Category Archives: Club

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


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, 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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1930s Football club nickname cartoons by George Green

1930s Football club nickname cartoons by George Green

George Green was a cartoonist with the Liverpool Echo for many years stretching from pre-World War II into the early 1960s. In 1939, just as the second world war was beginning to take hold, he drew a small cartoon of a different football club each Saturday representing their football club nickname. Here are the ones I could find on the excellent British Newspaper Archive. The series continued throughout the 1939/1940 football season as World War II began to affect the United Kingdom.



Perhaps more interesting than the clubs who’ve retained their nickname are the ones that have changed since the 1930s. The Glaziers is clearly a better nickname for Crystal Palace than “Eagles” and it’s a great shame that they’ve dropped that old nickname. It’s also interesting to see the distinction between Stockport County (Hatters) and Luton Town (Straw Hatters) even if it’s hard to see much difference in the cartoon between the two.

Today we know West Brom’s nickname as “Baggies” with “Throstles” having gone out of favour in recent years. However the throstle does still appear on the club’s badge and is certainly still part of the club’s folklore. The Welshman cartoon for Wrexham “Yes Indeed. Look You!” is absurd and perhaps came before the club were known as Robins (or had adopted the Dragons nickname).

Another interesting club included are New Brighton who were Football League members from 1923 to 1951 but don’t exist in any real form nowadays. They were based on Merseyside in Wallesey and played on Rake Lane – which explains the Rakers nickname.

Images taken from the Liverpool Echo, available on the wonderful

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Posted by on January 6, 2018 in Club



Cardiff City back in blue

Cardiff City back in blue

“Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.”

– Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

In 2012 I was a Cardiff City supporter. I was a season ticket holder and made the two hundred and sixty mile round trip for home matches. I don’t mention the distance to paint myself as a martyr. I never used it as an epithet introduction for banal conversation on sports radio station, for example. I attended matches for the reason that everyone else does. Because I enjoyed it.

When Vincent Tan made the decision to change Cardiff City’s traditional blue to red it flicked a switch within me. My visceral reaction was that I wouldn’t be able to support the football club if they weren’t wearing their traditional blue colours.

Explaining the decision to withdraw your support for a football club is not easy. Your reasons sometimes sound more like justifications, and the justifications are often appear weak under scrutiny, as many of them existed before the club’s re-brand. The change of colour brings into sharp focus thing like ticket prices, the unsustainable model of business the club is running and the fact the club had become a plaything for a rich bloke. However, these things have been true of Cardiff City for around a decade. Add the fact that there’s always been a violent element within Cardiff City’s support (something that was evident when those who wished to protest against Tan’s plans were threatened) so perhaps I should have quit my support long time ago? However, the re-brand felt different, the club’s change of colour to red appeared to break the spell in a way that all the other things couldn’t.

“So it’s gonna be forever
Or it’s gonna go down in flames
You can tell me when it’s over
If the high was worth the pain”

— Taylor Swift, 1989

I can understand why many would view the decision to stop supporting your football club as an odd stance to take. After all, it is only a colour. And one colour is not measurably better than another when it comes to playing games of association football. Essentially, it has to be admitted, that my decision to stop supporting my football club was irrational.

When I e-mailed the football club asking them to cancel my season ticket they sent a reply asking me to “think it through” and to “not make a knee jerk decision”. These are two things football clubs should never ask you to do.

Firstly, if you think it through, supporting your team of mercenaries against another team of mercenaries is a pretty silly thing to do. It doesn’t take one long, if you think it through, to realise you’ve been a fool. Secondly, knee jerk decisions are what football clubs are based on. That knee jerk decision to buy an overpriced programme, a cold pie, a lager in a plastic cup or an away ticket for a second flight game that costs over thirty pounds.

So much did the decision affect my support of the club that I never once felt as if I was missing out, or that I should go back and watch a game. Amazing when you consider that in those two years since the re-brand the football club won the Championship and played in top flight for the first time since the early 1960s. My general feeling towards the club was that they need Vincent Tan out and a return to blue. The way to achieve this would be to lose as many games f football as possible.

Just think while you been getting down and out about the liars
And the dirty dirty cheats of the world
You could have been getting down to this sick beat

– Taylor Swift, 1989

One of the wonderful side affects of Cardiff City’s rebrand is that it has allowed me to experience a life outside of the loyal support of one football club. I’ve been able, for example, to use non-blue toothbrushes. And when given the option to choose from identical products in different colours I’ve had the opportunity to experience green trainers and yellow t-shirts. And in that time I’ve not noticed any colour being more lucky than another.

Not being tied to a season ticket has also allowed me to further indulge in the delights of non-league football, the exhausting satisfaction of running half-marathons and the confusing world of Six Nations rugby and test cricket. It’s very difficult to not sound like a spurned lover, but it’s tough to think I’m not genuinely better off without Cardiff City Football Club.

People like you always want back the love they gave away
And people like me wanna believe you when you say you’ve changed
The more I think about it now
The less I know
All I know is that you drove us off the road

– Taylor Swift, 1989

A few weeks ago in the midst of rumours surrounding terrible season ticket renewal figures and a record low crowd for the visit of Colchester United in the FA Cup Vincent Tan made the decision to revert the club colours back to blue. It’s a sad state of affairs that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Russel Slade did more with their inept management to return the club back to blue than any fan protest did.

Now the boys are back in blue the option of returning has arisen. But if a week is a long time in football, then two years is an eternity. I’m sure I’ll get to a Cardiff City game before long, when an opportunity arises but I’d certainly not go out of my way to attend a match. There’s no hurry. Even for those who followed the club during its time in red the football club in its current state is a very hard beast to love. All of us , from boycotters to reluctant reds have seen the man behind the curtain, and for many it will never feel the same again.

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Posted by on February 3, 2015 in Club


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How to fix the FA Cup / Does it even need to be fixed?

How to fix the FA Cup / Does it even need to be fixed?

Every year around this time there’s a rush of suggestions and ideas of ways to improve the FA Cup. The three ideas are mentioned below in the tweets are ideas that I’ve seen more than once and I can understand where the thoughts originate from. They come with the best intentions.

Of the three ideas this is probably the one I’d be least concerned about. However, the joy of the FA Cup competition is that there are replays. We wouldn’t want to turn this famous competition into a League Cup clone. I think ensuring the better side goes through by replaying the tie is more valuable than trying to force a penalty shoot-out between the two clubs after extra time.

Seeding clubs based on league position sounds like a lovely idea. However, in practice it could lead to some odd results in previous weekends before cup draws. If (say) Grimsby Town know that a loss against Barnet would mean a tie against Arsenal at home rather than Southampton there may be a temptation to throw the game in order to achieve the bigger tie.

It would also lead to the middling seeds having to play each other. Ties between two relegation strugglers in the Championship are unlikely to be good fare. It would also devalue the competition for teams like Chelsea and Manchester United, who would begin January every calendar year with an easy tie against a non-league club. It’s unlikely that a non-league team would ever be able to beat a Chelsea or Manchester United reserve side, let alone a full strength eleven. It’s far more likely that a giant-killing will occur when a non-league side play against Premier League or Championship sides who are struggling in the league. (See Blyth’s excellent performance against Birmingham City for proof of that)

Enacting the idea in the above tweet would also mean that the FA Cup Third Round draw would be scrapped. It’s pretty clear that the media love peddling the idea of the FA Cup Third Round day as “one of the most eagerly anticipated in the football calendar” but there are few better football related events that aren’t actually football that beat an FA Cup draw. (Obviously the English FA should revert back to velvet bags and wooden balls and away from the current plastic Lottery extravaganza its created. But that goes without saying).

Many supporters of lower league clubs would prefer a day out at Old Trafford rather than welcoming Manchester United to their own patch. In addition, it’s worth remembering that gate receipts for FA Cup ties are split equally between the home and away side. This proposal would lead to the overall attendance in Round Three falling – and therefore the amount of money generated during the round would drop significantly.

The biggest issue with the FA Cup, not mentioned in the tweets above, is not related to its structure. It’s related to the problem that in the top two flights of English football the majority of fans who attend league games are season ticket holders. This is a marked change from recent decades where most fans would turn up on the day of a match and buy a ticket. It’s very easy for fans to look at the side they’ve been drawn against in the cup and decide to do something else that day if the draw isn’t particularly alluring.  After all, if a fan has purchased a season ticket then they have already committed themselves to 19 or 23 league games and surely therefore their devotion and commitment is surely beyond question. The extra expense of a FA Cup ticket and another day spent away from the family may be too much to bear for some.

Therefore clubs need to think a little differently to their cup ties. If lower Premier League clubs or Championship sides play teams from League One/Two then attendances can be woefully low even with significantly reduced ticket prices. Perhaps FA Cup ties against opposition in the same or a lower division could be made part of the price of a standard season ticket. However even this simple ploy is doomed to failure as this would certainly lead to problems as how would clubs go about splitting gate receipts for such ties.

Perhaps the solution is to draw all the rounds up to the final – as is done in the latter stages of the Champions League. If Ipswich Town drew (say) Chesterfield at home in the Third Round of the FA Cup, but knew that in Round 4 they would face the winner of Manchester United or Norwich City, then fans would attend the third round fixture knowing they would be first in the queue for fourth round tickets. This does go against the grain of FA Cup tradition but may offer a palatable solution for falling attendances in these sorts of games.

Whilst I feel that the FA Cup is a sacred institution that should not be meddled with, I am not a footballing dinosaur and feel that the League Cup is fair game for those who enjoy ripping up blueprints and suggesting something entirely new. The following are a couple of ideas I’ve felt that would help the competition over the years:

  1. League Cup draw for Round One should be scrapped and instead ties should be chosen based on creating “local derbies”. Exeter City should alternate between playing Plymouth Argyle and Torquay United every year. Blackpool would play Fleetwood. Bristol City would play Bristol Rovers (if the latter can bounce back in time for next season’s competition).
  2. The second round should be seeded to ensure that no two teams from the same division should play one another. All Premier League ties and ties between two teams in League One should be impossible. The second criteria should be to match-up teams with sides they have not played against before (or for a very long time). Football fans love the opportunity to visit a new ground. Aston Villa vs Everton in the League Cup is a pointless fixture when both of those clubs could play against League One/Two sides they’ve not played against in many years.

In summary, the FA Cup isn’t too bad as it is. But the League Cup? That’s where the fiddling should begin!

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Posted by on January 4, 2015 in Club


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Premier League 2013/2014 – a graphical review

The BBC website produces match reports for all of the games every single Premier League side plays during the season. From Premier League and FA Cup, to Champions League to League Cup ties the BBC reports on them all. I thought it would be interesting to compile all of these reports for each of the twenty Premier League sides, and to produce word-clouds for each side. If a particular word is used more often, then it is shown on screen as larger than the other less used words.

I created one for Square One Football Radio, and felt I should create word clouds for all twenty clubs. I used the excellent online tool to create the word clouds. Please feel free to use these on your blog or website, but I’d appreciate a link back.

To see a higher resolution image of the word cloud, click on it.




Aston Villa


Cardiff City




Crystal Palace






Hull City




Manchester City


Manchester United


Newcastle United


Norwich City




Stoke City




Swansea City


Tottenham Hotspur


West Bromwich Albion


West Ham United

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Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Club


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B Teams – we might not get lucky next time

I was going to write something about B Teams, but after writing a few sentences I realised just how ridiculous the idea was and gave up. I can’t help but think Shoot were rubbing their hands in glee thinking they’d be able to stretch their pre-season “Team Ladders” editions over three issues. Anyway, I just thought I’d add a few words of warning about the whole scheme.

The sad truth of this B Teams shambles is that the FA haven’t thought out their plans properly this time. They’ve got it wrong. They developed an idea that would almost certainly damage lower league and non-league football, whilst not really offering the Premier League teams a solution they were happy with. Next time, we might not be so lucky. Next time, the Football Association may come up with a plan that satisfies the majority of fans (however unpalatable), pleases the Premier League sides and also allows the FA to promote their remaining cash cow – The England National side.

As a former Cardiff City supporter, I’ve seen football fans accept changes to their club that most football fans would instinctively oppose. The vast majority of Cardiff City supporters accept the colour change. Justification, even if you don’t agree with it, was even found for Wimbledon’s move to Milton Keynes. A case can be made for anything when money is involved. Don’t get complacent.


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Posted by on May 12, 2014 in Club


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Manchester United to unveil a player/manager?

When the announcement was made earlier this week that David Moyes would lose his job at Manchester United, and that Ryan Giggs would potentially take charge as a player/manager, my mind instantly turned to an old photo of Bryan Robson. For many, this wouldn’t be the automatic thought, but I’ve always absolutely loved staged press photos of footballers (you can see more at the marvellous and this one is probably my favourite of all time. In fact, I’m almost certain I’ve tweeted this image many times before and this blogpost is merely an excuse to share it with everyone once more.

Bryan Robson, half suit / half footballer is a superb idea. I can’t imagine any club would try it today. It’s one of those things modern football has destroyed (like tables being carried onto the pitch pre-match so new players can sign their contract).

The tweet was then retweeted multiple times by many accounts including some with tens of thousands of followers, numbers began to snowball when it was retweeted by Tim Lovejoy. I’m not proud of it. But it happened. And as I write this post now, the tweet has been retweeted over 1000 times.

I’m quite used to having any “popular” tweets stolen by the many accounts that exist solely for that purpose. I don’t really mind, especially with tweets like the above when I don’t own the image – I just felt compelled to share it as I think it’s brilliant. However, the image in my tweet was ‘stolen’ as seen below was just weird. I would normally give people the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he immediately thought of the image as I had done, but he didn’t walk against Australia did he?

Despite all this, I’m not above being cynical as this blog post title shows…

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Posted by on April 23, 2014 in Club


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Hull City vs Tampa Bay Rowdies

In the height of the North American Soccer League tours by British clubs to the States in the summer were common. What perhaps wasn’t so common was an American side travelling to the UK to play a fixture. This is exactly what Tampa Bay Rowdies (coached by Rodney Marsh) did in 1984 when they travelled to Hull to play the first-leg of the alliteratively named “Arrow Air Anglo-American Cup”.



Rodney Marsh spends a lot of his interview dismissing the quality of soccer in the States, comparing it to Fourth Division football before hastily correcting himself by saying it was nearer lower-Division Three standard. Hull City certainly knew how to greet their American visitors, they put on a marching band before the game whilst stetson-wearing-sixgun-toting chairman Don Robinson rode a horse around the pitch proving that there’s a bit of a tradition of eccentric owners on Humberside.

Despite Hull City having played a league fixture at Plough Lane against Wimbledon the day before, they won out comfortable 3-0 winners against their American opposition. Rodney Marsh seemed very pleased with himself in the post-match interview, his only lament that his side didn’t get the ball forward quick enough.

For the record, Hull City lost the away leg 1-0 after a 3-0 victory at home, making them the current holders of the Arrow Air Anglo-American Cup.

Further reading:

The ever obscure footysphere has the programme cover and a few more details about the match and the terrific My Tampa Bay Rowdies blog has a great picture of a sign advertising the return fixture in Tampa.



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Posted by on March 11, 2014 in Club


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