Book charts why football owes so much to Notts County

HUCKNALL LEGEND -- Sam Weller Widdowson.
HUCKNALL LEGEND -- Sam Weller Widdowson.

Outrage at the level of players’ wages. Top clubs ring-fencing income for themselves and marginalising smaller clubs.

Supporters calling for young players to be given their chance, ahead of expensive imports. And problems with crowd control.

Sound familiar?

Maybe. But this is not a tale of modern-day football. Instead it’s a picture of the game towards the end of the Victorian period -- and it has been captured perfectly by a new book, written by Hucknall man Darrin Foss.

‘Notts County FC And The Birth Of Modern Football’ describes the early years of the oldest professional football club in the world, formed back in 1862.

The story starts with the club’s military beginnings, its early days as a gentlemen’s club and its progress into the professional era.

Foss covers the influence of Notts County on the laws of the game and the development of other clubs, particularly neighbours Nottingham Forest.

The book also focuses on a famous player, born in Hucknall in April 1851, who played for both County and Forest.

Sam Weller Widdowson won one England cap and is credited with inventing football shin-pads when he cut down a pair of cricket pads and strapped them outside his socks.

A true Victorian sportsman, he also played cricket for Notts and became Forest chairman from 1879 to 1884. Widdowson was a football referee too and was in charge of the first-ever match in which goal nets were used.

Foss has been a staunch Magpies supporter since he was first taken to a match at Meadow Lane by his mum in 1969.

His book covers previously unexplored aspects of the history of the club, including why they changed their colours from chocolate and blue to black and white.

There is also a comprehensive season-by-season guide to County’s turbulent early years, including details of all games played.

Perhaps more remarkable are the accounts of the wider influence of the players and members of the club.

Readers can learn how Notts County helped to create the city of Nottingham, of the club’s involvement in the early days of great sporting institutions such as Wimbledon and the British Lions and of its connections to Queen Victoria, Sherlock Holmes and even Tutankhamun.

Notts County were the most consistently influential football club during the developmental period of the game, and football would a very diffferent sport today had they not existed.

Through fascinating stories, information and fine detail, Foss brings the era to life in a book that is a must-read for all Magpies fans and football students alike.