Any good football coach will tell you it’s impossible to have success without your players having a shared and known strategy regarding the positions and formations they take on the pitch during a game. This formational & positional strategy can and will of course change depending on whether you are attacking or defending. Taking positions also enables successful passing and the type of passing your team adopts, short, long, wide, through etc. Modern football is dependent on effective positional play.

So, when did formations start to appear? Well like most things connected with modern football, our earliest sources of teams using formations to gain an advantage during a game was from a Sheffield team playing Leeds in June 1865.

Football outside of Sheffield, especially clubs playing (London) FA rules and not Sheffield rules during the first 20 years of the game typically looked down at passing the ball and using formations. They felt the game should “show off” a player’s dribbling ability and the rest of the team should “back up” the player running with the ball. Early games outside of Sheffield rules looked like rugby with feet rather than the modern passing formation game we have today & which originated in the first city of football, Sheffield.

Why did this happen? Well early Sheffield clubs came predominantly from cricket clubs. In cricket of course you have a captain stood dictating the field and this tactic easily transferred into Sheffield football in its earliest days. Sheffield’s resistance to adopt the stricter offside laws also influenced this early development allowing the ball to be played across the pitch both forwards and backwards.

If it wasn’t for Sheffield’s different approach to how the game was played in its very earliest days, we may still all be chasing the dribbling player to back them up and modern football wouldn’t be the same. Who knows?

Do you have more information about this that we could add? Are any of the facts wrong? Please get in touch if so.

Source: Steve Wood
Translate »