern game. While visiting ten stops over the 4.7 mile walk you will be introduced to the places and people that made Sheffield the home of Association football.

The app includes audio commentaries, so you can listen as you walk or simply sit and enjoy in your armchair from anywhere in the world.

As you reach key points along the walk content in the app will be triggered automatically. You can also follow your location on an 1855 map, giving you a sense of what Sheffield was like at that time.”

It will be something I’m sure I will do on a visit to Sheffield in the future.

Sheffield Football Treasures

On the 25th October the Central Library put on a day between 10.30 and 2.30 when you could visit them and see some of the treasures that are in Sheffield that show off its football history credentials. There were displays and talks by many groups showing and explaining the history of the game.


Some photos are from Sheffield Library’s Twitter page.

There were as well as the FA Cup some of the local cups first played for in Sheffield and perhaps more important with regards the history of the game at its outset.


This support for Sport locally is just one of the ways that Sheffield Library’s are keeping on top of the league and encouraging people to use this amazing resource.




‘Kes’- Fifty Years On

It is fifty years since the iconic, social commentary film’ Kes’ was filmed in Barnsley using many local people, dialect and locations. This gritty sometimes bleak film was based on a book by Barry Hines (Kestrel for a Knave .1968) and Directed by Ken Loach whose 2016 film ‘I. Daniel Blake’ still shows he can capture aspects of life often not seen or appreciated in all parts and strata of society.

I was able to re-live watching the film through ‘Off The Shelf’ which in its own words is: “Off the Shelf is one of the largest and most accessible literary festivals in the UK. Every year we bring the biggest names in literature and the arts to Sheffield.”  

The film is about Billy Casper a teenage growing up in Barnsley and just about to leave school. Being brought up by his single parent mum with his step brother he has become disengaged with school and what he might do in the future if he is not to follow others down the pit. He finds fulfilment, excitement and learning through bringing up a Kestrel and teaching it to fly to him.


The social commentary of the film is still relevant today with disengaged teenagers stuck in non-fulfilling school days and job prospects to follow. The cane was the go to means of control then as is exclusion today.

The football scene with Brian Glover playing the games teacher (Mr Sugden) is a must watch for all football fans. The picking of teams is classic with the one left, Billy Casper being put in goal in Brian’s team. This is after he tries to get out of games but has to wear the largest shorts you have seen.

The game is played in rain and mud with the games teacher treating it like a top game as he tries to dominate the play through brute force and his whistle. He turns it into a Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur fantasy and creates a twice taken penalty to level the scores. This does not work however as the opposition score in the last minute as Billy dives theatrically the wrong way.

Billy is then bullied into taking a shower despite having no towel and humiliated in front of his peers.

A fantastic scene and film from Ken Loach.

Above Head Height

‘Above Head Height’ written by James Brown, published by Quercus in 2017.

Bought from Archway Bookshop in Axminster £8.99.



Above Head Height is a book that takes you through James Brown’s football life from playing football on the streets, local parks and school fields in Headingley, Leeds to many five, eight and varying a side games all over the world but mainly in his adopted London home.

It is about camaraderie between players who turn up each week through a special bond of commitment, friendship and knowing each others skill level  but often not knowing anything about their after game life. Apart from the games, a nod as you pass in the street can often be the only other contact with the players.

There are some great descriptions of the kit, it’s storage and the arena’s that James has played on. He also comments on the rules and how they should be changed and the goals that are remembered for life. How you can be Messi, Ronaldo or Kane for a brief moment and how age dictates changes to your fitness level and style.

The book is also an insight into the history of the growth of five a side football into a multi million pound industry that has flowered and has to some degree replaced Sunday football as a mates sport because it is played 24/7 somewhere in the UK to suit our busy lives.

James also explains how football, particularly five a side, has been a constant in his life seeing him through addictions and relationship break ups. It is best to put Jame’s life in context by quoting the short biopic on the back cover of the book: ‘James Brown worked on the NME, founded Loaded, Jack and Leeds, Leeds magazines, and was Editor-in-Chief of British CQ. He is a media entrepreneur, journalist and hosts a weekly show on TalkSport. He is now down to three matches a week.’

What is moving and very personal is the writing about the death of James Kyllo who was a constant in his Five a side life, the one who booked the pitches, organised the teams provided the statistics. The glue that for a long period of time kept them together and it is reminiscent of  ‘We are Sunday League’ previously reviewed. The world needs James Kyllo’s.

This was a great book that caught my imagination and emotions.




Coal, Goals and Ashes.

A chance visit to Harewood House between Leeds and Harrogate brought me to a house just off the main car park full of second hand books, a must for all book lovers to browse. There on the shelves in the sports section was an intriguing title, ‘Coal, Goals and Ashes’ written by David Waddington and first published by Route of Pontefract in 2013. The £2 price was a steal and I had to stop reading another book to get started.

The books sub title ‘Fryston Colliery’s Pursuit of the West Riding County FA Challenge Cup was a bit of a give away but that was only the wrapper to the main event.


David Waddington is the son of the Fryston captain who led the team to its only ever win of the cup in 1963. For Fryston Colliery Welfare to win the West Riding FA County Challenge Cup was a feat akin to a Division 2 team winning the FA Cup.

The book is not just about football but an extraordinary social history of mining, village life and people. It was published in 2013 to mark the 50th anniversary of the feat and unfortunately not likely to be achieved again now that the club has disbanded.

Fryston Colliery was founded in the 1870’s and the first mention of a football team was approximately 20 years later. There were many struggles between owners and miners but the pit owners had the upper hand as they owned the houses the miners lived in. Early strikes were met with evictions of the families and a new band of workers with their families imported from Staffordshire. This was devastating for the locals but it did have a major impact on the development of the football team.

The author has used many extracts from local newspapers to gain authenticity and interviews with past players and their families to bring the book to life.

Mention of the Bevin Boys who worked down the mines in World War 2 is particularly interesting and their involvement with the history of Fryston such as Len Shackleton, Ron Greenwood and others.

Many of the cup finals that Fryston played in were at Wheldon Road now home to Castleford Tigers Rugby League team and Rugby League was a strong local draw for youngsters to play rather than football. One local cup final at Easter 1927 had an attendance of 2000.

Fryston finally achieved their ambition in 1963 but like many works teams are no longer playing. The books achievement is to show that football is not just about kicking a ball but skill, individualism, friendship, teamwork, adversity and passion.

A great Read.




“Dirty Northern B*st*rds!”

Your at the airport and you remember that you only have 10 pages of your current book left and you haven’t brought another with you so as to beat Ryanair’s add on’s, you panic and head to W H Smiths because two weeks without a book is a major disaster.
A quick browse throws up no football books so you will have to give up your sequence of a football book followed by something else and back to football. Tension is rising and you need to be heading for the gate. Your wife passes you a book and says you’ll enjoy that one and a quick glance means you can’t make up your mind or refuse.
The book Prisoners of Geography, written by Tim Marshall on how geography has shaped the politics of the world and it’s largest nations turns out to be one of the best written and interesting books read for a while.

So back home and looking for the next book I notice on my shelf of charity shop unread football books a book by the same author, £2.99 from Oxfam, “Dirty Northern B*st*rds!”, published by Elliot and Thompson Limited, 2014.

The style of writing was the same but the third chapter seemed to drag and I became a bit bored. However the next two chapters came alive and I was looking for more by the time I had finished. The humour of Football chants and songs came through as well as putting in context some of the now politically correct condemnation of earlier songs. It showed that football fans have evolved at the same pace as society with regards racism, homophobia and swearing. The stereotyping of Football fans portrayed by some are shown to be caricatures of a past age.
This was a delight to read and I will look out for others by the Author as these on diverse subjects enthralled me and kept my attention.