The Serie A game of knights (The English Game) that premiered in recent days on the platform Netflix It has as its central nucleus of its story the oscillating border between the amateur football and the professionalism, situated just a few years after this discipline has gained momentum in England from the mid 1800s onwards. Fiction relies on a large portion of real events to build the story that crosses the six chapters They have an approximate duration of 45 minutes.
The central protagonists are Fergus Suter (characterized by actor Kevin Guthrie) and Arthur Kinnaird (Edward Holcroft), positioned as a kind of counter-figures that represent the growth of soccer in the working classes and the opposition of the creators of the rules of the upper classes. Both are characters that existed and they played a preponderant role in the expansion of the sport that dominates the world today, more than 150 years since the Football Association (FA) has devised the regulations that gave football a framework.
If you haven’t watched the series yet, we recommend stopping here to avoid spoilers.
SUTER AND LOVE, THE FIRST PROFESSIONALS
The Scottish Suter is openly recognized as one of the first professional players in history and his arrival in English football was thanks to a series of friendlies that developed the Partick –His team– between 1876 and 1880 against the workers groups of Darwen Y Blackburn Rovers, the two main teams in the series. Partick was the second club in that country to face English teams after the Queen’s Park, today in the second division of Scottish football.
The series narrates this fact from a significantly different perspective: Jimmy Love, who appears as a faithful second to Suter, was actually the first to travel some 200 kilometers to arrive in East Lancashire to play soccer. According to an investigation by the historian Andy Mitchell who published in Scottish sport history, Love escaped from his town persecuted by debts and legal problems. Shortly thereafter, his friend Suter applied to join the English team, initially fueled by a job crisis near Glasgow.
Both debuted in Darwen in late 1978 in the FA Cup, the oldest competition in the world today. As they showed well in the series, they revolutionized the style of team play and for the first time a representative of that working class north came up to quarter finals of the exclusive tournament for gentleman’s. There, another great little pearl that coexists between the series and reality: tied 5-5 with Old Etonians as seen in fiction with two goals from Suter. History indicates that the London team refused to play extra time to settle the match on the spot.
Finally, those of Arthur Kinnaird prevailed after two replays and they became champions of the tournament for the first time in their history during that edition of 78-79.
THE FICTITIOUS BLACKBURN SERIES
One of the licenses that the series takes passes in the unification within the script of the Blackburn Rovers –Today in the second division of English football– and the Blackburn Olympic – it only existed little more than ten years -. In the series only “Blackburn” is mentioned and the stories of these two teams intersect.
Love and Suter emigrated to the Rovers in 1880 in a move that sparked controversy among the teams with allegations of hidden payments, which were banned by the FA at the time. In a match between this club and Darwen, there was a brawl as fiction shows: “During the match a fight broke out between the players and quickly spread through the crowd”, they relate in the book Football, the first hundred years.
In this case, Jimmy only stayed there for a short time and then left: he died years later in Egypt from an illness after joining the British army, although there is no record of an injury from playing soccer.
Instead, Suter initiated his myth: he led a workers team for the first time until the final of the FA Cup in ’82, but were outclassed by Old Etonians. Finally, raised the trophy in 84, 85 and 86 always with the Rovers. By the early 1900s, he acknowledged in an interview in a Lancashire newspaper that he received about £ 10 in exchange for playing football when a worker’s salary at the time was £ 2.
What is the crossover that the series performs? The first team of working class to win the FA Cup was the Olympic in 1883 after beating the Etonians in the final 2-1. A key fact that is also seen in the series: the team captain was the former Sheffield Jack hunter, what in The English Game appears as the leader of the mixed “Blackburn” and initially relegates Suter to a supporting role. Another pearl? Darwen captain in the series for the first few episodes, Thomas Marshall, was truly a symbol of that team for much of his career and played only a brief period in Blackburn Olympic in 1886.
Arthur Kinnaird is a vertebral personage in the series. All stories are connected through it. He Lord was a member of the British aristocracy and banker, as it is pointed out in the story. To this day, he owns a key record: the footballer who more times he played in an FA Cup final with 9 presences between his participations in Wanderers (4) and Old Etonians (5).
Treasurer of the football association in its beginnings, then he became president during 33 years in the period between 1890 and 1923. His death found him a few months before the inauguration of the legendary Wembley Stadium, a work that he promoted during his tenure and which was demolished in 2002.
According to the maneuvers that occurred in the birth of football, Kinnaird went through all the positions and even had to stop in the 1877 final, where he recorded an unusual event: “Offered to go to the goal because Wanderers didn’t have one. During the game, Kinnaird picked up the ball, but he stepped on the goal line: own goal. Fortunately for him, Wanderers won 2-1. However, Kinnaird was so embarrassed that appealed to the FA to have the goal erased from the records, And they agreed! “Says the book Is He All That ?: Great Footballing Myths Shattered.
While in The English Game A friendly rivalry with Suter arises, they only faced each other in one final: the 1882 one that crowned the Old Etonians 1-0 over Blackburn Rovers. Kinnaird was also part of the Etonians – an institution that now plays in an amateur league – in the emblematic defeat of ’83 against Olympic. Some records point to Lord Kinnaird as the footballer, from the “knights” branch, most famous of the time.
In relation to the coexistence between fiction and reality, other of the pearls that the series leaves is the use of bag to carry out the draw for the FA Cup, a tradition that transcended until this time. There is also a success in the characterization of Francis Marindin, 16-year president of the FA and featured as an Old Etonians goalkeeper in the production of Netflix. Something similar happened with Alfred Lyttelton, Kinnaird’s best friend in the series and who had a real career in both Etonians and Cambridge.