The Remarkable Story of Fred Spiksley (Kindle)
The First Working-Class Football Hero
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Gainsborough’s Fred Spiksley was one of the first working class youngsters in 1887 to live ‘the dream’ of becoming a professional footballer, before later finding a role as a globe-trotting coach. He thus dodged the inevitability of industrial, poorly paid, dangerous labour.
Lightning fast, Spiksley created and scored hundreds of goals including, to the great joy of the future Queen Mary who chased him down the touchline, three against Scotland in 1893. The outside left scored both Sheffield Wednesday’s goals in the 2-1 defeat of Wolves in the 1896 FA Cup Final at the Crystal palace.
Forced by injury to stop playing at aged 36, Spiksley adventured out into the world. He acted with Charlie Chaplin, escaped from a German prison at the start of the First World War and later made the first ‘talking’ football training film for youngsters.
As a coach/manager he won titles in Sweden, Mexico, the USA and Germany, becoming the last Englishman to coach a German title-winning team with 1FC Nuremburg in 1927. This book reveals for the first time his coaching achievements in Badalona, Barcelona, in 1930-31. It also shows how his coaching strategies placed him decades ahead of his contemporaries, and how it took the FA and professional football clubs over sixty years to catch up by imitating his plans for academies.
As an addicted gambler and womaniser, Spiksley had his problems away from football. However, he was beloved by his football fans, including Herbert Chapman, the greatest manager of that era in English football who, towards the end of his life, picked him in his finest XI.
The Remarkable Story of Fred Spiksley is the biography of one of the greatest footballers of the late nineteenth century. The book chronicles his early life in Lincolnshire, to his attempts to make it as a professional footballer in the days where it was virtually impossible for a working class man to do so.NetGalley, James Doyle
The book is mainly focused on Spiksley's playing career, but does go into his experiences in coaching, and his later life. There is a fascinating chapter regarding his experience of the First World War.
I enjoyed this biography. I'm born and bred in Lincolnshire, so straight away it was nice to see lots of references to places and football clubs I'm very familiar with. Additionally, Sheffield Wednesday is a family team, so it was really interesting to read about the infancy of the club.
It is great how Metcalf talks about the wider picture of the fledgling game whilst discussing Spiksley personally. I was fascinated by the history of the creation of the football league and surprised by some of the rules that were in place at the time.
Fred Spiksley did have a remarkable life. It is testament to Metcalf's writing that we are able to experience that.
If you are a football fan who likes history, this is for you.