Early Football Violence: Glossop v Bolton Wanderers 1908


We seem to be entering upon an era of dirty play, and Glossop has the unenviable distinction of being concerned in the latest row. It occurred in the match between the Bolton Wanderers and Glossop, both of whom are striving for promotion to the Second League and are well in the running. No fewer than three players were sent off the field during the game, which was admittedly very vigorous indeed. Cuffe was the first sent off, and then a stand-up fight took place, with the result that Marsh and Hofton were ordered off. The referee was Mr. W. Gilgryst, and he reported the clubs to the Association, and also the players. He says, too, that the spectators were most rowdy and threatening during the greater part of the game. Mr. Gilgryst had to be escorted from the field to the dressing-room by the police and others, and was struck a severe blow from behind, the offender being taken in to custody.

Furthermore, an official of the club was reported for using filthy language and for abusive conduct, while Bolton players complained of rough treatment. I am afraid there is serious trouble.


That’s your man John Cameron again. If he’s being ghost-written, he keeps his intercessor busy in this period – in addition to this weekly column, there are his chapters in Association Football and the Men Who Made It and his own book Association Football and How to Play It .

In fact, Glossop and Bolton were striving to get out of Division II: the Third Division (North) didn’t exist until 1919. Glossop were and are the smallest town to have boasted a league club. For them to be playing league football as late as 1908, by which time the club structure as we see it now and the bulk of the modern stadia were already in place, was a considerable achievement.

The Bolton dust-up wasn’t as unusual as Cameron makes out. Crowd violence was a feature of the Edwardian game, and, as now, a phenomena that served to isolate the sport in the life of the nation. And although the Edwardian game was gentler and more subtle by far than that of only thirty years previously, it was still full of the rough stuff as Mitchell and Kenyon’s videos show.

Public behaviour at all levels of society was hideously sobered by the Great War, after which reported crime rates fell out of the sky for 30 years. Most of that fall remains entirely mysterious, in my opinion, although Robert Roberts, chronicler of Salford, put it down in part to the dramatic improvement in slum area lifestyles after 1918.

But Edwardian football violence is hard to put down to poverty, simply because League football just wasn’t for the poor: gate prices were kept artificially high to restrict entry to the “respectable working classes” and those with a certain level of disposable income. What Cameron’s reporting here is just blokes on a Saturday getting out of hand in a thoroughly competitive situation. Passie as the Dutch would call it.


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