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4.0 out of 5 stars Window in to a lost world of football, 18 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Origins of the Football League: The First Season 1888/89 (Paperback)
I love reading anything I can lay my hands on about Victorian football and was similarly prompted to buy this book after reading the review in "When Saturday comes." This paperback has a brief introduction before plunging in to the week by week account of every match in the season. Initially the author re-printed newspaper reports which, whilst interesting from a point of view of their content in contrast to the focus of today's journalists who often make you wonder whether they were at the match, do not really capture the excitement of watching the match. Later on, Mark Metcalf provides his own assessments which offer some interesting snippets and make more interesting reading. It was amazing how quickly Preston North End wrapped up the winning of the campaign. There are also chapters on the FA Cup campaign and the home championship in the 1888/9 season but the best part of the book is reserved for pen portraits of all the players from each team who played in this season. This section is fascinating and offers a tantalising glimpse of the wider world of Victorian football with reference to teams that have long-since disappeared.

However, I think that some opportunities have been lost with this book. Whilst there are some grainy photos of the old grounds as well as sketches from the period that help you visualise what spectators might have experienced, I felt the book could really have done with an introduction to each team which explained its origins and maybe helped describe why teams like Everton were selected as opposed to Bootle or why Padiham were surpassed by local rivals Burnley. The information about kit colour is only mentioned in passing and colour plates of the outfits would have been a brilliant addition. There are references to the way the rules of the game changed and how incidents in matches led to the introduction of penalty kicks and goal nets. The book would have benefited by an additional chapter that explained the rules to which the teams played in 1888/9.

Despite these reservations, this book is clearly a labour of love and the author is to be applauded in compiling this information which is an essential read for fans of the greatest sport of all. I felt that this book was one that was very much needed and love the comments about the fans, reference to the characters of the day, drunken footballers celebrating too enthusiastically and injuries to star players. Clearly, some aspects of football remain the same and if some of the attendances for these Victorian matches mirror those in the bottom two tiers today, it is fascinating to see how the culture of following football on Saturday afternoons started. All in all, I was fascinated by this book.
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