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Beastly Fury: The Strange Birth Of British Football [Hardcover]

Richard Sanders
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Jun 2009

"Footeballe is nothinge but beastlie furie and extreme violence", wrote Thomas Elyot in 1531. Nearly five hundred years later, the game may still seem furious and violent, but it has also become the most popular sport on the planet.

This is the story of how the modern, professional, spectator sport of football was born in Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century. It's a tale of testosterone-filled public schoolboys, eccentric mill-owners and bolshy miners, and of why we play football the way we do. Who invented heading? Why do we have an offside law? And why are foreigners so much better than us at the game we invented?

Based on exhaustive research, Beastly Fury picks apart the complex processes which forged the modern game, turning accepted wisdom on its head. It's a story which is strangely familiar - of grasping players, corrupt clubs and autocratic officials. It's a tale of brutality, but at times too, of surprising artistry. Above all it's a story of how football, uniquely among the sports of that era, became what it is today - the people's game.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Press; 1st Edition edition (4 Jun 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0593059700
  • ISBN-13: 978-0593059708
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 567,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Love it or hate it, football is one of the most successful institutions ever spawned in these islands. The sheer speed with which a random blend of mud, testosterone and Anglo-Saxon eccentricity evolved into a world game, not to mention a multi-billion-pound industry, still has the power to set the pulse racing. It is a story that has been told many times, but Richard Sanders not only retells it with scholarly zeal, but gives it a new slant... His book is as much a social history as a sporting history, and all the better for it... Beastly Fury can be warmly recommended to anyone curious about the origins of the modern game" (Max Davidson Mail on Sunday)

"There is no shortage of football stories. It is one of the subtle triumphs of Richard Sanders's book that he brings another tale gently into the light. Beastly Fury is a bright, breezy account of the beginnings of football. Sanders kicks off with a rush and his pace rarely slackens but something of substance emerges. The author has a keen eye for the personal anecdote whether it be the eccentric goalkeeper or the club secretary who is consumed by ambition. But the significance of Beastly Fury is that it lays bare just how football was born, nurtured and grew on the back of class movements... succint but acute... engaging but quietly serious" (Hugh MacDonald Glasgow Herald)

"Well written and thoughtful... extremely good indeed" (Rod Liddle Sunday Times)

"Smooth, pacey prose... fascinating" (Alex Wade Times Literary Supplement)

"A bold and vivid history of football's disparate founding fathers" (Peter Watts Time Out)

Book Description

The fascinating, funny and sometimes alarming tale of how a violent and chaotic folk game became modern football.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as a Le Tissier free kick 22 Aug 2010
This is a compelling read and a book that I found impossible to put down. The history commences with the medieival origins of the game but the author gets his teeth stuck in in his subject with the emergence of the game within public schools. It was fascinating to discover how Association Football came about and it is difficult not to feel sorry for the public schools who fought to have their own unique rules adopted as the game became increasingly formalised only to see the sport develop into a monster they couldn't quite control as new, working class teams emerged to dominate the game. I was staggered just how different the rules would have been when the first FA Cup final was played at The Oval (!!) in 1872 - being only partially aware of this, I was thoroughly engrossed by this information.

Where the book scores is the way that it illustrates just how different the game was in Victorian times. The descriptions of the early FA Cup finals are heavy with nostalgia and the rapid ascent into the national consciousness was fascinating, in particular the importance of the game in Scotland where the pioneering Queens Park first introduced tactics that allowed successive Scottish teams to destroy their English counterparts. As the century wore on, it is striking how many parallels there were with the contemporary game and the book explains how Lancashire cluns poached the best talent from North of the border so as to dominate football. There is also the whiff of corruption involving Preston North End, the Manchester United of their day as well as other scandals involving players like Billy Meredith and much of the later chapters deal with this in detail.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beastly Fury 29 July 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Beastly Fury is one of the best books I've ever read; the fact that I just could not put it down and completed the 300 pages in twenty-four hours underlines this. It is a well-researched history of the birth of British football that encompasses divisions within society that include both class and nationality. The main contributions for the origins of the game are carefully analysed, as the roles of both the public schools and working men are put in their context. The influence of Scottish football is also covered, but don't expect every little detail of footballing events up to 1915 to be covered. The author has picked out events relevant to the development of the professional game and guided us through a range of personalities who left their mark on our national sport. One fascinating aspect is the description of the style of football played within these shores which, in the light of the recent World Cup failure, gives much food for thought.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening Narrative 1 Sep 2009
Richard Sanders explains for this American reader the evolution of British football and rugby in the context of changing town and city life in Britain. His story clarifies and completes a chronological history of the niches and corners of athletic society from the public schools to the rising of teams and leagues in industrial towns. Class distinctions, rigid codes of school conduct, the stiff upper lip and the pliant backside, all figure in a fascinating, even-handed narrative. A pleasure to read - hard to put down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A look back at Football 30 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a well researched book about the birth of modern football and how it grew from ruffians in the English towns and countrysides to the early football stadia

It covers corruption ( yes nothing new) autocratic owners (nothing new either) and how brutal the game was. It also covers some of the reason why English football is so tribal and helps to make you understand that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and entertaining 13 July 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I thought my knowledge about this period of football was extensive, having researched it for several years, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn a great deal I didn't know before. The style in which it is written is captivating, making it very difficult to put down. Not only is this book rich in information, it's also a very entertaining read. I recommend it whoeheartedly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book about football 24 Aug 2014
By Henry Ireton VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a fantastic account of the origins of British football- having read it myself, I then went and bought a copy for a relative for their birthday. What I think Sanders really gets is the importance of the social origins of football and how those have then conditioned how the game is played in England- when Harry Redknapp talks about real football men he is echoing rhetoric from the 19th century about how the game should and should not be played. This is a brilliant account of how social conflict moulded football in the UK and possibly also how it has restricted the way that the UK plays the game.
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