Retro: The early days of Worksop Town and how cricketers stayed fit playing football

Historian Steve Jarvis has been digging deep into the Worksop Town record books. Here he brings us the first of many more tales to come from the Tigers down the years.

Tuesday, 14th December 2021, 11:44 am
Worksop Town slowly developed into an official club with unofficial games taking place, in the manner of a school kickabout, before that.

There is more than enough documentary evidence to indicate that Worksop Town Football Club was originally founded in 1861. There are club minute books and articles which have appeared in the club match programme, particularly some from the 1920’s when Worksop was a “big” club that year.

Much is made, by non-believers, of the fact that the first recorded match was not until the 1870’s. This is not at all surprising. In the beginning, football was used as a way of keeping the cricketers fit over the winter as well as providing suitable exercise for other “gentlemen” athletes.

I say that because only the well to do had time for such luxuries. Players would meet at the club grounds for what we might now term a kick-about. Rather like schoolboys using coats for goalposts and playing until tea-time, a way of keeping fit.

In addition, other clubs kept to themselves for such exercise while the “powers that be” got together to draw up rules and regulations to allow clubs to play actual matches.

There are records of games within the club of Married gentlemen v Unmarried or Solicitors v Shopkeepers and the like. The number in each “team” would depend, just like the school playground, on how many wanted to play.

The “Reporting” angle is also to be considered. Our own Worksop Guardian Newspaper, itself, was not founded until the 1890’s, which was also the case for the “town” papers in neighbouring towns. Sheffield, as Worksop’s nearest metropolis, certainly had newspapers at that time, but had plenty within the City boundaries to fill the sports pages.

Remembering that football leagues were not invented until the late 1880’s and that the FA Cup only started with just 15 clubs, some of whom withdrew without playing, in 1871, then it is hardly surprising that Worksop’s first recorded match is at this moment in time, research is ongoing, 1873.

By 1878 the Sheffield Independent was reporting what a splendid home ground Worksop played at, situated off Netherton Road. Facilities would have been non-existent, players generally changed at home .