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A Fateful Love

Essays on Football in the North-East of England 1880-1930


Gavin Kitching

How did the world’s most popular sport begin? How was the ancient family of pastimes called «folk football» transformed into a new codified game - «association football» - which attracted such large numbers of players and paying spectators? Gavin Kitching tackles the question through a strikingly original and deeply researched history of the game in one of its most passionate strongholds: the north-east of England. Making extensive use of previously neglected newspaper reports and other sources, he shows how, in just a few years of the 1870s and 1880s, soccer evolved from its origins as a collective scramble into a dispersed and intricate passing game, exciting and rewarding for players and spectators alike. But the booming popularity of football in the Victorian North-East also had deeply ambiguous consequences - for footballers, for the clubs for which they played, and for the local press which reported the game and further fuelled its popularity. Kitching analyses these ambiguities in chapters on the professionalization and commercialisation of elite soccer in Newcastle and Sunderland and in an account of the «shamateur» Northern League clubs of the Durham coalfield. A Fateful Love concludes by tracing these ambiguities through to the present day. The visual excitement and beauty that created professional football lives on, but the media–driven «commodification» which has marked it from its beginnings has now reached levels which raise profound concerns for the game’s future.
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I. Books and Journal Articles


Anderson, B. (1983). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.

Appleton, A. (1961). Hotbed of Soccer: The Story of Football in the North-East. London: The Sportsmans Book Club.

Baker, W. J. (1979). ‘The Making of a Working-Class Football Culture’, Journal of Social History, 13 (2), 241–51.

Berridge, V. (1986). ‘Content Analysis and Historical Research on Newspapers’ in M. Harris and A. Lee (eds) The Press in English Society from the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries, pp. 201–18 London: Associated University Presses.

Birrell, S. (1981). ‘Sport as Ritual: Interpretations from Durkheim to Goffmann’, Social Forces, 60, (2), 354–76.

Brake, L. and Demoor, M. (eds) (2009). Dictionary of Nineteenth Century Journalism in Britain and Ireland. Gent: Academia Press.

Collins, T. (2015). ‘Early Football and the Emergence of Modern Soccer, c.1840–1880’, International Journal of the History of Sport [IJHS], 32 (9), 1127–42.

Collins, T. (2017). ‘Review of Curry and Dunning’s Association Football: A Study in Figurational Sociology (2015)’, Sport in History, 37 (4), 529–66.

Collins, T. (2019). How Football Began; A Global History of How the World’s Football Codes Were Born. London: Routledge.

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