Ray pens a colourful football tale in its own words

First published in Sport

FOLLOWING on from his success with ‘Rugby League in its Own Words’ co-authored with Tim Wilkinson, Ray Gent has penned ‘Football In Its Own Words’ trace football’s proud and rich history in an unorthodox approach, as if told by the ‘spirit’ of the sport.

To begin with, it examines the changing social conditions of the Industrial Revolution and how folk football embedded itself in Britain’s landscape culture.

No rules existed for this largely disorganised, rough and tough pastime as it depended on location.

With folk football waning in popularity, the birth of the sport called Association Football resulted in a more formal sport taking shape complete with its own defined set of rules.

As for the dissenters, they would take their leave from the ‘dribbling men’ to form the code of rugby.

The book reveals a fascinating insight through the window of time, taking a look at the profiles of players and managers; Cigarette Cards; the history of the ball and shirt design; tragedy and elation; famous games; amateur and women’s football; non-league; wartime football including two players who were awarded the Victoria Cross; the early development of floodlit football; fans’ contributions; the making of Subbuteo; famous stadiums past and present and the hooligan culture.

Did you know that a football game once took place at Everton’s Goodison Park between Dick Kerr’s Ladies of Preston and St Helens’ Ladies that attracted a full-house 54,000, with over 14,000 locked out? Also, why did the Football Association once ban their sport from all their affiliated grounds?

St Helens-born Lily Parr is recognised in the National Football Museum Hall of Fame for her undoubted football talents. Scorching in for over 900 goals in her career is outstanding.

A local newspaper enthused: “There is probably no greater football prodigy in the whole country. Not only has she speed and excellent ball control, but her admirable physique enables her to brush off challenges from defenders who tackle her. She amazes the crowd where ever she goes by the way she swings the ball clean across the goalmouth to the opposite wing.” Read all about her fantastic achievements.

Putting his coracle to good use, a man was once employed by a football club to retrieve the ball if it happened to sail over the grandstand and land in the adjoining river. Can you name the club? Talking of grounds, have you heard of the Lillie Bridge Grounds and what historic football game took place there?

In Anglesey, two footballs were once unceremoniously buried in a village graveyard capped by a headstone denoting football’s demise. This happened after influential figures in the village banned the sport.

Over in Northern Ireland, a leading club suffered extensive damage to its ground following a terrorist firebomb attack, resulting in most of their historic records going up in smoke. Do you know how Alvechurch F.C. and Oxford City entered the Guinness Book of Records?

Two consecutive FA Cup finals witnessed the bursting of the ball! Strange as it may seem, factory workers once used to hammer nails in their work boots enabling them to keep a firm footing when playing football.

William Henry Foulke was a huge man weighing reputedly 25st yet delivered some outstanding goalkeeping during his ‘colourful’ career. When at Chelsea, did he really rise early one morning to scoff all the breakfasts in order to feed his whopping appetite?

What about West Auckland A.F.C. winning the first “World Cup” and retained it against Italian giants Juventus?

The above is just a taster of what’s in store and written over four very ‘challenging’ years. The book is also fully illustrated.

The book is available as an e-book for Kindle and can be bought on Amazon for £3.50


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