Martin Westby

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Martin Westby, who was born in Sheffield, was a tremendous football enthusiast who has made a huge contribution to the history of football in Sheffield. He is the author of “A History of Sheffield Football from 1857 to 1889” and “England’s Oldest Football Clubs 1815 to 1889”.

Martin, who supported Sheffield United, was also a founder of the Sheffield Home of Football (SHOF) campaign and designed a Sheffield Home of Football walking-tour app in 2017 which mapped areas in the city where football was developed. It has been downloaded thousands of times from users around the world.

In his book “A History of Sheffield Football from 1857 to 1889” he provides a comprehensive review of the Sheffield football scene from 1793 until 1889, using research, some of which has never before been seen in the public domain.

The book analyses all ninety-five clubs that existed during the period when Sheffield led the world of Association football and was a critical factor in the formulation of today’s world-wide rules and regulations. This book first came out in 2017 and quickly sold out which gave the opportunity to fully revise and update the book throughout in 2018. The second edition has 28 extra pages, 20 new images and a new fold out map. New chapters were added celebrating the 160th anniversary of the 1858 Sheffield Rules and the argument why Sheffield can legitimately call itself the ‘Home of Football’.

As well as examining early Sheffield football this book also features other local clubs’ early histories from the surrounding area; Leeds, Bradford, Chesterfield Rotherham, Rawmarsh, Staveley, Elsecar, Mexborough, Worksop, Barnsley, Eckington and Doncaster. This book is not just for South Yorkshire and Derbyshire football fans, it is for anyone with an interest in how Association football first started and then evolved. With this book, Martin achieved his goal of focussing attention on the importance of Sheffield to the story of Association Football and kick-started the ‘Sheffield Home of Football’ movement’.

You can purchase Martin’s books at www.englandsoldestfootballclubs.com or www.soccerbilia.co.uk Martin discovered the long-lost Sheffield and Hallamshire FA County Cup for sale on eBay which had been missing for 20 years! He purchased this cup so that it could then be returned to Sheffield and Hallamshire Football Association. (See Martin pictured with this historical football cup.)

Sadly, Martin died on 24 September 2020 aged 63 after being diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma in March 2019. Here is a selection of the many tributes paid to him by his family, his many friends in the football world and colleagues at Sheffield Home Of Football.

David Westby, Martin’s older brother, said: “He was an amazing guy, his sense of humour was completely unique. He was always very generous with his time and his money with family and friends. Blades legend Tony Currie sent a video wishing him well when he learned of his condition; the pair had met on several occasions. Tony said some very kind words and was very sympathetic.”

Dr John Wilson, who worked with Martin on the SHOF campaign, said: “He was a really nice, friendly and supporting guy. He wrote the most comprehensive book about Sheffield football.”

Councillor Anne Murphy, a SHOF trustee, added: “It was Martin who instigated the campaign by writing his books.”

A spokesperson for Sheffield FC, the oldest football club in the world, said: “Everyone at Sheffield FC is devastated to hear this news. Martin’s work promoting Sheffield as the Home of Football was tireless and his books should be read by all lovers of football history.”

The Society for American Soccer History wrote on Twitter: “Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Martin Westby, who left us all such a remarkable body of scholarship for which we shall always be grateful. RIP, Martin.”

Alan Biggs tweeted: “This is a terrible shock and loss. I’d come to know Martin well as a tremendous football enthusiast who worked tirelessly for the Sheffield Home of Football project. As an author, too, he was determined to champion the city’s history and heritage.”

Martin also ran the Soccerbilia website dedicated to British football magazines. Greg Lansdowne, author of ‘Stuck On You’, the history of football stickers in the UK, said Martin’s Soccerbilia website “is by far and away the best resource for historical UK football magazines around. On top of his other fine research into football, he leaves an outstanding legacy.”

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

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