Book Review: True Storey (My Life and Crimes as a Football Hatchet Man)

Growing up in the seventies, my football education came from my dad’s allegiance to The Arsenal and through me discovering my own team, Fulham. The game was a very different beast then. Football on the television consisted of highlights on a Saturday night with ‘Match of the Day’ and Sunday afternoons with ‘The Big Match’. Live football? Well that was one game a season, when the FA Cup Final was shown. Teams wore simple kits in traditional colours without a hint of advertising and played on pitches that varied between sand strewn mud-heaps and bare, rock hard surfaces. It was a time when football was a much more physical game and every First Division team had their ‘hard-man’. Chelsea had Ron Harris, there was Tommy Smith at Liverpool and Norman Hunter at Leeds United, whilst Arsenal had Peter Storey. So in reading “True Storey: My Life and Crimes as a Football Hatchet Man” I knew the footballing background against which the story is set.

One immediate impression about the book is that the 224 pages (Mainstream Publishing 2011 Edition) consist of 23 chapters and an introduction. This for me meant that whilst reading, the book moved on at quite a pace as each chapter was relatively short, precise and punchy, making it a quick read. Overall the style is conversational with some humour, but is essentially forthright, blunt and to the point.

The Introduction provides Storey’s raison d’être for the book in that he wanted to “…explain the ‘madness’ (the seedy side of life after football) for the first time…”. The book is his chance to put straight the “…many lies and half-truths peddled as ‘fact’ relating to the crime which blighted (his) life…” Following the Introduction, Storey’s life is told from growing up in 1950’s Britain in Aldershot, to present day life in South-West France.

The reader is eased into Peter Storey’s tale with his early playing days and his progress through the representative sides of Aldershot & Farnborough Schools FA, London Schools and England Schoolboys, with his passion and desire to be a professional evident. Having left school at the age of 15, he then signed for Arsenal in 1961, “…the best club in the football world…” However, at that time North London rivals Tottenham were the Kings of English football having just become the first club in the Twentieth Century to do the Double.

Peter settled into the youth team playing in the South East Counties League playing alongside Peter Simpson and Jon Sammels, who like Storey went on to establish themselves in the first team. By the 1962/63 season, he progressed to the A team (third team) playing in the Metropolitan League and had signed a professional contract. Storey’s frustrations at not progressing as quickly into the first team is evident, but in the 1964/65 season he travelled as first reserve for an FA Cup 4th Round fixture at Peterborough United and was now playing in the Reserves. Off the pitch, life too was changing for him as he shared houses with Jon Sammels and Terry Neil, where trips to the laundrette and a lack of food provide some amusing tales about the bachelor lives of the young Gunners players.

The 1965/66 season saw Peter Storey make his first team debut for the Gunners on 30th October 1965 at Filbert Street against Leicester City. Arsenal lost 3-1 and Storey made his mark, when he “…coldly barged Sinclair into touch with the ball long departed…” – Peter Storey had arrived. Billy Wright the Wolves and England legend was manager at the time and Storey offers an insight into a club not happy under Wright’s leadership. It was a wretched season for the Gunners and with six games to go they were in serious relegation trouble. However, they did survive, but it had an effect on the Highbury faithful. So much so that the lowest attendance for a competitive game at Highbury was recorded that season, when on 5th May 1966, just 4,554 turned up to watch the Division One fixture against Leeds United. Inevitably at the end of the season Wright was sacked.

Given this background, perhaps it was understandable Storey observed that at Arsenal, “…concern for the club and interest in the new manager took precedence over the World Cup…” as the 1966/67 dawned. Although, he did reflect that he noticed, “…teams in the First Division getting a lot more organised, much more professional…” Bertie Mee was appointed Manager along with Dave Sexton as First Team Coach, an appointment Storey saw as vital since Mee “…didn’t have a clue about tactics…” Sexton moved on in October 1967 to manage Chelsea and in came Don Howe to begin a historic period and partnership for the Gunners.

In 1968 and 1969 the Gunners made it to Wembley to the League Cup Final. Despite losing both, 1-0 against Leeds United in 1968 and 3-1 against Swindon Town in 1969, the good times at Highbury were about to bloom. In 1969/70 Arsenal took part in the Fairs Cup (now Europa League) and overcame Anderlecht 4-3 over two-legs in the Final. Even better was to come the following season. Given the historic nature of Arsenal doing the Double, Storey does devote two chapters to the achievements of that memorable season for the Gunners. However, it wasn’t all glory, glory as Storey saw it.

On the Official Arsenal Website, there is a feature on the ‘50 Greatest Arsenal Players’. Peter Storey completes the list at Number 50, a testament to his contribution to the club and regard by the fans. The site outlined his contribution to the Gunners history with the following:

If Peter Storey hadn’t held his nerve, Arsenal would not have made history in 1971. It’s as simple as that. Storey was a vital – if unsung – member of Bertie Mee’s Double squad and his crucial contribution came in March of that year as Arsenal stared defeat in the face at their FA Cup Semi-Final against Stoke City at Hillsborough. Storey had already halved a two-goal deficit with a rasping second-half drive but Stoke looked set to seal a 2-1 victory, and book their place at Wembley, before Arsenal were awarded a stoppage-time penalty for a handball on the goal line. The yellow-shirted Gunners leapt with joy – but not Storey. He had the unenviable task of beating England legend Gordon Banks from 12 yards to keep Arsenal’s Double dream alive. Storey saw Banks go right and slotted the ball low to the keeper’s left, cool as you like. Arsenal went on to win the replay, lift the Cup and complete the Double.

Storey recalls the highs of those events in Chapter Twelve, (“I’ll always have Sheffield”), but Stoke also had unhappy memories later that season when Storey was injured in the fixture against the Potters at Highbury. It meant he missed the title decider at Tottenham and he admits he felt something of an outsider as the team celebrated the title win and observed that he, “…knew a little of the emotional pain and bitter disappointment Jimmy Greaves experienced when he was injured during the World Cup and watched as his replacement Geoff Hurst became a national hero…”. Still carrying the injury, missing the Cup Final looked inevitable and Storey recalls an intriguing episode in which he believes Bertie Mee tried to ensure he missed the game. Peter Storey having declared himself fit was then put through his paces by the manager which Storey saw as an “…unbelievably gruelling fitness test…” However, Storey came through the test, but on the day in the Final against Liverpool he lasted about an hour before limping off.

Success at club level brought Peter Storey international recognition and his first cap came in 1971 in a 3-0 win at Wembley against Greece. Sir Alf Ramsey recognised the versatility of the Arsenal man and in winning 19 caps he played at both right and left back and in midfield for his country. Not bad for somebody who many thought was just an “assassin and a thug…”

That Double winning season proved to be the peak for that Arsenal side. It came as a shock when Don Howe resigned to manage WBA at the beginning of the 1971/72 season. Storey couldn’t understand why the Coach had left when there was the challenge of the European Cup and the chance to build a legacy at Arsenal existed. Whilst the departure of Howe didn’t have an immediate effect, Storey felt that there was a gradual decline in standards, discipline and direction which meant the Gunners never hit the heights of the Double winning season. Arsenal returned to Wembley for the 1972 FA Cup Final, but lost out to Leeds United 1-0. 1972/73 the Gunners finished runners-up to Liverpool for the title. However, the following season they finished 10th. 1974/75 was even worse with Arsenal bottom during October 1974 before finishing 16th and they finished 17th in 1975/76. Storey started that season in the reserves and despite some first team appearances, was suspended by the club in March after a row with Bertie Mee. Terry Neil came in as the new Gunners boss in 1976/77 and offered a way back for Storey, who by his own admission was “…on the piss and out of condition…” To his credit Storey battled back to fitness but as the season went on he was honest enough to acknowledge that he “…was drinking and not really interested in playing for Arsenal any longer…” In March 1977 Peter Storey was transferred to Fulham, where he teamed up with Bobby Moore and George Best. He helped save the Cottagers from relegation and started the 1977/78 season at Craven Cottage. However, his heart wasn’t really in it and he played his last game as a professional footballer on Saturday 10th September 1977 ironically away at Spurs.

In recounting the episodes regarding his life after football, Peter Storey is incredibly candid. Indeed this extends to his relationships and marriages, where Storey recognises that his selfish and vain life-style were major factors in their failure. Storey doesn’t hide his brushes with the law or try to blame anybody else. He admits that he missed the buzz that football had provided him with and was “…attracted to the brash, flash lifestyle enjoyed by smartly dressed thieves…the way they always seemed to have a pretty girl on one arm, a pocketful of ready cash and plenty of time to indulge themselves…”. Storey pinpoints the buying of the Jolly Farmers in the summer of 1975 as the beginning of the end. Storey honestly admits, “…the decline, when it came, was relatively swift, brutal and mostly my own fault…and (I) found solace in a bottle…” The spiral downwards included, spells in jail for smuggling pornographic videos and conspiracy to counterfeit gold half-sovereigns, a suspended sentence for running a brothel and conviction for selling cars which were on hire-purchase. Reading these final chapters of the book is a shocking, yet sobering experience, that illustrates how easily life can descend into chaos.

It is a book which provides a great insight into a genuine Gunners legend, honestly detailing the highs of his playing career and the murky lows of crime and prison in life after football. However, Storey was lucky that he had people to help and support him to emerge the other side and now lives a contented life in France with wife Daniele. Storey closes by telling with obvious pride about the three boys he has and the simple enjoyment that a few beers shared with his sons and his father can bring. The hatchet man has put down his axe and seems at peace with the world.


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Top Ten Football Fiction Review: The Match by Alan Sillitoe

The Match by Alan Sillitoe is a short story contained within a collection titled, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. This anthology contains nine short stories, which besides the collection’s title story and The Match, includes, Uncle Ernest, Mr Raynor the School-teacher, The Fishing-boat Picture, Noah’s Ark, On Saturday Afternoon, The Disgrace of Jim Scarfedale and The Decline and Fall of Frankie Buller. The book was first published in 1959 by W. H. Allen & Co. Ltd.

The Match opens at a game between Notts County and Bristol City. It is a cold and misty winters day and hints that County are having a bad season, as the crowd “…hope of at least one home-team win before Christmas…”. Lennox a forty year old mechanic is at the game with his young, recently married neighbour, Fred. Lennox asserts that he knew before the match that County would lose, “…because he himself, a spectator, hadn’t been feeling in top form…”. The home team do indeed lose as Bristol City get a second half goal to gain a 2-1 victory.

Sillitoe creates some wonderful images of the match, such as one description of a home attack when the “…Notts’ forwards were pecking and weaving around the Bristol goal…”.  Another is the detail surrounding the build-up to Bristol scoring, which captures the feeling of incredulity and inevitability by fans, when you know your opponents are going to score. “…Suddenly the man with the ball spurted forward, was seen to be clear of everyone as if, in a second of time that hadn’t existed to any other spectator or another player, he’d been catapulted into a hallowed untouchable area before the goal posts…”.

Despite the lambasting of the home team by Lennox and others in the home crowd that supporters of any era will recognise, the modern reader is left in no doubt that this is a game from a bygone era. The dress code of Fred, “…done up in his Saturday afternoon best of sports coat, gaberdine trousers and rain-mac, dark hair sleeked back with oil…” is in contrast to the army of replica wearing masses that attend games today.

However, the football match is the  back-drop to a larger picture that Sillitoe portrays. He provides the reader with various clues about the respective lives of Lennox and Fred.  Lennox is a man not happy with his lot, whether it be the fact that his football team has lost, the problems he has with his eyes, his work  (the threat of losing his job) or indeed his marriage. Fred is younger, newly married and more concerned with, “…a chunk of hearthrug pie…” than by County losing a football match. He is as Lennox mockingly describes, “…living on love…”.

The reader sees more of the despair of Lennox existence once he returns home after the game. There is no greeting by him to his family (or indeed vice-versa), instead Lennox utters a complaint that the parlour smells musty and orders his eldest child to light a fire. Another damning part of the domestic situation is established when Sillitoe details Mrs Lennox, “…she was forty, the same age as Lennox, but gone to plainness and discontented fat, while he stayed thin and wiry from the same reason…”. Lennox continues to treat all those around him with rudeness, arrogance and aggression, with even the family cat not safe from his behaviour. Mrs Lennox frustrated by her husband, argues back but pays the price as she is struck three times by Lennox until she falls to the floor. The closing image is of the house left quiet as Mrs Lennox and the children leave “…for the last time…”. The reader is left to ponder whether Fred and his young wife Ruby will eventually go the same way as Lennox and his wife, or will the Iremongers’ break the chain?

Finally, in order to consider The Match in a modern day context, in March 2011 The Guardian published an article about the violence that coincided with the Rangers v Celtic games in Scotland, which highlighted that, “…Strathclyde police claimed domestic abuse rates doubled after Old Firm games, while there were more than 200 crimes of violence and disorder in the area after an earlier Rangers-Celtic game in February [2011]…”

Fact and fiction – where does one begin and the other end? Fifty years on and The Match still holds an uncomfortable truth.


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Book Review: The Lone Rangers (An English club’s century in Scottish football) by Tom Maxwell

Anyone expecting a season by season analysis, replete with league tables, appearances and goal scorers of Berwick Rangers “…century in Scottish football…” will be disappointed. What The Lone Rangers does provide is a book which tells of the highs and lows, the characters over the years and what it means to be a Berwick player, manager and fan in a witty and insightful manner. The 163 pages give the reader so much more than any set of statistics ever could.

Quite simply this is a book I couldn’t put down. From the Prologue where the reader is introduced to the author Maxwell at University, through to the Epilogue where Maxwell the journalist and fan is attending the Berwick Rangers v Celtic Scottish Cup game – the passion and understanding of what it is to be a supporter is evident. Throughout this publication, Tom Maxwell captures and uses the language of the terraces, because he has experienced the ups and downs of following his team. Set against that, the author uses his journalistic skills to good effect and so enables the pages to come alive with both humour and perception, through his research, interviews and anecdotes gleaned for the book.

In the opening chapters, there is an exploration of the identity of Berwick-upon-Tweed and its inhabitants (a town that has changed hands 13 times between England and Scotland) and discussion about the exact location of the border. If there is a conclusion, it is that some see themselves as English, some as Scottish, but all as Berwickers. Indeed it seems nothing is quite straightforward with the club, as Maxwell relates how the club celebrated its centenary in 1991, only to discover that in fact the club was not founded until 1894.

As you travel through the book, Maxwell introduces characters (whether players, managers, club officials and fans) that tell the story of the significant moments in The Borderers history. Included are Tom McQueen (father of Gordon [ex Leeds and Manchester United and Scotland International]), who came to Shielfield Park in 1957. Tom McQueen played in goal and also worked as groundsman, but was known for his kicking power. When asked if he could kick a ball to the opposition penalty area, McQueen responded, “…oh aye…no problem…I don’t know what I’d do with these balls they have know – I’d lose them…”

Another with a tremendous kicking power was Ken Bowron who scored 109 goals in 138 appearances in two spells with Berwick. Bowron returned to Berwick after the clubs most famous result and a period under the management of Jock Wallace who Maxwell details as “…strict disciplinarian, control freak, semi-masochistic…”  That famous result was of course the 1-0 over Glasgow Rangers in the Scottish Cup in January 1967 and Maxwell dedicates a Chapter to the event. Maxwell brings to life the character of Wallace and his time in charge of Berwick and the impression he made on players later in his management career such as Gary Lineker.

However, that team from 1967 was quickly disbanded and as the seventies dawned a new Berwick legend was starting out. Eric Tait played as a trialist in January 1970 and holds the records of most League appearances and goals for the club. He played in every position and was player-manager from 1983-1987. Tait was a player during the 1978-79 League Division Two title winning season, under the stewardship of Dave Smith (later voted the clubs Player of the Millenium). The interview with Smith by the author (in a Dundee branch of Burger King), typifies Maxwell’s ability to still be a fan, but still get the information he needs. One little gem from Smith is his laconic response to being asked about his playing days with George Best in L.A. “…well…he played with me…”

As the book gets to the late 1980’s, figures such as Jim Jefferies and John ‘Yogi’ Hughes get woven into the fabric of Berwick with the club going 21 games unbeaten in the 1988-89 season. You would have expected that a run of this magnitude would have meant promotion. However, given the number of draws and the horrendous start to the season, all that it meant was that Berwick finished 4 points clear of bottom placed Stenhousemuir! Hughes goals not only helped Berwick on the pitch, but his sale in November 1989 to Swansea City brought much needed funds to Shielfield Park.

Like many other clubs, Berwick has had it financial problems and Maxwell does not shy aware from detailing the problems that occurred and which in 1992 nearly saw the club close and go out of business. The nineties were indeed a see-saw period for Berwick as they bounced between Scottish League Division Two and Three. Their last honour was back in 2006-07 as Third Division Champions and Maxwell focuses on ex-player Gary Wood, a policeman now, in the books final chapter. As with the opening of the book and throughout it, Maxwell probes as to what makes Berwick a unique club. Wood like others acknowledges the influence of its geographical location and the divide this causes, but points to it as something positive rather than negative.

Berwick Rangers FC has a unique place in football and Tom Maxwell’s telling of it is a story worth reading.


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Book Review: Bradford City AFC – A Season Re-visited 1969/70 by Raymond C. Maule

The first thing to say about this book relates to the cover, where the phrase “…less is more…” rings true. The classically all white cover is interrupted only by claret and amber bands (depicting the Bradford City colours), details of the books title and a team picture from the 1969/70 season. On the reverse, a brief synopsis of the publication sits below two programme covers from the season and a view of the Valley Parade ground. The final detail relates to the fact that proceeds from the book are in Aid of the Bradford Cardiac Unit.

Once inside the book, the author explains in the “Dedication” and “Acknowledgement” the reason for this publication and how it came to fruition. “…The seed of an idea for this book was planted while recovering on a cardiac ward in a Bradford hospital. I decided that I wanted to say thank you in a more tangible form, to those who nursed me through a difficult time, and hopefully give something back in return…”

In the “Introduction” the reader is given a brief review of the 1969/70 season in terms of the White Rose County and its clubs and some snippets of what was happening in England at the time. The listing of the television viewing schedule from Christmas Day 1969 makes very interesting reading indeed!

So to the main body of the book, which is a diary based format of the 1969/70 season. The source of the information is match reports from the Yorkshire Post and the local papers of the Bantams opposition. The focus is on the City first team, although there are brief details about the reserves and other games that have a West Yorkshire interest. In addition to the match reports there are “Notes from the day” which include a round-up of the other fixtures in Division Three on that day and or more details and observations about the game Bradford were involved in. The reader will notice that the journalistic style is somewhat different to that of the sound-bite manner of today. The one-word headline to introduce a new paragraph is a format that has long since disappeared from sports reporting. For much of the season the Bantams were in and around the promotion spots, but no wins from their final eight games, left Bradford in tenth place. In the League Cup and FA Cup, City had decent runs, including a win at Roker Park against Sunderland, who just four years later won the FA Cup. The book closes with a “Who’s who of Bradford City’s personnel 1969/70” providing a useful summary of some of the key personalities from that season.

From a personal perspective I would have liked to have seen more match action pictures or programme covers to supplement the text. However, the lack of photographs from the respective fixtures may be down to the fact (as the author explains), “…many newspapers have disposed of their photographic archives and rely on scans taken from hard copy…”

It is a book that can be picked and put down and acts as a point of reference. It was interesting for instance to see three managers detailed in their playing days, those being Ian Branfoot (for Doncaster Rovers), Graham Taylor (for Lincoln City) and Neil Warnock (for Rotherham United). There are also various other gems in this book and a couple of my favourites are as follows:

Friday 23 January 1970

Mr John Parker, Labour MP, for Dagenham began an attempt at modifying the “Sunday Observance Laws” and so legalise the charging of admission prices at fixtures played on Sunday’s. It was an idea being closely watched by sporting bodies throughout the country, especially football being the biggest money-spinning sport.

The idea is said to have government approval and if all goes well by this time next year Football League clubs may well be playing League and Cup fixtures on a regular basis on Sundays.

In fact it was another four years before football was played on a Sunday, when on January 6th 1974 four FA Cup Third Round fixtures were played, the first being Cambridge United v Oldham Athletic which kicked off in the morning.

Later in April 1970 the following is an extract from the match report for the Walsall v Bradford City fixture:

Bradford goalkeeper, John Roberts was struck in the back by a full large-sized tin of soup (tomato flavour!) thrown from behind his goal just after the restart.

Whilst it may seem comical to read, it should be remembered that hooliganism was very much on the rise during this period and that there are a number of reports in the book which highlight trouble on the terraces and from fans travelling to and from games.

As a book I believe that it will appeal to City fans old and new, fans of other clubs who played against Bradford that season and indeed anyone who wants an insight into that period in English football. Share in Bradford City’s up and down return to Division Three, the glory of the Cup runs and revisit football and an England as the swinging sixties gave way to the seventies.


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Book Review: Off the Bench by Gordon Bartlett & Roger Slater

If you enter the name Gordon Bartlett into Wikipedia you get the following details:

“…Gordon Bartlett (born 3 December 1955 in London) is a former professional footballer who played as a forward…1973-75 Portsmouth FC. 2 appearances, 1 goal…In 1975, he played for the Denver Dynamos in the North American Soccer League (NASL)…His career was cut short by injury…He is currently manager of Wealdstone FC…”

Anyone coming across this brief information could be forgiven that there is no more to the story than that. Just another professional who never made the grade due to an injury and then took up management – nothing remarkable. Well the internet may be a fantastic tool in so many ways, but the story of Gordon Bartlett is not one that the World Wide Web has got right. Instead it is left to the written word of the book to tell the tale of this Non-League luminary.

Off the Bench – A Quarter of a Century of Non-League Management (by Gordon Bartlett & Roger Slater) is the recently published book which charts the career of the current Wealdstone “gaffer”. The book openers with a foreword which covers the unfortunate injury plagued career of Bartlett. In the 1974/75 season on 14 December he came on as a substitute and scored the second goal as Pompey ran out 2-0 winners against Bolton Wanderers. His only other appearance was later that month against Southampton on Boxing Day. However, he was released and went to Denver to play. Fate was against him, as injuries meant he never actually played for the Dynamos in the NASL. Bartlett returned to England to try and regain fitness, but an unsuccessful months trial at Brentford showed that his professional career was over. Despite the injuries he did return to playing for Non-League Hayes FC.

What changed the course of his path in football was studying for the FA Coaching Badges and his first management position as Hayes Youth team coach. When Hayes dispensed with their Youth team, Bartlett moved to Southall to take over their Youth set-up. What this lead to later in 1985/86 was his appointment as first team manager. It was an incredible first season, as the club reached the FA Vase Final at Wembley against Halesowen Town. What follows in the book is a year on year account of Gordon Barlett’s career in management, from that first season at Southall, the years at Hounslow FC (1986 to 1989), Yeading FC (1989 to 1995) and Wealdstone FC (1995 to 2010) – a total of 25 years in Non-League Management.

However, the chapters of those years aren’t merely a game-by-game analysis of a season. In terms of tone and style it is very conversational, with plenty of humour and sincere reflection of both the ups and downs at the various clubs. Events, players and games spark off memories and stories for Bartlett, with the warmth of his recounting of these events making for a very readable book. It is a straight talking and honest look at life on the Non-League circuit and provides a revealing insight into the realities of budgets, player transfers, club management and fans outside the top 92 clubs in England.

Over the 25 years Gordon Bartlett has experienced the full range of emotions in the game. From the highlights of winning the FA Vase, to the lows of battles against relegation. With the joy of discovering players who make the grade such as Les Ferdinand and Jermaine Beckford, there is the despair of players who simply don’t turn up and vanish, never to be seen again. There too is a 15 year management stint at Wealdstone, which is an incredible act of faith and loyalty by both Gordon Bartlett and the Club Board, which survived the ill-fated Prince Edward Playing Fields project.

For me this book will appeal across a range of people in the football world. It will be a fascinating read for players, officials and fans of the clubs Gordon Bartlett has been involved with, as it may throw light on why decisions and events occurred the way they did. Certainly for anyone who follows a Non-League football, it will be a point of comparison for how their particular club is run. Also, I believe it will make interesting reading for fans of the professional clubs, to see how the “other half” live and the financial reality and resource issues that clubs outside the Premier League and Football League have to deal with, week in week out, season after season.

A real insight into all aspects of Non-League Management by a “real” football legend.

Greavsie: a man of two books

I’m doubly lucky. I’ve got two signed copies of a Jimmy Greaves autobiography and each book is different. In both cases, Greaves thanks a co-writer so I have two semi-autobiographies. The names of these demi-semi-autobiographies are ‘A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON MY WAY TO SPURS’ and ‘GREAVSIE’. It would be hard to miss that the titles have something in common. Every time Jimmy Greaves and his ghostly friends write an autobiography, they use block capitals FOR THE TITLES.

They also tell us something about changing times. Back in the days when the first book appeared (1962) readers could cope with allusion. It is a punning reference to the Stephen Sondheim musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum which opened on Broadway in May of that year. Strangely, the film version came out in 1966 and the England World Cup squad went to watch it prior to beating West Germany. A funny thing.

By 2003 our modern readership can just about cope with a one word title. There is sadness, too, in the overly familiar moniker ‘Greavsie’, the persona adopted by the reformed alcoholic Greaves as part of a once-popular TV double act ‘Saint and Greavsie’. This offered him a form of earthly salvation, under the tutelage of a grinning St John, when he had reinvented himself as a pundit, years after his glittering soccer career had ended.

It is only fair to point out here that Jimmy Greaves was the finest goal-scorer this writer has ever seen, a kind of Raul-plus, and Raul was fantastic at his best. JG was the coolest of finishers with the ability to scoot past very good defenders before simply slipping the ball into the back of the net and there was nothing they could do to stop him. I had a friend at university who was a Spurs fan. Whenever we met, if I so much as mentioned his hero, he would fly away in a mental rapture and it would be several minutes before he landed back on earth.

The problem with the first book is that it was brought out when he was 22, timed to cash in on his escape from the unhappy stint playing for Milan, a return of 9 goals in 12 games clearly reflecting his talent but in those days, abroad was abroad, cultures were very different and the cockney cocksparrer didn’t fit in. So, back to London with a big money transfer. He had scored 124 goals in 157 games for Chelsea before his unhappy Italian sojourn and was welcomed home by Double winners, Spurs. What a talent! But how do you write about your own genius since it all comes so naturally? And yet it turned out that there was much more to him than either he or the wider world could cope with back then. He gave in to the Dark Side, Luke. Poor old Greaves. The story has grown into legend that Ramsey’s preference for Geoff Hurst in the World Cup Final drove him over the edge. How different it all might have been if substitutes were allowed back in ’66.

The second book gets round this genius-thing pretty well by dealing, fairly honestly, with his colossal fall from grace into an alcoholic nightmare world. It deals with other things, too, including the almost obligatory ‘state of the game today’ section and it deliberately does not try to leave the reader green with envy. Who would want to end up like him throwing it all away? He might have scored 220 goals in 321 appearances for Spurs plus sundry other league goals and 44 in 57 games for England but we read about a failed man who has had the good fortune, family support and the strength of character to do something about it.

Both books are basically honest, team efforts about a supremely talented individual. The first one pretends to be just looking back but is clearly suggesting it is only the thrilling first half. The second book spends 300 pages dealing with the first 30 years and 80 dealing with the next 30. That gives some clue as to which part of his life he was most pleased to look back on.

I suppose I would have liked to read just one Jimmy Greaves autobiography, possibly even written by himself, when he was 44 and looking back on a hugely successful career, a lorra laughs and maybe a few tears along the way. You flick through the two sections of photographs – and who doesn’t look at the photos before embarking on the reading bit? As you do so, you have a growing feeling of trepidation that, after the glorious pics of Jim foxing yet another defence, there will be the ‘loser Jim’ to face, and there is. Thankfully, you are then given the blessing of a family shot of doting grandparents and six of his ten grandchildren, all bright as buttons.

Whilst I suppose each ghost-writer did his bit, forty years apart, what intrigues me most is what the young Jim and the older Greavsie might say to each other if, time warps permitting, they could meet face to face?  

Graeme Garvey

Buy: A funny thing happened on my way to Spurs


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Book Review: I Had A Wheelbarrow by Luke Williamson

Prior to the summer of 2009, Notts County were probably most well known for being the Oldest Professional Club in the World. However they shot into the consciousness of the country on a wider scale when it was announced that the club was to be the recipient of a huge financial investment. Within weeks ex-England boss Sven Goran Eriksson had arrived and there was ambitious talk of Premier League football and ultimately European participation from the new Board at Meadow Lane. Expectation amongst the County faithful was sky-high. That 2009/10 season saw the Magpies get promoted into League One. Therefore you would assume that the promised investment had had its desired effect and the first stage of the master plan had come to fruition?  If only it was that simple.

Luke Williamson, a Notts County fan since childhood, like many that summer in 2009, couldn’t quite believe what was going on at his beloved club. So feeling that something special was about to happen, he embarked on a journey to record the events of the 2009/10 season which have been captured in the book, I Had A Wheelbarrow. For those wondering the relevance of the title below is the explanation used by the author.

“…On 17th April 1990 as Notts trailed 2-0 away at Shrewsbury, the home fans started singing “On Top of Old Smokey” in their strong West Country accents. Mocking those fans for the way they spoke (or sang) the Notts following began to mimic the song with the following words:

I had a wheelbarrow, and the wheel feel off,

I had a wheelbarrow, and the wheel feel off,

I had a wheelbarrow, and the wheel feel off,

I had a wheelbarrow, and the wheel feel off,

County, County, County, County…”

Notts ended by drawing that game and went on an unbeaten run which saw the Magpies triumph at Wembley in the Play-Offs. The song is now very much part of County folklore.

Of the book itself, the first thing to say is this is no run of the mill diary of a season. The author weaves details of the Magpies 2009/10 title winning season and the controversy off the field, amongst football memories of his childhood and the bittersweet experience of relationships. What is refreshing is that whilst the book runs chronologically, it does not take the reader game by game through the season in a dry match report style. Instead key dates and key matches are featured and County game details sit side by side with those from a trip to see England v Croatia in a European Championship Qualifier and those of CSKA Carnabys, the Sunday League team that Williamson is player-manager of. Williamson also has garnered interviews with Colin Slater, BBC Nottingham’s legendary commentator as well as Notts County Chairman Ray Trew and the Board which help add insight to the drama at Meadow Lane during 2009/10.

The passion and commitment of the writer to all things football and especially Notts County is evident. Readers get the authors view on such topics as post-Sky football in England and looks to the game beyond the confines of Nottingham. Indeed the book captures how football for many is engrained into their psyche and the impact it has throughout their lives and on family and friends. The tales of getting to away games, the feeling of belonging amongst your own supporters, the thrill and disappointment of wins and losses are all described with an authentic manner that will be familiar to football fans the world over and not just those within the confines of NG2.

More than that though, Luke Williamson has produced a book which allows the reader into the writers personal life in an intimate yet frank manner, with an engaging conversational style. There are moments of reflection that are shared with the reader in respect of his relationships, of family and friends that have real pathos.

The book ends with the 2010/11 pre-season friendlies just starting. As we know now, County survived in League One on the last day of the season with a 1-1 draw against Champions Brighton, with a backdrop on and off the field that mirrored the drama of 2009/10. I hope that Luke Williamson has recorded this season events as I’d willingly read his take on them.

Any good book leaves you wanting more. I Had A Wheelbarrow does exactly that.

Book Details

I Had A Wheelbarrow

(a fan’s story of a Notts County adventure)

Luke Williamson

Pure Phase Publishing

The People’s History of Football Series #2

ISBN: 9780956114440 


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Book Review: Glorious 1911 and Bradford City’s Golden Age 1908-1915 by David Pendleton

This labour of love from David Pendleton was written to commemorate the centenary of Bradford City’s FA Cup triumph in 1911 and compliment the exhibition, When the FA Cup Came Home, which ran at the Bradford Industrial Museum from 19 March – 12 June 2011.

The first thing to say about this publication is that this 104 page hardback book is wonderfully researched and illustrated and is a credit to all the writers involved – David Pendleton, David Markham and John Dewhirst. History can be a pretty dry subject, but the use of team pictures, match action and player portraits help to enliven the details of Bradford City’s Golden Age.

In format terms, the book flows chronologically from City’s entry to the Football League in 1903, through season by season chapters from, A First Great Escape: 1908/09 to The Beginning of the Fall: 1914/15. As the title of the book suggests the focus of this publication is the FA Cup triumph in 1911 which is dealt with in Chapter 3 – Glorious 1911: 1910/11.

There are some real gems throughout the book. The first, explains the current exhibition title (When the FA Cup Came Home), as it details how in 1910 the FA required a new design for the FA Cup trophy, as the previous cup,

“…was being retired and being presented to Lord Kinnaird in recognition of his services to the sport. The Bradford jewellers Fattorini’s submitted the winning design. However whilst the new trophy was designed in Bradford a shortage of skilled silversmiths meant the manufacturing of the trophy was sub-contracted to a Sheffield firm…”.

Secondly, there is the player profile of Richard “Dickie” Bond in the Chapter – The Cup Winners, who is described as “…one of City’s greatest, albeit most controversial, players…”. We might think that players’ misdemeanours are confined to the era of modern day players. However, Bond missed out on playing in the 1911 FA Cup Final “…following a suspension after using ‘improper language’ to the crowd at Arsenal…”. His suspension caused him to miss the Quarter and Semi-Finals and despite regaining his place in the League team he was just a travelling reserve for the Final. It wasn’t Bond’s first indiscretion at the club, as he was also. “…suspended following a ‘wild night out’ in Otley during December 1910 (with fellow players) Jimmy McDonald and Robert Campbell…”. Bond later joined the Bradford Pals in the First World War and after returned to City before transferring to Blackburn Rovers in 1922.

There is an honesty about this book which is evident in the Conclusion, as Pendleton acknowledges that Bradford City’s history has been a chequered one and he ponders what might have been if in the early days that City and rivals Park Avenue has joined forces to create one club in Bradford. The book highlights that prior to the First World War, City were a leading light in the (old) First Division and that with the 1911 FA Cup win this was indeed the clubs Golden Age.

Fellow writer David Markham wraps up the book with Postscript – More pain that glory, which summarises events at Bradford City from 1915-2011 to the point at which Peter Taylor was appointed.

This book is essentially aimed at Bradford City fans and will provide so much about the clubs early years and of course the FA Cup win. However, I do believe it has a wider appeal and not just to football fans in general, as the book provides a glimpse into Edwardian life – football and social history and the impact of the First World War. This is a celebratory book about Bradford City’s finest hour, but does so with a pride that is balanced by the history of more downs and ups over its 108 year history.

Book details

Glorious 1911 and Bradford City’s Golden Age 1908-1915

David Pendleton

Bantamsport Publication

ISBN: 9780956698407

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DisRepute – Revie’s England by Robert Endeacott

The true story of Don Revie’s three years as England manager, 1974 – 1977; the follow-up to Dirty Leeds.

July 1974, Don Revie leaves Leeds United to take over the England job from the sacked Sir Alf Ramsey. The departure upsets many Leeds people, he is The Don after all, while his England appointment is not exactly met with universal approval either. Already with enemies within the Football Association, the Football League, the game itself and of course the media, he needs to win over a lot of people, and quickly. Undaunted, he vows to restore the nation’s team to its former heights as well as win over all the doubters and the cynics. But it doesn’t take long for him to realise that there might be too many obstacles in his way to achieve the success he craves, and he can only look on helplessly as his beloved Leeds United slides alarmingly too.

Seemingly forever maligned as being too ‘professional’ and obsessed with money, Revie learns that two reasons for England’s downfall have been the lack of professionalism and the mismanagement of the sport by its penny-pinching and not entirely honest rulers.

Numerous reports and theories abound about Revie’s time as England manager: the players he selected or dropped, the tactics, the dossiers, money, why he resigned and if he was pushed, and the ‘deceitful’ manner of his leaving. DisRepute addresses the myths and rumours and allegations, to paint a clearer, more honest picture. Truth is stranger than football!

The main storyline of the book consists of the trials and tribulations endured by Revie’s England from 1974 to 1977, the High Court in 1979 is revisited too to recount Revie’s appeal case against the FA after their 10-year ban on him from club management after he walked out on England. Revie won the appeal case but took a harsh and unjust verbal beating from the judge nonetheless.

Working from numerous books and biographies, as well as (more importantly) previously unpublished notes written by Don Revie and Les Cocker, DisRepute – Revie’s England tells the truth about his exit from Leeds, his time as England boss and his departure to take charge of the United Arab Emirates national team. The story, which is told from Jimmy O’Rourke’s perspective, sets records straight, corrects myths and rumours and puts right certain ‘selective memories’.

Book details

DisRepute – Revie’s England

Robert Endeacott

ISBN: 9781907183027

Tonto Books

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Dirty Leeds by Robert Endeacott

Players such as Gary Sprake, Paul Reaney, Terry Cooper, Billy Bremner, Jack Charlton, Norman Hunter, Peter Lorimer, Allan Clarke, Mick Jones, John Giles, Eddie Gray, Paul Madeley, Bobby Collins, John Charles, Willie Bell, Albert Johanneson and Mick Bates – all managed by Don Revie. The famous Leeds United AFC – the team they love to hate, run by the man they love to hate. Thirteen years, thirteen chapters. Thirteen, unlucky for some…

Dirty Leeds is the novelisation of Revie’s thirteen year reign as Leeds manager, entwined with the tale of Jimmy O’Rourke, a local lad with the rare ambition of playing for his favourite, his only, football team Leeds United. And he is good enough.

March 1961, Don Revie plans to leave Leeds. They want him out anyway so he will beat them to it and sign for Bournemouth. The truth though, is that Leeds chairman-to-be Harry Reynolds wants him to stay as Leeds’ player-manager. It’s an offer that Revie can’t refuse, and big improvements at the club soon follow. But not on the football pitch, as a torturous two seasons sees the team sink to its lowest ever point.  And then comes the arrival of Bobby Collins, heralding a slow but sure and startling recovery. By 1964, newly promoted Leeds are battling for the League and FA Cup while Revie is revered by the fans. That popularity is uncommon away from West Yorkshire however – to many, he is ruthless, corrupt, bizarrely superstitious, and obsessed with money. His and the club’s reputations are not helped by the tag ‘Dirty Leeds’, inadvertently given them by the FA in a misleading report. Despite Leeds’ miraculous rise, Revie becomes one of the most maligned men in the history of sport.

Eleven year-old Jimmy O’Rourke lives next door to Leeds’ Elland Road stadium. His mum died when he was a baby and his father fled, leaving Jimmy’s grandma to look after him on her own. Jimmy, inspired by the success of local boy Paul Madeley, trains twice a day as well as craftily using the club’s facilities thanks to the generosity of Ces, the head groundsman, and his assistant John. At fourteen, playing well for a ‘pub’ team, Jimmy’s progress is monitored by various club scouts until at fifteen he gets a trial with Leeds, the chance he has dreamed about. He plays well in that trial and his prospects of success look genuinely good. But it all goes nightmarishly wrong when he is violently fouled by an opponent. His leg and ankle are broken. He has to endure torturous pain and a long lay off from playing football. The club doesn’t abandon him though and he is eventually given casual work with the Leeds ground staff. Physically and mentally he slides into depression, finding pain-killing solace in booze, much of which he gets for free from Aitch, the generous, sympathetic landlord of the Old Peacock pub on Elland Road.

April 1974, Leeds manager Don Revie, his team about to win the League Championship, is the unwitting subject of Eamonn Andrews’ This Is Your Life programme.  Revie is forced to look back on his life. Jimmy O’Rourke tells his story at the same time.

Dirty Leeds covers major events in the lives of Don Revie, Jimmy O’Rourke, Leeds United and the city and its people.  It is the famous players, memorable matches and battles, jibes, allegations and insinuations. It is pollution, high-rise and redbrick squalor, cobbled streets, tainted landmarks. It is truths and lies, friends and enemies, saints & sinners.  Dirty Leeds is a secret history of Leeds.

Book details

Dirty Leeds

Robert Endeacott

ISBN: 9781907183003

Tonto Books

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