This year is the 150th anniversary of the English Football Association, which was formed in 1863 with the aim of codifying all the different rules that governed the sport in different localities, and immediately devolved into a series of arguments in a bar. To commemorate the occasion, Getty has posted a collection of pictures of English soccer from around the turn of the century. They're all super cool, so let's gawk at some of them for a bit.
The picture up top here is from a Dec. 9, 1911, match between home side Tottenham Hotspur and Oldham Athletic. According to ESPN UK, the contest finished 4-0, Tottenham, as would perhaps be expected; Oldham would struggle that season and narrowly miss relegation by a single point. The early period of the First Division was actually pretty good time for Oldham, though. They usually found themselves easily outside the relegation zone, and their runners-up finish in the 1914-15 season remains the closest they have ever come to a top flight championship. The squad was not able to build on this success, unfortunately, as all league play was suspended from 1915-19 because of World War I.
This band of hardmen made up the 1855 Addiscombe Military College team. If they look to you like a squad full of John Terrys, that's because they were not solely footballers. At Addiscombe, they were trained to serve abroad in the East India Company. Presumably, these strapping young lads were some of the last to have played at the college, as it was shut down in 1861 after the disbandment of the East India Company as a whole.
Here are the Harrow Soccer Eleven, in 1867, proving once again that despite England's hatred of our term for the beautiful game, "soccer" was their word first. There are two explanations for the Soccer Eleven shown above. It's possible that the Soccer Eleven were a precursor to today's Harrow Soccer 7s, a group that organizes youth matches across England. These guys could have also been student athletes at the Harrow School, an ancient boarding school that counts Lord Byron, Winston Churchill, and Benedict Cumberbatch among its alumni. (It's basically the most British place of all time.)
What is curious about the second possibility—and what might explain the use of "soccer"—is that the Harrow School is known more for Harrow football, an early form of the game. This version, still played at the Harrow School, uses an oblong ball, is usually played in the mud, and allows players to catch and punt the ball in certain circumstances. Harrow football was one of the styles of play considered when the Cambridge Rules—probably the most widely accepted codification attempt before the FA—were drafted.
Here, an ambulance worker hands out water to Tottenham supporters on Sept. 27, 1913. On that day White Hart Lane hosted Manchester City in a game Spurs would win 3-1. White Hart Lane in the first couple of decades of the 1900s underwent a number of redesigns under the watch of Archibald Leitch, the foremost architect of English football stadiums. Leitch had a hand in the creation or improvements on Anfield, Arsenal Stadium at Highbury, Celtic Park, Goodison Park, Old Trafford, the list goes on.
Most infamously, Leitch is known as the architect of Scottish side Ranger's stadium, Ibrox Park. In 1902, a renovated area of the stands collapsed mid-match, killing 25 people. And in a final appreciation of English culture, we're going to end on that dreary note.
[Images by Getty]