Book Review – Towering Tales & a Ripping Yarn: Yorkshire Football’s Grassroots Legends by Steven Penny
This is not Steven Penny’s first book looking at football in Yorkshire, as he took a look at the soccer scene in the White Rose county with, Soap Stars and Burst Bubbles, featuring the 2002/03 season. Penny had hoped to revisit many of the Clubs featured in that book, but COVID put pay to that as football at non-league level was effectively shut down, with the 2019/20 and 2020/21 campaigns in many divisions made ‘null and void’. As a result the author had to rethink his plans as the country and football, stopped and started, around the various lockdowns.
What Penny has produced is a record of the game as it learned to live with the restrictions that COVID brought. This saw socially distanced sitting and standing, temperature checks for players, officials and spectators, e-tickets, face masks, hand sanitiser stations and in some instances playing behind closed doors the new ‘normal’. It seems strange some two years on since the first lockdown that the game and indeed life in general has pretty much returned to as before, therefore this book is a good reminder of the hoops that needed to jumped through for players and fans alike to get their football fix.
As with Soap Stars and Burst Bubbles, Penny uses a diary format to record each game, with details about the Clubs taking part, some interesting associated storis about past players and some brief match details. In terms of the time-line, August 2020 marks the starting point with chapters through to December 2020 before lockdown and a resumption of games in April 2021 through to June 2021. Whereas Penny focused on the steps taking in the Northern Premier League, Northern Counties East League and the like in 2002/03, in Towering Tales & a Ripping Yarn, he has to step down even further in the English football pyramid, where COVID restrictions allowed the playing of games in non-enclosed ground. As a result readers are introduced to the grassroots levels of the Yorkshire Christian League, Humber Premier League and Doncaster Saturday League amongst others, as well as the cup competitions of the Huddersfield League and Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League.
Once again Penny finds points of interest at all the games he attends, making links between the fixtures he attends and tales of ex-players such as England World Cup winner Gordon Banks and Manchester United legend Dennis Law, as well as renowned musician Paul Heaton and even Michael Palin from the classic Ripping Yarns tale of Golden Gordon shown on the BBC in 1979. This is another winner from Penny to follow-up on the success of Soap Stars and Burst Bubbles, taking readers back to a time, we hope we don’t have to endure again.
(Publisher: Victor Publishing. January 2022. Paperback: 248 pages)