The goalposts at this time (1893) consisted of two uprights with tape across to act as the crossbar. Although the main basis of the game, the rules and the number of players were the same as today, football was then a very simple sporting affair compared with the vast business organisation, governed by finance, that operates today.
The football enthusiast had to make do with such waste ground as might be available. In the case of the ‘Mud Pond’ the playing area was only some 85 x 65 yards compared with today’s minimum 100 x 80 yards (Editors note: this was written before the First World War. The dimensions in 1970 are – not more than 130 yards or less than 100 in length and not more than 100 yards or less than 50 yards in breadth).
There were no stands, no ‘gates’ financially and literally. If as many as an odd hundred or so turned up to watch, it was considered quite an occasion.
The spectators stood right up to the touchlines, in fact they made the lines, as there was no marking out with whitewash by a mechanical contrivance that looks like a lawnmower, as is neatly and efficiently done today. There were no nets behind the goals. Usually the playing time was half an hour each way – or possibly forty minutes if all concerned had energy enough left. This is easily understood because there was no training, coaching, tactics, elaborate tackling or the other trappings of professionalism. The men played football for the simple and very good reason that they liked football.
They played it when and where they could in spare time, usually Saturday afternoons, for no other reason than that they enjoyed it. They turned out in what clothes they could lay their hands on at the moment; some wore caps, some played in long trousers and some wore knickerbockers.
The game itself might be described as a rough and tumble sport with lots of mud, almost no holds barred, plenty of hefty tackling and shoulder charging. There were two umpires, one in each half of the field. Perhaps after all, ‘those were the days.’ Special football boots were not worn by players in the class of the St. Andrew’s Club at this period. Usually any old boots served the purpose, but to avoid slipping, bars of leather were nailed across the soles and the heels.
Studs were not brought into use until after pukka football boots were generally adopted. Then several members of the Club had their boots made to measure by a local bootmaker for 12s. per pair. (2)
In the early days there was no such luxury as a dressing room. The players donned their kit at home and shed their outer gear on the ground to be taken care of by friends manning the touchline. After the game the players dragged their weary way homewards - typical ‘muddy oafs’. Washing accommodation too was of limited character. Even for a few years after the migration to Craven Cottage the sole provision consisted of family-type zinc bowls placed on a bench outside the dressing room. Stripped to the waist, players found it far from pleasant scraping the grime off in bitter wintry weather.