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on 3 March 2017
Great history.
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on 22 August 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. 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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on 29 July 2010
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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on 9 August 2009
Beastly Fury tells the story of how British football gradually emerged over the course of the 19th century, the result of the coming together (and subsequent separation) of working, middle and upper class forms of football. In telling this story, Sanders also gives an account of the changing class relations of the industrialising Britain of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and in particular of the strength of extreme snobbery and social prejudice which characterised these relations. A small but telling example of this was the fact that any professionals who were reluctantly selected for early England teams were obliged to wear different shirts from their amateur teammates.

So much football writing merely recycles the same old anecdotes and received wisdom about the roots of the game. By contrast, this book is based on original research, and it shows. Just one of many gems is the story of a game, organised at a time when different clubs still played by different rules and when the rugby-football split was still embryonic. Some footballers from Sheffield (who played a version close to the modern form of the game) were invited to join a Yorkshire team to play against Lancashire in 1870. Infuriated by their opponents' habit of tackling them, one of the Sheffield-based players "grabbed the ball by the lace and hammered his opponent about the head with it". As Sanders drily comments, "Sheffield footballers were not invited again." This anecdote neatly encapsulates the fact that the modern division between rugby and football was one which took a long time to emerge and was in no way inevitable or natural.

The book takes the story through to the emergence of professional football in the late 19th century, and also includes a fascinating chapter on women's football in late-Victorian Britain.
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on 1 September 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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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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on 13 July 2012
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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VINE VOICEon 7 August 2011
This is a marvellous book on the history and development of football. It quickly moves through various ancient games that bear slight resemblance to modern football before concentrating on two main points of origin: the rowdy matches between neighbouring parishes that were often part of life in country towns, and the various ball games played at public schools. Sanders argues that both of these are important in understanding the development of football, but that the game's popularity really came about when the public school games moved into wider society and were taken over by the working classes. From there, he charts the development of the amateur and professional games, the formation of the FA, and early cup finals, as well as painting vivid pen portraits of some significant characters in the game. Similar in some ways to John Major's More Than A Game: The Story of Cricket's Early Years, this book will appeal to anyone with an interest in the history of football.
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VINE VOICEon 24 August 2014
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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on 26 April 2014
The book is extremely well researched and even though I am a social historian and have a lifelong interest in football I learned many many new facts! The book is well written, explores important issues in great detail but is never boring - an excellent read from start to finish!
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