The Year We (Nearly) Won the League charts one of the closest ever top-flight title battles in English football.

It was 1974/75 and with just four games to go, no fewer than ten clubs had a chance of winning. One was Stoke City, fielding the best team they had ever had. This book follows Stoke as they rise to the top spot, only to fall at the final hurdle.

You’ll discover the unorthodox methods of Tony Waddington, a manager with an eye for talent and a flair for sensational signings. Some of them are legends of English football: Banks, Hurst, Hudson and Shilton.

This campaign was the final glorious hurrah of that team, before the club met near bankruptcy and relegation.

Half a century on, the players themselves recall a time when hearts – and legs – were broken, when the football flowed, and the drink did too.

Although the focus is on one club, this story of Stoke’s ‘nearly men’ will resonate with every fan whose team has promised much, but never quite scaled the summit.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. February 2022. Hardcover: 352 pages)

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)


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