THE WANDERER FEATURE: Taking a step back in time with modern day football in Victorian prose

The Wanderers team in 1882-3

The Wanderers team in 1882-3

First published in Sport

SOMETHING rather wonderful happened on Twitter a few days ago.

An account I have followed for some time came up with a random tweet about how someone living in the Victorian era may update their Facebook status.

The brilliant @BiscuitAhoy probably didn’t know what she was starting when she wrote: “I am utterly sickened by that promiscuous woman spreading her infernal gossip. At least I have my relatives for comfort #VictorianFacebook.”

Others quickly joined in: “Last night I imbibed three sherries and became light headed. The ensuing hilarity has caused me to laugh quite audibly,” said @owenhants.

“Saw a boy running with a peculiar egg-shaped ball this afternoon and thought, how odd?” continued @WanderingT.

By mid-day it was trending everywhere. The whole world had joined in; even Ricky Gervais. It was viral, and in my opinion at least it was hilarious.

But it got me thinking, how would the modern day football world have appeared in Victorian prose?

It is very easy to lapse into modern footballing cliché, as much as I do poke fun at them in this very column. Fizzing shots and slide rule passes are the journalistic equivalent of a warm fuzzy comfort blanket when you are crashing out copy at 100 miles per hour in a freezing cold press box.

Wouldn’t it be great, though, to have been writing about the game 125 years ago at the very start of the Football League when everything was fresh?

With that in mind, I set about re-wording some of last week’s full-time match report from the Nottingham Forest game.

It now goes a little something like this.

The men from Bolton Wanderers procured a point from the dastardly band of ne’er do wells from Nottingham when Matthew Mills jumped skywards to make connection with his forehead to the football, causing it to arrow joyously past Karl Darlow in the opposition goal.

Huzzah! Remarked the home supporters.

Regular bouts of gamesmanship from the travelling team had caused patrons of the Reebok Stadium to become perturbed – their annoyance exacerbated by Bolton’s inability to place the ball into the net.

Simon Cox had come into view from the replacement’s shelter upon the second half’s restart to supply assistance to Jamie Paterson for the afternoon’s opening goal.

Bolton’s profligacy caused consternation for their manager Douglas Freedman, who was seen to demonstrate his annoyance alongside the pitch’s edge.

Merrily the day as Mills’ equalising goal prevented any scenes of unpleasantness amongst the local attendees, many of whom cheered the name of goalkeeper Andrew Lonergan, purveyor of several fine saves.

Phew. Actually, on second thoughts, perhaps there was a reason that language evolved.

I’d lose too much blood from the paper cuts caused by thumbing through the thesaurus on each and every word.

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