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Girls With Balls: The Secret History of Women's Football Hardcover – 25 Jul 2013
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About the Author
Tim Tate is an award-winning documentary film maker and an author. He has produced and directed films for BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Al Jazeera International, and the Discovery Channel. His work has won awards from Amnesty International, the Royal Television Society, UNESCO, The New York Festivals, the Association for International Broadcasting, and the US Cable Academy. He is the author of eight previous nonfiction books, including "Slave Girl." A passionate rugby spectator and coach, uncovering the secret history of women's football has forced him to reevaluate a sport he always believed to played with the wrong-shaped ball.
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See authors comment below.
Note; Author contacted me to apologize and offer a new copy, so I've updated this review accordingly.
Good book for anyone wanting to know more about the women who stood up to the misogyny, stupidity, and downright nastiness of the FA. It will make your blood boil.
On page 7 Tim talks of a 6-2-2-1 formation, while not incorrect, the usual way of writing formations is to start with the backs, no need to include the goalkeeper as they are taken as read, and finish with the forwards. So his 6-2-2-1 formation becomes 2-2-6.
Then on page 27 Tim writes “Within a decade, football as a sport for the working man had been almost entirely snuffed out across the length and breadth of the land.” Tim is writing about the mid-19th century, for years historians believed this to be true, now it is very debatable as research by John Goulstone and Adrian Harvey show this was far from the truth, although some historians still believe the more ‘traditional’ view.
On pages 36 & 37 he tells the reader that he can only find the formation of the FA reported in two newspapers (Chelmsford Chronicle & Exeter Flying Post). Anyone who knows the story of the formation of the FA, should know that it was also reported in The Times & Bell’s Life In London. To that you can also add papers such as Sporting Life, Penny Illustrated Paper, Sheffield Independent, London Daily News, Morning Advertiser and the London Evening Standard.
On page 40 Tim says “By 1866, Morley’s beleaguered group of London clubs [The FA] had evidently heard of Sheffield...”. I hope they had as Sheffield FC had been members of the FA since 1863!
On page 108 he claims that “Upper-class players - notably from the Wanderers... had formed a breakaway Amateur Football Association in 1907... ", the funny thing is that the Wanderers had folded some 20 years before. I think the club that Tim is referring to is the Corinthian FC.
On page 111 he tells us that Billy Meredith joined an outfit that “would become Manchester United.” Meredith joined United in 1906, at which time they had already been known by this name since 1902.
On page 133 mention is made of “the former Newcastle United and Northern Ireland defender Billy McCracken”, although back then (1917) there was officially only an all-Ireland team.
On page 162 Tim writes “By contrast, the FA’s professional side only played its first international (again against France) in 1923.” This is very misleading as the FA had two England teams: a Full International team and an Amateur team (the England Amateur team came under the jurisdiction of the FA and not the AFA, as suggested by Tim on the previous page). There was no professional national team as such and there still isn’t. The full team is open to both professionals and amateurs (although no amateur has played for the full team since 1936). The Full team played their first official international in 1872 (v Scotland) and their first against overseas opponents in 1908 (v Austria).
Page 185 he says “In one year alone , Dick, Kerr’s Ladies would play 30 matches: far more than any professional men’s team of the time.” Really? Each Football League club would play 42 league fixtures per season plus any cup matches and friendlies. For example, take Bristol City, an average Div 2 club at the time, they played 53 matches during the 1919-20 season (42 league, 5 FA Cup, 1 Gloucestershire Cup & 5 friendlies).
Then on page 207 he writes “(...honour of being the first woman footballer to be shown a red card).” As this was 1921 I assume that Tim meant this ‘so to speak’ as red cards was not introduced until 1970!
On pages 216 & 217 he tells us that Dick, Kerr’s Ladies “had played 25 fixtures since the start of the year , in front of almost 400,000 spectators” and “That the women’s game was so significantly more popular than professional men’s football...” This meant Dick, Kerr’s Ladies were averaging almost 16,000 per game, which of course is a very impressive figure for a club so young and without their own home ground. But regarding the second quotation, Newcastle United’s average home attendance for 1920-21 season was 41,100, the best in Div 1, Birmingham’s average was 32,760, the best in Div 2 and Millwall’s average was 18,950, the best in Div 3. 35 out of the 66 Football League clubs that season better an average of 16,000. This is not belittling the achievements of the Ladies who still had better averages for those 25 matches than almost half the Football League clubs.
Then back on page 168 Tim tells us that “Alice Woods may have been working class, but the family was solidly respectable.” What is he trying to say? That working class being respectable is unusual? Maybe he has just worded it badly, but I can assure him that lots of us working class come from respectable families.
I would like to rate this book higher bur unfortunately there are too many ‘not quite right’ passages in the book.
BUT replaced and refunded without quibble - fair play. Pity Amazon don't pay their fair share of British taxes and successive governments let them get away with it.
Thanks Tim Tate - that's a great read.