The Amazing Archie Goodall: “Nothing So Extraordinary Ever Seen!”

Archie Goodall was once regarded as ‘the world’s greatest international footballer’. He played in some of the best teams of the Victorian era, at Derby County, Preston North End, Everton and Wolves, and fans loved his fearsome physical style. After football, he became an internationally-famous vaudeville star via his bizarre strongman act ‘Walking the Loop’. But Archie’s life and career(s) were overshadowed by scandal, tragedy and violence. This feature for FourFourTwo tells the goal-scoring, opponent-kicking, fan-punching, wife-poisoning, ticket-touting, car-crashing, law-breaking, gravity-defying tale of ‘one of the most remarkable personalities the professional side of football has ever produced’.

‘“SENSATION!” exclaimed the posters. “Archie Goodall, THE WORLD’S GREATEST INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALLER, in the most wonderful and daring act in existence, WALKING THE HOOP!” The act – a sold-out attraction across the UK and the US – was a remarkable cross between illusion and athleticism that seemed to defy the laws of gravity and the limitations of the human body. It had turned one of the most controversial football stars of the Victorian era into one of the most popular theatre draws of the Edwardian era. “Nothing so extraordinary ever seen!” said the posters. That statement could be applied not just to Goodall’s act but to much of his life.’

The article appeared in the April 2014 issue of FourFourTwo.

FFT April 2014

A column about this article was published in the Derby Telegraph.

Published by Paul Brown

Writes about football, history, true adventure. The Guardian, Four Four Two, When Saturday Comes, The Blizzard, Longreads, Deadspin, etc. Latest book: The Ruhleben Football Association. Twitter: @paulbrownUK