Before the Premier League looks at the major developments in English football between the late 1950s and the early 1990s that led to the transformation of the game. The book traces the changes over the last decades of a unified Football League, and details how they combined to revolutionise the sport. From the transfer market and attendances, playing conditions and wages, to the influence of sponsorship and television Before the Premier League is an account of the factors which shaped modern football.

Several in-depth interviews with players and fans of this era bring the history to life and illustrate the main themes which run throughout the book. Their first-hand experiences and memories of English football give a unique insight into how the game was played and watched long before the Premier League.

This is a book that the author spent several years researching and writing. It covers a period in time stretching back from his formative years watching football in the 1980s, to the late 1950s when the Football League moved to four national divisions for the first time. Whittle’s main inspiration for the book was R.C. Churchill’s Sixty Seasons of League Football, published in 1958, which looked at the history of the Football League from its formation in 1888 up to that point. Whittle’s idea was to continue that history and bring it up to the creation of the Premier League in 1992, which changed the face of English football. With the help of several fans and ex-players, he has attempted to tell the story of the last decades of the unified Football League.

(Publisher: Wibble Publishing. October 2021. Paperback: 216 pages)


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Book Review: The Great Pie Revolt – A Gastronomic Guide to the Premier League and EFL by Jack Peat

This is a true story from a few years back. A Premier League club (who shall remain nameless) marketed at one of their food and drink outlets in the ground a ‘Meal Deal’, which consisted of a pint, a Mars bar and a packet of crisps for a fiver. Now you don’t have to be Gordon Ramsey, to understand that this combination does not constitute a meal for the average human being, yet somehow football fans are fair game. The fact is that clubs know that once a spectator is through the turnstile the concession stands are the only option for those wanting any food or drink and invariably it is a pricey bland selection from a big brand. The answer to this malaise? Get yourself fed and watered before and after the game away from the stadium. But where to go I hear you cry? Well, The Great Pie Revolt provides a readymade (excuse the pun) solution.

In the Introduction, author Jack Peat outlines that the book, “is as such, my quest to make away days more palatable, to marry football and food to create a more rounded, wholesome day out.” As the title suggests the guide looks at the clubs in the top four divisions of the English game with 86 clubs featured.

Each club entry has a Fact box (which details, team nickname, colours, ground name, capacity and year it was built) and an Introduction which looks at a locations food and drink heritage and provides readers with some interesting facts. Following this are the main focus of the book, with sections on, What to eat and where to eat it and What to drink and where to drink it and covers a range of venues, which include cafes, market stalls, takeaways, microbreweries, pubs and bars. Within each of the food and drink sections, are three suggested venues which look to provide food and drinks options before and after matches where local produce and delicacies are served and celebrated. In doing so, readers will be introduced to a range of delights whether that be the parmo from Middlesbrough, Bank’s Dark Mild in Wolverhampton or rag pudding in Oldham.

It is indeed a more than useful guide for fans on away days looking for something different to the standard offering of chain venues and should be an essential read when making matchday plans. The first thing I did with the book was check out my own club’s listing and Peat’s suggestions and then look at all the various grounds I’ve visited down the years, to see if I’d been in any of the venues listed – a food and drink Groundhopping if you like!

If there is something missing, it would be the venues address or its social media details (i.e. website, Facebook or Twitter etc.) so that they could be looked at in further detail before making a trip. However, that is not to detract from what could become an indispensable matchday companion and point of reference to make away days memorable, win, lose or draw.

PS. Hey, Jack what about Scottish, Irish and Welsh editions? A non-league version? Let’s get this football food and drink revolution on the move!


(Pitch Publishing Ltd. August 2021. Paperback: 304 pages)


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2014/15: Sky Bet Championship Review – February 2015

Beware the Ides of March – no I’ve no idea what it means either, but I do know that this is the time when supporters realise the remaining fixtures will end in single figures; pro option hopes are forlorn and relegation fears realised.

February included six games and as predicted Norwich are moving inexorably towards the summit, winning all of their games. The squad is by some distance the best in this division and the change of manager has galvanised a formidable Championship strike force. I still expect The Canaries to be at the top of the tree in May, a position that rankles having shared League One in recent memory.

However, an improved league position and performances find me in better but cautious spirit as Leeds claw themselves away from the bowels of the Division. However, should I be satisfied trailing Bournemouth and Brentford by twenty points? Like many other supporters of traditional ‘bigger’ clubs, expectations need to be downsized, realistic and measured. My single concern is to retain Championship status and I comfort myself with the knowledge that 46 points on average achieves that aim, but shudder at Peterborough’s relegation with 54 points in 2011/12.

If Norwich are to return to the Premier League there is a right old bun fight to see who will join them. Derby still must be haunted by the experience of last season and desperate for automatic promotion, but having seen Middlesborough and Watford at close quarters recently both appear impressive, the latter adopting a six man forward line on occasions. The other form teams are Forest and Wolves, bristling with confidence and scoring for fun and a reminder that appointing club heroes such as Stuart Pearce are not always the wisest move.

The top six appears to be an eight horse race unless Forest have a remarkable last furlong. I think they may fall over the final hurdle but reduce their odds next time out. Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn are betwixt and between, cosy and safe without the angst of a promotion or relegation battle. A reminder of how many seasons used to end for many around March until Sky Sports took over the running of the game.

The trap door has been ajar for Blackpool since August, a brief rally around Christmas brought hope but for me they are ‘doomed’, as Private Fraser used to say (for those old enough to remember Dad’s Army). Wigan’s stay in this division might be brief but I give them hope possibly at the expense of Rotherham who had to endure the moronic Bermondsey sideshow last weekend.

A glut of clubs including Reading, Bolton, Brighton, Cardiff, Leeds and Fulham cross fingers and prey those beneath them prove incapable of catching them. All have experienced long periods without winning before jolting themselves in to action before promptly returning to slumber. The Championship truly is a weird division, teams dreaming of Premier League fortunes and League One oblivion in the same season – it really does mess with one’s mojo!

Didn’t mention Charlton, Huddersfield or Birmingham and why should I? To be fair Charlton sit seventh in the Form Table and are worthy of mention and the other two play in Blue – there you go everybody’s happy now.

Eighteen hours more football, plus injury time and it’s all over.

Who will be having kittens in the final hour still not knowing their fate?

As long as it isn’t me I don’t really care.


David Goodwill

2014/15: Sky Bet Championship Review – October 2014

My enthusiasm for this review waned throughout a miserable, dispiriting month for my own club.  Not a solitary victory and of course another coach through the revolving doors at LS11. I am of course referring to Leeds United, a club which should be stamped with a Government Health Warning.

However, putting aside my pain, anguish and desperation for now I will don my impartiality hat and look back over the merry month of October. Another side to sink like a stone is Nottingham Forest; Psycho ably demonstrating that playing heroes are not always the best choice to return to former glories. I believe a top six position will still be achieved but the weight of expectation needs to be overcome.

AFC Bournemouth heads the table alphabetically and staggeringly statistically as Eddie Howe’s men gather goals and points with alarming regularity. The demolition of Birmingham City was positively rude in its execution, borne by a freedom to play uncomplicated, slick attacking football other supporters crave. The majority of clubs and opposing fans have The Cherries as low priority and I think they thrive on the small town mentality, little history to speak of but possibly to make.

Now they have reached the summit we shall see how they cope with expectation and pressure, very well I think and serious contenders for top six. Geographically, Middlesbrough couldn’t be further away, but a consistent run of results has catapulted The Smoggies to their highest League position in years and one I forecast in previous reviews. Pitiful crowds at The Riverside never seem to dampen the Chairman’s ambition for his club and shrewd work in the permanent and loan market over a period of time make Boro‘ a real force.

The panic button was pressed at Bolton, Birmingham, and Blackpool – oh and again at you know who? Fulham and Leeds appointed from within, Bolton and Birmingham successful young managers and Blackpool hired Lee Clark or Red Adair, such is the task ahead of him.  The Tangerines currently the only club adrift with a host of sides battling to join them.  Could fifty points see a club go down this year? I suspect it will.

Honourable mentions must go to Huddersfield Town & Brentford, teams traditionally living in the shadows of near neighbours now looking imperiously over their shoulders. Chris Powell is a manager destined for big things in my opinion, very possibly the first Black England manager, you heard it here first!

Away from the Championship one of my pet hates raised its ugly head again the other week, the abominable ‘half-scarves’ at Old Trafford for the Chelsea game. Football tourists sporting cringe worthy red and blue…I can’t go on…am getting annoyed.

Back to reality, Wolves and to a lesser extent Rotherham have made the step up one division with conviction and potentially none of the three promoted clubs will be returning from whence they came.  The same could be said for the three relegated sides with Norwich, Cardiff and Fulham spluttering to find form and any consistency in the toughest of leagues.

The majority of other sides take on step forward and two back or vice versa as the middle of the table is as congested as the M62, M25 or wherever you reside on a rush hour afternoon.

Another half a dozen games and we will reach the Christmas period and the January sales, the best wheelers and dealers have much to gain or lose in search of riches or sanctuary from the drop.

As always, I won’t wish supporters of other clubs the best as it would be a hollow gesture but support your team, lambast referees, moan at you Chairman and generally conduct yourself in a manner fitting of a biased, embittered loser like myself.


David Goodwill