The Football History Boys were founded on the 1st Feburary 2013. Living in a house full of boys whilst at Swansea University, the talk would daily turn to football. With Ben and I also both studying History, we often would debate some of the great players or great moments from the history of the beautiful game. From just searching for the 'Top 250' players of all-time, we started to write articles too and The Football History Boys was born.
7 1/2 years later, over 700,000 website visits later and a published book later, and TFHB has grown beyond all expectation. From winning the Football Blogging Award for 'Best New Blog' in 2014, we have continued to add more strings to our bow. As mentioned a published book - Football's 50 Most Important Moments - in April 2020 was a major achievement, with another to follow too in 2021, as well as a podcast that has spanned 16 episodes so far. However, our love for writing and researching for the website has not left us, and so, with this being TFHB post 300, Ben and Gareth take a look through their personal top 10 articles from the history of The Football History Boys. Enjoy, and most importantly, thank you so much for your continued support!
Ben's Top 10 Articles:
I had to choose this one. Aside from my club alliegance, there has never been a time I have been more enveloped and invested in football. In 2016, Wales qualified for their first major international tournament in 58 years. We all expected a gallant fight and maybe even a goal, but ultimately a strong group which would be hard to get out of. What happened was quite incredible. A run to the semi-finals invigorated the nation into a frenzied euphoria. The shift from rugby to football had well and truly begun! For myself, towards the end of my PGCE - enjoying this run really helped me through those tricky last few weeks!
This piece came after asking our followers on Twitter - 'What is the first World Cup you can remember?' - A great deal of responses came back with 1982. Furthermore, those who commented on this particular edition were keen to acknowledge that it was the 'best ever'. Having never really seen much of it, bar Marco Tardelli's celebration and Schumacher's challenge on Battiston, I had to delve deeper. Upon my research, I uncovered a tournament which truly revolutionised the game with some of the greatest teams, players and matches in football history!
On a recent trip to Glasgow for the #FBCGlasgow2018 conference, I found the time to take a look around the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park. At the start of the tour, there were numerous reminders of Scotland's role in the promotion of the sport during its infancy. The active role it took and the popularity of the game 'north of the border' is difficult to rival in terms of fanatical support and innovative new ideas. Having written extensively about Welsh football and the 'English' game, we needed to discover more about Scotland's influence on the sport!
Throughout our seven year existence we have written frequently about the history of football in Wales, be it the Cardiff City rebrand, the rise of Swansea or the legacy of the 1958 World Cup. However, in our first year and a half, we had not written about the female side of the Welsh game. A game on the rise, it surprised us to find that Wales had a rich women's football history. The growth of the Welsh national team in recent years has been staggering and their exploits continue to inspire the next generation of players. Written just before their heartbreaking failure to qualify for the 2015 World Cup, what has impressed us most, is that in recent seasons they have continued to improve and even registered a brilliant 0-0 against England!
In November 2018, Gareth and myself set ourselves the task of compiling a list of the 50 most important moments in football history. After a week of whittling down over 100 suggestions we finalised our list. One of the moments inside the final 50 was the impact of women's football on society during the First World War. Originally, we were going to include more moments from the female game - but through our studies of the football, we've learned that women's football has its own unique and intriguing history and one which deserves its on series! 35 Moments later - we had journeyed through the game and barely scratched the surface! There is more to come!
An easy choice for me, the Cardiff City crest is of great personal importance to my family. As a child, I remember beign in complete awe upon finding out that my Grandad and Dad had designed the Cardiff City crest from c.1970. It is a badge which oozes Cardiff City and one which still holds a certain reverance with Bluebirds fans today. Turning up at football training for my side, I even saw it tatooed on the calf of a teammate. After this, I had to ask my Dad more - about how it was designed and what was the inspiration for this historic design.
In 2015, I started my PGCE course in order to qualify as a primary school teacher. It was one of our 'P.E.' training days which inspired this piece. During a workshop on the subject a great deal of the learning was done with footballs and volleyballs in order to generate an idea of what could be done which each apparatus - throwing, catching and of course kicking. Within a few minutes a fair number of the students, myself included, were doing keep-ups, passing and shooting into an imaginary goal, leaving one coursemate a little baffled - she asked me, "why do people love football so much!?" - which got me thinking...why indeed?
Life as a teacher is strange during the lockdown. Each morning we are waking up, setting our respective classes work (usually projects) and constantly monitoring the replies and responses sent back over the various learning platforms online. During the Easter holidays, I was busy writing our new book (to be released April 2021) when we received a message on Twitter asking us to try to find out more about a follower's great-grandfather. Searching for Tommy Quinn in various archives, we managed to uncover an incredible career which could have been long forgotten. This was proper historical research and some which took us a while to finish! It proved to us that everything and everyone in football is important!
This piece was inspired by my dissertation. Surprisingly, it was not based on football but on tennis. Victorian lawn tennis to be precise. When studying, I found that women played an important role in the rise of the sport and by the 1890s, were beginning to take part in other sports and even football. What was intruiging to us, was that the calls for female suffrage and the suffragette movement also began around this time. With sport offering women a chance to challenge, to participate and even compete against their male counterparts, surely the correlation between participation in sport and the fight to vote has some relation.
This was our comeback piece. After ouver a year and a half without posting a new piece from March 2017 to August 2018, we decided to reignite our passion for football history. The main reason for such a hiatus, was that our jobs in teaching take up a great deal of our time. My current class will often discuss football and the results of the weekend, showing the same engagement with the game as Gareth and I had. The history of education, at least at a state level, follows a remarkably similar timeline to that of football. With only a decade or so apart, both education and the beautiful game have seen a century and a half of immense change socially, politically and economically. There is little doubt that education and football have a closer relationship than we might think. But how close? After an initial piece on the blog, we decided to extend it further and even managed to present the paper at the 2018 Football Collective conference in Glasgow. An incredible experience, it is one I will never forget!
Gareth Top 10 Articles:
This one appears here not because I'm proud of the comparison I made, but more so because I am not! I wrote this back in March 2013, when AC Milan had lost greats such as Pirlo, Dida, Ibrahimovic, Silva, Maldini, Nesta & Gattuso from their side. In their place they had M’Baye Niang (18), Stephen El Shaarawy (20) and Mario Balotelli (22), a potential 'Rossoneri Revolution' and a new 'Gre-No-Li'. In the 1950s they had the Swedish trio of Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm, Olympic gold medallists who scored an incredible 118 goals in 38 games between them in the 1949/50 season. Yeah, so, maybe those three weren't the new Gre-No-Li... but it could've been a brilliant comparison if it worked out!
The Crest Dissected was a series from back in the day that investigated the history of football clubs through their badges. One of my favourites was looking at Leicester City back in December 2015, considering their history before that crazy 2016 title win was confirmed! I think all clubs have a valuable story to tell, be it multiple European Cups or life languishing in lower division. The Crest Dissected saw us look at Manchester City, Bournemouth, Celtic, Southampton, AS Roma, AS Monaco, PSG, FC Barcelona, Cardiff City and a guest Stoke City blog too.
Both Ben and I teach in Wales and have a passion for sharing our love of the history of sport with our students. We both believe sport has so much to teach learners and so in response to this, I penned an article about how this could fit into developing school curriculums. A year later we wrote an updated piece about our efforts to get the history of the beautiful game in particular into our lessons, whether that be the rise of hooliganism in the 1980s, the Heysel Disaster & the tragic Hillsborough Disaster, to women's football in WWI, or using sport as part of primary school English & reading lessons. It'll be a continual quest for us & the EU project we are alinged with - Football Makes History, remember one of our mottos - football isn't just about the scorelines!
The 1950s are often considered one of football's finest decades. The Mighty Magyar Hungarian side tore about international football in the early 1950s, delivering some humiliating blows to the 'inventors' and 'originators' of football - England. However it wasn't just on the international stage the sport was changing, the 1955/56 season saw the birth of the European Cup. As a response to Wolves being declared 'Champions of the World' for winning a series of 'floodlit friendlies' against touring teams, the French newspaper L'Equipe & UEFA founded a continental competition. Real Madrid stormed the first five years and this article details those early campaigns.
The FA Cup is a competition I love, and whilst perhaps it has lost its magic in recent years, the history of the competition is one utterly worth investigating. The 1933 final was a very interesting one, so much so it was described by newspapers at the time as the 'most novel cup final in the history of football'! This final, between Everton and Manchester City was the first for all the players to be wearing squad numbers, part and parcel of the modern game, but a total rarity at the time. Check out this piece as the FA Cup provides another great story from days gone by.
IFAB have been thrust into the headlines in the 2019/20 season. Whilst COVID stole the glory for making this a history-making campaign, IFAB have not long been out of people's discussions. Many don't realise what the body do, or the power they have over the law making of football, but with VAR now so prominent across all of Europe's major leagues and continental competitions, there is no doubt that their history is worth checking out. Founded even before FIFA existed, how do the 'home nations' still control football law changes across the World and how has this developed over the decades? It is worth a read!
1934 was part of a turbulent decade in World history. Economic depression, and unstable governments had seen Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany and Benito Mussolini take power in Italy. The first World Cup had taken place in Uruguay in 1930, but in 1934 Italy were due to host the global tournament. With the British nations boycotting the competition, Italy were desperate to win it for the glory of Il Duce and fascist Italy. Check out the remarkable story of the World Cup and how this mighty victory led to an epic clash with England, The Battle of Highbury (November 1934), they are both great footballing moments!
Cardiff City are my football club, but this isn't why I wrote this piece, because like 6., it is another story about the FA Cup's history that needs to be told. 1927 was Cardiff's second appearance in the FA Cup Final in the 1920s, probably their greatest decade. Whilst 1925 saw them lose to Sheffield United, 1927 was a battle between them and Herbert Chapman's Arsenal. The 1-0 victory enough to seize the trophy for the Welsh, the first and only time this has ever happened. However, it wasn't all about that, 1927 was also the first ever live radio broadcast of the FA Cup Final, a move that impacts the wall-to-wall football coverage we enjoy today. There is also the story of a slippery shirt & a lucky cat, so it's a tale worth perusing.
This article is one that really sums up the importance of football as more than just a sport. Following the partition of Europe in 1945 after WWII, the 'Iron Curtain' descended and the political tensions massively impacted sport on either side of the divide. The birth of the European Cup, 7., saw a dominance of Western European teams with just Steaua București in 1986 and Red Star Belgrade in 1991 giving moments of glory to the Eastern half of the continent. With a chunk of research about the differences between sport in the East and the West, I took a look at 'the last time the East reigned Europe', with Yugoslavia on the verge of their own devastating war.
As mentioned, Cardiff City are my club and as a season ticket holder I adore everything about the team. In 2018/19, Cardiff were having their second crack at the Premier League with Neil Warnock at the helm. Signs were promising and a big January signing was sure to make a goalscoring difference. Nantes striker Emiliano Sala had been chased for weeks and after the announcement of an agreement between Cardiff & Nantes, Sala took a trip back to France to say goodbye and get some belongings. On the return journey tragedy stuck as his private flight went missing. The football world awoke to rumour and heartbreak then reigned as his death was later confirmed. In the aftermath, I didn't know what to do, this man who had never played a game for us had been tragically lost, and the only way I knew of processing that was to write. It is not a historical article, but it is one that sums up the essence of The Football History Boys - Football matters and it is important to billions of people across the World.