Review of Martin Westby’s book A HISTORY OF SHEFFIELD FOOTBALL 1857-1889 by Mark Metcalf, co-author of FLYING OVER AN OLIVE GROVE. 

This is one of the best ever football books. Its author and publisher Martin Westby , who runs a British football magazines store called Soccerbilia, should be heartily congratulated for his considerable efforts and the accuracy he has achieved. 

Westby bases his investigations around Sheffield, where the first, Sheffield FC, and second, Hallam FC, clubs were formed and organised club football originated in the second half of the nineteenth century.  Between 1857 & 1889, 95 Sheffield clubs existed. 

Delving into the newspaper archives of the time, Westby meticulously analyses why, by whom — there’s some remarkable characters in the book — and with what purposes a series of long since departed clubs such as Attercliffe FC & Dronfield FC began.  

Such examinations of the clubs & their personnel are combined throughout with an explanation of how the rules of football were changed & developed. Some of these changes were covered in our Flying Over an Olive Grove book on Fred Spiksley & the approval that we received from readers clearly indicated that football fans are hungry for such detailed analysis on changes to the laws of the game. Westby’s work is thus to be welcomed.

What will prove especially interesting for football fans is the author’s attempt, essential to his desire to create a chronological history of football clubs, to compose a set of rules that can be applied right across all clubs, past and ongoing, in order to try and ensure the claimed foundation dates can be measured against each other. 

So, for example, with the rules evolving between 1857 until 1871 – when the Rugby Football Union was formed, thus creating a clear distinction between Football and Rugby – then a club that began by playing Rugby before turning to Association Football is included and its foundation date is when the club was originally formed. This will please followers of Bradford teams. 

If a club claims an earlier date than any of the evidence assembled suggests then it must appear in the press of the time to confirm that earlier existence. As is now accepted as fact, Stoke did not exist before 1868 and were not formed in 1863 as it currently states on the Stoke City badge and website. 

Westby dates the formation of WBA as 1874 and not 1878 and he shows how Reverend Tiverton Preddy, the man credited with setting up Barnsley, did not actually get involved with the Tykes until the Easter of 1888 and not in September 1887 when the South Yorkshire club were formed. 

This is a great football book and well worth buying at £15.95.  Purchase it at www.EnglandsOldestFootballClubs.com

Further information: 07979 794391 martin@EnglandsOldestFootballClubs.com


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