LaticsPete

Book Reviews

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I've been reviewing some football books over the last months for Programme Monthly - http://www.programmemonthly.com/ -and , whilst all discerning readers will subscribe to this magazine, there may be a few people who don't...

Anyway I thought it might be of interest to share some of the reviews with OWTB. And others can contribute too please.

Here's the first

 

The Origins of the Football League : The First Season 1888/89

By Mark Metcalf

 

Whilst military success may have been forged on the playing fields of Eton, professional football was built in the industrial North and Midlands. And it was the Royal Hotel, Manchester, that twelve pioneers held their meetings to formalise the idea of, and fixtures for, the Football League. Though the name wasn’t the preferred choice of William McGregor, the Aston Villa man who was behind the scheme. If he’d had his way we’d now be listening for results of Football Union clubs.

Eleven of the founding clubs are still playing (only Accrington left the League in 1893, a different club to Stanley), probably a testament to the wisdom behind the selection, partially self-selection, of the inaugural line up. Would disappointed applicants Halliwell, who claimed to be the “second best club in Lancashire”, have fared so well?

Drawing on contemporary accounts the book has a report on every match played in that first season, and the context of the game well described. Pitches often didn’t have markings, fouls had to be appealed for, and equipment rudimentary. But the first season helped define much of the later development of the game. Kick offs on a Saturday mid-afternoon were focussed on that being when industrial workers were more likely to be free, and railway companies realised that special trains catering for supporters made money. A total attendance of 602,000, at an average of 4,560, was achieved in 1888/9, building a foundation for a growth to over 5 million in 1905/6.

For the first time there was a real competitive environment for players and supporters, a real break with the past. It wasn’t totally smooth, away teams often turned up late after delays on trains – including for the very first match Bolton v Derby, the game in which Bolton’s Kenny Davenport scored the first ever FL goal at 3.47pm on Sept 8 1888. The absence of goal nets caused controversies, and it wasn’t until 1891 that they were trialled. Another source of controversy was the occasional disappearance of players, who then turned out for other clubs outside the Football League, presumably for generous payments, or who had simply missed train connections!

Every player who participated in that first season is chronicled, from the “one game wonders” to stalwarts who had long careers and international honours. Mordecai Sherwin played just once for Notts County, a goalkeeper who was 17st and just 5’ 9”, and also a Test cricketer, whilst Billy Bassett of West Brom had a career spanning 311 games, three FA Cup Finals, became coach, director and chairman of WBA, and an England selector.

Mark Metcalf has pulled together a fascinating and valuable story of the Football League. It’s a book that is very well illustrated, full of nuggets of information and insight, and deserves a place in any list of significant contributions to the history of the game.

Edited by LaticsPete
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“Greatest Games – Wolves – Old Gold” by John Hendley, published by Pitch Publishing, price £16.99

 

Wolverhampton Wanderers will have an appeal to and appreciation amongst supporters of a certain age no matter what their affiliation (probably apart from Baggies). The 1950s and early 1960s was period when the club was synonymous with pioneering matches against top overseas teams such as Honved, Real Madrid and Moscow Spartak using the glamour of floodlights, international players like Peter Broadbent, Ron Flowers, Bert Williams, and Billy Wright, and the unique “Old Gold” shirts. Even the name of their ground, Molineux, had something distinctive about it.

Yet “Greatest Games” is a “safe” book, that didn’t excite the sympathetic but not committed to Wolves football supporting reader I am. It’s bound to appeal to the club’s own supporters, but I’d be surprised if it thrilled them or gave the tingle of excitement that their team used to. Right from the title it’s played safe. “Greatest “games but, according to the author, not “the greatest”. I’m still trying to get my head around that. Surely an absolute is just that? It almost seemed a cop-out and I’d have been so much more pleased with a swashbuckling, bold statement from him backing up his selection of the 100 games he included. After all John Hendley, as club historian and programme editor must be the absolute fount of all things Old Gold. So some more swagger as in the old days of his team wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Selection of matches is always challenging (whether it’s greatest or the greatest) although with 100 there’s less chance of upsetting people. Given that 99 of them are Wolves victories there’s a sense of disbelief that the club very rarely played in outstanding matches where they didn’t win. Each game, and they cover a period from 1888 to 2011 (although just seven are pre 1946) , is given some scene-setting and then a report along with team line ups etc. The book has a section of photographs too.

It’s obviously been diligently compiled yet doesn’t do justice to the drama that Wolves have experienced. I wanted to experience the emotion of losing a great game, or how the rest of the football world viewed Wolves achievements, but didn’t get that It will undoubtedly appear on the bookshelves of Wolves supporters but will it excite them or arouse great debate? I don’t think it will.

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Shankly - The Lost Diary : published by Sport Media

 

It’s often said that the past is another country. They do things differently there. The football world of 1961/2 would certainly be viewed with some incredulity by those who have been brought up in more recent times.

Grounds (that’s what stadiums or stadia were called younger reader), transfers, wages, stlyes of play, training and much more were of a different ilk. So too was the pecking order of teams. Yes, some of remained at or near the top or bottom of the four divisions, but not all. With just a month of the season to go, the top five in the old Div 2 included Scunthorope, Leyton Orient, Plymouth and….Liverpool. It was the beginning of a period of Liverpool success that is forever known as the “Shankly Years”. The foundations of that English and European excellence were laid by Shanks, appointed manager at Anfield in December 1959.

In the summer of 1962, having secured promotion, he wrote a series of articles for the Liverpool Post describing the previous season, the thinking behind how he prepared for individual matches, the stories behind the recruitment of players, and much more about his way of delivering success. The seemingly simpler days of football may not have been full of agents, wall-to-wall tv, and 24 hour rolling news, but the pressures and expectations on managers were still there and Shankly describes in his straightforward, direct manner how he dealt with them

Whilst modern managers may wait until they’ve retired before they give their views on players, these articles , brought together in this book, were written almost contemporaneously, and include Shankly’s personal notes on player performances. Ironically for someone who is regarded as one of the country’s football greats, he was almost in awe of some of his players. Yeats – “a giant”, Milne – “flawless” , and never underestimated the power that a football club held in the community . he talks of “the tremendous importance of Liverpool FC to our supporters and our responsibility to them” and there’s a constant theme of his recognition of football not being a business but a representation of the hopes and dreams of local people.

Shankly wrote as he spoke. With obvious love for the game, and with grace about others. His magnanimity was not false nor cringe worthy; it came from respect for the hard work and application of other football folk. And these collected pieces of his show how he created something that was not just Liverpool, but a model of a club that others have envied and attemped to imitate. Success on the pitch, yes, but also an internal community , the bootroom succession of continuity and of enduring values and an approach that lasted long after Shankly left.

Produced to mark the centenary of his birth, this book is a reminder that football is our great game and that Shankly was probably , along with Matt Busby, responsible for major leaps forward in its development. I am not a Liverpool supporter but “Shankly – The Lost Diary” can reach any football lover. It’s about that foreign land of over 50 years ago, but to understand the present you have to know the past.

Included as well are details of all the players that he used in that season, as well as many statistics and match details – as well as some of the tortuous journeys made up and down the country by public transport to matches. A real gem .

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The Road to Glory- Burnley’s FA cup Triumph in 1914 by Mike Smith

 

One hundred years from Burnley’s solitary FA Cup triumph comes a book that is a fitting tribute to that achievement. Mike Smith unfolds a story that reads like a well constructed novel, with characters coming to life, lots of local colour, authentic voices and a happy ending.

From the Green & Whites to the Clarets (as Burnley changed their colours) , in just 19 years the club went from losing their first cup tie 11- 0 to Darwen Old Wanderers to bringing home the premier football trophy . One of the nine Lancashire clubs in the old Div 1,this was a time of fierce local rivalries counterbalanced with six hour train journeys to London, and it’s the excellent picture of football in one of its heydays set against the social, political and economic background of its time that sets the book apart.

The first third of the narrative sets the scene from early days to Burnley gaining promotion to the top flight in 1913. But then the detail and the drama of 1913/14 unfolds. Not just a match by match account but a thoroughly well researched picture of how football played such a major part in the lives of millions, exemplified through Burnley and surrounding villages.

Through the use of contemporary sources the atmosphere surrounding matches comes to life. Away trips by train, horse and cart, charabanc or simply by walking miles . The shutting of cotton mills and factories so that workers could get to big matches played on weekday afternoons,. The songs and clothes of supporters. And, of course, the cost of the game and how there was uproar if admission went up from 6d to 1s for cup games (2.5p to 5p). There’s an excellent appendix on the cost of watching football in 1914; average wage for a Burnley weaver was £1.25, Ladies got in for half price, and a pint of beer 1p.

But the climax of the story is the Cup Final victory. Again Smith doesn’t just report the match but describes the build up in the weeks before, the Burnley team’s stay in London, the travelling thousands of supporters , many of whom had never been to London before, how news of the game was relayed to crowds in Burnley by telephone calls every ten minutes, and, of course, the triumphant return to East Lancashire .

This is a gem of a book. It certainly has relevance to everyone interested in the history of football, or in social history in general. Excellently put together from what was obviously intensive research and with 89 illustrations it’s a real contribution to football club heritage writing.

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Bright Red: The Liverpool – Manchester Utd Matches by Mark Metcalf, Tony Bugby, Leslie Millman

 

It’s been 120 years since Liverpool and Manchester United (as Newton Heath) first met. Clubs from two proud, economically important and , consequently, rival Lancashire cities. In the intervening years the fortunes of both clubs and towns have had their ups and downs, yet the football rivalry between the two “Reds” apparently has heightened to become one of the strongest on the fixture list.

Neither club has been out of the top two divisions so the clash has been frequent. Throw in cups, the Wartime League and the Charity Shield, there had been 187 competitive matches between the teams up to the book’s compilation in 2012 Messrs Metcalf, Bugby, and Millman are all football writers with great knowledge and the result is a well researched and balanced overview of the saga of meetings. It isn’t a comprehensive match-by-match compendium but a look at significant games (and there have been many) that have helped create the on and off field edge that typifies current matches – before, during, and after. It’s illustrated in the main by old programmes, a big plus point.

Almost inevitably the first meeting was one vital to each club. The original “play offs” were known as “Test Matches” and the unbeaten Liverpool, champions of the Second Division, had, in April 1894, to play Newton Heath, bottom of the First Division. In front of 6,000 at Ewood Park, Liverpool won 2 0, getting promoted whilst relegating United. Early bragging rights, and one can only imagine the hullabaloo that would surround a similar event in 2014 ! It was the Merseysiders who ran out winners in the first FA cup tie in 1898 too, although only after a replay. A 0 0 draw at the Bank Street ground of the Heathens (now the site of the Manchester Velodrome) watched by 11000, was followed up by Liverpool winning the replay 2 1.

Fate decreed that Old Trafford’s debut as the home of United on 19 Feb 1910 would be against Liverpool, 45000 turning up to see the visitors win 4 3 (but United only lost once more at home in the next 18 months). And controversy wasn’t far away. Following United’s 2 0 victory in April 1915, three of its players and four from Liverpool were banned for life by the FA for match fixing.

Whilst there is some fine coverage of the rivalry in the early to mid point of the 20th century, it’s the postwar years upto very recent times that make up the bulk of the book. The birth of the era of success of United started with Matt Busby’s appointment as Manager in 1945. Ironically he turned down a coaching role at Anfield to take the job…Since then each of the two clubs have conquered Europe, fought out cup finals against each other, been neck and neck in league title challenges – and never before been under so much media scrutiny and constant exposure. Whether it’s the controversy of Evra & Suarez, Michael Owen appearing for both, or the genuine passion and desire for success , the story of this rivalry seems to get bigger.

If there is a slight personal disappointment for me in the book it’s that it doesn’t really answer an unasked question. Liverpool and United, why not Everton or City ? The authors interview players and others in a very good section at the end. Mark Chapman of the BBC rightly highlights the industrial competition of Victorian times, the fight between two ports, and “fast forward …and music…Oasis over Beatles..Mancunian versus Scouse”. Yet all that applies to the Blue parts of the cities. So maybe, despite the early rivalry, the tipping point into what now exists has been the swings of success on the field since the mid 1960s. And as it seems those swings aren’t over, this rivalry is going to be just as intense in the future.

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Show me the money : How to make money from sports marketing - Esteve Calzada

This book might make you despair. It might excite you . It will definitely give you a better understanding into how football is embracing (or being swallowed by) the movement that sees it as a business not a sport. And how the lessons from Barcelona can be applied to any club – even if the money involved is rather less!

 

Calzada was Chief Marketing Officer at Barcelona and has operated in the rarified atmosphere of the top competitions and organisations in European football. Many of his examples are inevitably drawn from there and some of the financial figures are eye watering (well they are to an Oldham supporter). But it’s a genuinely insightful look at how football is being restructured along business principles, and a practical guide to building income, reputation, and support. Like most good practical approaches Calzada isn’t applying rocket science. His techniques for analysis and ideas for developing are sound and, with a little thought, common sense.

 

At Barcelona he recognised that there were different ways of creating the financial platform that would support the on field activities and applied them. At whatever level a club is operating most of them apply as does the rationale of examining what are the marketable assets of the club And integrity and tradition doesn’t have to go out of the window. In looking at Positioning and Brand he pretty much says that history and culture are vital. Positioning is “a set of statements used to describe the targeted image perceived by supporters and clients” of a club to set it apart from others.

 

So, for Barcelona, its positioning drew on its traditions and was formulated on a commitment to social causes, and attractive football. For Liverpool the brand is not just the logo but other aspects such as supporters singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Every club has something that sets them apart. It is this that becomes the basis of attracting interest, attention and income.

 

The book examines a comprehensive list of activities from media exposure, advertising opportunities, sponsorship , hospitality and more. It even analyses the factors that affect match attendance into four categories: structural, sporting, match day, and management. Again, not rocket science but it allows clubs to concentrate on the activities it has some control over.

 

Everyone is an expert on religion, politics, and marketing. We all know how our club could do better to attract fans, get more sponsors, advertise better etc. Every internet message board is populated by the experts. However Calzada’s book is based on what actually works . Even for those of us who bemoan the moneyed corporate approach to football it’s a help, even if only to help us understand better what’s happening and why.

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Have Boots Will Travel – The story of Frank Large

Author: Paul F Large

Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd

RRP: £17.99

Hardback

 

If you watched football between the late 1950s and the 70s, you’ll probably have seen Frank Large. Playing for nine clubs, and in every division, he was a classic travelling exponent of the game, and one who engendered great respect and affection from supporters up and down the country.

Best remembered for his never-give-in approach, a fearless role as centre forward, and a down to earth attitude, Frank’s career took him up and down the country and even to the USA, but his wasn’t the life of a journeyman makeweight. Signed by Bobby Robson, praised by Graham Carr, Ron Atkinson and other good judges of a player, Frank was seen as an answer to many clubs’ problems, and most made good profit from selling him on.

And whilst this book is about Frank, it’s also about a period in the game when players had little or no say in their careers, transferred without much attention paid to their wishes. So it was that Frank, and many others, either uprooted families half way through a season or resigned themselves to long commutes or living in digs. The romance of football may have kept them wedded to the lifestyle but it was a gruelling and transient way of life.

Frank’s experiences, from growing up in a hard part of Leeds, to working in a chemical factory, as well as his successful if nomadic career, make for a good story about football and also about a hardworking, professional, and family man. Written with obvious love by his son, it’s an tribute to Frank that’s unpretentious and decent. Much like the man himself, who sadly died from cancer a few years ago in Ireland.

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Scotland Epistles, Bull:censored: & Thistles

 

Edited and published by Robert Marshall

48pp , Autumn 2014

£3

 

We all love retro and nostalgia, in football they can be infinitely more uplifting than the present. No matter what the travails of the past were there’s normally lots to smile and reminisce about. Even glorious, or inglorious, defeats can seem preferable to current situations. For Scotland supporters there’s nothing like the past – and this new magazine makes the most of it.

SEBT is best described as a fanzine (though it says it probably isn’t) . Even that is nostalgic. A print publication, totally off-line, and with the recurring themes of epic away trips, drinking (it is Scottish) , defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, the failure of the powers that be, drinking, incredibly inept players, and the odd glorious success. It’s devoted to the Scotland national team , and even an Englishman can begin to empathise a little after reading it. Ok, we English have had our hopes dashed in big tournaments but at least we qualified. No finals for Scotland since 1998. That’s eight unsuccessful qualifying campaigns.

It’s not meant to be analytical nor to set out the path for progress. It’s a “collection of memories, thoughts, and opinions”, and is just that . For collectors there’s a piece on the merits of ticket stubs against programmes, and one on cards from the 60s and 70s (featuring Scottish internationals of course). And “Tit for Tat” is for the supporter who doesn’t have a theme but just accumulates “stuff” related to his/her team – in this case a 1974 Roary Superscot tea towel to Tennent’s Lager beermats to postcards from St Vincent &The Grenadines featuring shots from Scotland matches…

There’s a look at World Cup songs (and how at least Scots haven’t had to listen to any since 1998) and the clothes that Scotland supporters wear, plus many cross continent travel stories in search of Scottish glory.

It’s amusing, it’s opinionated , it is , as it says, “a bunch of Scotland supporters sounding off and feeling all the better for it”. SEBT hopes to publish again in March 2015 , if it doesn’t then this first issue may well be a collectible itself.

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George Raynor: The Greatest Coach England Never Had

Author: Ashley Hyne

Publisher: The History Press

Paperback 221pp

£9.99

 

 

Imagine a footballer with only a middling career going to Sweden to establish a reputation as a successful coach and eventually returning to become England manager. The story of Roy Hodgson was nearly pre-dated by over 50 years by an apprentice butcher from Yorkshire, recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the most successful national coach ever, George Raynor.

 

Why he never became England manager, a role he felt he’d done enough to demonstrate his worth for, can’t be precisely answered but the nature of the FA in 1962, when Alf Ramsey was appointed, was such that it didn’t like criticism. Raynor, despite apparently being a great communicator and man-manager, had made clear his desire for change in the “English approach” to the game. Hindsight suggests that Ramsey didn’t turn out to be a bad choice, though the book does suggest that it was short term gain rather than long term success. But why should Raynor have been in with a shout, a man who had had little impact in the country of his birth?

 

After Sheff Utd, he went to Mansfield, Rotherham and Bury, and then Aldershot a useful player but not always a regular. When war broke out he became an Army PTI, playing with and against many of the stars who were posted to Aldershot. It was here that he began to hone new ideas to coaching, and in 1943 he was posted to Iraq and asked to develop a national side there. It wasn’t long after the war ended that, following a recommendation from the Iraqi Prime Minister, he was put forward by Stanley Rous to the Swedes who were looking for a coach. Arriving as an unknown and to great scepticism he managed Sweden, where football was totally amateur, to the 1948 Olympic gold, third place in the 1950 World Cup, bronze in the 1952 Olympics, a draw against the mighty Hungarians in 1953, and, after a spell coaching Juventus and Lazio, to the 1958 World Cup Final.

 

And in England? He wasn’t the sergeant major type of manager that was the norm and wanted to build strategies for success rather than necessarily immediate impact. A brief spell at Coventry, two years at Skegness Town, and ended up being made redundant by Doncaster after seven months. Better known, more appreciated and respected overseas, he never had a great profile in the English league scene. He certainly believed he should have been England manager after Walter Winterbottom. What the outcome would have been we will never know, but it does seem a great loss that his obvious knowledge and innovation wasn’t harnessed somehow.

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Hearts at War 1914-1919

Author: Tom Purdie

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

156pp

Paperback, £15.99

 

The aftermath of the Great War is still with us. The incredible numbers of deaths, the millions of shattered lives, the social and political upheavals that ensued, are remembered this year in sharp focus. No part of British life including football was unaffected and the impact on Hearts is told in this moving and well researched book.

 

At the outbreak of war in 1914 Hearts had just finished third in the Scottish League and the future looked very promising. Record crowds, the best ever points total, and the near completion of a new grandstand were all indicative of the optimism that there was. And the start of war in August, within ten days of the first matches, had no immediate impact on that. Even the loss of two players, called up as they were Army reservists, couldn’t dampen the expectations. Things were to change.

 

The reality of a bloody war and shortage of military manpower began to sink in and, in November 1914, a battalion of Scottish volunteers was raised, the 16th Royal Scots – and Hearts were approached to see if their players could be part of it. On the 25th November, after meeting together, Hearts’ players, almost to a man, volunteered. Eleven were passed fit for service, five turned down for medical reasons. By the end of the war, 30 Hearts players had served, seven of who died with several more wounded and/or gassed. Unknown numbers of Hearts supporters shared their fates.

 

Tom Purdie tells the stories of these men against a background of how Hearts and the rest of Scottish football adapted to the turmoil and disruption caused in the war years. Player wages cut, fall in attendances, clubs failing, player shortages, and the uncertainty of who may or may not return. Hearts have had their struggles in recent years but this book may help put those into a bigger context. It’s a well written tribute and one that brings the tale up to date in describing how the memory of the Great War and Hearts has been marked.

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This is entirely the wrong thing to focus on but I'm intrigued as to what conditions professional footballers had that meant they were unfit for service. Sounds like a good read, though.

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This is entirely the wrong thing to focus on but I'm intrigued as to what conditions professional footballers had that meant they were unfit for service. Sounds like a good read, though.

There was a height requirement wasn't there, plus were all players professionals then, as a few occupations got something of an exemption.

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This is entirely the wrong thing to focus on but I'm intrigued as to what conditions professional footballers had that meant they were unfit for service. Sounds like a good read, though.

One was recovering from a serious knee injury, one diagnosed as having a weak heart, one was asthmatic, one rheumatic fever, and one TB

No volunteer could be accepted if they had a history of rheumatic illness.

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The Encyclopaedia of Scottish Football: Concise Edition

Authors: David Potter & Phil H. Jones

Publisher : Pitch Publishing

234pp, Softback, £14.99

 

What a great book to dip in and out of. One that , no matter which page you open it at, has something to interest, intrigue, or makes you say “I wish I’d known that before that Pointless question on Scottish football came up”.

 

Now there’ll be some readers of PMFC who will be immersed in, and fantastically knowledgeable about, the facts, figures and minutiae of the Caledonian game. But for those of us that aren’t this is book to enjoy, and to prepare for dropping gems into any relevant conversation. “So , talking of family links did you know that both Harry Yorston and his uncle Benny got caps for Scotland?”.

How about that discussion with the neighbours about holidays? “Well it can be very hot in Switzerland in midsummer. Don’t be like the Scots in the 1954 World Cup and take thick, heavy kit”.

 

Internationals are one of the sections: Scotland’s record against every country, every player, every manager, every result. Turkey ? Played one, lost one – in 1960. A section on the country’s record in major tournaments , mainly qualifying rounds (sorry but as Englishman wanted to get that in) , is mirrored by comprehensive data on every match played by Scottish teams in European club competitions .

 

Naturally the domestic coverage is excellent. From the inaugural joint champions of the Scottish League (Dumbarton & Rangers), the fact that Abercorn won Div 2 in 1896, that the SFA Cup is the oldest trophy still competed for in football, and that only three clubs have been in every Cup competition (Queens Park, Dumbarton & Kilmarnock), to details of the Scottish League Cup , older than its English equivalent, this is a marvellous compendium of football knowledge.

 

Off to a pub quiz soon? Here’s a book to get you primed ….and to entertain as well.

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32 programmes

By Dave Roberts

 

Read it myself over the summer , good read for footy fans

 

I emailed the author to say how I'd enjoyed it and amazingly within half an hour he replied referring how he'd also enjoyed going to matches at Latics with his brother in law

 

After being taken to his first football match in 1964 (Fulham versus Manchester United, 5 September), Dave Roberts amassed a collection of 1,134 matchday programmes over the next 44 years.

But when he and his wife decided to move to the United States, she decreed that he had to winnow these down to 32 all that would fit into a small Tupperware container.

Sifting through his stack to make a final selection allowed Roberts to tell his life story through the memories evoked: girlfriends won and lost, ambitions fulfilled and blighted and, of course, games enjoyed and endured. He is often very funny in wry, Nick Hornby-esque fashion, and is not afraid to send himself up for displaying the slightly dotty obsessiveness of the true programme collector.

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32 programmes

By Dave Roberts

 

Read it myself over the summer , good read for footy fans

 

I emailed the author to say how I'd enjoyed it and amazingly within half an hour he replied referring how he'd also enjoyed going to matches at Latics with his brother in law

 

After being taken to his first football match in 1964 (Fulham versus Manchester United, 5 September), Dave Roberts amassed a collection of 1,134 matchday programmes over the next 44 years.

But when he and his wife decided to move to the United States, she decreed that he had to winnow these down to 32 all that would fit into a small Tupperware container.

Sifting through his stack to make a final selection allowed Roberts to tell his life story through the memories evoked: girlfriends won and lost, ambitions fulfilled and blighted and, of course, games enjoyed and endured. He is often very funny in wry, Nick Hornby-esque fashion, and is not afraid to send himself up for displaying the slightly dotty obsessiveness of the true programme collector.

 

 

He's got another one called the Bromley Boys about following Bromley FC (double posh Kentish suburb)

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Hereford United : A Pictorial History

Authors: Richard Prime, John Williamson, Ron Parrott

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Softback, 96pp, £14.99

 

The future of Hereford Utd seems to have been on a knife edge for a while so it’s a bittersweet read of a book that tells the club’s history. One hopes that there’ll be more books to come, taking the story many more years, but it’s a perilous place that the Bulls are now in.

 

Less than 100 years old, United was formed in 1924, and originally played in the Birmingham Combination, but it wasn’t after the war that the club’s name became more nationally known. WWII had, in fact, been a bonus on the playing side with many servicemen based in the town , providing professional guest players and spectators too. A reputation for FA Cup exploits gathered pace in the 1950s, the club featuring in the first ever televised Cup match away at amateurs Leyton in 52/3. It was a televised cup tie nearly 20 years later that brought real fame, the classic giant killing of Newcastle. From there the push for League status gained unstoppable momentum, being achieved in 72/3.

 

Since then Hereford have experienced the highs of what’s now the Championship, relegation from the League and the uncertainty that surrounds the club’s very existence. The book is well produced, lots of photographs of players, matches , programmes etc – and illustrates the quirky facts that surround football teams . Hereford once had four players sent off v Northampton but still got a 1-1 draw, had a player who pulled his hamstring whilst celebrating someone else’s goal, and scored just six goals in 23 away league matches one season.

 

It’s an enjoyable read, descriptive rather than analytical perhaps, and one that’s worth taking a look at when it’s such a pivotal moment in the club’s history.

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14 great games

Oldham athletic by rick Holden and Dave Moore.

 

Ordered a few days back and got told it would be here in jan. It arrived two days later and for any of you out there like me are in your mid 30s onwards is a must read as it brings back lots of fantastic memories.

If any younger fans who were unfortunate not to be around in the late 80s early 90s it will let you into what a bit of success with a fantastic team was all about.

Stories from rick Holden are fantastic with lots of anecdotes throughout from him and also fans views on the games.

Looking at the team sheets throughout and you notice a very steady, solid team who in today's market would be worth a fortune.

Rick Holden likens the way we played at times to the way Barcelona play now! High praise from our crazy winger.

A must read for all Latics fans.

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Got To Do The 42 : A tour of every Scottish league ground

Author: Martin McNellis

Publisher: Empire Publications

Paperback, 252pp, £9.95

 

 

 

Covering nearly 6000 miles in 2012/13, Martin McNellis did more than tick off every venue in Scottish league football. He produced a record that paints a picture of everything from side street parking, food prices, and friendliness of turnstile operators, to cost of tickets. Sometimes accompanied by friends and/or young sons, the resulting book is an illuminating picture of the disparities but also the commonalties in the Scottish game.

 

Starting at Cowdenbeath and ending in Peterhead, each game is given a match report as well as comments on all the other aspects of “the match day experience”. The reports, with names of players not recognised by many English fans, weren’t the most riveting part of the book but give an extra dimension. The author is good at portraying reactions and comments of supporters and what happened in the match put those in context.

 

There’s a nice subjective assessment of each ground, sometimes it’s the architecture, on others its location, and for those the author has been to before, how they have changed. At the end of the book there’s an excellent subjective ranking of the best ten grounds, friendliest venues, programme etc. In addition there’s a very good review of the tour, and how it was planned. He draws out how, whether there’s a crowd of less than 500 or more than 50,000, there are common themes in all of them. How there is still a community identification for most of the clubs, and the shared stoicism of supporters is drawn out very well. This is certainly a book that’s written by a real football man and may have sparked a desire in me to add to my paltry total of two Scottish grounds! Only 40 to go….

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Harry Catterick: The Untold Story of a Football Great

Author: Rob Sawyer

Publisher: De Coubertin Books

246pp

£18.99 Hardback 2014

Managers of the 60s and 70s include some of the great iconic names of football: Busby, Revie, Ramsey, Shankly, Nicholson. And, of course, Harry Catterick. Arguably the most successful of the era, Catterick wasn’t a publicity seeker but the results of his teams, and the way they played, earned the respect and admiration of both media and supporters.

 

As a manager he accumulated more points in the 60s than any other and took Everton to the League Championship twice, as well as winning the FA Cup, and did so with a style of play that earned Goodison Park the name of “School of Science”. Signing and developing players such as Ball, Royle, Labone, Kendall, Harvey, Young, Husband and West, he built Everton into the blue powerhouse that complemented the red one at Anfield under Bill Shankly. Merseyside in that decade with two great teams, the Beatles and the rest of the “Mersey Sound”, was a vibrant, exciting place and Catterick played a massive part in the footballing renaissance of Liverpool.

 

Though born in Darlington, his football career started as an amateur with Stockport and he signed for Everton as an 18 year old in 1937. Although the war obviously had an impact on his football, Harry did have a wartime scoring record for the club of 55 goals in 71 games, and in peacetime 30 goals in 83 matches. After signing for Crewe he later became their manager, then Rochdale’s, before leading Sheffield Wednesday back into the top flight and to the FA cup Final of 1961, losing to the double-winners Spurs.

 

His style of management is probably best described as authoritarian and disciplined but that didn’t stifle his teams from playing with creativity and an attacking philosophy. In nearly 600 games as Everton manager his win rate was over 46% and this at a time when the old Division 1 had many teams competing for honours. Catterick’s story is told excellently by Rob Sawyer, a member of the Everton Heritage Society but who describes the man’s full career not just his Goodison days. It’s a book that has appeal not only for fans of clubs Catterick was associated with but for anyone interested in successful management in a competitive football era. Harry Catterick, 14 years a player for Everton, 12 years a manager, died of a heart attack at Goodison Park in 1985.

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I've just read "The Goalie", Andy Goram's autobiography. It's not a recent release (about 6 years old, I think) and he doesn't mention his 2nd stint at Latics before he ended his career at Elgin City, but it was a very enjoyable read, even though a great deal of the book centres around his time at Rangers.

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Stuck in a moment: The Ballad of Paul Vaessen

Author: Stewart Taylor

Publisher: GCR Books

Hardback 268pp £18.99

 

Every decade has its footballers who fall from shining young stars to bit part players or worse. Sometimes it’s down to injury, sometimes not being able to cope with the pressure or expectation. There are some who never develop the maturity to handle adulation. Names are often quickly forgotten as the next batch of highly talented youngsters comes through.

And it’s with a slight sense of shame that I admit to have forgotten about Paul Vaessen. At 18 he scored the winning goal for Arsenal to win at Juventus in 1980. Yet within three years he was pretty much on the scrapheap, victim of a serious knee injury. From there it was a sad decline into temporary work, crime and addiction. All three seemed to drag him down further: he nearly lost his life after being stabbed in a drugs deal that went awry. His heroin addiction grew, something begun in an attempt to ease the pain from his injured leg. In fact the heroin turned his leg ulcerous and he was worried about having it amputated.

Tragically Paul was found dead in his flat at the age of 39, a coroner’s verdict of death because of the high level of drugs in his system.

This book is more than a chronology of decline. It’s an almost loving yet despairing picture built up by the author, from his own research and from the contributions of family and friends. A tale of decline into addiction when footballing dreams are shattered and of how the support systems back then were so poor.

Tony Adams battled against his own addiction and contributes the foreword, and the work of both the PFA and Sporting Chance Clinic deserve their mentions. Does football look after its own? It didn’t use to.

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14 great games

Oldham athletic by rick Holden and Dave Moore.

 

Ordered a few days back and got told it would be here in jan. It arrived two days later and for any of you out there like me are in your mid 30s onwards is a must read as it brings back lots of fantastic memories.

If any younger fans who were unfortunate not to be around in the late 80s early 90s it will let you into what a bit of success with a fantastic team was all about.

Stories from rick Holden are fantastic with lots of anecdotes throughout from him and also fans views on the games.

Looking at the team sheets throughout and you notice a very steady, solid team who in today's market would be worth a fortune.

Rick Holden likens the way we played at times to the way Barcelona play now! High praise from our crazy winger.

A must read for all Latics fans.

 

Ordered - but sorry Rick, we were nothing like Barcelona! Closest I have seen to what we were then was Bournemouth this season. Good luck to them.

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