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The Grudge By Tom English

Release date: 05th March, 2010
Publisher: Yellow Jersey Press

List Price: £12.99
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The Grudge
By Tom English
Yellow Jersey Press

Sportsbookofthemonth.com price: £ 8.59, saving 34% on rrp

Formed in 1874 in an important outpost of Britain's Empire, the Calcutta Football Club went on to produce future English and Scottish international players.

Legend has it that when the club discontinued its 'free bar' policy however, its player numbers dropped substantially and eventually, it was wound up. Its last captain, G.A. James Rothney suggested a cup be made which would keep alive the name of the Calcutta Club. The Calcutta FC agreed to this and wrote to the Rugby Football Union in 1877 who in turn accepted the idea.

Calcutta Football Club's bank account was closed, withdrawing the balance in silver rupees which were melted down and made into a cup, now known as the Calcutta Cup. The inscription on the base reads:

"THE CALCUTTA CUP - PRESENTED TO THE RUGBY FOOTBALL UNION BY THE CALCUTTA FOOTBALL CLUB AS AN INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGE CUP TO BE PLAYED FOR ANNUALLY BY ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND 1878"

Twenty years ago this week, a climactic Calcutta Cup contest took place at Murrayfield, a match laced with enough sub-plots to provide author Tom English with enough material to write a book and create a TV series at the same time.

First, the match was a Grand Slam showdown and, as is so often the case, the Scots, spurred by a partisan crowd - officially singing Flower of Scotland as a national anthem for the first time in the 1990 Five Nations championship - were determined not to allow odds-on favourites England to escape with the title.

Then there were other matters to address. The much-maligned Poll Tax (ironically invented by a Scot) was being 'tested' in Scotland before being rolled out down south. It was deeply unpopular north of the border and the England team were seen as representatives of the authority imposing the tax on Scots. Nonsense, of course, but it did fire the home crowd up; nor were they best pleased to see English supporters arriving in Edinburgh sporting 'England Grand Slam Winners 1990' t-shirts.

Scottish flanker John Jeffrey still maintains that the catalyst to the ill-feeling off the field of play can be traced to a pitched battle that took place between Scottish and English football fans at Hampden Park the previous autumn which led to the world's oldest international fixture being suspended indefinitely.

On the day of the match, Scottish captain David Sole deliberately led his men out slowly, the crowd's cheers rising to a tumultuous crescendo, a ploy designed to make the English know what was coming. Were England affected by this canny psychological play? Who knows. What matters is that Scotland won an epic duel 13-7, so clinching the Grand Slam.

If there were any on-field grudges, they were undoubtedly soon forgotten over a few beers afterwards - let's hope the same is true this weekend when the sides meet again, though there's no chance of a Grand Slam for either.


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