Book Review – Pantomime Hero: Memories of the Man Who Lifted Leeds United After Brian Clough (Football Shorts) by Ian Ridley

Ian Ridley is an award-winning journalist and author. His latest venture is Football Shorts which are a series of books in a collaboration between his own publishing company Floodlit Dreams and renowned sports book publisher, Pitch Publishing. Ridley details in the Notes and Acknowledgments that the inspiration of the series came about during lockdown and his desire for a short sporting read. The intention is that there are to be three books a year, with Pantomime Hero: Memories of the Man Who Lifted Leeds United After Brian Clough by Ridley, the first, with the others coming from former Women in Football CEO Jane Purdon and comedian and writer Andy Hamilton during 2023.

This first short is dedicated to Jimmy Armfield and provides, “memories of, and a friendship with one of the most humble and remarkable men to ever grace English football”. Whilst this is a very personal account, and not a biographical look at Armfield’s career, readers come to learn that his entire playing career was spent at Blackpool and he won over 40 caps for England, played in the 1962 World Cup in Chile and was part of the 1966 World Cup winning squad. After retiring from playing in 1971 he became manager at Bolton Wanderers leading them to the Third Division title in 1972/73. Then after the calamitous 44 day reign of Brian Clough at Leeds United, Armfield took the Elland Road job in October 1974.

He was able to galvanise a troubled club and squad after the turmoil of the ill-fated Clough spell and took the team to the European Cup Final in 1974/75 where they controversially lost 2-0 to Bayern Munich in Paris. It was a injustice that rankled with the normally calm and unflappable Armfield. Part of the process during that season and described within the book is how Armfield “came up with a novel and unique idea to restore the morale of a club tearing itself apart” – one which makes sense of the title of this book. Despite taking Leeds to the FA Cup semi-finals in 1976/77 and the same stage in the League Cup in 1977/78, Armfield was sacked in July 1978 and he never managed again, instead turning his hand to a successful media and journalistic career, in the same assured way that he had been one of the best right backs in the World.

These wonderful 160 pages are a real tribute to Armfield, and Ridley has produced a book that has a genuine warmth borne out of their friendship and Ridley’s admiration for Armfield’s talent as player, manager and broadcaster. It is also a very personal story, one that can only sometimes come from a shared experience – in this case, their respective battles with cancer diagnosis and sadly also for Ridley, the loss of his wife Vikki Orvice to breast cancer.

If the shorts from Jane Purdon and Andy Hamilton are as good as this, readers are in for a real treat, in what will become a much anticipated series of books.

(Publisher: Football Shorts. January 2023. Paperback: 160 pages)


Buy the book here: Pantomime Hero

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Jimmy Armfield was one of the great figures of English football – captain of the national team before Bobby Moore, member of the 1966 World Cup-winning squad, one-club man with Blackpool.

Gentleman Jim went on to enjoy a wonderfully rich life and career as a manager with Leeds United, before becoming a broadcaster of warmth and insight, then consultant with the Football Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association.

In Pantomime Hero, award-winning football writer and author Ian Ridley tells the remarkable tale of when Armfield took over at Leeds after Brian Clough’s ill-fated 44 days and came up with a novel and unique idea to restore the morale of a club in turmoil.

Around that amazing tale, Ridley also describes a friendship forged through the bonds of cancer with a giant of a man who was already long established as a national footballing treasure at the time of his death in January 2018.

This is the first book in the innovative Football Shorts series.

(Publisher: Football Shorts. January 2023. Paperback: 160 pages)


Buy the book here: Jimmy Armfield

Book Review: Hutch, Hard Work and Belief: The Tommy Hutchison Story with Kevin Shannon

Old school.

If it is not tattooed on the inside of his eyelids, I have a heavy fancy it shall be on his gravestone.

Tommy Hutchison is old school. Given the subtitle of his book – Hard Work and Belief – it could be very little else. This is a biography grown out of love and that drips from every syllable on the pages. It has heart and it has soul. And the fact that in a modern world, we can often dismiss the values and views of those who have lived a life is dispelled in the final few chapters as former Scottish international and current Coventry City legend Hutchison, is shown to be a guy who wants to give back to the community in a way that many who are “old school” are believed to be incapable.

Starting from the Raws in Fife where his hard-working family brought Tommy up, this is exactly the type of rags to fame story which Scottish football does so well – the big three Shankly, Busby and Stein come to mind. But it is a lot more than that. The surprise, by the end of the book, is that this has not been ghost written by a journalist but by a fan. It’s what might be described as a vanity project but the one quality missing from the entire enterprise is vanity.

Of course, this means that much of the narrative is unchallenged, that it lacks some of the critical poise that a seasoned journalist may bring and there is a lack, at times, of the perspective of others when facts are presented as fact, but it is a tremendous read. That lack of context can be difficult as you are reading through a story which is not anchored in the events of its time. You can forget what else was happening in the world and without a journalistic attention to the detail much can be left unchallenged, however, this is a modest subject matter not given to hyperbole or boastfulness; they would never allow him away with oany o that in Dundonald efter aw.

And so, we begin in Fife, a kingdom not without its troubles but it certainly had quite a few hearts – though none of them lost to any in Midlothian. In the beauty of Dundonald a boy was born who was rubbish at football at school. That he became a Scottish international is one for the cliché comics but for us it is a revelation Hutchison uses in his teaching of other kids like himself as much as to show us all what such hard work and belief can bring. It was christened in the actions of his upbringing where the chimney sweep gets an honourable mention as much as does his father and mother. This is a boy who was gratefully raised by a village and of course we have the there was no… crime, anti-social behaviour etc tropes of the past and we were poor, but it was idyllic, until you read of his father’s troubles as a miner. His illness led to poverty and yes it was different then, but poverty is poverty. Hutchison may have struggled with the cost of a boot, but he never had his heart taken from him by a lack of support.

That schooling was not to be his master is a common enough theme for those whose intelligence is to be found at the end of your legs, but Hutchison does not forswear the needs of education. He trained and became a painter and decorator out of necessity – football was not a full time occupation for someone who started in the Juniors – and from the Bluebells, he went on an odyssey which is rich in experience and full of anecdotes. It is a rich tapestry which includes the “luck” of broken legs with the Wasps, the vagaries of managerial change at the seaside, the joys of promotion – premature or otherwise, the despair of relegation, working with legendary figures of the game like Bob Stokoe, a fairly unique barter system of ticket trading to make ends meet, and all of this, before he entered the field of play in a Scotland shirt.

Of course, there are many characters named along the way including one John Burridge who must have been very young when he appeared in Hutch’s career, as he appeared in a charity game in Edinburgh in the latter part of 2022 in his seventies!

Hutch’s transfer to Coventry City and elevation to the First Division meant he was in the shop window for the Scottish selectors. That is when I, as a young spectator became aware of him – the 1974 World Cup. It was the first World Cup of which I was aware. Scotland’s manager, Willie Ormond has always been cast as the gentile figure, not seen by many as a giant of the Scottish game despite being the only Scottish manager to get us to a World Cup and come home unbeaten – although still, by Tommy Docherty’s standards, home before the postcards. I read these chapters with great interest. The names around Hutch’s debut are legends themselves, McGrain, Dalglish, Jordan, Hay, the Lawman… But it is the detail both of the campaign to get to the World Cup and whilst they were there that was of huge interest. Penny pinching blazers who put an international squad up in a halls of residence for a World Cup final friendly, cockeyed commercial deals, a wholly forgettable World Cup song, and being unable to deal with recalcitrant rowers as well as one man who saw his stature greater than his height  – Billy Bremner – are all included, and I devoured them with eyes wide open.

Of revelations, there were none, but confirmations aplenty with an earnestness, a pride for wearing a jersey that meant so much to him and his wee boy self, which must have hurt when at the tender age of only 28, he had played his last for his country.

But then Manchester City came calling… Then eventually Burnley, the flirting with management that always seemed to involve flirting in one direction, and then Wales – Swansea City, where a man once his captain now became his manager and both had to deal with a chairman seemingly out of his depth and Merthyr Tydfil.

All are given to us with great glee especially when you could make sure the carpenter gave you the keys to the drinks room…

And so, of the man whose best international goal was in a Home International defeat, who took his steer as a captain from a Welshman rather than a Scot, his spat with Jimmy Hill, rollercoaster relationship with John Bond that began with a dip, why he may never be welcomed in Sunderland, his retail acumen or lack thereof, the final where he scored twice, for each team, the times he played for Manchester United and why, his foreign odysseys in Seattle and with Bulova involved injustice in New York and a trophy for Mr. Gentleman in Hong Kong. They are told with sufficient detail of the experience and a modesty in each accomplishment.

Then came retirement from playing and possibly the most surprising part of the whole book – his role as a Football Development Officer. The way that it is told, Hutch wanted nothing to do with the professional side of the game once the boots were hung up and the managerial merry go-round was firmly shut. I was and still am an Academy Director. You get your fair share of former professionals who still believe they are the epitome of what it means to be a professional footballer and that they are still, mentally, playing each Saturday at 3pm. Here is a Football Development Officer who just happens to be a former professional footballer. Hutch approached this task with the same professional attitude which saw him turn up in shirt and tie and train in the best of facilities because that is what was deserved. Hutch took on his new role with relish – and raised his own wages whilst doing it too. There is something of the son of the Raws here which shines through.

And so why should I be surprised? Throughout the anecdotes have dwelled upon chimney sweeps with an unfortunate streak, a man covered in snuff, a sage tea lady and a family who may never have pulled on the shirt of their country but whose heart burst with pride that their son did. It is the story of a man who lived a dream and knew it. His best role, father, husband, son, prepared him for his public one and with Kevin Shannon wielding the pen he has found a muse to tell the tale and tell it well. As he was once told when down in the dumps because he thought he did not belong at a trial, he was told, “Well ye must hae something otherwise ye wouldnae be here” – aye he did indeed and now we can all share in the reading of it. Oh, the wisdom of tea ladies…

Donald C Stewart

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. October 2022. Hardcover: 320 pages)


Buy the book here: Hutch

Book Review: How to be a Football Manager by Ian Holloway

With the managerial roundabout in full swing already this season, the question once more crops up: who would want to be a football manager? Well, ask most football fans, and they’ll probably think they can do a better job than some managers, and they may not be wrong. Let’s be honest, we’ve all sat there, in the stands or on the sofa, watching our teams lose and called out the manager for their tactical choices, their personnel choices or, perhaps in lieu of anything else, their fashion choices. After all, when it’s all going pear-shaped, we often wonder how hard can it be to pick eleven players, to get them passing ten yards, to not concede yet again? From our lofty perches, it seems like child’s play, but former QPR and Blackpool manager Ian Holloway has been there, done it and got the stories to prove it’s a lot harder than it looks. So, just before you hit send to wing your CV over to put your name in the managerial race for those teams looking for the next Pep Guardiola, it might be worth a quick perusal of Holloway’s How To Be A Football Manager, to discover just what it takes to sit in the managerial hot seat.

There are few managers as entertaining and honest as Ian Holloway, traits that have occasionally backfired on him, but nonetheless made him a memorable and engaging character in the game. Having spent almost two decades playing, for the likes of Bristol Rovers and QPR, Holloway continued his footballing career on the side-lines as manager at clubs including Leicester City, Crystal Palace and most recently Grimsby Town. Across four decades in the game, there’s very little that Holloway has not seen, done or experienced, working across the leagues, and whilst a post-match glass of wine with Arsene Wenger or a pre-season friendly against Real Madrid may sound like the stuff of dreams, the life of a football manager is often much more mundane and challenging. From picking a starting XI to overseeing contract negotiations, dealing with referees to managing in a pandemic, Ian Holloway reflects on the highs and lows in the dugout with his trademark honesty.

The book is full of Holloway’s own stranger-than-fiction real-life episodes, including the time he put his personal address on the QPR website inviting disgruntled fans to come and share their grievances face to face (none did) and the time that a pre-season prank by his players ended up with Holloway making a trip to the local police station. Holloway’s managerial career is littered with such frankly outlandish but true tales, begging the question whether it could only happen to Holloway or whether Jurgen Klopp has a similar dossier that he’s just waiting to release. Although I can’t imagine Klopp, or any manager in the top leagues come to think of it, inviting round disgruntled fans – and they’re probably wise not to. But when it comes to player acquisition, chairmen strife and press conferences, off-piste coaching and handling players, Holloway may very well be in a league of his own.

As mentioned already, one of the great strengths of Holloway, that comes across so explicitly in this book, is his honesty, but not only honesty, a complete candidness and forthrightness. And crucially it’s an honesty that is applied equally to everything, be that when he speaks about difficult chairmen, underperforming players or himself. Indeed, Holloway is unflinchingly honest about his own failings and shortcomings, recognising the moments where he has made a mistake or overstepped the mark, and neither too afraid nor too proud to try to make a change. It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for some of the other characters in the book. Above all, it’s obvious that Holloway is a man of principle and integrity, one that loves the game and wants to see the best version of it, whether in himself, his team or his supporters. He speaks passionately about protecting his players, about making difficult decisions and his commitment to his teams and you just know that what you see is what you get with Holloway. He is the type of manager who you could bump into in the street, or, as he prefers, in the second-hand shop, and discuss football with, and he would be as honest and open as ever. He would entertain you with stories of the good, the bad and the ugly of the football world, and leave you feeling energised once more about the game, despite the latest VAR debacle, your out-of-nick striker and your penny-pinching owners. He would remind you just why we all love this little old sport called football and why a good manager is much more than their tactics.

Without Holloway, the game has lost one of its larger-than-life characters, but during his hiatus, his book offers a refreshing, eye-opening insight into the real world of football management. Holloway, in yet another measure of the man, thanks ghost-writer David Clayton in the acknowledgements, a classy but oft-overlooked touch in such books, and Clayton merits these plaudits as the book perfectly encapsulates all that fans know and love about Ian Holloway – frank, passionate, down-to-earth and fair. For anyone polishing their managerial CV, those qualities aren’t bad ones to start with.

Jade Craddock

(Publisher: Headline. October 2022. Hardcover: 320 pages)


Buy here: Ian Holloway


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Hampson, Matthews, Mortensen, Suddick, Green, Armfield, Ellis and Adam. Smith, Stokoe, Ayre, Grayson and Holloway. Atomic Boys, hooligans, boycotts and homecoming. 1953 and 2010. ‘The best trip’. Blackpool Football Club.

Every fan knows that supporting this club is the much-used cliché ‘rollercoaster ride’. Every success is followed by failure, every moment of hope followed by despair and every dream becomes a nightmare. It’s what being a Blackpool fan is all about. Blackpool supporters are not that different from any others, and the club is not that different either, but there’s something in the fabric of its identity that says that nothing will ever come easily.

Flat Caps & Tangerine Scarves isn’t a history. It’s a biography. A manic dash around the seasons like a stream of consciousness. Getting into the minds of the players, the managers and the supporters of the club that defies normality and embraces controversy and crisis. Quotes, interviews, opinions and unusual stories.

Like the Golden Mile, it’s brash and unexpected. Read, recall, argue and agree, but identify as a fan… because We Are Blackpool.

Read our review here: Book Review: Flat Caps & Tangerine Scar (

(Publisher: Conker Editions Ltd. April 2021. Paperback: 188 pages)

Magazine Review: Turnstiles (Issue 1/Spring 2021) Editor Chris O’Keeffe

Or to give the magazine its full title, Honest I swear, it’s the turnstiles that make us hostile, which to those who know their Morrissey, is a line from the track, We’ll Let You Know featured on the 1992 album, Your Arsenal. Trafford born Mozza, would no doubt approve of this first edition, dedicated as it is to his county of birth, Lancashire.

Contained within its pages are articles which cover various clubs from the Red Rose county, including, Blackburn Rovers, Blackpool, Bury FC/Bury AFC, Colne Dynamoes/Colne FC and Darwen FC/AFC Darwen, as well as other with pieces with links to Accrington and Preston, with an international flavour added by some eye-opening musings on attending football in Argentina.

The magazine is the creation and idea of Chris O’Keeffe, who wanted to combine the feel and writing of what he read in his childhood, such as Shoot and Match, with his reading of today from publications like, Stand and Diego. And this first issue certainly hits the brief, with its fun element from the freebies with the magazine (including a Turnstile branded sticker, football related postcard and Merlin trading card – which for FBR featured Dean Holdsworth in his Wimbledon FC days) and features such as Spot the Ball, and 11 of the Best, with even a couple of player posters thrown in good measure. These sit alongside serious and interesting articles, such as that about Creative Football which seeks to help a range of people and their issues through football. Combined with the fun and serious elements, it also has a matchday programme feel, with a Starting Line-up (detailing the index of articles), and Notes from the Gaffer (an introduction from editor Chris O’Keefe).

At a time when we are all missing the ability to physically get to games, this is a cracking reminder of what we love and miss about football. Many of the articles seem to reflect the recent times we have experienced, with the despair of lockdown, replaced by hope that with the vaccine roll-out, by summer some sort of normality will return. This seems especially reflected in the articles about Bury FC/Bury AFC, Colne Dynamoes/Colne FC and Darwen FC/AFC Darwen, where clubs for differing reasons have been lost, only to rise in a new form once again. What is also evident, is that this a magazine which talks of the passion of the game below the Premier League, and as the Blackpool articles illustrates, whilst their season in the top-flight was one to remember, its legacy was a damaging one which nearly destroyed their club, leaving many fans in no hurry to return the top division.

Issue 1 has been hugely popular and is great start for this new magazine. If you can’t get a copy, make sure you don’t miss Issue 2.

(Publication date: Spring 2021. 56 pages)


For more information and copies of the magazine:

Email –

Twitter – @Turnstilesmag

2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 12 – Friday 27 September 2019: Blackpool v Lincoln City

A Friday night adventure with a visit to Blackpool to see the mighty Imps!

My links to Lincoln City go back to the ten years I lived there. My dad came out of the Air Force after being posted to RAF Scampton (about 6 miles from Lincoln), home of the Dambusters Squadron 617 and we stayed on in the area. My dad would take me to local games such as Nottingham Forest and we would make regular trips to London to see my nan, (my dad’s mum), but primarily Lincoln City who were languishing in the Fourth Division (what is now League Two). We used to stand on the old Sincil Bank terrace along the west side of the ground. When I got older, I used to go with school friends Rob and Julian. In 1972 along came Graham Taylor as manager. He won promotion for Lincoln in 1975/76 and moved to Watford – you all know his story from then.

Lincoln City 1975/76

However, that Lincoln team still lives on in my memory. Dennis Booth (a journeyman midfielder who came via Charlton, Blackpool and Southend), Ian Branfoot (best remembered for his managerial career with Reading, Southampton and Fulham), Terry Cooper (not the Leeds United one), Sam Ellis (former Sheffield Wednesday centre half), John Fleming, “Big Percy” Freeman, Peter Grotier (former West Ham keeper), Dick Krzywicki (as well as an answer to an old football question, former Huddersfield and West Brom winger and Welsh international), Dennis Leigh (a local lad via Doncaster and Rotherham), Phil Neale (the footballer/cricketer who played for Worcestershire CCC and also Scunthorpe United with Ian “Beefy” Botham), Dave Smith (long standing outside left – number 10), John Ward (a local lad and prolific goal-scorer better known for his managerial career where he took charge of nine clubs) and Tony Woodcock (on loan from Nottingham Forest before he became an England international, First Division winner and European Cup winner).

Matchday programme cover

It’s 70 miles to Blackpool, I’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and I’m wearing sunglasses…Hit it!! It’s all motorway from Huddersfield to Blackpool M62, M61 and M55, but it’s a Friday night and I have to go through Manchester at the tail end of the rush hour so I thought I would give it two hours, well…It was pissing down all the way, road works, traffic hold ups round the M62/M62 junction and when I hit the outskirts of Blackpool the traffic was backed up all the way along two miles of Yeadon Lane heading into Blackpool. Fortunately, I managed to find off-street parking close to the ground but had missed the first 25 minutes. I picked up my ticket from the club shop, which was closing, there no vendors left outside the ground, so no programme and I had to almost batter a door down to get a steward to let me in. I took my seat and the score was already 2 – 1 to Blackpool.

So what had I missed dear readers? Well, here is what the Blackpool FC website said about the opening of the game:

It was Lincoln’s on-loan Nottingham Forest forward Tyler Walker who had the first opportunity of the game, cutting inside and forcing a save out of Jak Alnwick. Minutes later, Blackpool opened the scoring. Sean Scannell, making his first league start since signing for the club, latched onto a cut-back from Liam Feeney and rifled the ball into the top corner. The Seasiders then had Alnwick to thank again for preserving the lead, as he scampered across goal to push away an 18-yard drive from Jack Payne. At the other end, Armand Gnanduillet was frustrated to nod over the bar when left unmarked from a Liam Feeney corner. Then came an individual bit of brilliance. Jordan Thompson picked up the ball off Feeney on the edge of the box, nutmegged his marker and curled the ball into the far corner to put Blackpool two goals up. The visitors weren’t affected by that goal though and quickly reduced the deficit. A cross into the box deflected into the path of Jack Payne, who blasted the ball into the net.

Match action

Once I had taken my seat, Blackpool were then forced to scramble the ball away when a Ben Heneghan clearance rebounded off Matty Virtue and presented a chance to Lincoln’s Payne. However, he was denied by ‘keeper Alnwick. Later the half the other real effort came via Lincoln’s Harry Toffolo whose cross just evaded Walker at the back post.

Into the second-half and in a lively opening, Blackpool nearly went 3-1 up when a Gnanduillet shot took a deflection and went just past the post. Lincoln responded with the Imps captain Jason Shackell having a real golden opportunity to level the game as from a free-kick he headed wide of the goal. The home side looked to change things up with a double substitution just after the hour mark, and it nearly gave Blackpool a third goal when Thompson had a great chance but was denied by a cracking save from John Vickers. The game became more cat and mouse as it entered the final quarter, but despite the efforts of the Imps, it was Blackpool who took the points with a 2-1 win.

Blackpool were to feature later in the season on my journey and ironically another incident involving the car…watch this space.


Friday 27 September 2019

Sky Bet League One

Blackpool 2 (Scannell 11’, Thompson 21’) Lincoln City 1 (Payne 24’)

Venue: Bloomfield Road

Attendance: 9,203

Blackpool – Alnwick, Turton, Heneghan, Tilt, Husband, Spearing, Virtue (Guy 62), Thompson, Feeney, Scannell (Macdonald 62), Gnanduillet.

Unused substitutes – Mafoumbi, Bushiri, Edwards, Shaw, Hardie.

Lincoln City – Vickers, Eardley, Bolger, Shakell, Toffolo, Connelly, Morrell, Andrerson (Grant 49’), Payne, Carvalho Andrade, Walker.

Unused substitutes – O’Conner, Chapman, Smith, Lewis, Melbourne, Akinde


Steve Blighton