Friday, October 24, 2008

When Football Was Football

"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

You have just read the first ever – and possibly the briefest ever – football match report to appear in the Daily Mirror, which appeared under the headline 'Muddy Football Grounds and Heavy Going'.

Over a century later, we're still moaning about dodgy pitches and diabolical decisions. But so much else has changed, and not necessarily for the better.

Our beautiful game – the one the great Danny Blanchflower said was about about glory and doing things with style – has become a results-focused business, with an emphasis on physicality and speed over individual skill. Decaying old grounds and the hooliganism they bred have gone, but they have been replaced by sterile, biscuit-cutter stadiums where corporate customers are prized and huge sections sit in silence.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 your big four club every week from your front room?

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, when the Daily Mirror's innovative match reports and photography helped to spark the national pastime of football debate. An era when the football writer and the match photographer became the ears and eyes of the thousands of fans who couldn't get to the match.

Within these evocative images 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, this book is about a time when football was football.

From the foreword by Steve Anglesey, editor

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