Sheffield, the birth place of football (English version)

No matter where you go in the world we all speak the same language, and that language is football. Wether you’re an expert on who’s better, Messi or Ronaldo or just a dog walker passing a local Sunday league game. We all have an opinion on it.

But, where did it all begin? For me the answer to that is an easy one to know since growing up in England’s 4th biggest city. Sheffield FC are officially recognised by the Guinness book of records and FIFA as the oldest football club in the world dating back to their formation in 1857.

Now a days Sheffield FC don’t play in Sheffield or even in Yorkshire for that matter. They play their home games at the coach and horses ground in Dronfield, Derbyshire which is a small town just the wrong side of the South Yorkshire boarder. It’s wedged between Sheffield and Chesterfield. They now ply their trade in the Evo-stik league first division south, which is level 8 in England if you count the Premiership as level 1. I must add Sheffield FC do have plans to move back into central Sheffield with a new stadium in the future.

The first official game they played was against Hallam FC who were formed in 1860 and Sandygate Road in the west side of Sheffield is officially recognised as the oldest football ground in the world as Hallam still play their home games there until this very day. One to tick off for the ground-hoppers out there. Hallam also made history by winning the worlds first football tournament, The Youden Cup in 1867. The Countrymen (nickname) still own the actual trophy which is often on display on match days.

This season the part time club that average 200 fans a game ply their trade in northern counties east league, division 1, which is simply the 10th tier in English football. As I write this they are on course to finish in the play offs for a 3rd season running so hopefully this time round luck will be on Hallam’s side.

I’m lucky enough to have been voted on to the committee of Hallam FC since 2017 and I couldn’t be more proud to be part of such an important club from the birth place of football. Everyone who is associated with the club does so because of their love of the game and club and not 1 person is paid. I’m a decorator by trade/ day job, so last summer was the first time I got a small group of volunteers together to spruce up the worlds oldest football ground, which has a capacity of 1,000+. I also help out with social media, particularly on match days as well as write for the match day programme. An honour and privilege!

I’ve been following Hallam for the past 5 years or so and the stadium is only a 20 minute drive from my home in the north side of Sheffield. Closer than that is my first love, Sheffield Wednesday FC. Hillsborough the largest stadium in Yorkshire at 39,000+ and only a 5 minute drive for Me.

Originally named The Wednesday FC since 1867, Wednesday are the 4th oldest professional football club behind Nottingham County, Wrexham and Nottingham Forest. The only club in the world named after a day of the week which comes from the only day of the week the cricket club players had off to play football. Wednesday is in my blood with my dad and grandad before him supported The Owls. I have had a season ticket with my brother since I was 10 years old and I even got married at Hillsborough stadium to my wonderful wife back in 2016! Our home Stwdium since 1899.

The Wednesday were 1 of the founding clubs to the original football alliance league and also a founding team when the Premiership started in 1992. The Owls are now in their 150th anniversary season and have spent most of the time I’ve supported them, in the 2nd tier of English football. However over the 150 years of this giant club, they have spent most of the time in the top division. Having won the top league 4 times, FA cup 3 times as well as the community shield and more recently the league cup in 1991, that makes us Yorkshire’s most successful club. Yorkshire being England’s largest county.

I’ve seen the Owls play in all current 24 Stadiums in the championship at least twice but with the ever rising cost of football in England it makes me turn more to the non league, grass roots football such as Hallam FC. A ticket for Hallam is £5 per game or £65 for a season ticket. At Hillsborough my season ticket cost £555 which works out at £24 per game. An away game often tops £30 a ticket and some even £40+ at Leeds, Ipswich and Norwich to name a few. Same for the away fans who visit Hillsborough. Love the game, hate the business.

Before eventually settling at Hillsborough over 100 years ago The Wednesday a long with most other Sheffield football clubs used to use the Bramall Lane Stadium to entertain the crowds. Bramall Lane has played a major part in the history of football since 1855 where it was originally a cricket ground. Hosting its first football game there in 1862 between Sheffield FC and Hallam FC. Hallam beat Norfolk for the first ever Youden cup final in 1867 at thand same ground. A year later the Wednesday won the Cromwell Cup there too.

The 2nd professional side in Sheffield, United were formed in 1889 to plug the revenue gap which was left by Wednesday when we moved to our own Stadium. Now we are rivals in the Championship division. Bramall lane’s current capacity is 32,000+ and both games home and away this season were sell outs and bitterly disputed on and off the pitch. In 1979 The Owls beat the blades 4-0 on Boxing Day and the 49,309 crowd is still an English record for the 3rd division.

Bramall Lane was also the host venue for the first ever floodlit game in 1878 between a red and blue amateur sides of Sheffield. The London FA which is now just known as the FA played the Sheffield FA in the first ever inter-association match at Bramall Lane. The Sheffield FA is now named the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA which was formed in 1857 and its teams played the game of football by the Sheffield rules, otherwise known as the original rules which were wrote in 1857 at a meeting in Sheffield.

Sheffield can also boast to be the inventors of the corner, throw ins and even free kicks for a foul. It is also noted that players from Sheffield were the first to ever use their head to play the ball during a game. All these have now been adopted by the FA, FIFA, modern football in general. Before even all this the oldest recorded football match took place in Sheffield. A ‘Mob’ football match took place in 1794. The game lasted 3 days between Sheffield and Norton of Derbyshire. Norton is now an area inside the Sheffield boarder.

The original derby between Sheffield FC and Hallam FC still takes place every year to mark the anniversary of the first ever fixture. Every summer they play each other for the original rules trophy. I’ve been lucky enough to attend this fixture and one I recommend to all football fans who have an interest in football history.

I feel this piece I have written is just a scratch at the surface of football in Sheffield with their being many books and articles written about it all over the years. It’s something that I feel Sheffield doesn’t shout about enough or even at all. The national football museum is based in Manchester and as no or little mention of its origins apart from the London FA’s take on events since Its merge with the Sheffield FA in 1863. In the top 10 tiers of English football, Yorkshire boast nearly 70 football clubs making it a gold mine of Stadiums to visit, littered with a rich history.

Glenn Poulton (@PoultonOwl).

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