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The Remarkable Story of Fred Spiksley (Paperback)

The First Working-Class Football Hero

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Sport P&S History > Social History

By Mark Metcalf
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781526775313
Published: 7th May 2021



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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.

"It is indeed a remarkable story and is highly recommended."

North West Labour History Journal

I’m a huge football fan, born in the fine city of Lincoln in 1974, obviously the best year ever. But I want to know how have I never heard of Fred Spiksley? What a fantastic man, a man of many talents not all great. But I have honestly never heard of him which is disappointing because how many other fine young men have we not heard about. He managed to cram so much into life too, I must admit I really enjoyed reading about his football years the most. Reading about the old teams, styles of play and coaching methods that were put in play were great to read about. But not only has his football career come to its end, that he ends up in coaching, management and mixing with world media stars. This book and story was a really good read, and I would think it would be a great read for fellow fans just to be reminded of how things were done in yesteryear.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

'This book does justice to Fred Spiksley's abilities on the pitch and his amazing life off it.'

Roy Massey, former Arsenal Academy Director

'It is impossible to ignore the name Fred Spiksley!'

Chris Waddle

'A life with more twists and turns than a Lionel Messi dribble.'

Chris Bond, The Yorkshire Post

'A must-read for anyone who has a genuine love for football!'

Simon Mullock, The Mirror

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.

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.

NetGalley, James Doyle
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About Mark Metcalf

A full-time writer for over a decade, Mark Metcalf has written many books on football clubs and players, particularly prior to WWI, rediscovered numerous previously hidden football facts and organised a series of Professional Football Association plaques to former greats. An accomplished public speaker, he writes regularly for the Big Issue North magazine and Unite the Union.

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