Book Review: Goal-Post (Vol.1), Victorian Football edited by Paul Brown
What we come to understand today as the game of football, played and watched by millions across the world, began its real development in England during the Victorian era. This collection of writing edited by Paul Brown is drawn from library archives from such long-lost newspapers and periodicals as, Every Boy’s Magazine, The Dart and Chums, from 1863 through to 1900. It covers reports of games (including England v Scotland, 1872), articles from leading figures (such as, C.W.Alcock) and broaches topics such as “Association Football in Scotland”
For me it was a book best read article by article, so that the content of each of the twenty one pieces could be absorbed, appreciated and reread. One thing that is apparent when reading is the different style of Victorian writing and language used. I found it handy to have a dictionary close by when reading and had to stop myself on a number of occasions from thinking that this was some brilliantly written elaborate spoof.
Each reader will have their own favourite pieces, but for me I was totally absorbed by the report from the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent (15 October 1878) on the experiment of “…a match with the assistance of the electric light…” This incredibly atmospheric article from the game held in Sheffield tells the story of the first floodlit match some 70 years before it became a regular part of the football experience.
This book may chart the early more innocent years of football, but as the editor says in his introduction, it also includes “…tales of overpaid players, cheating, violence, legal battles an general bad behaviour…” which show that the game “…hasn’t really changed that much in the 150 years between the writing of the earliest of these pieces and their publication in these pages…” Ultimately though it is a wonderful journey of discovery, allowing the reader an insight into the birth and growth of football through the eyes of those who were there in its formative years.
If you are looking for a thought provoking read and a different perspective on the beautiful game, then this anthology is for you.
More details can be found at http://www.victorianfootball.co.uk/