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Voices: Does Sheffield do enough to promote its football heritage?

Steve Basford.
Steve Basford.
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Being home to the oldest football club and oldest ground in the world, does Sheffield enough to promote its football heritage? We ask those in the know.

RICHARD CABORN, FORMER SPORTS MINISTER AND SHEFFIELD MP

Richard Caborn.

Richard Caborn.

Does Sheffield do enough to promote its football heritage? Many in the city would say: 'definitely not'.

With Sheffield having such a rich football heritage and some of the greatest historical assets of the beautiful game it's difficult to find the answer as to why that is the case.

The home of the first rules of football written in 1858 in the Adelphi Hotel and adopted as the gold standard by the Football Assosication. In 1855 Bramall Lane opened, staging its first football match in 1862 and is the oldest professional stadium in the world. Sheffield has many more firsts of the game and definitley more than any other city or town in the country.

And it's not for the want of trying to promote our history. Richard Timms and his colleagues at Sheffield FC - the world’s oldest football club - have tried very hard over the years to put the legacy on the international stage. They haven't quite made it but are still trying.

I was involved some years ago with Keith Hackett and Peter Cromar - to try and deliver Football World, a high-tech interactive project at Meadowhall. Unfortunately, this ambitious project didn’t kick-off.

The latest attempt to promote Sheffield’s legacy is the Football Legacy Trial which, with the backing of last year’s Lord Mayor Councilor Anne Murphy, was launched this year. It provides a walking app taking users on a heritage tour around the historical football hot spots of the city.

I am sure there have been other attempts over the years, but timing can play a major part in getting a project of the ground.

So, I pose the question - Is it time to revisit the issue of marking this great city’s unique football heritage, through the forthcoming development of the city centre, particularly now with the Football Association seriously considering bidding for the 2030 World Cup.

Keith Hackett.

Keith Hackett.

I think it is worth Sheffield Telegraph and its sister paper, The Star, giving some space and facilitating a discussion on the issue. Who knows (as a United fan I live in internal hope) with the possibility of one or possibly both of our football clubs be in the Premier League in the next couple of years the timing could be right.

STEVE BASFORD, CHAIRMAN OF HALLAM FC, THE SECOND OLDEST FOOTBALL CLUB IN THE WORLD

My personal football heritage began playing between two gate posts in the cul-de-sac I was brought up in, with whoever was there and for as long as we could physically play. The ball would range from a traditional 'casey' to a plastic ball or even a tin can, and I guess that’s basically how the game started all those years ago. No need for anything elaborate let’s just play.

It wasn’t until the last 10 years I myself became aware of the rich history of the game in Sheffield. Why? I mean it’s the working man’s game isn’t it ? And that is certainly my background.

Finding out the history way back then to be fair wasn’t that simple, it certainly wasn’t taught in school or even my football team in which I played from 11 years old.

Listen, we’re Yorkshire folk - we don’t shout about ourselves its in our blood, we just get on and do it don’t we?

Well, the world is changing and if you don’t shout up these days you won’t get heard, so that’s what we’re doing now, we’re starting with the Sheffield Home of Football project to fight for our place in the market place and to be very proud of being instrumental in the game being what it is today.

There are a number of initiatives now under way to get our voice heard. Yes, it’s taken a while, I know, but we now need to keep the momentum up to get where we need to be.

We need not just the governing bodies of the city to help, but, ourselves, we need the people of Sheffield everywhere we go to be firstly informed of the history and then go out and spread the word wherever you are in the world and to anyone who will listen, and they will because it’s a brilliant story and it's ours.

CHARLIE MCGRATH, DERBY COUNTY SUPPORTER

Being from Ashbourne in Derbyshire, I always thought I was from the home of football.

Shrovetide football has been played there since 1667. It's not like the beautiful game as we know it - the goals are three miles apart and the ball often ends up in the river along the way - but it's clearly a primitive form of the sport.

It took me a year of living in Sheffield before I realised that its claim to the title is far more convincing than Ashbourne's.

I am an avid follower of football, but I had no idea of Sheffield's football heritage beyond Wednesday and United until I went to watch my favourite non-league team play at Sheffield FC.

The match, played on on Boxing Day, finished in a boring 1-0 and I missed the only goal queueing for a pie. The attendance was 327 - pretty impressive I thought considering we had all sacrificed Christmas Dinner leftovers to stand in the freezing cold for 90 minutes.

But the experience turned into something far more interesting when I learned I had just watched the oldest football club in the world.

Some further research showed me that Sheffield's football heritage is even more impressive.

Sandygate, the home of Hallam FC, is the oldest ground in the world and some of the most influential rules in the early stages of the game were developed here in 1858 - five year's before the FA's first set rule book.

Wednesday is the third oldest league football club and Bramall Lane is the oldest ground to still be hosting professional football. The list goes on - yet it it took me a year to discover it.

Sheffield doesn't shout about it's fine footballing pedigree like it should do and its only museum is at Sheffield United's ground.

At the World Cup, Sheffield lads Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker and Jamie Vardy highlighted the city's importance to the current English game, now the city must remind people that it has always been that way.

KEITH HACKETT, FORMER PREMIER LEAGUE REFEREE

Sheffield is the true home of football and it is difficult to understand that such a unique legacy has been overlooked by the city and not used for commercial gain.

We have a great city, yet at times it fails to promote our heritage and create a true destination centre.

The cities of Preston and more recently Manchester some years ago saw an opportunity to create a visitor destination centre by using an iconic building to house the reformed National Football Museum.

Over a million visits take place each year, many of them re-visits to absorb what is on show.

My colleague Paul Trevillion, who for a period was artist in residence at the NFM, drew the iconic head shots of the World's best players for the NFM Walk of Fame and the bronze plaques that resulted which also include the players of England’s World Cup winners in 1966 greet visitors as the head for the entrance.

This oversight now needs to be corrected and whilst I am not a great supporter of museums I do support the idea of creating an appropriate special blue plaque trail, interspaced with interactive electronic boards that highlight the story and Sheffield’s legacy to the world’s number one sport.

We need to ensure the return of the Oldest Football club in the world to Sheffield and the appropriate recognition of the founders of the game.

We need to encourage overseas visitors to take in a game at the oldest football ground in the world Hallam FC at Sandygate Road.

We need to recognise Sir Charles Clegg, the first man knighted for his services to football - an interactive screen at the Sheffield and Hallamshire Football Association HQ near Meadowhall or even in the shopping centre. He refereed the FA Cup final and passed away at his home at Clifton House, 32, Cavendish Road, Sheffield

Let’s celebrate the history of Sheffield United, the Sheffield Rules, the first floodlit game the creation of a crossbar, the penalty kick and many more first and let’s recognise the work of the current game in Sheffield where the city’s legacy continues to grow.