Updated: Jan 15
As a football fan hailing from Sheffield I was very much aware of the influence that Sheffield clubs had on the birth of football in the north of England and specifically the development of the "Sheffield Rules". I was less familiar however with how the game developed through the Public Schools and Universities and then in London and the South East. This book details the early years of football and how Charles W Alcock played a key role in the formation of the Football Association and the FA Rules which would eventually be adopted across the UK and then the rest of the world. It also covers in great detail the first ever FA Cup competition in 1871-72 with accounts of every game round by round.
Ian's book has now filled this gap in my knowledge with an informative and very entertaining story. His use of expertly researched information, from both historical and current sources, is mixed with a series of imagined conversations between the key protagonists as well as other interesting insights like the views of Stella "The Woman About Town" from the Sporting Times. Stella’s musings on life in Victorian society are wonderful additions and it is great to see that a woman with her forthright character found a place in a male dominated Victorian Sporting newspaper. All of this keeps the reader fully engaged and adds more depth to the story than a purely factual account could do. I now find myself wanting to visit many of the historic locations and clubs highlighted in the book.
Perhaps a revised edition with the full results of the 2021-22 FA Cup competition could be picked up by a mainstream publisher at a later date and maybe they could also introduce some colour to the illustrations of the club strips and badges which I presume was a restriction of the limited run self-publishing process (as well as cost).
I would thoroughly recommend this book to anybody who is interested in the history of football and the origins of the FA Cup but also to anybody with a general interest in sport or anybody just looking for a good read.