Worksop’s Olympic champion turned career criminal

It’s the 2024 Olympics in Paris this summer.

But did you know that it was in Paris 124 years ago that a 21-year-old Worksop man captained the first team to become Olympic football champions.

Henry North Haslam was an amateur footballer who was selected to lead Upton Park FC, the team representing Great Britain at the Paris Olympics in 1900. It was at this event that football was first included in the sporting line up.

The Brits beat the French team 4-0 at the Veledrome de Vincennes to become the first winners of an Olympic football tournament. Haslam, as captain, was reported to have been the first to have been awarded a gold medal for football.

Great Britain vs France, September 1900 at Veledrome de Vincennes

But after such a history-making high, the former public schoolboy’s life began a downward spiral and he found himself imprisoned twice.

Born in Worksop in 1879, Henry was the first and only son of Joel Haslam who was the estate manager for the Duke of Newcastle’s Newark and Nottinghamshire estates.

Throughout his childhood, Henry became a well-rounded sportsman, playing football, hockey and cricket for Worksop. He was said to have once bowled out former Arsenal manager, Herbert Chapman, at a game at Kiveton.

The duke had a keen interest in sport and was a benefactor of Worksop Cricket Club, at which Henry was a player.

At 16, Henry went away to study at Uppingham School in Rutland, financed by the duke. After a year at Uppingham, Henry then boarded at Eton House in Tonbridge, a military and university prep college, between 1896 and 1899.

It was while down south that Henry began mixing within the amateur football club circles. Amateurs could pick and choose which clubs to play for, and he played for several including Tonbridge, Tonbridge Wells, Barnet and West Norwood. He also continued to play for Worksop Town when he came back home to visit family.

It was thanks to another Worksop Town player that Haslam found himself on the team sheet with Upton Park.

Upton Park FC, football champions at the 1900 Paris Olympics

Upton Park had been a famous Victorian team based in London’s then-wealthy East End, made up of ex public schoolboys. In the 1870s, they were responsible for proposing two of the most important rule changes in the history of association football: abolishing all handling of the ball, and creating the position of goalkeeper.

The club had folded in 1887 but was reformed in 1891 with James H Jones at the helm as secretary and goalkeeper. Jones, the grandson of printer and stationer Samuel Jones, used his business links to recruit players to the Upton Park mark two team.

Through the printing industry he knew the Sissons family, who were printers and stationers up north in Worksop. Sissons’ and Haslam’s fathers were also business associates; Sissons printed for the Duke of Newcastle.

The Sissons lad, Henry Peter junior, played as an amateur for Clapton FC and Ilford FC but also made a couple of tours with Upton Park. The two Henry’s were also both on the committee at Worksop Town FC.

Upton Park did many international tours under Jones’ leadership. The FA offered the club the opportunity to play in Paris at the inaugural Olympic Games football tournament, which coincided with their European tour in 1900.

Originally there were four matches scheduled. The home nation would play in all four, taking on teams from Belgium, Britain, Germany and Switzerland. However, the latter two countries did not send teams, so only two matches went ahead. Team GB took home gold, France silver and Belgium bronze.

Following the Olympics, Haslam appears to have had a shotgun wedding to a farmer’s daughter in 1904. Their son, Joel, was born shortly after, with daughter Margaret born four years later.

Haslam was a clerk for a Sheffield solicitor before enlisting as a reservist in the war with the West Yorkshire Infantry until 1920. After the war, he fell on hard times and found himself out of work and trying to live off the allowance he received from his father’s estate.

He found employment as a clerk in a Sheffield steelworks but then ended up on the wrong side of the law. He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour for shop-breaking and entering in 1926, and then imprisoned again in 1937 for four counts of theft. He died in 1942 aged 63.