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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 review is from: Beastly Fury: The Strange Birth Of British Football (Hardcover)
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. Other , more obscure subjects tackled include the evolution of football kits (Butka were the first manufacturers) , the eventual dominance over Rugby , the rise of amateurism with clubs like the Corinthians and the women's game. It is also interesting to see how many football clubs folded in this era.

My only misgiving is that this book does not really take into account the evolution of football in the South other than within the public schools. Whilst the Northern clubs are rightly given priority as they were very much the top teams of the day, I would have loved to have learned more about the evolution of other clubs and the origins of the Southern League which is totally neglected in this book. Given that my team , Southampton, dominated the Southern League at this time when they had the likes of C.B. Fry and Charles Smith (the man who took football to Brazil ) in the team, this is a shame. However, I am hoping that Richard Sanders decides to address this in a fully up volume which would be very much welcomed.

This is easily the most interesting and entertaining book I have read this year. Football books are often a by-word for stinkers but "Beastly Fury" is both well researched and engrossing. Having read it, I am now on the look out for more books about Victorian football as it has definately whetted my appetite. Unreservedly recommended.
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Initial post: 6 Sep 2010 15:20:13 BDT
Those Le Tissier free kicks were indeed very good even though he got tagged as a "Luxury Player" (unfairly IMHO) by some Scottish pundit.
But try asking the kids today who Le Tissier was...!
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