The seaside town of Redcar is best known for its beaches, racecourse and delicious lemon top ice creams – but rather less celebrated is its rich and fascinating football history.
A fairytale run to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, a player whose tireless campaigning changed the rules of the beautiful game and possibly the first ever goal scored with an overhead kick are among the stories that have been lost in the mists of time. Lost until now that is.
A new book, The Famous Yorkshiremen, written by Tom Neal, who was raised and lived in the town for more than twenty years, chronicles the history of football in Redcar from its beginnings in 1878 to the present day.
It tells the tales of the teams and characters who made their mark on and off the pitch and features personal insights from many of those who made the headlines, including four who spoke to Tom exclusively for the book.
The Famous Yorkshiremen – the choice of title becomes clear in the book – begins by exploring how Redcar’s tussles with Middlesbrough was the catalyst for football exploding as a spectator sport on Teesside, which led to Redcar becoming ‘the best club in the district, bar none’.
It charts the highs and lows of football in the region from then on, from a historic FA Cup run to finally reaching the Northern League and breaking records in the Teesside League. Coach crashes, disbanded clubs and disagreements with the council are all in there too.
Tom’s book also features over seventy photographs, some of which haven’t been published for over 100 years, and others which have never been published. It brings to light fascinating stories about teams and players from the town, and adds new details and context to the few stories already told.
Writing and researching the book has been a labour of love for dad of two Tom, 32, who works as a programme planner for TV channel Eurosport and is a lifelong fan of non-league and grassroots football.
“It started when I was writing a column in Redcar Athletic’s matchday programme on the history of football in the town,” explains Tom, who went to John E. Batty and Rye Hills schools in the town. “But the season was curtailed due to Covid with only a handful of the articles having gone to print, so I wanted to make sure all of my hard work didn’t go to waste!”
To research the book, Tom visited multiple libraries, trawled the internet and spoke to players, coaches and management (past and present), authors, historians, journalists, museum curators, fans, family members of former players, vicars (yes, really), alumni associations, cricket clubs, collectors and auctioneers over the course of nearly two years to put it all together.
“It’s been hard work,” he adds, “but I’ve loved every minute of it. I’ve discovered some amazingly interesting stories and some remarkable people.”
The book, which would make an ideal Christmas present for football fans in Teesside and beyond, is available to pre-order now at: www.redcarfootball.com