Football History – The English Football League

UK, Premiur League logo




Like the Premier League of today, the Football League came about as a consequence of the rising popularity and wealth of football as more of the game turned un-officially professional with back-room payments to players and clubs. Since the founding of the first club in 1857, and the inception of the FA Cup in 1871, the number of clubs had grown exponentially and the money that was flooding into the game by one means or another meant that a fully professional structure was inevitable.

So it was that a denizen of Braco, Perthshire who ran a drapery business in Birmingham was browsing a proposal for a college football league in the USA when he came up with a solution to a commercial problem. William MacGregor was, as well as a draper, a director of Aston Villa football club and needed to implement a structure to manage all this activity and the money it brought and proposed a formal professional league as the solution. Thus it came to be that the two races Samuel Johnson disliked the most, Scots and Americans, conspired to create the English Football League.

Football in the early era was dominated by the “posh-boy” teams from the south, mostly from privileged backgrounds such as Wanderers and Old Etonians. It wasn’t until 1883 that a working class team, Blackpool Olympic, beat Old Etonians at the Kennington Oval to win the cup. Professionalism was much more prevalent among northern teams with a higher proportion of working class men as players who couldn’t afford the amateur ideal.

On the eve of the 1888 cup final, McGregor called an open meeting of clubs at Anderton’s Hotel in London, attended by representatives of the both the finalists, Preston North End and West Bromwich Albion; however it became plain that the southern teams had no interest in the plan and none attended. A second meeting was held at the Royal Hotel in Manchester, and a structure was agreed with home and away fixtures and two points for a win / one point for a draw; the Preston representative Maj William Sudell suggested “The Football league” as the title. Twelve clubs joined the league and played their first fixtures on 8th Sept 1888; the founding members were Accrington United, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Derby County, Everton, Notts County, Preston North End, Stoke (now Stoke City), West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers. The league prospers to this day, which more than be said of Maj Sudell; he was convicted of fraud involving the club and went to jail for three years then emigrated to South Africa on his release.

All but Accrington are still in business, with four of the founders – Aston Villa, Everton, Stoke City and West Brom – still playing in the top flight last season, the top finisher was Everton (5th) and the lowest Notts County (64th). The last time a founder won the league was Blackburn Rovers in 1995. They will be joined by Burnley next season – their fifty second in the top flight since they were founded in 1882. The previous season, in 2009, was their first in the top flight since the 1970’s and they remain the smallest town to have hosted a Premier League team (population 73,000).

The first champions were Preston North End, with Stoke last. Stoke failed to get elected in 1890 and were replaced by Sunderland. Stoke were re-elected, went bankrupt, played in the amateur leagues and were only saved when the First World War suspended all the leagues. They re-joined in 1919.

It would be 1893 before the first southern club joined, Arsenal, followed by Luton Town (in 1897) the first team to turn fully professional and Bristol City (1901) who beat Blackpool 2 – 0 in their first ever league game. The first league title by a southern team was Arsenal, in 1930; they would go on to win another four titles before the Second World War put an end to their winning streak.

Copyright ©2014 Savereo John

Football History – Sheffield Steel

BRITAIN Oldest Club

Sheffield FC in 1857

If previous world cups are anything to go by, the meat grinder of the European leagues will have ground down the best the players in the world and it can fall to a younger and less well known players to shine. My two best teams in 2010 – Ghana and Germany – lost their best known players (Ballack and Essien both of Chelsea) yet still ended up being the most entertaining teams of the tournament. This is because of the tough physical realities of playing in the biggest money leagues in the world – La Liga in Spain and The Premiership in England. When Gianlucca Vialli came to Chelsea from Juventus in 1996 he spoke no English and had to learn from scratch. One of the first words he learned playing in the Premier league was “knackered”.
But there is more to it than just physical condition at the end of a long season. Highly experienced strikers like those prosper within a team, the team they are familiar with and integrated to. This is because clubs are the essence of football, not countries. Some would say that club football is the true football – a team of players who play together every week, rain or shine; no countries, no flags just talent – as Arsene Wenger said when he joined Arsenal the same year as Vialli signed for Chelsea – “if you are good, you are in … that’s all …”


As far as anyone can tell, the first association football club to be founded was Sheffield FC in Yorkshire in 1857, the same year as the Indian Mutiny and when the Liberals were in power and Lord Palmerston was PM. The club pre-dates the formation of the Football Association in 1863, at the Freemason’s Tavern, Mortlake, London by Ebenezer Cobb Morley.It was Morley who drafted the first of the rules at his home in Barnes, London and played in the first game under those rules – between two (upmarket) districts of south-west London – Barnes v Richmond, the result was a 0 – 0 draw.


At the outset clubs played to their own rules, being divided into teams who played each other. In 1860, Sheffield contested the first inter – club game against city rivals Hallam – the first ever “City Derby”. Initially they played at Bramall Lane, but moved away and the site is now the home of Sheffield United of League One. The club eventually moved out of the county and are now based in Dronfield, Derbyshire where they continue to play to this day as an amateur side in the Northern Premier League. Their greatest successes were 1904 when they won the FA Amateur Cup and in 1977 they were runners-up in the FA Vase. In 2004 they were awarded the FIFA Order of Merit as the world’s oldest club still playing competitively – the only other club to be honoured that year was Real Madrid for their outstanding contribution to the club game.


Copyright ©2014 Savereo John

Bible 1 Corinthians 13


The 1910 Corinthian FC team that toured Brazil

“I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live.” were the words of a Greek philosopher who shares a name with a Brazilian player who scored 22 goals for his country and captained the great 1982 world cup team. He also played for the same club side, famous throughout the world, as Roberto Rivelino of the best Brazilian side of them all – the 1970 team.

And so it comes to be that the history books may say that Socrates was from Athens, but actually, we know he’s from Belém do Pará and played for the famous Sporting Club Corinthians Paulista of Sao Paulo, five times Brasileirão winners and twenty seven times Campeonato Paulista champions. One of the most widely supported teams in the country, it’s been estimated that 15% of the population follow the team. That contributes to making them richest sports team in Brazil, with a turnover of more than $120m in 2012; indeed Corinthians, known by the nickname “the Timao”, are probably the richest football team in the world outside of Europe.

A lesser known fact about them however, is that their patron saint is St George – who is also the patron saint of England. Maybe this is because, in 1910, a famous English amateur team, known for its feats against highly paid professional squads, toured Brazil and were watched in fascination by, among many others, five Sao Paulo railway workers. Fed up with the elitist and money obsessed professional leagues of the time, Joaquim Ambrose and Anthony Pereira (wall painters), Rafael Perrone (shoemaker), Anselmo Correia (driver) and Carlos Silva (general laborer), residents of the neighborhood of Bom Retiro, were inspired to form their own team and took their name from the visiting club. They also adopted their distinctive white shirts, as did Real Madrid in Spain among others; for the touring side were the famous Corinthian FC of London.

The early days of football in England had not just a north south divide, but a rich / poor one too. Two types of men played the game, in the wealthy south it was mainly played in the universities and many players were professionals – doctors, lawyers, army and police officers – generally men from a middle class, and financially secure, background who could afford to live up to the amateur ideal. In the industrial north however it was a different story – the game was mainly played by working class men – miners, steelworkers and dockers; for them, simply taking time off to play football was not an option and they began to demand compensation for lost earnings. Just as in rugby, which split into professional and amateur codes (league ruby and union rugby), so the economics of sport also led to twelve clubs forming a breakaway professional league in 1888 – the original English Football League; circumstances that were to be eerily repeated 104 years later in 1992 when the First Division of the Football League broke away to form the Premier League over the issue of TV revenues.

As with pro rugby, the pro football league was mostly in the midlands and the north of England with about half the clubs in and around Manchester. In fact it wasn’t until 1893 that the first southern club was admitted, Arsenal, and it wasn’t until 1930 that a southern club won the league – again Arsenal.

But there was a southern club who were as good, and often better than, the pro clubs of the day; formed in London in 1882 by Lane Jackson of the English Football Association to solve the problem of poor results by the England team against Scotland by creating a team specifically to feed into the national squad. That club was Corinthian FC. Avowedly an amateur side, they refused to play in the professional league, set up 6 years later; instead they played only friendlies, and never for any fee. They were also famous for overseas tours and played across Europe and the world – South Africa, Canada, the United States, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Denmark and Germany.

The policy of grooming England players was a success and for much the late 19th century, drawing on the best amateur talent from schools and universities, Corinthian provided many of England’s players for games against Scotland, and in two games against Wales, the whole squad was from Corinthian. Until the first world war they refused to take part in the FA Cup, as it involved prize money, which is a great pity because they would most likely have won it as their friendly games against pro clubs show.

In 1884 they took on FA Cup winners Blackburn Rovers and beat them 8 – 1; whilst in 1903 Bury won the FA Cup by beating by Derby County 6 – 0, but just a few weeks later faced Corinthians in a friendly and lost 10 – 3. The following year, 1904, they took on Manchester United and beat them 11 – 3; that game remains to this day as United’s worst ever result in a first class game. In 1930 they beat Young Boys of Berne, the Swiss champions, 7 -1 and drew admiring praise from the Swiss Press ..

“The Corinthians were superior in control of the ball, trapping and passing, body control, lightening starts and speed on the run. The tactical subtleties of the game, carried out in worthy, clean sporting and almost youthful joy, were dainties for the connoisseur.”

They consistently drew enormous crowds. In 1924 (after their ban on the FA Cup had been lifted) 50,000 turned up to watch them play West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns and in 1930 60,000 watched them play a mid-week replay against Millwall at Stamford Bridge. As professional football became more popular after the first world war, Corinthian’s influence began to wane and, despite the huge interest in them, they were unable to repeat the heroics of their early years; in 1927 they contested the Charity Shield, losing 2 – 1 to Cardiff City. The club merged with Casuals FC in 1939 and are largely forgotten in their native land, playing in the amateur Isthmian League division one as Corinthian-Casuals FC, but are remembered in Brazil and across the world by fans with a sense of history as one of the all – time great names in world football.

In 1988 Corinthians Paulista invited Corinthians Casuals to a friendly at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo billed as the “father and son” game – won, incidentally by the “sons”, 1 – 0, the winning goal scored by … well, who else – but Socrates.

And the Bible reference ? well if you have come looking for that and made it this far its the bit at the end … “faith, love and charity, and the greatest of these is love” 🙂 …. “I Love Corinthians” … get it ?



Copyright ©2014 Savereo John

Philosophy – Bishop Berkley

Are you familiar with the expression “if a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound ?”. Its tempting to say yes, but if you think about it “sound” is not waves through the air hitting your ear – it’s what happens in your mind when they get there. If there is no person to hear it, there isnt any “sound”; since sound is a human sense as is taste or sight.

This is reminiscent of the writings of Irish Ecclesiastic Bishop Berkeley in the 18th century who thought that nothing existed unless someone was aware of it. In answer to the obvious objection that if it were true then things would constantly wink in and out of existence he said that God was always observing the whole universe and that is what kept it in existence. In a sense that is how Berkley conceptualised God – something like us, capable of observing, but bigger and more powerful – powerful enough in fact to simultaneously observe the whole universe. And this is an idea that finds an echo in the modern world of science, in the filed of quantum mechanics, where the observer and the act of observation influence the thing being observed.

There is a famous limerick by Thomas Carlyle about it –

There was a young man who said God
must think it exceedingly odd
that my favourite tree continues to be
When there’s no-one about in the Quad

Dear sir, your astonishments odd
I am always about in the Quad
which is why the tree continues to be
since observed by, yours faithfully, God

Copyright ©2014 Savereo John

Music – Blues

My music blog, Lady Bastet Music has just passed 500 postings. Some samples … first up ten blues numbers. Njoy

Ten blues numbers …


Tipitina by Professor Longhair (1956)

T-Bone Shuffle by Junior Wells and Buddy Guy from Play The Blues (1972)

Rags and Old Iron by Nina Simone from Forbidden Fruit (1963)

It’s All Over Now by The Rolling Stones from The Rolling Stones (1966)

Low Society by Ray Charles from Blues + Jazz (1959)

My Babe by Little Walter (1955)

Howlin’ For My Baby by Howlin’ Wolf from Moaning in the Moonlight (1959)

All Your Love by John Mayall feat Eric Clapton from Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton (1966)

Trouble in Mind by Jimmy Witherspoon (1959)

Working Man’s Blues by The Devil Makes Three from Do Wrong Do Right (2009)


History Quotes – Machiavelli

“From this arises an argument: whether it is better to be loved than to be feared, or the contrary. I reply that one should like to be both one and the other; but since it is difficult to join them together it is much safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking. For one can generally say this about men; that they are ungrateful, fickle, simulators and deceivers, avoiders of danger, greedy for gain; and while you work for their good they are completely yours offering you their blood, their property, their lives and their sons …. when danger is far away; but when it comes nearer to you they turn away. And that prince who bases his power entirely on their words, finding himself completely without other preparations, comes to ruin; for friendships that are acquired for a price and not by greatness and nobility of character are purchased, but not owned, and at the proper moment they cannot be spent. And men are less hesitant about harming someone who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared because loved is held together by a chain of obligation which, since men are wretched creatures, is broken on every occasion in which their own interests are concerned; but fear is sustained by a dread of punishment which will never leave you.”


From The Prince (1513) by Niccolo Machiavelli

Book Quotes – JG Ballard

“During the next month my infatuation with Serena had all the intensity of which a middle-aged man is capable. I abandoned my office, leaving the staff to cope for themselves, and spent all my time with Serena, tending her like the most dutiful lover . At huge expense I had a complex air-conditioning system installed in my house, of a type only employed in museums. In the past I had moved Serena from warm room to cool without a thought to her complexion, assuming it to be made of some insensitive plastic, but I now carefully regulated the temperature and humidity, determined to preserve her forever. I re-arranged the furniture throughout the house to avoid bruising her arms and shoulders as I carried her from floor to floor. In the mornings I would wake eagerly to find her at the foot of my bed, then seat her by me at the breakfast table. All day she stayed within my reach, smiling at me with an expression that almost convinced me she responded to my feelings.”


From The Smile by JG Ballard (1983)