By Mark McConville
STRIKING early images of British football have been brought back to life after being expertly colourised.
The stunning shots show the 1910-1911 champions Manchester United posing with the League trophy, England playing Scotland at Goodison Park in 1911 and Aston Villa posing in their famous claret and blue strips in 1892.
Other incredible photographs show Hibs playing Hearts in the 1896 Scottish Cup final, the gold-medal-winning Great Britain football team at the 1912 Olympics and the captains of Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur watching the coin toss with the referee before a 1912 match.
The retro pictures were painstakingly colourised by retiree George Chilvers (65), from Liverpool but now living in Wigan.
“I have always loved football and history, and when I looked at old photos I tried to imagine what it would be like to actually be there,” he said.
“I even used to colour in pictures in magazines with coloured pencils. As the technology has grown to enable digital colourisation it was almost inevitable that I’d give it a go.
“You will hopefully see what the people of the time saw. Instead of grey or sepia images we can see things through their eyes. We can often see detail that disappears in monochrome images.
“It is so easy to look at old pictures and not engage with the people in them. They are grey or sepia two-dimensional faces peering back. By adding colour they become alive again. You can even pick up bits of character.”
Some of Mr Chilver’s other colourised pictures show women’s football flourishing in England in the early twentieth century.
The women are pictured playing at Upton Park in 1918 after the ladies’ football developed a wide following when the men were serving at the front.
Women’s football continued to be popular and the Dick, Kerr Ladies are pictured in the 1920s shortly before the FA banned women’s football from being played at league grounds.
Mr Chilvers explained how colourising photographs works and the problems he ran into with this particular set.
“Colourising basically adds layers of transparent colour over areas of an image, so that the tones shine through but with colour marking out the different areas, whether that’s grass, the players’ shirts, the skin, or whatever,” he said.
“Things that may appear to be similar tones of grey come to life with colour added, almost in three dimensions.
“There is also a lot of research to be done before starting work. Team colours obviously, but if there are crowd scenes then clothing colours are there to be researched for the time.
“Many matches had significant numbers of women attending, and we have the opportunity of adding spot colour in, but it has to be of the time.
“Even weather conditions can alter things; a rain-soaked shirt is darker than a dry one, grass in the Winter is differently coloured to the start of the season and so on.”