IT is impossible to write about Wirral author Peter Lupson's wonderful new book the aptly named Thank God for FOOTBALL! without focussing first on the sad circumstances that steered him towards a seven year project that clearly became a labour of love . . .

Back in 1994, Peter, who lives in Pensby with his wife, Evelyn the couple have two children, Mike, a police officer in Manchester, and Karen, a Slimming World area manager ran Longcroft FC, a church football team based in Barnston and the following year he founded the Merseyside Inter-Church 150 League, which still flourishes today.

"The boys who played for Longcroft FC at the time were all about 13 years of age," he recalled. "I learned that they were being ridiculed by other boys for being members of a church football team and playing in a church league. They were embarrassed and a lot of them, and otherS, were discouraged from playing for us."

Having been a youth scout for Premiership club Wigan Athletic, Peter decided to give his young players some street cred'. Using his contacts in the game, he arranged members of the coaching staff from Liverpool and Wigan Athletic to supervise special training sessions.

Tranmere Rovers goalkeeper John Achterberg and other Prenton Park players gave their support and even the then chairman of the Football Association, Geoff Thompson, sent a letter of encouragement to the youngsters.

The ingenius plan - simple in its simplicity paid handsome dividends. "Soon some of the best players in the area wanted to join our club," said Peter. "We started to attract good players who were no longer embarrassed to join us."

In setting up the Merseyside Inter-Church 150 League so called because, in the interests of fairness, each team was to have a combined age not exceeding 150 years Peter discovered that Merseyside Premier League club Everton owed its origins to local church St Domingo's . . . and that triggered seven years of painstaking research that was to take him all over the UK, including Lambeth Palace, the London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, in pursuit of a priceless series of factual stories that comprise Thank God for FOOTBALL!' The book pieces together in meticulous but highly entertaining detail how 12 of the 38 clubs that have played in the FA Premier League since its inception in the 1992-93 season can trace their origin directly to a church.

Yet many of these 12 Aston Villa, Barnsley, Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers, Everton and its offspring, Liverpool, Fulham, Manchester City, Queen's Park Rangers, Southampton, Swindon Town and Tottenham Hospur know little about their historic origins or founders. Indeed, such was the attention that Peter paid to detail that he was able to show one Premier League club, Fulham FC, that it had wrongly been attributing its existence to two founders instead of one!

The informative yet entertaining book is a rich tapestry of social history with one indisputable underlying theme that enlightened men of the cloth were not afraid to use sport to reach out to the often impoverished community they served.

Peter takes us back to the very beginning of football, to the days when the most popular sports in Britain were cricket and rugby. Indeed, many football clubs, as the book shows, sprung up as part of a cricket environment, to keep lovers of the Summer game fit during the Winter months.

As the game grew in popularity throughout the country, Associated Football was born and with it came a new word for football . . . soccer, an abbreviation spun out of the world AsSOCiation. In those days, it was fashionable to call rugby rugger' and so football became soccer.

From almost the very first page, the book is brought to life with refreshing accounts of the likes of the delightfully named Tiverton Preedy, the vicar who founded what was to become Barnsley FC; the Rev Peregrine Propert, a former Cambridge Blue and one of the top oarsmen of his generation and who played an important role in the emergence of Fulham FC; and Arthur Connell, a clergyman who trained for the Anglican ministry at St Aidan's Theological College, Birkenhead, and who played a significant part in the story of Manchester City FC.

Most football fans know that Liverpool FC came about because of a parting of the ways with Everton FC. But what brought about that splinter? The book explains in detail and it is a fascinating tale . . .

It speaks volumes for the book and its Wirral author that the foreword is written by the Voice of Football', BBC-TV commentator John Motson, who concedes that very little is known about the founders of these famous clubs or their church origin.

"This book sets the record straight . . . Peter Lupson has been able to bring these pioneers to life and transport us back to the time in which they lived. Their remarkable contribution to our great national game has at last been given the recognition it deserves. We have good reason to thank God for them."

The book is to be officially launched at the FA's London headquarters next Wednesday (July 19) in the presence of, among other distinguished guests, Geoff Thompson, current chairman of the FA, and Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

Thank God for FOOTBALL', published by Azure (ISBN 1902694309), costs £9.99 and is available at all good bookshops.