Thank God For Football!

PUBLISHED: 18:18 08 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:20 04 May 2010

Historian Peter Lupson

Historian Peter Lupson

A SOHAM Grammarian and ex-Ely man has persuaded top Premiership clubs to dig deep into their pockets after publishing a best-selling book on the Christian origins of English league football. Thank God for Football, by Peter Lupson, charts the foundation

A SOHAM Grammarian and ex-Ely man has persuaded top Premiership clubs to dig deep into their pockets after publishing a best-selling book on the Christian origins of English league football.

Thank God for Football, by Peter Lupson, charts the foundation of clubs such as Bolton Wanderers, Spurs and Everton by churchmen intent on giving poor young boys a chance in life. Its publication prompted the chief executive of Tottenham Hotspur to grant the club's founder a proper headstone on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the club. Bible teacher John Ripsher was found by Peter Lupson to be languishing in a pauper's grave in Dover. After founding Tottenham Hotspur in 1907, Ripsher ended up in the workhouse and died penniless, aged just 67.

Mr Lupson, himself a Norwich City supporter, has even managed to bring together two great football rivals, Everton and Liverpool. The chairmen and chief executive of the clubs are both supporting the restoration of the footballing vicar Reverend Ben Swift Chambers' grave after Mr Lupson discovered his resting place in the Pennines whilst researching the book. Other clubs whose founders were Christians include Bolton Wanderers, Swindon Town, Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City.

In his early years, Mr Lupson was more of an active footballer than a football historian. He lived at St Ovin's Green in Ely and played matches for Ely City FC with his brother Gordon. After university in Bangor, he then became a teacher on Merseyside and had a Eureka moment while coaching a church youth league on the Wirral in 1995. "They were getting teased for being religious, but when I told them that Spurs and some of the other top clubs had been founded by churchmen, they had something to go back and tell them," said Mr Lupson, whose sister Yvonne Bartram still lives in East Cambridgeshire. Eleven years of painstaking research ensued.

Mr Lupson's book, with a foreword by the legendary John Motson, reminds us all that in the modern footballing age, wealthy premiership clubs needed to be reminded of their origins in poverty and religion. Who better to do so than an eminent football historian, and more to the point, a son of Ely.

INFO: Thank God for Football, published by Azure, is available from all good bookshops, priced £9.99. The National Museum of Football will host an exhibition based on Thank God for Football in 2009.

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