Coining a phrase

Referring to football as “the beautiful game” is a tired cliche but its origins reveal much about how the sport developed and spread around the world. It was used to describe football long before the phrase was popularised in the 1970s by Pele, and Pele most likely borrowed it from Brazil teammate Didi.


Savage Enthusiasm: A History of Football Fans

My new book, Savage Enthusiasm: A History of Football Fans, is now available to pre-order. The book explores the complete history of watching football, from the very earliest days of the game, through golden ages and troubled times, through to the present day. It’s published on 7 September 2017.

Pre-order: | | Waterstones | Book Depository


Penalty clauses

Penalty kicks generated fierce opposition when they were first introduced to football in the early 1890s, with amateur players of the day outraged at the implication that any good sportsman would commit a deliberate or “professional” foul. They protested by refusing to score or save them.


When Manchester United called Anfield home / When outfield players go in goal

In 1971, Manchester United played a “home” game at Anfield, and the controversies surrounding the match would echo for decades. Also: An outfield player going in goal is a rare treat, but in football’s early days it was a regular occurrence. Two retro / historical football features in the latest issue of FourFourTwo.


Still with us: Gateshead FC

A complicated history and plenty of local rivals have not ended the Heed’s hopes of returning to the Football League. This latest When Saturday Comes “Still with us” feature on former League clubs looks at Gateshead FC, the third incarnation of a club that originated in South Shields.


The footballer who got away with murder

A France international, a champion cyclist, a gun and a deadly affair. Written for issue twenty-three of The Blizzard, this is the true story of Pierre Mony, the footballer who got away with murder. The story was also published in The Guardian.


Flying Over An Olive Grove book review

A new book reveals the varied life of one of football’s earliest stars, the England and Sheffield Wednesday outside-left Fred Spiksley. My review of Flying Over An Olive Grove by Clive Nicholson, Ralph Nicholson and Mark Metcalf.


The last voyage of Daniel Collins

In November 1824, 15 months after Hugh Glass endured the grizzly bear attack portrayed in The Revenant, and four years after Owen Chase saw his ship smashed to pieces by the huge whale that inspired Moby Dick, Daniel Collins set off on an extraordinary voyage that would become another survival adventure for the ages. An extract from From A Blood-Red Sea.


The bizarre history of football loans

Jack Wilshire’s move to Bournemouth and the scrapping of the emergency loan window have put temporary deals back in the spotlight. But how did football’s loan transfer system get started and who were some of the first and strangest loanees?


From A Blood-Red Sea

From A Blood-Red Sea is the true story of US sailor Daniel Collins, who was shipwrecked and then attacked by pirates during his first – and last – voyage as a merchant seaman, in the winter of 1824. His extraordinary escape and his epic journey home represent one of the most remarkable survival stories ever told.