From its late-Victorian flowering in the mill towns of the northwest of England, football spread around the world with great speed. It was helped on its way by a series of missionaries who showed the rest of the planet the simple joys of the game. Even now, in many countries, the colloquial word for a football manager is not ‘coach’ or ‘boss’ but ‘mister’, as that is how the early teachers were known, because they had come from the home of the sport to help it develop in new territories.
In Rory Smith’s stunning new book Mister, he looks at the stories of these pioneers of the game, men who left this country to take football across the globe. Sometimes, they had been spurned in their own land, as coaching was often frowned upon in England in those days, when players were starved of the ball during the week to make them hungry for it on matchday. So it was that the inspirations behind the ‘Mighty Magyars’ of the 1950s, the Dutch of the 1970s or top clubs such as Barcelona came from these shores.
England, without realising it, fired the very revolution that would remove its crown, changing football’s history, thanks to a handful of men who sowed the seeds of the inversion of football’s natural order. This is the story of the men who taught the world to play and shaped its destiny. This is the story of the Misters.