Archive for February 22nd, 2021

February 22, 2021

The Shropshire Star

Anyone for a game of footie?

By Toby Neal published June 2, 2020

“Top flight football is tiptoeing its way to a comeback as the nation eases its way out of the coronavirus restrictions. But if you want social distancing, at least by the length of the front forks, motorcycle footer has its health and safety attractions.

And another thing, Wolverhampton was rather good at it.

To get a flavour of what it was all about, let’s turn back the clock to April 1928, when the sport – then only around four years old – made its first appearance in the Newport district, with a motorcycle football match held at Lilleshall Hall between Wolverhampton and Coventry & Warwick.

Coventry & Warwick had never been beaten, and had won the Auto Cycle Union All England Cup for three years on the trot, as well as numerous other events.

Wolverhampton were rated as one of the most improved teams in the country, a young and skilful side who had been runners up in the ACU Cup in 1927.

Now, the rules.

“The game is played with six players a side, with only the goalkeeper and fullback keeping their positions. The remaining four players are intent on forcing the football through their opponents’ goal,” explained the Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser’s report of this crunch match.

“The skill with which the players control the ball while travelling at speed is truly remarkable. It is by no means a slow game. On the contrary, it is amazingly fast, and the skilled riders must at times have reached 40 miles an hour. The players not only used their feet, but also their heads when occasion demanded.”

In the first half Wolverhampton were the better team and deserved to go into the break 2-0 up. After the interval Coventry & Warwick pulled one back, and but for two fine saves by Barnard in the Wolverhampton goal would surely have gone in front.

Wolverhampton increased their lead, only for their opponents to pull one back a few minutes later.

The glorious final score: Wolverhampton 3, Coventry & Warwick 2. The invincible Coventry & Warwick had at last been toppled.

A few years ago we spoke to June Hussey of Wombourne, whose father Tommy Deadman helped pioneer the sport in Wolverhampton.

He founded Wolverhampton Motor Cycle Football Club – presumably the same side which played that match at Lilleshall – which played home games in Pinfold Lane, Penn.

The sport captured the public’s imagination, albeit for a fleeting time, and led to teams being set up across the country and the creation of a league.

With Tommy as captain, the Wolves team enjoyed a successful year in 1928, winning the Midland League Championship by beating Birmingham and competing in a nationwide competition equivalent to the FA Cup.

Wolves beat local rivals West Bromwich 10-1 in the first round and in the second round beat a team known as Douglas MC. Wolves got all the way to the final but lost to Coventry.

Born and bred in Wolverhampton, Tommy Deadman had already made quite a name for himself in the world of motorcycling, having taken part in the first ever dirt track racing at Wolverhampton’s Monmore Green Stadium in August 1928.

Motorcycle football was popular for a number of years but seems to have faded away around the time of the war, although the idea of playing football on a motorbike has popped up from time to time since.