“F*ck off Chelsea FC
You ain't got no history
18 leagues and 5 European Cups
that's what we call history” The Kop.
History, eh? The last bastion of the embittered fan. It certainly is a great history, that is if year zero was when Bill Shankly strode across the Pennines in 1959. Back then, no-one thought about whether they walked alone or not.
So what do we call history? Manchester United? Pah, another post-war myth. The establishment, Royal Arsenal? Hah, a pox on your nouvelle 1930s boom. Notts County, Everton, Accrington?
Having shunned the new fangled professionalism of the 1880s, Sheffield FC remains the oldest football club in existence.
In May, 1857, local cricketers, William Priest and Nathaniel Creswick, were feeling the aches and pains of early season rustiness. They concluded that the late night drinking sessions weren’t to blame, and that an organised winter sport was needed. Unlike most pub brainwaves, this one stuck out as being; a) a good idea, and b) something they followed up.
Five months later, as the East India Company was being overthrown in Dehli, Sheffield FC was formed. Being the only club, there were obvious advantages and disadvantages. As Max von Sydow knew, you need an opposition. Initially, members split into different teams, and representative games were played between married men and bachelors, professionals vs the rest.
But the best bit of being the first, you get to make up the rules. And we have Sheffield FC to thank for a number of today’s customs: corner kicks, throw ins, free kicks, floodlights, a crossbar, and, most spectacularly, heading the ball. Famously, when Sheffield ventured down to the Oval, the London gentry were reduced to fits of laughter by this practice. Rumour has it that Creswick wanted there to be daylight for a player to be called offside, while Priest wondered what you were doing if you weren’t interfering with play.
Only two clubs have been awarded the official FIFA order of merit; one is Real Madrid, the other is Sheffield FC.
They have never recaptured the glory days of 1904, when they won the FA Amateur Cup. However, they have returned to rude health in recent years. Currently celebrating their 150th year, they sit 10 points clear of Retford United in the NCE Premier Division (a notable league - it has seen Socrates plying his trade there in recent years).
They could be the only team at this level with replica shirts, at the seemingly optimistic price of £36.95, though the home shirt is sold out. This entrepreneurial spirit has enabled the club to buy its own ground for the first time ever, the Stadium of Bright. They draw a few hundred, mostly glory supporters, as they top the league.
Sven-Goran Eriksson, Michael Vaughan and Sepp Blatter are all members. The club also runs disability and even a women’s team; sadly for Sepp, they sport a baggy short.
The new ground is in an affluent area, in keeping with the game’s middle-class roots, but when they play local rivals Brigg Town (est. 1864), a familiar refrain can be heard from the famous grassy mount behind the goal:
“F*ck off Brigg Town FC
You ain’t got no history
A couple of drunk cricketers in a pub
Now that’s what I call history.”