Flying Over An Olive Grove; The Remarkable Life of Fred Spiksley, A Flawed Football Hero


Flying Over An Olive Grove is the first great working-class football story. Born at a unique moment in the history of the beautiful game, Fred Spiksley was amongst a new wave of teenagers who from 1885 onwards could aspire to be a professional footballer and dodge the inevitability of industrial labour. He became the first player to score a hat-trick against Scotland and in 1896 he guided Sheffield Wednesday to FA Cup glory with 4 goals and 8 assists during the cup run. His first goal in the final is considered by some to be the fastest ever goal in FA Cup final history.

At his peak he was the fastest winger in England and possessed total ball control. He was a player with such ability that he was able to take his club and country to the pinnacle of football during an era where his slender frame did not suit the rough treatment that was often meted out to him. With Fred Spiksley on the field no match was ever lost.  Even with two broken ribs, he had the pluck and tenacity to remain on the field and score the winning goal in an epic FA Cup tie at Olive Grove, the ground where he made his name; 'the Olive Grove Flyer'. He scored over 300 career goals and won every major honour in the game, and holds the record for the highest goals-to-game ratio of any winger in the history of English football. His fame extended around the World as he became the first professional footballer to coach across three continents. In Europe he managed the Swedish national team and guided 1FC Nuremberg to the German Championship in 1927.

Football presented Fred Spiksley, a small lad from the backstreets of Lincolnshire, with a lifetime of adventure. He would be chased along the touchline by the future Queen of England, share the stage with Charlie Chaplin and in 1914 escape from a German prison. An addicted gambler and self confessed womaniser, Fred Spiksley’s character meant that he was not always the hero off the pitch that he was on it. Flying Over An Olive Grove brings Fred Spiksley’s remarkable but long forgotten story to a new audience and contains a superb collection of images, including the earliest known photograph of an international goal being scored.

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Mark Metcalf is a football author with a passion for books on the formative years of the game. He has written books on Charlie Hurley, Stan Anderson, Frank Swift, the 1960 FA Cup, the First League season 1888/89, Everton 1890/91, Bury 1900/03, Manchester United 1907/11, Barnsley 1910/12, Sunderland 1912/13 and 1935/37, England's top scorers and the rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United. Mark also works as a freelance journalist, particularly for the Big Issue North magazine and the publications of Unite the union. Mark has previously worked with the Manchester United Disabled Supporters Association on two books charting their achievements. In 2013 Mark, with the assistance of his friend Robert Boyling, ended the 125 year mystery on who scored the first League goal on 8 September 1888. Mark has travelled the world watching football and remains a Sunderland fan with a fondness also for Halifax Town, Bradford Park Avenue and Brighouse Town.

Clive Nicholson was born in 1981 and is a member of the Spiksley family. After graduating from Kingston University in 2003 with a BA (hons) in Illustration. Clive subsequently trained to become an art and design teacher and has worked at Archbishop Holgate's School in York for eleven years. He now lives near Leeds with his partner Karen and their two children Megan and Freddie. This book represents over two decades of research that Clive undertook with his father; Ralph.

Ralph Nicholson was born in 1950 and grew up in Newark-on-Trent. After leaving school at the age of eighteen he embarked on a successful career at Barclays Bank that was to last over 35 years. When not researching the life of Fred Spiksley he is often found volunteering in a small Staffordshire village, where he lives with his wife Lynda.

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