Edwardian Football

The beautiful game, Edwardian style, in some of the earliest ever film of League football

The beautiful game, Edwardian style, in some of the earliest ever film of League football image

With the World Cup in Brazil demonstrating all the glamour, spectacle and sheer scale of the modern game, now's the perfect time to take a fascinating trip back in time to an earlier, more modest phase of football's evolution.

The rapid advances in football at the start of the 20th century make it a familiar but still strange land. But it's one that comes alive for us thanks to the cameras of Blackburn-based filmmakers Mitchell and Kenyon. Their primary goal was to film the growing crowds so as to draw them to paid screenings.

But there's plenty of interest for today's football fan in these mini-match reports, not least the earliest known footage of Manchester United, the first Merseyside derby on film, and a literal sporting giant in the shape of behemoth goalkeeper William 'Fatty' Foulkes. The collection also features an English Football League XI against their Irish counterparts and a contest between Wales and Ireland - probably the earliest 'international' games recorded on film.

Football was then, as it is now, a game of two halves. But with only a few hundred feet of film in the camera and a screening due the same evening, Mitchell & Kenyon usually only captured the first. And with their cameras less mobile than today's they were lucky if they recorded a goal. Yet amid the frantic hat-waving and brass bands these films captured far more than a shadow of the modern game.

Football turned you into a new community, all brothers together for an hour and a half… there you were, cheering together, thumping one another on the shoulders. JB Priestley, 'The Good Companions'


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