If I was to ask, who is the World’s First and Oldest Football Club, what would you say? Notts County? Well I’d give you half a point as they are the World’s Oldest Football League Club, formed in 1862. For your full mark I’d be looking for the answer Sheffield FC, who were formed in 1857 and have been officially recognised by both the FA and FIFA as being the oldest club in the World. Quite simply Sheffield FC provided the focus and influence to do much in producing the game that we recognise as football as spectators in the 21st Century. For example, the club was instrumental in providing laws which gave the foundations to the current rules and were influential in the formation of the FA.
Sheffield FC is a club stepped in history but is also one with a future with visions and aspirations. The 21st Century has seen Sheffield FC move to their first owned home ground, in Dronfield and in 2007, celebrate their 150th Anniversary. Sheffield is a club with a presence both at home and abroad which ranges from its extensive involvement within the Sheffield area and community, through to its “Boots for Africa” campaign and countless invites from around the World to play in various fixtures.
With this in mind, I wanted to experience at first hand this extraordinary club with a unique history. Therefore on a misty March evening I travelled down to Dronfield for the Evo-Stik League Division One South fixture between Sheffield FC and Stamford FC. The ground itself sits behind the Coach & Horses Inn and so was an ideal place to grab a pre-match pint. The pub itself contains some Sheffield FC and football memorabilia, amongst them a signed and framed shirt signed by various referees, placed rather interestingly outside the gents toilets! Having sampled the rather fine real ale, I took the shortest ever walk from a pub to a ground. The first thing that struck me about the stadium and the ground was the pitch which looked a decent width – no bringing in the touchline here. The BT Local Business Stadium is a tidy arena with a capacity of around 2,000. The 163 present created a good atmosphere on the night which was enhanced by the wisps of swirling fog that were evident in the beams of the floodlights.
Of the game itself, well, two young sides looked to provide an open and attractive game that rewarded the crowd with five goals as Sheffield overcame Stamford 3-2. For balance I’ve provided the match reports from the respective teams and they making interesting reading and comparison!
My thanks to the Sheffield FC website (www.sheffieldfc.com/) for the following match report:
Caretaker-Manager Ian Whitehorne’s youthful side finally gained some just reward for several ‘near-miss’ performances, writes David Bell, with a pleasing victory over Stamford FC at the BT Local Business Stadium.
An evenly-matched first half saw both sides attempt to play decent football on a greasy surface. Sheffield laid down an early marker as a 2nd minute Steve Woolley header went just wide from a corner. Equally, Stamford were keen to play their part as a low Ryan Oliver cross was intercepted by Whatsize with Millson ready to pounce. A Matt Roney pile-driver smashed into the bar on 21 minutes after Roney himself had cut inside and made a neat interchange of passes with Jonah Gosling. Sheffield’s youthful defensive frailties again showed as Lewis failed to clear, allowing Dan Cotton to fire comfortably over the bar. On 27 minutes, Lewis slipped allowing Clarke a clear run on goal. He comfortably rounded Whatsize in the Sheffield goal but in scenes reminiscent of Saturday, he amazingly put his shot wide with the goal at his mercy. Both sides traded blows in a pleasing display of football but it was Sheffield who were to break the deadlock on 40 minutes. A concerted spell of pressure saw shots traded around the Stamford box. Roebuck’s 18 yard effort was parried by Wright in the Stamford goal, straight to Ant LYNAM who made no mistake from close range.
The second half began in much the same vein. Both sides made early substitutions but it was Stamford who profited on 57 minutes as a clearance ricocheted straight to Ryan OLIVER, who made no mistake in comfortably beating Whatsize. Buoyed by this way back into the game, Stamford produced a long range effort from full back Matt Evans, closely followed by a Dan Cotton header from an Oliver overhead kick. The two combined once more on the hour as Whatsize produced a good save from close range. Club gained some reward for their excellent attacking play when Cotton clipped the heels of skipper Chris Adam with referee Mr Miller awarding a penalty. Andy GASCOIGNE duly converted and it was Sheffield’s turn to take the upper hand. A mere two minutes later, a Jack Smith cross from the right saw Tom ROEBUCK stoop to head home from a matter of yards, to cap a fine battling display. The game continued in end-to-end fashion and on 81 minutes, Paul MALONE forced the ball home from close range after a header back across goal. Andy Gascoigne received his customary yellow card in a minor altercation afterwards along with Jamie Clarke for the visitors, much to the chagrin of the Stamford travelling faithful.
Sheffield rode out the four minutes of stoppage time and must consider themselves rightly pleased with the three points. The seeds of this victory had been sown in previous fixtures. Tonight, however, it all came good and bodes well for the rest of the season and hopefully, the future.
My thanks to Stamford FC website (www.stamfordafc.net) for the following match report:
It was a low key start for both teams and nearly ten minutes had gone before there was any goalmouth incident. A sharp turn and shot from Andrew Gascoigne hit a Stamford defender. Sheffield players appealed loudly for a penalty but the referee waved them away.
Midway through the half a good Sheffield move set up a well hit shot from Matt Roney but Chris Wright got finger tips to the ball to steer it onto the bar. 25 minutes had gone by before Stamford had their first chance when Ryan Oliver charged down a clearance but his shot from the edge of the box was always going wide.
Chris Wright had to be sharp again saving at the post when another shot from Roney was deflected. At the other end Jamie Clarke wasted a glorious chance to put Stamford ahead when he got behind a static Sheffield defence appealing for offside, rounded Sheffield keeper Dan Whatsize but then managed to drag his shot across an open goal and off the far post.
With five minutes of the half remaining, Sheffield took the lead and it was set up again by Jonah Gosling having a good game on the left wing. The first shot was blocked, Chris Wright saved the follow up but couldn’t hold the ball and finally Ant Lynam finished it off. Oliver was close to an equaliser as the half drew to a close but his shot crept past the far post with Whatsize beaten.
Harry Deane was brought on early in the second half and his first touch was a shot which flashed past the near post. Minutes later Stamford were level when a Sheffield clearance ricocheted off another defender to Oliver. He went round Whatsize and slotted the ball into the Sheffield goal.
Stamford then had a strong period which could have won the game but first Dan Cotton headed way over the bar from a yard out, then Whatsize saved well from Cotton before Miles Chamberlain headed the subsequent corner wide of an open goal from six yards.
At the other end Chamberlain completely missed a deep cross allowing the ball to go to an unmarked Chris Adam but he hurried his shot into the arms of Wright. Worse was to come when a woeful pass from Chamberlain went straight to a Sheffield player and immediately played wide to Roney. He was fouled by Seth Burkett but stayed on his feet. The referee played advantage but didn’t hesitate awarding a penalty when the next tackle, this time by Cotton, brought Roney down in the box. Andrew Gascoigne sent Wright the wrong way.
A minute later it was 3-1 to Sheffield when another deep cross from Roney was headed home by an unmarked Tom Roebuck.
Matt Evans tested Whatsize with a cross cum shot which was tipped over from under the bar. Andy Toyne flicked on another Evans cross which Whatsize had to tip over again. From the corner Chamberlain headed the ball forward and Paul Malone headed home.
As the players were running back, Malone was kicked by a Sheffield player. After a long conference between all three officials it was clear that they weren’t sure who had offended. In the end they decided to book Gascoigne who wasn’t the player involved!
The game ended 3-2 to Sheffield but this was a game which Stamford could, and probably should, have won with better finishing and without the mistakes at the back.
Sheffield FC: Whatsize, Smith, Woolley, Lewis, Roebuck, Hadfield, Roney (Ward), Gascoigne, Lynam (O’Brien), Adam (Cpt), Gosling (Gregory). Subs Not Used: Purkiss, Ruddiforth.
Stamford FC: Wright, Evans, Burkett, Toyne, Chamberlain (Cpt), Malone, Mowbray (Deane), Millson, Oliver, Clarke, Cotton. Subs Not Used: Walton, Hill.
My overall impressions of the club are that they cherish their history and place in the game, but want to be around in the future. Sheffield is a club that values the community and a supports football across the spectrum from the first team, through the juniors, the ladies teams, disabled and futsol sides. However it is a club that is known world-wide and can boast amongst its members such luminaries as Sepp Blatter and has and still sits at football’s top-table.
Sheffield’s unique place in world football history can never be disputed, perhaps now is the time for the club to ensure that here in England more people recognise that we have on our door-step, The World’s First Football Club.