Book Review – The Lions’ King by Bryan King

During the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s England was particularly blessed with an array of goalkeeping talent, from the World Cup winning Gordon Banks, through to Ray Clemence and Peter Shilton. However, there was a dearth of other talented players who could also have pulled on (and did in some cases) the Three Lions shirt during that time, with the likes of Peter Bonetti, Joe Corrigan, Jim Montgomery, Phil Parkes, Jimmy Rimmer, Alex Stepney and Gordon West all highly regarded First Division ‘keepers. Given that, it is all the more remarkable that Bryan King, who whilst playing his trade at Second Division Millwall, also forced his way into the England set-up during the early 1970s.

The Lions’ King tells the story of Bryan King, who after starting his career at Chelmsford City in 1964, signed professionally for Millwall three years later. Down at Cold Blow Lane, he made a record number of appearances for a ‘keeper, which would later see him become a member of the Millwall Hall of Fame. King then moved to First Division Coventry City in 1975, but after only one season in the top-flight, his career was cruelly ended by injury.

However, King had wisely started his FA Coaching badges during his playing days, so that he was able to take up managing and coaching positions once his career was cut short and it enabled him enjoy stints in Norway with FK Jerv, Harstad, Tynset, Rendalen, Kongsberg, and Falkenberg in Sweden. He later stayed in the game showing his versatility and talent in becoming a journalist for a Norwegian sports paper, working as an agent and in more recent years as a scout for clubs such as Aston Villa, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur.

King’s extensive involvement in the game is told in three main sections, titled Player, Manager and Saved Till Last and to be honest it is a real page-turner. Stylistically it is very conversational, often humorous, and as a reader I felt like I was sat down with King in a bar, sharing the anecdotes and stories over a few pints. There are gems of tales littered throughout the book, whether it is acting as a ball boy at Wembley and getting to meet his boyhood goalkeeping heroes, Lev Yashin and Gordon Banks, detailing the antics of the Millwall dressing rooms or mixing with the likes of Brian Clough and Sven-Goran Eriksson.

This is not to say serious issues aren’t addressed, such as dementia in players, however, they are only dealt with in the briefest of terms, and with King’s extensive time and experience in the game and in various roles, it would have been interesting if he had expanded on those topics.

As well as charting King’s undoubtedly varied and interesting time in the game, it is a book about a very different time in football, a game much more rough around the edges, but no worse off for being so. And on that basis it is a book that will appeal to anybody wanting an insight into football as it was.


(Little Hell Books. November 2020. Hardback 320 pages)


Category: Reviews | LEAVE A COMMENT