Let’s start by the end of this journey into Sheffield. It was in a pub. In this pub called The Plough that in 1857 that Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest wrote rules of what it is today the most played game in the world. Just in a pub that so many lives changed for the following 161 years. It’s just crazy that it was just there that another spark took the game where it is right now. It needed to be said. This is how I felt while facing that pub. But first, let’s rewind in our day to see how it followed the wheel of history.
If you know your football a bit, when you point out Sheffield on a map, you will think about Sheffield Wednesday or the rival of United but you may forget that the game ruling the world today was born here. Yep, right here in the middle of the Yorkshire in the mid 19th century in a city known for its steel industry.
A bus only can take you to the actual ground of Sheffield FC. You take it somewhere in between the train station and the town center and then you are off to the countryside of Sheffield in the lovely Yorkshire. You are not in the city anymore and historically this is not where the oldest club in the world was created. At the ground, 4 hours before the kick-off of their league fixture against Ossett United, only the cleaner is at the stadium. And he kindly let us in to take pics. This is the type of stadium that any English football lover would dream of. That little ground somewhere in the country next to a little wood and also with a pub that ends the ground’s wall. At the Coach and Horse ground you can feel straight that you will be part of club’s family and have a good moment.
But more than that it’s a place charged with the beautiful game history. Getting in the trophy room of Sheffield United is like stepping in a museum of football. You will find dozens of crests from all around the world: Italy, Hong-Kong, Indonesia… lots of big names of football are member of the club. Even though the club doesn’t play anymore at the Strawberry Hall Lane Park, an adventurous feeling goes through our bodies when we realize that it’s because of The Club that everything has started. It looks like any another club but because of this one, football is what it is today.
But with Sheffield FC goes another local club, Hallam FC and its Sandygate Road ground. After a little ride in a Uber with a driver fan of Arsenal and Rotherham FC (yes it’s possible), we just have to push the wooden door of the stadium to get in. It’s end of the morning but people are getting prepared in backstage for the Countrymen’s clash against Hebburn Town in the F.A. Vase trophy. Calvin, a long-time fan of the club is walking around to see if he can find a match day programme. He poses for us before Kevin Scott, the club’s general secretary comes to meet us. A bit surprised to find a trio of Frenchies on his pitch, he offers us a little history lesson about the second oldest club in the world. Here on the 26 of December 1860, the first competitive football game was played. It makes Sandygate Road the oldest football pitch in the world. Still happy to share a story he probably delivered a thousand times, Kevin keeps on and tell us about the Youdan Cup, the oldest trophy in the history of football that Hallam won in 1867 against his best enemy: Sheffield FC.
Without even asking for it, Mr Scott comes with a ball and offers us to shoot a penalty kick on this pitch where probably thousands of those have been shot in the last 161 years. Let’s say it straight, our kicks won’t stay in the history. On our way back to the exit, we get to visit the trophy room with a replica of the Youdan cup. Once at the door after giving our thanks to Kevin for his time and stories, we are facing The Plough. We told a lot of stories about football and will keep doing it, but it’s still something to be able to live the story of how it all begun. There are clubs and pitches everywhere, but those are the reasons why we are here. Simple as that.
Pics by Jérémie Roturier.