With a creak of twisted metal and a duck under a jagged edge, we’re in. Weeds have grown now, vines climb the ancient grandstand where once there was naught but grey concrete, and a family of sparrows have made their nest underneath one rusted goalpost. The term faded glory is used anywhere that hasn’t won a league title in more than ten years, but if there was ever any glory in this place, you’d be hard pressed to find even the faintest hint of it now. Difficult as it may seem, for a few years this ground made Sheffield the metaphorical, and possibly literal, centre of the footballing universe. It’s not Bramall Lane, and it certainly isn’t Hillsborough. It is, of course, Goodwin Sports Centre.
The site of the famed University of Sheffield intra-mural league system, for a few years Goodwin was home to the biggest names in football: Hispanics and their fiercest rivals Gibraltar Society, Law FC, the Engineering teams in their many guises and the best of them all, Dyslexics Untied. It was here that thousands gathered to watch and millions more gathered around TVs and radios to hear of their idols, including Hall of Famers (embarrassingly) Bill McGrail and Moo Stringer, as well as the many other players who made up these great teams. Never can there have been such a collection of talent in such a small area.
But greatness can not be understood in and of itself, it must be placed in wider sporting context, and to get a feel of just how important Dyslexics Untied and the rest were we need to travel back to the summer of 2009.
Now widely recognised as football’s Annus Horriblis, there can rarely have been such a widespread malaise across the game as appeared at the end of the 2008/09 season, where everything just seemed to go wrong. Pep Guardiola was lured to Qatar by the petrodollar, and his promising Barcelona team scattered to the four corners of the Earth. The Premier League (Where Dreams Are Made) was collapsing under the weight of Eurozone-esque debt, Serie A had been cancelled until further notice after a spate of matches that had not been fixed according to Juventus’ liking, and Scottish football was, well, Scottish football. Football fans across the world were yearning for something real, something that wasn’t shit. And in one small corner of Sheffield, one team answered that call.
There are as many rumours regarding the founding of Dyslexics Untied Football Club as there are people to make them up. Fortunately I managed to catch up with founding member and former chairman Chris Lilley, now a loathsome corporate sell-out operating from a fortified penthouse on top of Canary Wharf (for legal reasons, he is no longer allowed to set foot on the ground floor of any UK building). He remembers:
“Well, it wasn’t normal certainly. That stuff about the hostage situation on top of the Arts Tower with the penguins and the Latvian beach volleyball team? All true. That stuff about a few guys deciding to set up a football team? Less so”
Luckily, historians can at least agree on the etymology of this most famous of sporting names. Dyslexics is a (hilariously) deliberate misspelling of the Latin “Dux”, or “leader”. The origins of the Untied part of the name are slightly more obscure, but probably refer to the freedom inherent in this most noble of teams, or perhaps their famous aversion to S+M. Obviously Football Club refers to the famous Victorian practice of clubbing the balls of one’s feet before dinner, and barely warrants mentioning here.
However they came to be, the records are clear in showing Dyslexics’ first official match as taking place on the 13th of October 2009 against My Face 2, ending in a 6-0 victory. Their first goalscorer is recorded as being A Harris, although clearly this is a misprint, as the famous Sheffield Balding Eagle, known locally as the Harris, lacked the opposable thumbs required to take throw ins and would have been completely at sea on the football pitch. Whatever the truth of the matter, the winged predator went on to score another, adding to a brace from Mark Lees, a Ben Milligan strike and an Own Goal (probably assisted by Chris).
No-one would know it then, but history was being born, the way football happened had been changed forever. But Dyslexics were just getting started.
In Part 2: Dyslexics beat Carrisbrook Wanderers, and maybe lose a match after that, I can’t remember the order of our results.