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When Football was Football

A Nostalgic look at a Century of Football
Richard Havers
Out Now

"Millwall lost to Middlesbrough on Saturday by 2 goals to nil in the First Round of the English Cup. 'Sandy Brown' scored the 2 goals for the winners, of which one was freely considered an 'off-sider'" - Daily Mirror, February 8th, 1904

This is the first - and possibly the briefest - football match report to appear in the Daily Mirror; it did so under the headline 'Muddy Football Grounds and Heavy Going'.

Over a century later, we're still moaning about dodgy pitches and diabolical decisions. Of course, much is different today and not necessarily for the better, the game is a very distant cousin to the one founded and formalised in the middle of London's Covent Garden way back in 1863. Our beautiful game - the one the great Danny Blanchflower said was about glory and doing things with style - is now, first and foremost, an entertainment business, results-focused with an emphasis on physicality and speed over individual skill.

British clubs are reaching out beyond the terraced streets that used to line the approaches to their grounds, where their one-time bread and butter, the local fan, would live. On TV screens on the far side of the world images of our modern day heroes are beamed to a whole new and seemingly ever expanding audience. Decaying old grounds and the hooliganism they bred have gone, but replaced by sterile, biscuit-cutter stadiums where corporate customers are prized and huge sections sit in silence. Working-class fans and youngsters, once the lifeblood of the game, are being priced out of it. A generation is growing up with no experience of shouting for their local team in a cramped ground; why bother when you can watch the big four clubs every week from your front room?

'Nearly everything possible had been done to spoil the game: the heavy financial interest; the absurd transfer and player-selling system; the absurd publicity given to every feature of it by the press; the monstrous partisanships of the crowds.' - J.B. Priestley in 1933.

This book is about a rougher but better time, before the satellite TV cameras, the prawn sandwiches and the £100,000-a-week salaries. It's about a time when the British appetite for football was just being whetted by newspapers action photographs and reports of upcoming matches, detailed reports and events on and off the pitch - football writers and match photographer were the ears and eyes of the thousands of fans that couldn't get to the match.

It isn't about today's events, the Premier League, big money deals, billionaire owners or the 39th games. It's about how football used to be, a time when it wasn't just the players boots that needed lacing up, when a team of miners from Durham had the cheek to take on and beat the likes of Juventus and when greats like Dixie Dean, Tom Finney and Stanley Matthews graced pitches up and down the land. It is a nostalgia photographic trip of the good old days of football; you'll find dirty shirts, team baths, lace-up boots, one-club men, supporters wearing flat caps and fedoras, and, somewhere in the pages you'll find the real heart of our game. Quite simply, it's about a time when football was football.

'Football is a simple game made complicated by people who should know better.' - Bill Shankly.

Author Richard Havers spent twenty years in the airline industry before deciding to pursue his passion in music. He's made videos, produced in-flight radio shows for airlines, and has produced concerts for artists including Paul McCartney and The Beach Boys. His books include Bill Wyman's Blues Odyssey, Rolling with the Stones, co-written with Bill Wyman, Sinatra an illustrated Biography of Frank Sinatra and co-authored My Take, Gary Barlow's Autobiography. Richard supports Spurs and fully expects them to be challenging for a place in Europe. . .soon; he hankers for a time 'when Spurs were Spurs'.

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