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

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

Goal Line Technology Wont Solve The Problem

The controversy over Ukraine’s disallowed goal against England last night has renewed the calls for “Goal-Line Technology” (GLT) as the solution to that problem. But is it really ?

Ive no love for the stuffed shirts at UEFA and FIFA, but on this occasion I think Collina is right – GLT probably would not have solved the problem in that game.

Its significant that very few of the advocates of GLT ever describe exactly what it means and how it is going to work. Most people imagine that GLT is going to be like an action – replay on TV, but that cant work since there has to be a way of stopping the game in the meantime so that the picture can be checked in contentious cases. A live official just 6 feet away didnt spot it, what makes you think the same official sitting in the stands with a TV monitor is going to be any better ? And how do you stop the game anyway, because the attacker says so ? the game would have to stop everytime the ball went near the goal !

Whatever system you have, the decision has to be instantaneous or it wont work in most cases. That is the real reason that it has never been introduced to date.

All you could hope for is several cameras trained on the goal and an official watching each who then press a button and over-rule the ref is they all think its a goal. That would certainly have allowed an obvious goal like Frank Lampard’s, but would it have allowed last night’s ? remember there is no time to run the tape back and forth or create a 3-D computer simulation like on TV – they have to decide there and then – and if the ball is very close to line they may not spot it even though an action replay shows that it was, in fact, a goal.

The only system that would really work is some sort of RFID system, ie a set of chips in the embedded in the ball and sensors in the goal posts. Unfortunately the current technology is too unreliable, kicking the ball can damage the chips, and players in the goal mouth can obscure the sensors.

Face facts – if it was as easy as GLT advocates say then we would all be doing it – but we dont.

Human skill and human error are simply a part of football. Live with it !

Copyright ©2012 Savereo John

Jah Bless Africa

Let those the first the the first words of this post and let this be its tune; as the world says thank you to South Africa for a wonderful world cup, entertaining, thought – provoking and completly trouble free. Oh and the HD TV pictures were fabulous. If that’s an example of how a football tournament can be run in South Africa, they might be asked to do a few more !

Ghana’s run will live long in the memory and is the great “should have been” of the tournament; anyone could see Ghana had done enough to get to the semi final. However, as we here in UK know and love African football, Asamoah Gyan need not fret too much. He ‘s currently with French division two side Stade Rennais, but Roy Hodgson is trying to sign him for Liverpool so things could yet work out for him.

A final of firsts….the first time that … Spain have won, a European team have won outside Europe, a team has won after losing its first game (they lost to Switzerland). What was definitely not a first though was a boring bad tempered game with some dreadful fouls. Howard Webb might have sent off several Dutch players early on, but was right not do so as it would have killed the game at that point. Spain were worthy winners and have been the best team all round throughout the tournament and in the years leading up to it. I also believe that their club game has been the best in European over the season. Barcelona with Messi are a hugely impressive team.

For Holland, they fully deserved their shot at the title for beating Brazil, but just like that other team who had prospered with a weak squad but effective tactics, Germany – they got “found out” by Spain and who were just too sharp and too strong to have any real weaknesses.

Most entertaining teams for me were Germany and Ghana who both showed that you could lose your best known player (Ballack and Essien, both of Chelsea) and yet still get by with tactics, fitness and teamwork.

Plenty of big names went early. France just didn’t look up for it and shouldn’t have progressed from the group stage. Italy, notoriously slow starters, just left themselves too much to do at the end. Although not the team that won last time, they were still capable of going further. The same is true of England who made their biggest error at the beginning, if Green hadn’t spilled that ball in the first game, we would have won the group and met Ghana and Uruguay instead of Germany and Argentina. As always, England are their own worst enemies, but can at least satisfy them with the thought they didn’t do significantly worse than previous teams, we usually go out in the last 16 or the quarters. We might also muse at how thin is the line between success and failure.

As for what is next for Italy and England, my advice is find a way for Italy to play like Inter Milan and for England to play like Manchester United. Sound bonkers ? well maybe it is, but it can’t be worse than what we have now.

And therein lies the rub. I love the world cup just as much as anyone, but how important is it really in the wider world of football ? Some might say that it’s a mini fantasy football league that comes round every four years. Twenty years ago you might have seen the best football there was there, but is that still true ? Wayne Rooney caused outrage recently when asked whether he preferred World Cup football to Champions League, to which he answered “Champion’s League”. But is that so outrageous ? I’d say that Champion’s League football is at least as good, if not better than anything on show in a world cup. Football is not alone in this, The Indian Cricket Premier League has also reached a standard that is better than international competition, I believe the Champion’s League has also. Some may say that you are representing your country and that trumps everything, well not everyone thinks so. The bit I like least about the world cup (and the Olympics too) is all the national anthems and flag waving. Those arnt countries out there, they are football teams and nothing more.

Rooney, Ronaldo, Messi and Torres may have only managed one goal between them in this world cup, but they are not so stingy for their clubs. 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. In the 1888/9 the season, the first for the first division (now the Premier League), the original members were : Preston North End, Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, West Bromwich Albion, Accrington United, Everton , Burnley, Derby County, Notts County, Stoke City. All but Accrington Utd still exist. The first club to be formed was Sheffield FC in 1857 at Brammall Lane, now the home of Sheffield Utd. The first FA cup was held in 1871 (won by Wanderers), and the first “international” England v Scotland the following year (a 0-0 draw). The world cup didn’t start until 1930 by comparison, and not in its current form until 1950.

The world cup may have the kudos, but it no longer has the best football. Champions league (and Premier and La Liga) have more great players and great teams and they perform every week. We may beat ourselves up over doing badly in the world cup, but our team game is as good as ever and it’s not only good entertainment but it’s a great ambassador for UK and Europe across the world. Germany may beat us in the world cup, but if Chelsea draw Bayern Munich in the champions league, I know who I would back !

And I’ll end with something for an enterprising African entrepreneur to mull over. We have all sorts of football tournaments, but one possibility has never been explored – National teams v Club Teams. The continent that gave us “the rumble in the jungle” between Ali and Frazier can give us Bloemfontein Part Two – Germany v Chelsea. Why the hell not ? one thing I can promise you – it will be as big a draw as the world cup final. Africa has proved that it can take a big event and do it right, well it can do it again, and again … all it needs is a bit of African magic.

Copyright ©201o Savereo John