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Football's Great War (Hardback)

Association Football on the English Home Front, 1914–1918

Military WWI > Home Front WWII

By Dr Alexander Jackson
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 384
ISBN: 9781399002202
Published: 8th March 2022



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As modern football grapples with the implications of a global crisis, this book looks at the first in the game’s history: The First World War. The game’s structure and fabric faced existential challenges as fundamental questions were asked about its place and value in English society. This study explores how conflict reshaped the People’s Game on the English Home Front.

The wartime seasons saw football's entire commercial model challenged and questioned. In 1915, the FA banned the payment of players, reopening a decades-old dispute between the game's early amateur values and its modern links to the world of capital and lucrative entertainment.

Wartime football forced supporters to consider whether the game should continue, and if so, in what form? Using an array of previously unused sources and images, this book explores how players, administrators and fans grappled with these questions as daily life was continually reshaped by the demands of total war. From grassroots to elite football, players to spectators, gambling to charity work, this study examines the social, economic and cultural impact of what became Football's Great War.

Football has been in integral part of societal and cultural history. This fascinating book delves into how the conflict which so universally challenged British society and culture, impacted upon football in Britain. The 'National Game'. Key elements are integrated throughout as to how the Football Association banned the payment of players, and how wartime football meant that supporters had to contemplate whether or not the game could and would continue. The book is an endless revelation; whether you are interested in the history of football in Britain, or indeed the First World War...

Quite simply, if you are interested in either the Great War or Football, or both; get this book.

Jon Sandison

Review as featured in

Britain at War

This book in my opinion is certainly an important one and asks the readers a number of questions about the role football plays in society, how much of a role does professionalism play in it and is there a big difference between keeping it in an amateur format or professional. The author of this book is also the Curator at the Football Museum in Manchester, and this certainly shows up well as he is able to draw on many sources and archive material in his writing for the book. I enjoyed the picture section within the book but then I am a football fan, it does seem though that having read a number of football books recently surprising how inept the FA really has been. I mean they almost ruined Women’s football and had it not been so big it’s lucky they didn’t kill off the men’s game or at least set it back a number of decades. A thoroughly good book and very enjoyable to read, highly recommended and I’m enjoying getting into the sporting history books.

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The History Fella

This is an excellent book, that you can dip in and out of. Dr Jackson has written an excellent book and this needs to reach a wide audience.

Read the full review here

GoodReads, Paul Diggett

As featured in: 'Author's book tells how football played on in First World War'

The Star (Sheffield)

Article: 'Book about football during a world war'

The Star (Sheffield)

Article: 'How the beautiful game played out during turmoil of Great War'

Sunderland Echo

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Great book.
Very emotional to read and remember those who fought who used football to help them.
Worth reading .

NetGalley, Karen Bull

As featured in

The Bookseller

A fine narrative history of Football during the Great War. Although inevitably it focuses on the story of how football positioned itself within the moral matter of the war and its response on the home front, it also gives detailed accounts of some footballers who served and died.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Dr Alexander Jackson

Dr Alexander Jackson is a Curator at the National Football Museum in Manchester and has researched and published widely on the history of English football. He was lead curator for the 2014 exhibition, The Greater Game: Football and the First World War. Born in Sheffield, he has inherited the family allegiance to Newcastle United.

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