The penalty kick in 1905

The penalty kick in 1905

The penalty kick has become the centre of much controversy at the Women’s World Cup in France this summer. There has been a small change in the penalty kick law in that a goalkeeper must keep one foot on the line when the penalty is taken, and this rule has been enforced with VAR.

The last major change to the penalty kick law occurred in 1905, and it was this date when goalkeepers were forced to stay on their line when the penalty kick was taken. Before the summer of 1905 keepers were allowed to stand on their six yard line.

Contemporary reports suggest that around a half of all penalties were scored and it was felt that the infringements that led to penalties weren’t punished enough if a mere 50% of these led to goals. Therefore goalkeepers were ordered back to their goal line.

A rather annoyed reader wrote to Athletic News in April 1905

Mr J. E. McCann of Manchester is much alarmed at the proposal to alter the penalty law by prohibiting the goalkeeper from coming out to the six yards line when the kick is taken. “If this rule is altered he says, “it will be to the detriment of the game, as we shall have goals from the penalty-kicks nine times out of ten which, I think is utterly unfair to the goalkeeper when the foul takes place on the outside edge of the area. The best and shortest way to settle the point is to order the penalty-kick to be taken where the foul occurs, and if anyone other than the goalkeeper fist the ball out, a goal shall count.”

Athletic News, April 1905

One brilliant story from the era comes from Billy Meredith, a man who famously played with a toothpick in his mouth. He was one of the first superstars of football and played over 300 games for both Manchester City and Manchester United. He was an excellent goalscorer but was an expert at penalties.

Meredith had a unique way of scoring penalties and in the final season before the law change he was prolific.

Meredith’s penalty kicking is worth noting. When the goalkeeper could advance he took no fewer than 14 spot-kicks and never missed once, but he never once hit a shot – he simply lobbed the ball over the goalkeeper’s head.

Liverpool Echo, Thursday 4th October 1923

Meredith was a maverick and had a unique way of taking penalties as this excerpt from the Birmingham Daily Gazette demonstrates.

W. Meredith took it, according to my correspondent, in the following fashion – “Meredith prepared to take the kick by placing the ball on his toe and balancing it with his fingers, and immediately he got the signal from the referee he released his fingers and lifted the ball over the goalkeeper’s head.”

Birmingham Gazette, 16th February 1905

Also to prove that the rule-makers like to stop our fun it was also in 1905 that the drop ball law was changed. Before 1905 the ball was thrown up, rather than down at the ground.

Excerpts from the excellent British Newspaper Archive.

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Posted by on June 26, 2019 in Club


Noel George’s 1921 FA Cup Final jersey

Noel George’s 1921 FA Cup Final jersey

The annals of football history are full of odd stories. One quaint story comes from the Midlands where Lichfield-born Noel George was goalkeeper for Wolverhampton Wanderers for the 1921 FA Cup Final against Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge.

Cup Final

Spurs won the 1921 final with a goal from Jimmy Dimmock but our story concerns the Wolves goalkeeper of the day, Noel George.

George was an imposing figure, often described as a giant. One article made the dubious claim that he could hold the ball between the thumb and forefinger of either hand. Who are we to doubt this claim?

He first came into the Wolves first team during the 1920/21 season when he took Welsh international goalkeeper Teddy Peers place in the side. He played throughout Wolves’ cup run to the final.

Noel George’s Wolves lost to Spurs in the final.

George would cement his place as a regular in the Wolves team for the next six years. However, an illness curtailed his career and he had to retire in the late 1920s. Sadly the illness that ended his career also ended his life, and he passed away at the terribly young age of only 31.

Lichfield 1946

We pick up the Noel George story again in 1946 in Lichfield where this wonderful article appeared in the Lichfield Mercury

Probably the most ancient jersey ever on display in the annals of the Lichfield and District League was on show on Saturday at the Burntwood Rangers – City Institute game. Spectators were amazed at the spectacle of a tattered pain spattered, bottle-green jersey worn by goalkeeper C. Gough, for the Institute, who was obviously proud of his possession.

Gough’s jersey is one with a famous history and came into his possession at the time of his entry into the City Institute club as goalkeeper last season.

The jersey, over 25 years old, had been worn and was the property of one of Lichfield’s foremost and most distinguished footballers – none other than the late Noel George of Molineux fame. Noel George, a colourful figure in national football during the twenties, wore the jersey when keeping goal for the Wolves in the 1921 Stamford Bridge Cup Final against Tottenham Hotspur. it was a most thrilling final, as some of our older sportsmen will recall Noel George, wearing the same green jersey, only let one goal past him, and it was the winner for Spurs.

Whether Gough, who has played consistently well in goal for the Institute this season wears the jersey through necessity in these couponless times or for sentimental reasons is a matter for conjecture. But, in any case, the jersey is in good hands and, despite its age and tattered appearance, continues to render good service to the cause of local football.

It’s absolutely wonderful to hear that a jersey from the 1921 Cup Final was still in use after the second World War albeit in a local league. It caused a bit of a stir locally at the time but this story is now long forgotten.

The present whereabouts of said jersey are currently unknown.

Source material from the excellent British Newspaper Archive.

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Posted by on February 20, 2019 in History


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FA Cup Final 1925 – Sheffield United vs Cardiff City

FA Cup Final 1925 – Sheffield United vs Cardiff City

In 1925 the FA Cup Final was between Sheffield United and Cardiff City. The Sheffield Daily Telegraph published a wonderful spread of pictures on Cup Final day. These are those pictures.

FA Cup Final 1925
FA Cup Final 1925

Not particularly diplomatic from the Sheffield Telegraph, dropping the “United” from Sheffield. You do wonder what Wednesday fans felt of this oversight in 1925. 

Sheffield United players training before their big Cup Final
Sheffield United players training before their big Cup Final

Running on the spot? Jumping up and down? It’s hard to tell.

Cardiff City training
Cardiff City training

Part of Cardiff City’s intensive training was a game of leap-frog. 

Pen pictures of the two teams
Pen pictures of the two teams
William Gillespie
William Gillespie

In the 1920s footballers sometimes wore their international caps. It’s a sad indictment of modern day football that players wouldn’t dream of doing so, and even if they did it’d be one ironically.

Sheffield United's terrifying mascot
Sheffield United’s terrifying mascot

The Sheffield United team pictured with some supporters and a terrifying club mascot. Some sort of soft toy black cat.

Football facts
Football facts

Interesting fact from this cup final with two sons of fathers who also played in a cup final also playing in the ’25 Cup Final. Has this happened recently in modern day football?

Cardiff City's less scary mascot
Cardiff City’s less scary mascot

Fred Keenor, who would go on to captain a Cardiff City cup winning side in 1927, with the club’s mascot. A real live cat.

Sheffield United would go on and win the cup final that year. 1-0 with a goal from Fred Tunstall. 

Images from the excellent British Newspaper Archive

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Posted by on December 15, 2018 in Club


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England vs Germany – 4th December 1935

England vs Germany – 4th December 1935

Pictures from England vs Germany from the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 13th December 1935. Game took place at White Hart Lane, Tottenham Hotspur on 4th December 1935.

Images via British Newspaper Archive.

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Posted by on November 12, 2018 in History


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Motorcycle football

Motorcycle football

Motorcycle football is an odd beast. As a sport it has emerged and disappeared in many different countries across the world to differing degrees of success. In the early 1930s Wembley was used as a venue for an England vs Germany motorcycle football clash.

The German side faced Watford Motor-cycle club and featured riders who specialised in “hill climbing” and “road racing”.

England vs Germany - March 1930

England vs Germany – March 1930

The Germans continued their tour of England playing matches in both Coventry (at Highfield Road) and Norwich.

Many football clubs seemed to think the advantages of a big crowd would override any consideration of playing surface. Especially after the end of the regular football season.

Coventry vs Germany

Coventry vs Germany

There’s some great footage from British Pathe on youtube of a match that took place in Paris in the mid 1930s, not long after the games in England took place.

Video via British Pathe

Image and article from the British Newspaper Archive.

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Posted by on November 5, 2018 in History


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Cabbage football in Chesterfield

Cabbage football in Chesterfield

Cartoon “How to fool your husband” from the Stirling Observer – November 16 1944

Steve Bruce has made the news once more for an interesting football oddity. After the re-discovery of the excellent Steve Barnes novels he penned during his time at Huddesfield Town, his reign at Aston Villa was effectively ended when a cabbage was thrown toward him from the crowd.

This isn’t the first time cabbage has played a controversial role in football. In 1928 a group of miners from the north-East got carried away in Chestefield high street, kicking around the versatile vegetable. Unfortunately for the trio it appears they got a little too carried away, attracted up to 600 spectators, and subsequently were ordered to leave the town after appearing in a Chestefield court room.

Like the miners Steve Bruce has been ordered to leave the town and also finds himself looking for work. Somehow history has a way of repeating itself, though this is a script that even Bruce in his Barnes novels would have found a little too far-fetched.

Clipping from The Derbyshire Times, Saturday August 18th 1928. Taken from the excellent British Newspaper Archive.

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Posted by on October 4, 2018 in History


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How sportswear manufacturers advertised in 1891

How sportswear manufacturers advertised in 1891

For all the changes in football, one thing has remained constant throughout the 150 years of its history. The advertisements for football goods have remained a source of great interest. The adverts from the 19th Century displayed below have some fantastic descriptions. The recent World Cup balls such as the Tango, Telstar and Jabulani evoke certain memories, but what of the 19th Century footballs, the “Special Club”, “Football King”, “Centre-Half” or “Victor”?

The idea that a football could be marketed as “The Scottish” is probably unthinkable today, but it happened in 1891. It was also absolutely fine to advertise as follows “These footballs have stood the test for years, and have been played with in cup ties throughout the United Kingdom and America. They are unequaled for quality and workmanship. Once used always used.”.

Enjoy reading through these adverts, all come from local newspapers and sourced from the ever wonderful British Newspaper Archive.

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Posted by on July 29, 2018 in History


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England, Colombia’s El Dorado, Manchester United and the greyhound track.

England, Colombia’s El Dorado, Manchester United and the greyhound track.

When most think about the links between Colombia and England the 98 World Cup game, Tino Asprilla’s spell at Newcastle and Higuita’s scorpion kick are the three things that are likely to come to mind. Those with a more obscure bent may even bring up Colombia’s participation in the Rous Cup during the 1980s.

Neil Franklin

Neil Franklin

However, before the Chinese millions, before the Premier League era, before the Serie A glory days of the early 90s and even the NASL of the 70s and 80s the Colombians set up their own football league that would become the greatest football league in the world. And four Brits would make the trip to Bogota to become part of the period known as El Dorado. Neil Franklin (Stoke City), George Mountford (Stoke City), Charlie Mitten (Manchester United) and Bobby Flavell (Hearts).

Franklin, who excused himself from England’s World Cup 1950 trip to Brazil, had played twenty-six consecutive times for his country since the end of World War II. Perhaps England’s World Cup would have taken a different path had Franklin’s head not been turned by Colombian riches.

Mitten in Bogota

Mitten in Bogota

In the late 1940s the Colombians set up a new football league, a league that would have no salary cap. This new league would be outside of FIFA’s jurisdiction and thus led to the Colombian team being excluded from international competition. This however did not discourage the organisers of the league signing up some of the best talent from South America.

The reasons for the British players travelling across the world to Colombia were obvious. The Football League still operated with a minimum wage and the four players from the UK would earn ten times what they had back in their homeland.

Charlie Mitten's dog track

Charlie Mitten’s dog track

Rangoon-born Charlie Mitten, a left-winger playing for Manchester United departed the club’s US tour to fly to Colombia and sign for Santa Fe in Bogota. He was to stay in Colombia for a couple of years. Whilst he was there he came up with a scheme to import greyhound racing to the country. As ridiculous as it sounds Mitten’s plan was to head home to England and taking some dogs back to Bogota and setup a greyhound track. According to Mitten he had the goodwill of the Colombian government to do so. It is unclear whether the track was ever set up, and Mitten was back in England by 1951 and playing with Fulham.

After their return to England the “Bogota Bandits” were viewed with suspicion. Franklin signed for second Division Hull City and never played for the national team again. It was perhaps an ill advised move, but understandable when you consider the riches on offer. By 1954 the league was shut down and Colombia re-admitted into the international fold.

Excellent article on El Dorado from The Blizzard: The Ball & the Gun

Images from the British Newspaper Archive.

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Posted by on July 3, 2018 in Club


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Raith Rovers Football Song

Raith Rovers Football Song

I love finding old songs and poetry printed in newspapers from the late 19th and early 20th century. There’s something particularly innocent and fun about them. They are the sort of thing that would be seen as embarrassing by many modern day football supporters.

I think they’re delightful.

This one was written about Raith Rovers, published in the Fife Free Press, & Kirkcaldy Guardian on 22nd October 1921.


Raith Rovers, as a football team, are very hard to beat;
Wee Archibald at outside left is really quite a treat.
And Jimmy Brown, the goalkeeper, can use both hands and feet
As the ball goes rolling on.

Bill Inglis is a hefty back; I’m sure you will agree
Jock Rattray, Collier, Morris make an appetising three.
And Jennings in the centre never needs to wait and see
As the ball goes rolling on.

The brothers Duncan on the right are quite a lively pair;
Dave Moyes is a clever back who makes the critics stare
And _______ like Winston Chrchill, is always here or there
As the ball goes rolling on.

Raith Rovers, as a football team, are good enough for me-
I’d rather stay a year in Fife, than ten years in Dundee-
And in the mathes yet to come more victories you’ll see
As the ball goes rolling on.


Raith Rovers vs Hamilton Academical

Raith Rovers vs Hamilton Academical – Jan 1921

Raith Rovers finished the season in an excellent third place behind champions Celtic and runners-up Rangers. This song published above is marvelous, but it’s not the only reason Raith Rovers had a great team. In May of 1920 the Fife Free Press reported on Raith’s “new training methods”. This included “The principle o training, without going into details is ball practice of an unusual but very effective kind. Hiterto ball practice has been an absentee from the training curriculum on the ground that being away from the ball for the week imparted eagerness on the Saturday.” The movement towards players at Raith Rovers not working full-time clearly appeared to have an effect also, but it’s nice to think the song and a bit of ball practice were the main drivers behind the Rovers’ success.

From the incredible:

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Posted by on June 21, 2018 in Poetry/Fiction


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A Football Ballad: The Wellingboro Cup

A Football Ballad: The Wellingboro Cup

Confusing Victorian newspaper reports make it difficult to know if the Wellingborough Cup was a real cup competition or merely a name for the games that took place between Reading and Swindon in the late 19th Century.

This poem was published in the Reading Observer on the 5th December 1896 and details Reading’s 2-0 victory over Swindon Town at Elm Park. Swindon had beaten Reading 4-1 only a few weeks before so were clearly expecting to turn over their hosts once more.

Like many sports journalists of their era they link Reading to biscuits, their nickname being the Biscuitmen due to the large Huntley & Palmer biscuit factory that dominated the town.

The ballad was signed off M. so the identity of the poet is unknown.


When Swindon journeyed up
For the Wellingborough Cup
The hopes they entertained were far from small
Of a re-invite to sup
On some biscuits broken up,
but they didn’t, didn’t, didn’t, after all

On the splendid Reading ground,
With an eager crowd around,
The Swindon ‘lads’ did face the local men
And each combination found
That the other’s play was sound,
Tho’ they tried, and tried, and tried, and tried.

And the friendly fight was waged
While a chilling caster raged
Which blew and cut such capers with the sphere
That, howe’er the shots were gauged
It was hard to get them “caged,”
And the minders had a lighter task to clear.

When the cheerers-on of Reading,
In some “whispers,” wide and spreading,
Said “Reading, Reading, Reading, show our skill!”
How their forwards, neatly threading
Thro’ the Swindon ranks and heading
Did strive, and try, and struggle, with a will!

Thus in turn each team the other,
Their opponents, tried to smother,
Till Hadley scored for Reading number one,
And “Georgie” got another
Just to match his football brother,
And then, and there, and so, the “Town” were done!

When the Soton cracks arrive
In our busy Berkshire hive,
How the folks will flock to see, from far and near!
For Reading the will strive
To a greater win contrive
And they’ll do it, do it, do it, never fear!

For, when Swindon journeyed up,
In the Wellingborough Cup,
The hopes they entertained were rather tall,
Of a sitting down to sup
On some biscuits broken up,
Yet they didn’t, didn’t, didn’t, after all!

From the excellent British Newspaper Archive.

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Posted by on May 31, 2018 in Poetry/Fiction


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