The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
I’ve written a post for Pitch Invasion about the association of Bristol Rovers and the old American suicide ballad “Goodnight, Irene.” It’s a kind of parallel history of Bristol Rovers and the American musician Leadbelly, who popularized the song in the 1930s and ’40s before Rovers fans took it as their anthem:
Black Arabs F.C. became Eastville Rovers in 1884, then Eastville Bristol Rovers in the late 1890s. In 1899, under their current name, they joined the Southern League, just in time for the great era of regional league play before the formation of the national Third Division. They were champions in 1905. During Leadbelly’s first serious prison stint, they were suspended for the First World War; they reformed, and joined the Football League as members of the new Third Division, around the time he was released. They stayed afloat during the ’30s, but signed a bad lease on their ground that would cause them trouble for decades, and finished last in the division in 1938-39.
The same year, Leadbelly was back in jail for assault.
by Brian Phillips · February 16, 2008