Inside out: Britain’s first indoor football league

In the early 1900s, an eccentric scheme to create Britain’s first indoor football league was opposed by the FA and ended in disaster for its protagonists. In the winter of 1905, an American entrepreneur launched an eccentric scheme to create Britain’s first indoor football league. The venue was London’s Olympia, the largest indoor arena in […]

Screen Test: Danny Baker’s The Game

For the When Saturday Comes Screen Test column, revisiting Danny Baker’s Sunday League football TV show The Game, originally shown in 1991 and subsequently released on DVD. The appearance of Danny Baker on a video cover inevitably suggests a compilation of football funnies, but, while it does contain its fair share of own goals and […]

Fathers of Football book review

Britain did not invent football, as Sepp Blatter would no doubt remind, but it did knock it into shape, drawing up rules, forming clubs, organising competitions, and sending the association version out into the world. British migrants, travelling with Laws of the Game pamphlets and deflated leather casers in their suitcases, became football missionaries, teaching […]

How to become a sporting journalist

My article on the pioneering BJ Evans and his 1946 careers guide / memoir How to Become a Sporting Journalist is in the latest issue of When Saturday Comes. Evans was regarded as a ‘master craftsman of sports journalism’, and his book inspired writers including the late Frank Keating. The book offers an entertaining glimpse […]

Up There book review

My review of Michael Walker’s new book, Up There: The North-East, Football, Boom & Bust, is in the latest issue of When Saturday Comes. The book is a long-overdue social history of North-East football, and is strongly recommended. “From the game’s earliest years, Walker shows how the industrial North-East established itself as a football powerhouse. […]

Casting the net: the invention of the goal net

Written for When Saturday Comes, a piece 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, and oversaw […]

Tour de force: Newcastle’s epic 1949 US and Canada tour

As football clubs head off on their pre-season tours, this article tells the story of Newcastle United’s epic 1949 tour of the US and Canada. It was remarkable for several reasons, most notably because Jackie Milburn scored 31 goals in 31 days, and Newcastle chalked up the biggest win in the club’s history. “The fog-delayed […]

FA founding fathers: the men who shaped football

In the year that the Football Association celebrates its 150th anniversary, I wrote an article for When Saturday Comes about the FA’s founding fathers, including Ebenezer Cobb Morley and Arthur Pember. “It was Morley who organised the ‘meeting of captains’ on October 26, 1863 at which the Football Association was formed. Morley was the captain […]