Sheffield is home to many things – stainless steel, aeronautical pioneer John Stringfellow, Peter Stringfellow, pioneer of gentlemen’s clubs, Python and world traveller Michael Palin, Henderson’s Relish, William Henry “Fatty” Foulke, the 6 ft 4” and 24 stone Sheffield United goalkeeper from the in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, musicians Joe Cocker, Jarvis Cocker and Pulp, Phil Oakey and the Human League, Cabaret Voltaire, Def Leppard, Warp Records and Arctic Monkeys etc. etc. – but Sheffield is also the home of the modern game of football.
Sheffield has a unique footballing heritage. The football played in Sheffield during the 19th Century sowed the seeds of the modern game as we know it today. The world’s oldest club, Sheffield FC, founded in 1857, pioneered the formulation of a commonly accepted set of rules, played a key role in the formation of the FA and were involved in a host of innovations such as the first crossbar, the first corner kick, the first free kick and the first floodlit match.
Sheffield Wednesday were founded ten years later in 1867, whilst Sheffield United was established in 1889, with Bramall Lane being the oldest major football ground in the world still hosting matches.
A project involving four local Sheffield schools – All Saints Catholic High School, Forge Valley Community School, Handsworth Grange School and Westfield Sports College – was set up earlier this year to educate disadvantaged kids in deprived areas about Sheffield’s role in the sport, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The ‘Home of Football – Celebrating Sheffield’s Football Heritage’ project has got pupils involved in original archival research under the guidance of football historians and local footballs clubs, with educational support from the University of Sheffield.
Former England and Blades player Tony Currie has given pupils from All Saints School a guided tour around Bramall Lane, and Wednesday the 26th of June saw a recreation of a traditional game of football using the Sheffield Rules that date back to 1858. Two girl’s teams and two boy’s teams wore old time football kit and played with a vintage leather ball.
The matches were refereed by Uriah Rennie, who isn’t the pioneer of indigestion tablets but is president of Hallam FC and a former Premier League referee, together with two school pupils from Forge Valley School running the line.
The Times Educational Supplement (TES) reported:
“Sometimes history as a subject suffers because young people can’t grasp its relevance,” says Dr John Wilson, a specialist in learning and development based at the universities of Sheffield and Oxford. “So when I came across the HLF’s recent call for community projects to involve local people in sharing local knowledge, it seemed too good an opportunity to waste. And I felt sure a football focus would interest teenagers.”
Pupils have been engaged and enthused too:
“I grew up here (in Sheffield) and football is a part of my history as well as the town’s,” says Grace Boyden, aged 12, a Year 8 student at All Saints.
“Finding out about its origins is interesting,” says her classmate, Kudzaishe Mutamba, aged 13. “But I don’t know what the players of 1857 would make of all the hugging that goes on after a player scores today – they’d probably think it was rather sissy.”
You can read the TES piece at http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6331212
The project also has an excellent website with a blog – http://www.homeoffootball.net/
- Blades Blunted: how selling their strikeforce was the worst decision Sheffield United ever made. (nostanding13.wordpress.com)
- Smash Hits, Tony Currie’s testimonial match and The Housemartins (nostanding13.wordpress.com)
- NEAR POST – Footy Fims: When Saturday Comes (nostanding13.wordpress.com)
- Tottenham’s Etihad thrashing brings back memories of Bramall Lane rout (theguardian.com)
- WHO ARE YA? Caroline Elwood-Stokes (nostanding13.wordpress.com)