Without going into too much depth, The English Game kicks off with the tale of Darwen FC, a working-class team attached to the mill in the small town outside Blackburn. The canny mill-owner has tempted two players from Glasgow club Partick, against whom Darwen appear to have been given a footballing lesson in a recent friendly tie. The two players are Fergus Suter and Jimmy Love, a pair of game Glasgow boys, being (unlawfully by footballing laws of the day) paid to play for Darwen, while nominally employed at t’mill.
In reality, Jimmy Love had arrived first, Suter following a few weeks later. Their tempting south was in fact with the aim of implementing what would have been known at the time as The Scottish Game. English football tactics in that era generally stemmed from the public school system of 'rushing', whereby teams charged forward in unison, in a more rugby football style and formation, scrimmaging for the ball, battering opponents out of the way with a shoulder charge or whatever body part they could throw at their opposite number, effectively bundling the ball forward and past the poor goalkeeper who received barely any protection whatsoever from the officials.
For so-called gentlemen, this style of play, or lack-of, employed by the likes of Old Etonians, Wanderers, et al, was utterly at odds with a more measured approach being pursed north of the border, namely that of passing the ball to players in space. Attempting to play in and around the opposition, rather than simply charging straight through them like a battering ram, hoping to carry the ball along in doing so before punting it between the sticks. Wahay!
Fergus Suter was noted as a skilled exponent of this technique, playing from deep and controlling the flow of the game. Hopes were high in Darwen that his arrival would herald a new dawn for their team, a revolution perhaps in the way the game was played in England. The programme shows the ups and downs of those early months. Much creative license is employed by creator Julian Fellowes (of Downton Abbey fame) in adding a complex back story to Suter’s personal life which drives him and before long he is off, for more money, to hated local rivals Blackburn. The people of Darwen turn on Suter, all hell breaks loose. Has the game really changed that much?
Further factual details are toyed with, embroidered or replaced entirely for dramatic effect, as I suspected while watching and have confirmed with a little research since. But it’s a cracking watch. Rare for a football-based drama to pull off the live action in a more than passable fashion and the dramatic touches make for good viewing. Suter, Love, Arthur Kinnaird and Co were real characters with interesting stories. Do some digging and see what you find.
I, of course, was looking for an Everton angle. You might want to watch the series (it only comprises six 43- to 55-minute episodes) before you read the rest of this, as I don’t want to ruin anything. If you have already seen it, I hope the following is of interest.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The English Game culminates with the good guys emerging triumphant. Quite right too, and accurate in terms of what happened, if not the finer details. Which is where an Everton connection does come into play, and – wouldn’t you know it! – it is the individual who once turned out in an Everton shirt who is ultimately robbed of his moment of glory by the editorial decisions made by Fellowes and his team in the name of art! His club as well, in fact. But let’s make it all about us, eh?!
The 1882 FA Cup Final was indeed contested between Arthur Kinnaird’s Old Etonians and Fergus Suter’s Blackburn… ROVERS (this is important, in The English Game, they are simply ‘Blackburn’). The match took place before a crowd of around 6,500 at Kennington Oval on 25 March 1882 and, as expected, the public schoolboys ran out 1-0 winners with a goal from forward William Anderson. In The English Game, Kinnaird, the main protagonist alongside Suter, appears to slot almost every single goal the Eton boys score. Hard luck Blackburn, but there’s a definite sense that the tide is about to turn. The public-school crew have been in a game at last against their working-class rivals.
In an interesting aside, Wikipedia tells us that in May 2013 a programme from the game sold at auction at Sotheby's for £35,250, a world record for a football programme.
A year later and again the FA Cup Final is contested between those Old Etonian brutes and Blackburn. Suter has his shot at revenge and boy does he take it, scoring twice to cancel out an Arthur Kinnaird opener and claim a watershed 2-1 victory. The Cup travels north, for the first time in working-class hands. Kinnaird and Co are finally forced to accept that the game is bigger than them. That the times they are a-’changin’ and The People’s Game is born!
All of the above DID happen... sort of. Only it was Blackburn OLYMPIC who won the Cup in 1883, 2-1. Fergus Suter never played for them. Arthur Kinnaird was at half-back for Old Etonians, but the winning goal was scored in extra time by inside-left James Costley, who was born in Liverpool in 1862. Old Etonians had taken an early lead through Harry Goodhart – who, incidentally, would go on to become Professor of Humanity at Edinburgh University – only for Arthur Matthews to equalise. J Yates played on the left-wing for Olympic, alas his Christian name being John, not James, and no relation of mine that I know of! The trophy was presented to the Blackburn Olympic skipper by referee Major Marindin, who appears as goalkeeper – not to mention arrogant, ignorant, posh berk in chief – in the Old Etonians team throughout The English Game.
Real-life goal hero, James Costley, would go on to make at least four appearances and score at least one goal in an Everton shirt during the 1886-87 season of friendly and cup matches, apparently in place of his younger brother, Tom.
Tom Costley made at least 41 pre-League appearances, scoring at least 18 goals for Everton in their Anfield days. He made a further six League appearances in the opening season of League football in 1888-89, scoring twice on his League debut as outside-left on 20 October 1888 at the Racecourse Ground in a 4-2 win versus Derby County. His home debut was again on the left-wing against the same opposition a week later in a barnstorming 6-2 victory. On 17 November 1888, Tom turned out at centre-forward in a 2-2 draw at Turf Moor against Burnley, before returning to the left-flank for a 3-2 win in the return fixture at Anfield a week later.
On 1 December 1888, Tom failed to finish the game at Stoney Lane against West Brom, hobbling off the field as Everton trailed the Baggies 3-1. His final Everton appearance hints at the fact that injury may well have brought the curtain down completely on his footballing career at just 23 years of age. Again, he was forced to retire hurt, this time before the interval, as 10-man Everton clung on for a 0-0 draw at the Victoria Ground against Stoke on 15 December 1888.
Thomas Halliwell Costley was born 3 March 1865 in Liverpool and the Costley family were living at 19 Duke Street in 1871. By the time of the 1881 census, Tom, his six siblings and their mother Grace had relocated to Blackburn, where a 16-year-old Tom was working as a cotton weaver. This also explains how older brother James, a 19-year-old cotton spinner, found his way into one of the Blackburn football teams by 1883.
Tom would make his first recorded Everton appearance on 25 August 1886, at inside-left, in a 3-1 victory over Stanley at Anfield. His first goals would follow a fortnight later, on 4 September 1886, a brace in a 4-0 home win over Astley Bridge. James Costley would pull on an Everton jersey for the first time a few months later, turning out on the left-wing in a 7-0 victory over Rawtenstall, on 22 January 1887, at Anfield. There does not appear to be any record of both Costley brothers appearing in the same Everton line-up.
After calling time on his football career, Tom Costley would go on to work as a caretaker at 211-213 Chatsworth Street in West Derby, and in the 1911 census is proprietor of a “chip potato business”, while living at 22a Prescot Road in Fairfield. He married a girl from Plymouth by the name of Fanny Margaret Shepherd, in Liverpool, in 1889. The couple had four children and retired to Dyserth, near Rhyl where Tom died at Cartrefle Hospital on 12 July 1941, aged 76.
James Lawrence Costley was born in Liverpool in early 1862. He married fellow Scouser Ellen Minshull on 27 April 1889 at Blackburn, St Michael and All Angels. In 1891, the couple were living at 9 Cotton Street, Blackburn; then, in the 1901 and 1911 censuses, the couple can be found making a home with their three children (in 1901 accompanied by James’s widowed brother William), at 12 Boland Street. Throughout this time, James remains in employment as a cotton spinner. And, of course, retains the title of FA Cup Final winning goal scorer. Such different times! James Costley passed away in Blackburn in 1931, aged 69.
Please see my friend Tony Onslow’s excellent piece on the Costley brothers from 2014 for more: a Wikipedia entry for James Costley contradicts much of the above, and what Tony writes, but appears to confuse the brothers' careers completely. In fact, Tom Costley doesn’t get a mention.
This obituary from the Liverpool Echo, dated 16 July 1941, however, rightly remembers Tom Costley as the Everton stalwart:
Death of Tom Costley
One by one the old Everton stalwarts of half a century or so ago are being taken from us. A month or so ago the death took place of Alf Milward, the Blues’ famous winger and English international.
Today I have heard of Mr Tom Costley, who passed away in hospital at the age of 76.
Tom Costley played for Everton for several seasons in the ‘80s, while his brother scored the goal that brough the FA Cup north for the first time in history, when Blackburn Olympic beat Old Etonians.
Mr Costley had lived in retirement for many years at Dyserth, near Rhyl. The death is also reported from Dundee of Harry Ritchie, partner in the famous Dunn-Ritchie international wing, brought south by Everton 13 years ago.
(*more on Harry Ritchie in a forthcoming article!)
To finish, I had a look at Fergus Suter’s record versus Everton. It makes for some reading, particularly given that he only appeared three times versus the Toffeemen.
Suter’s first appearance against Everton came on 2 October 1882, at Blackburn Rovers’ Leamington Road ground. Final score: Blackburn Rovers 8 Everton 0. Ouch.
What should have been Suter’s second appearance versus Everton turned out not to be, in that he didn’t turn up! Everton made a better fist of it, but 10-man Blackburn Rovers still prevailed, winning 2-1, at Anfield on 14 March 1885.
The Liverpool Mercury reported a couple of days later:
About three thousand spectators lined the arena at Walton Breck enclosure to witness Everton play the well-known Blackburn Rovers. The latter team included five first eleven players, but Suter was missing at the last moment, and the visitors contented themselves with ten men. They certainly had not such an easy task, though the combined play of the two teams was brilliant, and the visitors won by two goals to one. Everton had rather the best of the contest, and might have won had the shooting been more steady. The main feature of the Rovers’ display was the magnificent dribbling of Fecitt throughout, and in the opinion of all he played a beautiful game. Barton, Blankhorn, and Woolfall likewise were seen to advantage. On the other side, Everton were well represented by Arlow (who was the best back on the field), and Stewart, Brown, McGill, Richard, and Higgins were also very conspicuous in their respective positions.
Suter was back in the team six months later, on 3 September, at Leamington Road as the home side again vanquished a hapless Everton, running out 5-0 winners. His final showing on record versus an Everton XI came on 15 January 1887, in a friendly, again at Blackburn, where Everton finally emerged with a measure of respectability, earning a 0-0 draw.
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Reader Comments (50)
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1 Posted 29/03/2020 at 19:53:35
Being a Fellowes vehicle, the class divide is at the centre of the narrative and some if it is a little formulaic but I'm loving the football back story, even if Everton have only been mentioned once so far in relation to Ted Stokes's fledgeling kit-manufacturing business!
As you say, there is some artistic license at play but nothing that really detracts from the story. I've read that Suter (Kevin Guthrie, who plays him, looks like he just stepped off a time machine from the 1870s!) played for Turton first before joining Darwen and, at the time, the goals weren't rectangular but more square and didn't have crossbars, just tape across the top but these are fairly trivial concerns.
Of course, I'd like there to be more attention paid to the football during what were really important formative, pre-League days but it's just nice to have something centred around the beautiful game to watch at a time when the sport itself is in such horrible limbo.
2 Posted 29/03/2020 at 20:09:09
I was gutted when Darwen lost that replay, getting bullied out the game, but that's football, because just when you think you've got the answers, your opponent comes up with something new. It's going to be interesting watching how the game evolved, whilst the money just kept going up.
3 Posted 29/03/2020 at 20:09:54
4 Posted 29/03/2020 at 20:12:21
5 Posted 29/03/2020 at 20:16:12
6 Posted 29/03/2020 at 20:50:14
7 Posted 29/03/2020 at 21:24:09
8 Posted 29/03/2020 at 21:33:28
Tony, apologies for the spoilers, darn internet eh?! I don't think in the grand scheme knowing the facts detracts from enjoyment of the programme. It's so well put together.
9 Posted 29/03/2020 at 21:54:28
10 Posted 30/03/2020 at 01:38:48
Needs a second and subsequent series to carry on the historical and dramatic narrative in the manner of The Crown.
Both Sam Hoare, Brian Williams and Tony Onslow (and others) do a bit of scribbling, here a task for you while you're locked down.
Plenty of football and personal drama potential to be had around 1892 and all that. Sandy Young, The Great War, Dixie's motorcycle crash, 60 goals, relegation, promotion, League title and ending with the FA Cup - a real live footballing circle of life.
No need to even make it up, truth is stranger than fiction. There's your storyboard, lads, get sharpening your pencils.
It needs doing, if only to combat the monstrous nationwide rs media publicity machine.
11 Posted 30/03/2020 at 03:56:55
Thanks for the interesting real events and insights to the series...
Bravo Sam for episode 4. I would love an in-depth insight to how you got involved...
I too think it would be a great idea for our talented writers to do a screenplay of our great club.
I'm sure there is enough talented blue film makers out there, and actors of course. No red shite actors need apply...
Anyway let's hope we get another series of some sort with the backdrop of the beautiful game...
12 Posted 30/03/2020 at 04:03:41
Great series and all credit to Sam for his contribution which I will look out for.
Sure helps with the boredom.
13 Posted 30/03/2020 at 06:05:46
Have been passing it by on Netflix, rewatching Breaking Bad. I will definitely watch it now. Thanks, Jamie, for bringing it to my attention.
14 Posted 30/03/2020 at 08:52:11
There is a lot more to this show than football rivalry.
15 Posted 30/03/2020 at 08:53:55
Derek @10, yes, I looked into the Dixie story and found there was a film script in development. It doesn't seem to have moved forwards in the last year or two so possible it may have stalled. If The English Game gets a second series I'm hopeful I may be involved again and will definitely consult with TW to see which of the many true football stories people are interested to hear.
16 Posted 30/03/2020 at 09:13:34
17 Posted 30/03/2020 at 10:39:49
The story is about British professional footballers serving in the army during the Great War, along with regular soldiers who have been captured and imprisoned at Ruhleben.
Probably the most famous footballer is Steve Bloomer, but there are also a few Everton players taken capture, including Sam Wolstenholme, John Cameron, Jack Brearley and Wattie Campbell. There were 8 professional players altogether, along with many amateur players.
The prison camp was a brutal place for the prisoners, and the only way to pass the time away was to play football. I have only just started reading the book, but what I have read so far, there were around 4,500 prisoners in the camp, of which almost 500 played football. So I'm guessing a league was formed, hence the title of the book.
I believe this story would make a fantastic film, very similar to the film Escape to Victory. Some prisoners used football as a means to escape, but I haven't got that far into the book to see how it was done.
So come on, Sam, get working on this one!
18 Posted 30/03/2020 at 11:40:47
Taking football to South America.
The war years.
I read an incredible book about Dinamo Kiev (I think), incredible oppression and against the odds survival. I must reread it.
Barcelona/Catalonia vs Real/Franco.
Early black footballers.
19 Posted 30/03/2020 at 12:05:46
20 Posted 30/03/2020 at 12:17:35
21 Posted 30/03/2020 at 12:18:31
22 Posted 30/03/2020 at 12:19:42
There are a plethora of Documentaries, TV Series and Movies, you could watch 24 hours I suppose if you were inclined to do so. There are no restrictions like many providers.
23 Posted 30/03/2020 at 12:51:12
24 Posted 30/03/2020 at 17:09:56
25 Posted 30/03/2020 at 18:19:45
It's very good this program and I'm up to number four now and really looking forward to see what Sam's wrote next!
26 Posted 30/03/2020 at 20:55:19
Looking forward to Sam's Episode 4.
27 Posted 30/03/2020 at 22:32:31
Lord Kinnaird has been my favourite character in this series and it's befitting that a proper gentleman opened Goodison Park.
That's a great story you have been part of, Sam, very well written and a story that has needed to be told. Thanks for that, mate, because it's taken my mind off life for a few hours. And for a football lover like myself, it's been a very powerful story, thank you!
28 Posted 31/03/2020 at 02:26:10
Will check it out. It's the â€˜hols' over here in Oz and watching that will come as a welcome break from on-line learning which we indulged in for the last week of term 1. Sheesh â€“ there HAS to be a better way. Twice as much work resulting in being about 25% as effective as I am as a face-to-face teacher.
29 Posted 31/03/2020 at 04:45:01
The footy was a nice backstory and knowing my history was a nice nostalgic link back to the UK. A touch more poignant because of the current circumstances, so a little wobble here and there!
Sam, congratulations! How did you not get an unknown European full-back into the story line?
30 Posted 31/03/2020 at 05:56:32
Most towns and Cities commemorate their Famous sons and daughters who have, by virtue of an invention, literature or some other recognition that has been appreciated and benefitted everyone, with a Blue Plaque.
So why is it that those Clubs, who are all in existence today with differing degrees of stature in the Football Leagues, have never been officially recognised? I am writing this with a certain feeling of bias of course, where Everton is concerned.
I am confident though that supporters of the other eleven Clubs probably feel the same pride, and lack of recognition that their Club merits. Hypothetically, I wonder if any of those twelve had been one of the media darlings we know today, would things have been different?
Founder Members in Alphabetical Order for those who may not be cognisant of: Accrington, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley, Derby, Everton, Notts County, Preston, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Just for a bit of interest, there was also a Football Alliance, whose Founders were : Ardwick (Man City), Birmingham St. George (Disbanded 1892), Bootle (Dropped out), Burton Swifts (Folded 1910), Crewe Alexandra, Darwen, Grimsby Town, Lincoln City, Long Eaton Rangers, Newton Heath (Man United), Nottingham Forest, The Wednesday (Sheffield Wednesday), Small Heath (Birmingham City), Stoke, Sunderland Albion (Disbanded), Walsall Town Swifts (Walsall FC).
Not quite sure why Stoke was a member of both, maybe someone can enlighten and add to the thread, but interesting just the same.
31 Posted 31/03/2020 at 07:24:20
Interesting to see how the game was played with no great finesse using the â€˜pack' through the middle in the early days â€“ echoed 100 years later by Wimbledon, it occurred to me. Then a football artist came south from Scotland to put some skill into the game â€“ no, not Alex Young, but Suter.
I really hope there's a second series as it was enthralling and informative stuff, take a bow, Sam, for your own contribution. As a final thought, I'm so pleased it was on Netflix â€“ had the BBC made it, by Episode 2 it would have ended up as a documentary about the redshite.
32 Posted 31/03/2020 at 08:09:28
Edit; a small bit of photo shop wizardry... which is beyond me, could show it better than my description.
33 Posted 31/03/2020 at 10:03:07
34 Posted 31/03/2020 at 11:35:52
Only Us and Villa can claim this... oops re-read post. Wrong, Degsy.
35 Posted 31/03/2020 at 11:58:44
I didn't know about Stoke City playing in both the League & the Alliance. However, I do know that, apart from the aforementioned & short lived Accrington, they're the only Founder Members of the League to have never won either the League or the Cup. Although they have won the League Cup.
36 Posted 31/03/2020 at 12:43:44
Dennis @35, yes there were 2 Accrington's as I understand it, and as you say Accrington folded but Stanley carried on. And yes they did disappear not that long ago, but did a Phoenix, and resurrected from the ashes.
37 Posted 31/03/2020 at 14:14:05
Does this help?
38 Posted 31/03/2020 at 15:00:31
39 Posted 31/03/2020 at 15:30:00
40 Posted 31/03/2020 at 19:30:17
When Everton, was the “first team in England, to play 100 seasons in the top leagueâ€ they made a request to the league, to open the season against Aston Villa, another founder member, of this elite club.
They requested Villa, because it was the oldest fixture in the country, and yet this request was actually turned down, and we got to play Spurs instead, in a game in which Wayne Rooney, possibly made his full debut.
Imagine if Arsenal, Liverpool or United, would have got there first, because something tells me, that such a request would have never been turned down, but a very big deal, would have been made out of such a fabulous achievement instead?
41 Posted 31/03/2020 at 21:33:22
Stoke were replaced, after a couple of seasons struggling in the League, by Sunderland. It was then that they joined the Football Alliance, where their success was a mirror image of their previous League failures & earned them re-election to the Football League. Early in the 20th Century, they went bust & ended up in non-League football.
Their eventual application for re-election to the Football League was approved just in time for football to be suspended for The Great War, so they had to wait for the 1919-20 season to rejoin the League. They changed their name to Stoke City in 1925 when the Stoke was granted City status.
42 Posted 31/03/2020 at 21:42:21
Fixtures between Everton & Aston Villa are the most played League fixtures but not quite the oldest, as we didn't play Villa until the third weekend of the inaugural League season.
However, you're quite right, I'm sure a request from one of the more fashionable clubs would have been looked upon much more kindly.
43 Posted 31/03/2020 at 21:55:58
44 Posted 31/03/2020 at 22:10:59
They have no history as such, which is one thing we will always have over them, and it's something they can never deprive us of either.
45 Posted 31/03/2020 at 22:33:13
46 Posted 01/04/2020 at 10:50:51
Is this the TV show that was filmed in Stamford Park, Altrincham?
47 Posted 02/04/2020 at 11:06:57
Sam, do you know the plan for the series in terms of further seasons and how far into the 20th century they are planning to portray?
48 Posted 02/04/2020 at 16:08:35
Paul, I think there is an appetite from the creative side to do more seasons but it depends on Netflix. I think it's gone down pretty well but guess they will have some sort of algorithm working out if it's done enough to commission a second series.
49 Posted 02/04/2020 at 17:11:11
50 Posted 11/04/2020 at 11:25:17
Well done to Sam on writing Episode 4 â€“ and persuading the producers to cast Leighton Baines in the role of Suter. Perhaps your true vocation lies in casting?
Hope we see a 2nd series. Also hope Leopoldstadt returns to the stage when the lockdown ends.
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