One hundred and forty two years ago (November 1871), the original, and still best, knock-out competition in football began. (And yes, it's better than both the World Cup and Champions League.) One of the pioneers of that fledgling tournament was a somewhat nomadic London club that began life in 1859 as Forest Football Club. Changing their name to The Wanderers in 1864, they became the most famous club to contest the FA Cup winning five times and coming runners up twice.
Rob Cavallini's biography, cobbled together from a variety of sources, mostly The Sportsman paper, is in two distinct parts. The first is the history of the club, and with football being a relatively untried sport details are understandably sketchy, simply because no one could have envisaged how popular the game would become. The way players and teams took liberties is something no-one can envisage today and just to show how important football was at the time, the 1873 Cup Final kicked off early at 11.30 so the players could watch the Boat Race. The club also pioneered the now ubiquitous `club tour', albeit only as far as the two university cities of Oxford and Cambridge.
Part two is a records section with player profiles of the 50 most important players from the club and statistics on every match the club contested, though there are some blank spaces, which is hardly surprising. Other notable players are also given a brief mention, including the son of the Prime Minister of the time , the founder of West Ham United, and one who was probably the most famous sportsman of the age.
The cover is a copy of the shirts worn at the time: orange, pink and black thirds, a design that some enterprising modern day club should re-introduce with immediate effect. If you have an interest in the history of football, get this. Running to just 146 pages, with nine photos, it might not take long to read but it will leave you knowing more than you did (especially the name of an unlikely goalscorer against Clapham Common in March 1872).
The Wanderers Football Club, 'The Celebrated Wanderers', was the first of that elite group of clubs including Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa, Huddersfield Town, Arsenal and Manchester United, whose names so dominate successive eras of English football. Five times winners of the F.A. Cup, home at some stage of their careers to more than forty English International players and source of legendary administrators such as C.W. Alcock and Lord Kinnaird, the Wanderers are the very epitome of the early, heroic, age of the Association game. It is surprising, therefore, that until now no comprehensive history of this renowned club has been available to the football enthusiast. 'The Wanderers F.C.' remedies that emission, beginning with a survey of the High Victorian milieu in which the Wanderers and its predecessor the Forest club had their origins. It provides for the first time a season by season narrative of the team's matches based on contemporary accounts, together with a full statistical record of every game played by the club between its formation in 1859 and its disappearance some twenty five years later. There are also brief biographies of fifty of the most prominent players with notes on others of interest who appeared for the club, among whom are a famous cricketing 'Doctor', the founder of West Ham United F.C., the father of an eminent Field Marshal, and the first American to play in an F.A. Cup Final.