National Football Museum | A VFS Away Day
(Posted on 09/10/17)
Planet earth inhabits over seven billion human beings all with their own varying dreams and passions, be it sewing, singing and stamp collecting if your true love is football then there is only one place for you to marvel, wonder and reminisce, the National Football Museum.
Located in the hear t of one of football’s capital cities, Manchester, the museum is a place of wonder from the very best of the sport’s history to the little nick knacks that bring memories of matches from the deepest corners of your memory right the front, sticking the very core of nostalgia.
In the last week, VintageFootballShirts.com decided that we wanted to pay a visit and be witness to this plethora of greatness, so we sent Ash and Ollie to document their findings. From the Victorian games giving the likes of FIFA 18 a run for its money, football’s kicked by the best and of course some of the most sought after shirts that would have most collectors giving over their entire stash for that one piece.
Leaving bright and early from our offices in Wrexham, we made our way over to Manchester in high spirits talking about just one thing, the history we were about to witness. Passing the famous Racecourse Ground (the oldest international football stadium in the world no less, and venue of Wrexham AFC), it was a fitting start for a trip down memory lane, the first landmark was complete!
Upon approach the magnificent glass building that cased the precious artefacts that millions across the world have come to witness since it’s opening in 2012 we stared open mouthed like a child first gawping at the green grass of a football pitch at their first match. Originally located at Preston North End’s Deepdale and built in 2001, it was moved and re-opened in the North’s industrial city eleven years later.
We stepped through the doors and through to the front desk, almost weeping with excitement when discovering that the donation we made ahead of entry granted us the opportunity to touch and look at closely in wonder both the League Cup and the biggest domestic trophy of them all, the FA Cup. Being huge supporters of the FA Cup and based in a town steeped in history when it comes to the competition (Mickey Thomas and all that!) it was not to be missed!
We moved on through the entrance which started as it meant to go on with such an impressive range, George Best’s mini cooper and a wall of shirts from every Premier League side this season. We also took five minutes to relax and take part in a great tradition of footballer’s during their time off, with a quick game of table tennis, needless to say Ash’s smash and grab victory is still much disputed around the office…
As you walk the corridors and up the stairs the anticipation builds further, we paused for a moment staring at a fish tank with a football in the middle; it appeared they had the knowledge and know-how of that famous 11-point Derby County team from 2007/08.
As we walked through we were immediately greeted by a 10ft painting of the king, Eric Cantona before going on to witness a number of amazing pieces. The centrepiece of the first floor is a trophy cabinet that would put the likes of Manchester United or Real Madrid to shame, with the size of the silver almost overwhelming. From the old First Division title to the humongous ‘Manager of the Year’ award all on display.
Shirts were next, of course they were! The most thrilling thing for us to look for as we sought out some of the best and plucked up the courage to jokingly ask if they’d be interested in a swap….
However, there was no chance of letting this one go, Diego Maradona Argentina shirt worn as he tore England apart at the World Cup in 1986, known as the ‘hand of God’ game. That very shirt, the real one, right in front of our eyes! The look of disbelief began to fade as we stared for what felt like hours at the intrigue and wonder, appreciating what it represents, the pure magic and pure horrible menace that Maradona was.
We reluctantly moved away, giving us the chance to take a look at the ball that David Beckham scored the penalty against the Argentinian’s with at the 2002 World Cup, where he smashed it past the ‘keeper four years after he was sent off against them at the previous World Cup in France. All of his dismay and heartbreak vanished in one clean strike of that very football.
Shuffling forward we distracted ourselves with the tons of interactive games on offer free at the museum, many of which were for a slightly younger demographic but that wouldn’t bother us as Ash attempted to locate Croatia on a Euro 96 map of Europe…
With all these fun and games, we hadn’t prepared ourselves for some of the more surprising pieces. A ladies football kit (pictured) from the 19th century certainly took us aback a little as we looked to find out more about the sport for females over the years. Their popularity during the war was followed by a ban by the FA as it ‘wasn’t suitable for ladies’ is a far cry from the rise in the sport today, it certainly makes you wonder where the woman’s game could be now if it wasn’t for almost 50 years of banishment.
With history going back over 150 years we continued our trip and took in some more of the most intriguing shirts, such as Nottingham Forest’s European Cup winning shirt as well as the same for Manchester United in 1999. There was a stunned silence among VFS as we were met by the full kit of Sir Stanley Matthews, worn in the 1953 Cup Final named after him where he managed to get his hands on it for Blackpool, and a few steps away from it was one of our favourite pieces of history not just in the museum, but of all time.
The first ever international football match was played between Scotland and England in 1872 at the West of Scotland cricket ground and on display was one of the very shirts worn by England during that game. The way it has been kept, the difference from today and the significance of one of the most amazing pieces of history had us stunned. That shirt has lived through two world wars, all 20 World Cups and all 137 FA Cup tournaments.
The National Football Museum often has seasonal exhibitions that casts it’s eye on a certain piece which draws people back in who have previously attended. This time we planned well, the man under the microscope was none other than one of the game’s greatest, Pele.
With a lot of artwork on the walls of certain goals and games during his long career and even a short film being shown on loop to visitors, everything you wanted to know about the great man was there. The main piece of the section we visited was that of his World Cup shirt, with the infamous Brazil shirt with number ten on the back and World Cup winning medal alongside. We marvelled in its rich and vibrant history, the stitched yellow and green masterpiece that had more or less only been seen previously in black and white and was now staring us in the face. The badge, lacking the five stars we know today and with large green collar is living and breathing the game we love.
We snap photos, giggle like a gaggle of schoolgirls with excitement at the amazing pieces we see. We contemplate if anyone would notice it’s gone missing but decide not to run the risk of serious crime and slope off for one last look around what became our church.
If you are ever around the North-West, or even if you aren’t, make sure you head to the National Football Museum because much like ourselves, you will not be disappointed!
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