50 Football Myths Revealed

I am delighted that Bloomsbury has published my latest book, “What You Think You Know About Football is Wrong: The Global Game’s Greatest Myths and Untruths”. Matt Lowing, Commissioning Editor at Bloomsbury Publishing, approached me about the possibility of a book about football, past and present, drawing on my experience as CEO of the National Football Museum for England for 20 years, and my academic research and writing on football. For further details: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/what-you-think-you-know-about-football-is-wrong-9781472955685/

I was thrilled that ‘Motty’, John Motson, OBE, ‘the voice of football’, and current leading BBC TV football commentator Guy Mowbray, both agreed to write Forewords to the book!

To whet your appetite, the 50 myths featured in the book are:

1. The ball did cross the line in the 1966 World Cup Final – and we knew this in 1966

2. Premier League players are not overpaid

3. Rugby could have been the global football game, rather than soccer

4. English fans do not care about the England team, and they never have done

5. FIFA does not make the rules, and never has

6. England did not win the World Cup fairly in 1966

7. British players can and have succeeded abroad

8. Soccer, and not American football, could have been the main winter sport in the USA

9. Most fans are not loyal to one club – they play the field

10. Black players are not new in English football

11. The English didn’t spread football to Brazil – it was the Germans

12. There‘s no such problem as scoring too early

13. Cambridge and not Sheffield is home to the world’s oldest football club

14. Arsenal should not be in the Premier League

15. Leicester City will never win the Premier League again

16. The Dynamo Kiev team were not executed after beating a German SS team in 1942

17. 2-0 is not the worst lead

18. Most football managers make no difference at all

19. Denis Law’s back-heel goal for Manchester City did not relegate Manchester United

20. Women’s football is not new

21. Penalty shoot-outs are a lottery

22. It will never be a global game – European countries will increasingly dominate the World Cup

23. Hooliganism is not, and never has been, a major problem in English football

24. Football shirt colours do matter

25. Africa is not, and never has been, a football backwater

26. English football has never been clean, cheating has always been part of it

27. England is not the centre of football, and for much of its history it’s been a backwater

28. The Germans do not always win on penalties

29. Home advantage is not as vital as we think – and its value is declining

30. It’s science, not artistry, that made the Brazilians the best at football

31. The World Cup has always been controversial

32. There are gay footballers – and there always have been

33. The FA did not ban women’s football in 1921

34. Football hooliganism is not the ‘English disease’

35. Footballers singing their national anthem does matter

36. The FIFA World Cup has not always been the most important international competition

37. The prawn sandwich brigade is not new

38. The Chinese did invent football

39. Women’s soccer has never been more important than men’s soccer in the USA

40. It will not be too hot to play football in Qatar

41. It’s not a game of two halves

42. Wembley is not a world-class stadium, and never has been

43. Disabled players are not new – they have always been part of the game

44. England will never win the World Cup again

45. Football in India is not new – and has a greater tradition than cricket

46. The Zaire player in that World Cup moment did know the rules – he was in fear of his life

47. There are great football films

48. The Premier League is not exciting – it’s increasingly dull and predictable

49. Sir Alex Ferguson is not the greatest ever manager in English football

50. Association football will not last forever

Behind the Scenes at a Royal Visit: Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, at the National Football Museum

HRH Prince William scores a penalty at the National Football Museum!

By October 2016 the National Football Museum in Manchester had welcomed over 2 million visitors. Each and every one of those visitors was highly important to us, they were all VIPs, and were treated as such. Yet there was one VIP in particular that we very much wished to welcome, who had not yet had a chance to visit, due to his hectic work schedule. That person was His Royal Highness, Prince William, the President of the Football Association, and a keen football fan!

I first met Prince William in 2013 at the Gala Dinner for the 150th anniversary of The Football Association, to which I was invited as the Director of the National Football Museum. Prince William was of course attending in his capacity as the President of the FA. Towards the end of the evening I noticed there was a lull in conversation between Prince William and the two people sat on either side of him, the then General Secretary of FIFA, Joseph S. Blatter, and the then President of UEFA, Michel Platini. I introduced myself to Prince William and he was very happy to talk. He said he would very much like to visit the National Football Museum when his diary permitted.

We kept in contact with the Prince’s officials through the office of the Lord-Lieutenant of Greater Manchester. An opportunity for Prince William to visit the Museum came as part of an official visit to Manchester on 14 October 2016. We were delighted to hear that Prince William was to be accompanied by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

The Royal couple arrive at the National Football Museum

The Lord-Lieutenant of course greeted the Duke and Duchess on their arrival and was the official host at the start of the visit. When they were introduced to me, and my colleague Kevin Haygarth, the Duchess immediately put us at our ease, when she said she knew they were both going to very much enjoy their visit, because the nanny to their children had been to the Museum and said it was brilliant!

First, the Royal couple met young people from a number of youth projects across Greater Manchester, many already connected with the Museum, and some that were using the power of football for community engagement and social inclusion. Kevin Haygarth and I then took the Royal couple on a tour of the Museum’s displays, making sure to point out items relating to Aston Villa,  given that Prince William is a fan! As Aston Villa was a founder member of the Football League, and has a long and proud history, there was plenty to see. Prince William very much wanted to take penalties on the Museum’s full-size penalty shootout, with a virtual goalkeeper, which has the goal posts and crossbar from the UEFA Euro ‘96 tournament at Wembley Stadium. We had arranged for two members of the England women’s team, Steph Houghton and Jill Scott, who both also played for Manchester City, to meet the Royal couple and to take penalties with Prince William. Given his strong support for women’s football, the Prince already knew them well. Prince William took three very impressive and powerful penalties and clearly enjoyed the experience!

At the time of the visit the Museum had a major temporary exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of England hosting the FIFA World Cup in 1966 and England’s victory. In the exhibition Prince William and Kate met with Roger Hunt, one of the England players who won the World Cup in 1966, and Rowan, his wife. We brought out from a showcase one of the outstanding artefacts in the exhibition, the ball from the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final. Prince William asked Roger about the 1966 World Cup Final and  both held the ball  – wearing white cotton gloves of course! They discussed how the leather ball from 1966 was so different to those of today, not least in getting heavier when conditions were wet. There was rain before the final in 1966, and the pitch was wet to begin with.

I showed some photographs I found in the collection to the Duke and Duchess, one featuring Prince Charles playing football as a boy, and another of Prince William playing football as a very young boy, which clearly kindled many memories. At the end of the visit we presented some gifts to the Royal couple, including a copy of a painting in the Museum’s collections, namely ‘Huddersfield Town footballer meets King George V’ by J. Higgs, 1933, George V being Prince William’s great-great-grandfather.

HRH Prince William, HRH Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Dr. Kevin Moore

We were honoured and delighted by the visit of Prince William, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and  they clearly very much enjoyed the tour!