> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > The Football Match

The Football Match

[ Roud 1291 ; Ballad Index Wt223 ; Wiltshire 108 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd sang The Football Match in c. 1958 on the Riverside LP Champions and Sporting Blades; this track was also included in 1998 on the Topic CD Bold Sportsmen All. He noted:

This exciting song has more to it than meets the eye. It is no ordinary game when players are lightheartedly stabbed with penknives. Probably the song describes one of those rough saturnalian sports once common in England on Shrove Tuesday. In a few places it is still the custom, on that day, for the rough lads of rival villages to chase a ball across the countryside and through the streets, regardless of hacked shins, bloody noses, broken heads and shattered windows. This version comes from the Pillinger family of Swindon, Wiltshire.

Dave and Toni Arthur sang The Football Match in 1967 on their Transatlantic album Morning Stands on Tiptoe. They noted:

Now that the Lenten Fast has lost a lot of its significance, the festive importance of Shrove Tuesday has equally declined. Shrove Tuesday used to be the last opportunity for having a good time before Lent began; it used to be a general holiday devoted to Cockfighting, wrestling and football. Street football can still be seen on Shrove Tuesday at such places as Ashbourne, Atherstone and Sedgefield where this year (1967) the ball was run over and crushed by a Stockton-bound lorry. The game described here in the song could well have been ritualistic, because the players described in the version printed in A. Williams’ Folk Songs of the Upper Thames were given caps and ribbons, after the fashion of Morris Dancers, at the commencement of the game. The song has been rewritten by A.L. Lloyd with twenty two players replacing the six in the original version. A.L. Lloyd also wrote the tune used here.

Mick Ryan and Dave Burland sang The Football Match in 1978 on Ryan’s and Jon Burge’s Transatlantic / Leader Tradition album Fair Was the City.

The Pack sang The Football Match in 2001 on their CD 12 Little Devils. They noted:

The Football Match is a traditional song (we’ve adapted slightly) that Sophy and Emily [Ball]’s dad, Dave, found in Folk-Songs of the Upper Thames (1923). It was collected by Alfred Williams from Mr Pillinger in 1840.


A.L. Lloyd sings The Football Match

It’s of a football match, most delightful to be seen,
Of twenty-two young rippling lads who played on Salisbury Plain.
Oh, the ribbons and the favours they was fluttering on’er the plain;
Here’s a health unto those rippling lads, and so the game went on.

Chorus (after each verse):
You rippling lads, hooray!
You’re sure to win the day,
And the prize, you will carry it
All away, all away.

The ball it has been thrown up and the game it did begin;
My God, how they did kick it, more like devils than like men.
They’re having such a motion in rushing the ball along,
Here’s a health unto those rippling lads, and so the game went on.

The ball it being booted up, the goal it did draw nigh,
Young Williams stuck a penknife into young Jackson’s thigh.
He lashed out at the lively ball, to score was his intent,
Young Williams missed his aim, he did, and through the goal he went.