Alex Gibb with one of the caps presented to his family to mark the involvement of his father and grandfather in Socceroos history.
Alex Gibb with one of the caps presented to his family to mark the involvement of his father and grandfather in Socceroos history. Rob Williams

Ipswich's rich Socceroos history

IPSWICH'S contribution to the history of Australian football will be in the spotlight tonight when The Encyclopedia of Socceroos is launched at the North Ipswich Reserve.

Author Andrew Howe will be joined by former Socceroo striker and coach Frank Farina for the Queensland launch at the conference centre.

Howe said Ipswich was chosen to launch the encyclopedia due to the number of Socceroos from the city.

"By birthplace, Ipswich has the largest proportion of Socceroos per head of population," Howe said.

"There is so much top-level football history and tradition in the region."

A total of 21 Socceroos were born or developed in Ipswich, from inaugural captain Alex Gibb to former Coalstars junior and current Perth Glory midfielder Neil Kilkenny.

A further 12 Ipswich footballers played for Australia against top international clubs or regional representative sides in what became known as non-A or B internationals.

B internationals made up the majority of games played before 1960, which meant a player such as Graham Nunn is only credited with 11 Socceroo caps despite playing 52 time for Australia.

In all, Ipswich provided 33 of the 910 Australian players who have pulled on the national shirt.


Bob Lawrie. Photo: Contributed
Bob Lawrie. Contributed

Howe, a population statistician rather than a social historian, is reluctant to dwell on the reasons for Ipswich's emergence as a football hotspot, except to point to migration in the 1880s.

"The coal mines of the mid-1800s to the 1920s seem to be a key, initially attracting migrants, especially from Britain, who also had a love for the game," Howe said.

"The strong soccer clubs that developed in the late 1800s and turn of the 20th century laid good foundations for the following couple of generations."

Howe is far happier to talk about the 596 Socceroos and 314 non 'A' internationals, which he has showcased in his encyclopedia.

Former Socceroo captain and Bundamba Rangers defender Bob Lawrie, for instance, had the longest Australia career, spanning 14 years and 31 days, until Tony Vidmar in 2005.

For his part, Nunn's 52 games effort was the third highest for the national team before the rate of games increased after 1970.

The evening will also celebrate Socceroos from throughout Queensland.

All parts of the state have contributed to the Socceroos, from Cairns-raised Farina, out west to Cloncurry (Kasey Wehrmann) and Cunnumulla (Stete Kokoska), and down to the Gold Coast (Tommy Oar).

Tonight's catered launch is presented by Fair Play Publishing and is being held in conjunction with Western Pride FC at North Ipswich Reserve Conference Centre from 5.30pm.

The evening is open to all.

Entry is free but bookings are essential for catering. Bookings can be made on website of Fair Play Publishing.

Great stories come from finding passion in game

THE man behind The Encyclopedia of Socceroos was a surprisingly late convert to football.

Andrew Howe was 19 when he went to Lambert Park in inner Sydney to watch APIA Leichhardt take on Marconi in the old National Soccer League.

Howe, who grew up a rugby league fan in the suburban sprawl of the Sutherland Shire, was struck by the passionate fans cheering on two teams he had barely heard of.

Little did he know that day was the start of a 30 year journey towards the publication of the Encyclopedia.

"Soon after I fell in love with the game in Australia, I wanted to know more about the game and its history - the teams, the players, the fans," Howe said.

"There was not much out there, so I basically set about collecting whatever stats I could about football in Australia.

"As I was collecting the stats on the players, I was collecting their stories."

A few years later Howe started to think more about what to do with the stories he collected.

"An encyclopedia format was one way I thought I'd like my work to be shown," Howe said. "The Encyclopedia provides a brief story on every A international player in words and numbers."

Howe's work soon brought him to the attention of what is now the FFA who recognise his stats as the official record for Australian football.

Howe also writes the annual media guide for the Hyundai A-League and is often consulted by broadcasters the competition's broadcasters Fox Sports.

Add in presentations and an enthusiastic Twitter where Howe often drops facts and trivia during games, it's hard to see where he fits in his real work as a population demographer.

"It's basically a labour of love, as an Australian statistician and passionate football fan," Howe said.