Book Review: Beneath the Floodlights by Martin Tracey

Martin Tracey’s Beneath the Floodlights belongs to that tiny category of fiction, Vampire Football. The mixing of these two very different genres makes it a difficult book to review by a website dedicated to football book reviews. Put simply, combining the two genres doesn’t work and from a football fan’s point of view that is because so much is of no real interest to them.

Extending a footballing cliché, structurally, it is a novel of two halves. The problem in the first half of the novel is that those wanting to read about football keep being frustrated by having to read several chapters about vampires or sex or vampires and sex before getting back to the footie stuff.

The problem in the second half is that Tracey combines the two in a highly improbable manner by getting the vampires to infiltrate their way into the football world, in particular racking up huge scores whenever they play ‘under the floodlights’, i.e. after sunset.

Forcing the soccer metaphor even further, the football reader finally (Chapter 57!, p334) finds something closer to what they were looking for all along when the story turns into a traditional, vampire-free, we won the Cup after being two goals down like Everton did in ’66, make-believe kind of tale.  By then, though, it is far too late for all but the most dedicated of readers.

The general writing level is sound, with an effective range of vocabulary and control of expression yet with some occasional lapses like “when Kingsbarr United became relegated”. There are also occasions where some West Midlands dialect obtrudes; National newspapers had ran (p142) and Jody must have drank enough alcohol (p244) for example.

The narrative, throughout, is controlled with energy and skill. There is a clear authorial engagement but there are far too many threads to interweave; Medieval England, Romania, modern-day England, a fair amount of sex where ‘thrusting manhood’s’ do many manly thrusts, lost children, adopted children, lost children who are then found, fangs all-too-frequently sunk into necks, blood being drained from bodies, people getting turned into vampires, people getting turned back into humans. Then there are the football bits, relegation from the Premiership, promotion from the Championship and, finally, the Cup Final.

Vampire fantasy and football fiction, at least in this case, don’t work. It is too far-fetched and disbelief can only be willingly suspended for so long. Anyway, the best football fiction is the most real and believable.

Graeme Garvey

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Book Review – Beastly Fury: The Strange Birth of British Football by Richard Sanders

What a strange main title it seems for a book about football, until you read what it is referring to (page 78)! The subtitled part takes rather longer to develop, naturally, since that is the central theme and Sanders does take a while to get into his stride, mainly because he is detailing the growth of football in the British public schools.

The narrative then becomes very good indeed as Sanders builds the argument that football was actually rescued from the public schools and finally appropriated by the working man. Only then was it in a position to become the national game, although the public-school educated elite continued to hold back the game in any way they could, mostly through the shameful favouring of so-called amateurs (i.e. them, the ruling class) over the unspeakable professionals (i.e. us, the rest).

Although the book is centred on football, it is arguing a larger case – the unfairness of the class structure – and, although it is clear where the author’s sympathies lie, he does it well and with a fair degree of objectivity.

Eventually, the whole title is fully explained and, as such, makes the wider claim that the men from public schools, once they’d stopped playing with themselves and each other, went on to spawn the child that is modern football. In this strange, Freudian reading, the mother, then is the working class.

It is a good book though, full of fascinating detail and it is scrupulously researched. Sanders has expertly synthesised a wide range of source material and put it into a narrative that only loses its authority and cogency on the odd occasions when it wanders off football into general theorising about society.

It is not a light read but is packed with interest and broken into logical chapters, each introduced by an apt quotation and with thoughtful and sometimes thought-provoking headings such as ‘A Most Unfeminine Exhibition’. Sanders cares about the humanity of the people involved, too. This comes across most clearly in his profile of Billy Meredith, shown in many guises and over many years.

Sanders is particularly adept at charting the conflicts and power struggles that shaped the game we now know; the public school ‘amateur’ versus the working class professional, the rise and rise of the F.A., the triumph of the club directors over player power, the difficulties faced by women who wanted to take up the sport in a hostile Victorian era. His reasoning is persuasive since, after all, a football match is a form of conflict.

His final chapter, ‘Football at War’, is the most impressive one, neatly summarising what has gone before and focusing on an extract from J.B. Priestley’s The Good Companions which so neatly encapsulates why football became the national game for the working man.

I suppose you could read the final chapter and skip all the rest but, if you did, you would miss so much.


Graeme Garvey



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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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Plain Strains and Auto-biographies (Act I)

Reading football biographies or autobiographies is fine as long as you don’t expect them to tell the whole truth about anyone. By their very nature, they have got to be selective. A biography is about a footballer so can never fully penetrate inside the subject’s thoughts. An autobiography is worse for the very reason that it can. In what kind of scrambled mess are your thoughts on a daily basis? So an autobiography is, at best, a selective look at things and, annoyingly, as most of them are ghosted, they’re still biographies after all. Because most top footballers do whatever great things they do by instinct and are pretty uneducated geezers, publishing houses daren’t let them loose on a keyboard as an actual autobiography would be something like Billy Casper’s ideal day from ‘Kes’, phonetic spelling, jumbled sentences and all.

There is also the problem that a biography is about a footballer’s whole life and most people are only really interested in the great matches bit. Who’s bothered if the hero scraped his BMW in a Tesco car park, except in a cruel way? I have a friend who has bought a house once owned by a famous footballer. He thinks it’s great until he has to visit the bog. Then his identification with the hero is all too real and somewhat depressing.

The reader’s age is very important too, especially if reading about a current footballer – which is most likely. Want to read about an ex-footballer? Sorry says the librarian, that book has been moved to the History Section. (This would include people like Brian Robson and Gary Lineker.) When you are young enough for it to still make a difference, you read about a famous footballer to find out two things;

1) How they did all those bits of amazing skill (so that you can copy them and become great too.)

2) How they are great people, having great lives, (so that you can be like them in that, too).

Added to this, it is only fair to point out, is the hope that you can copy them and be like them even as far as having to go out with all those beautiful women who know nothing about football but plenty about money, camera shots, fast cars and fame. Occupational hazard innit? Comes with the territory, Bruv.

More mature readers – and I class myself in this category, agewise at least – tend be a little more bitter and twisted, reading to find out two things:

1) How they did all those bits of amazing skill (and why you were unable to copy them and become great too.)

2) How they are not really great people, having great lives, (so that you can also feel better about missing out on all that.)

Added to this, it is only fair to point out, is the hope that since you weren’t able to copy them and be like them even as far as having to go out with all those beautiful women who know nothing about football but plenty about money, camera shots, fast cars and fame, you hope they have had to spend long, unpleasant hours afterwards in various clinics as a consequence. Then you can tut-tut about the wasted lives of such former greats as Jimmy Greaves, George Best and Paul John Gascoigne.

I think I have to blame Roy of the Rovers for much of this. Ok, ok, he wasn’t actually real, but he was almost real and became the model against whom every footie hero had to be measured. If not quite Art mirroring life, it was Art mirroring a kids’ comic. Roy Race was…


Graeme Garvey

Featured Writers – Graeme Garvey

A long time ago in a world far, far away I remember sitting in the press box at Halifax Town as my dad reported on the match. That was in the days of the old Third Division. I was born in Halifax and moved to Bradford when I was two. Watching Bradford Park Avenue in World Cup winning year, their best player by almost exactly a million miles was Kevin Hector, although I did see the classy Johnny Haynes and Allan Clarke when Avenue played Fulham in the F.A. Cup.

I moved to the famous metropolis of Drighlington in 1968 and soon began watching Leeds United. Not many stars of other sides played well against that Leeds team; apart from one magical minute when he scored two goals, George Best was almost always kept quiet by Paul Reaney. Paul Madeley had a similar damping effect on Bobbie Charlton. Jimmy Greaves, the finest goalscorer I have ever seen, scored a great opportunist goal for Spurs in their 3-1 defeat. Momentary flickers of greatness. Cryuff and Neeskens did very little in the Elland Road leg of the European Cup semi-final whilst playing for Barcelona. Perhaps surprisingly, the visiting player who impressed me most at Elland Road was the gutsy and skilful Mike Summerbee.

There have been many memorable occasions watching football so it is not easy to pick out the best.  Although I was fortunate enough to see Leeds win the Cup in 1972, I would probably rate higher the two Championship titles achieved by the Revie boys. The best team after 42 games truly is the best in the land. For me, their greatest team performance was against Tottenham in the Cup on the way to Wembley triumph.

Sadly, there is no doubt which has been my worst experience watching football. When 56 people die and another 265 are injured at a game, it truly puts everything else into context. May 11th1985, Bradford City v Lincoln City. After such an awful experience, football has never been quite the same again and has put me completely out of patience when I see fans, in close-up on the huge TV screen, weeping in inconsolable grief at not winning this trophy, narrowly losing out on that title, or even – dread the thought – being relegated. So what?

I was a member of Leeds Football Writers’ group, contributed to Leeds, Leeds, Leeds the club magazine, have appeared in Four Four Two and done a bit of radio work as well. More recently I have been contributing weekly pieces to www.clarkeonenil. Over the years I have also been involved in producing and publishing several books on football, including Fanthology (as contributor and editor), Doolally (contributor and publisher) and Black Catalogue (contributor and publisher).

World Cup 2018 – 8 days to decision

Just a teenager by a few of months, I remember with affection England winning the World Cup in 1966. For those not old enough to recall it, sorry, but it really was a special day and I shared in the nation’s joy on that sunny afternoon in late July. Our family holiday had taken us down to Perranporth and, sitting in the hotel lounge, we watched the Wembley drama unfold. Winning the Rugby Union World Cup pales into nothingness in comparison, despite all the media hype. That day gripped the whole nation, not just sections of it. As the game built to its extra time conclusion, so the crowd in the lounge grew. The chefs quit the kitchen to watch the compelling final minutes and, after we had won, people were so happy that there were hardly any complaints about our meals not being ready as a consequence. The tv audience was 32,300,000 (the biggest one ever, being two thirds of the total population) but I’m sure they forgot to count our chefs.

Reading the papers the next day was wonderful as each one celebrated that never-before or since event. The triumph lifted everybody, whilst beating a good, strong team and our traditional rivals West Germany made it even sweeter. Mind you, it is a long time ago now.

But all of those memories have made me yearn for the World Cup to return to England and I can’t believe it hasn’t happened yet. Both Mexico and Germany have hosted two since then, France have had two altogether and Brazil are lining up their second. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for the Home of Football to want a second turn – even if it seems tied in with the notion that that is perhaps our only way of winning it again. Sadly, that desire to host has been frustrated many times over the years, however, and if England fail this time, the next possible year will be 2026. 60 years since ’66 and there are no guarantees even then.

I have a great deal of sympathy for all the people who have been part of the 2018 England Bid. So much work has been put in that it will be galling if it is ultimately to no avail. But that must be true for people in the other bidding countries; Belgium & Netherlands, Russia, Portugal & Spain. And this is where I find the whole business unpalatable. There is something wrong with a system that encourages people to spend millions of pounds fruitlessly. I know that much of the stadium redevelopment will only happen if England’s bid is successful and yet an enormous amount of preparatory work has had to be done anyway. A winning bid will probably make it worthwhile but how can FIFA allow so many countries to spend so much? Isn’t there supposed to have been a global economic downturn? Maybe FIFA are from the Lord Young School of Economics?

Once I start to think about the bid and the voting process, I really begin to feel uncomfortable about the whole thing. People bang on about carbon footprints, global warming, saving the planet and so on, and yet bidders are jetting here there and everywhere, carrying wonderful gifts, making sparkling Powerpoint presentations and giving out plenty of free key rings in order to woo some very ordinary people into voting their way.

Most of me still hopes England’s bid is successful but, in the end, I wish FIFA had cut out all the fuss and printed a list saying ‘Here are the World Cup venues for the next forty years.’ And that England realised the best way to win it again is for the team to play the best football.   


Author: Graeme Garvey

2000/01: LUFC Champions League – Deportivo Moment

During Leeds United’s amazing run to the semi-finals of the Champions’ League in 2000/2001 one moment stood out in particular. The choice might seem strange with so much to pick from. It was, perhaps surprisingly, not a goal, not even Dom Matteo’s effing great goal in the San Siro and it wasn’t a great tackle by a Leeds defender, a goal-line clearance, a stunning save or that blooper by A.C. Milan’s goalie that allowed Bowyer’s 89th minute shot through. There were plenty of all these great memories which have since been firmly absorbed into United’s folklore.

The moment that stood out for me happened away in north-west Spain when we played Deportivo de La Coruña on Easter Tuesday 2001. Almost a fortnight earlier, Leeds had demolished Deportivo 3-0 at home with goals from Harte, Smith and Ferdinand. We went with great confidence to the second leg, knowing that we stood on the brink of a place in the semi-final for the first time in 26 years. However, for the second occasion in Spain during the Champions’ League run (0-4 to Barcelona was the first), the team looked out of its depth as Depor took the game to Leeds right from the start. They were the Spanish champions and had recently stunned the football world by coming back from 3-0 down after 55 minutes to Paris St German in their last home match to win 4-3. This, naturally, gave them great hope that they could do the same against Leeds.

We knew we were up against it when Kewell gave away a penalty after 9 minutes. Then followed a right battering. Leeds seemed to have no idea how to deal with it and yet, we somehow got through to half time still only one-nil down. The inevitable happened after 74 minutes when Depor scored their second. Watching the game in Woodie’s, Headingley, we braced ourselves for the final onslaught, extra time and Champions’ League exit. Only it didn’t happen. In the minute after the second goal, just when we expected unbearable pressure, it became apparent that Depor had run out of steam. The storm had abated. United picked this up pretty quickly and played out time with increasing confidence. When the game ended, they knew they were a beaten side and we knew we were in the semis.


Author: Graeme Garvey

Leeds United FA Cup 1972 (Part 2)

 The alarm woke me at some ungodly hour and it was raining. It wasn’t supposed to rain. Cup Final days are always sunny. Nonetheless, I had a coach to catch so sulking in bed wasn’t an option. Breakfast was, indeed, fast and armed with some food lined up by my mum, I was soon on my way down through the estate to the main road pick-up point for the esteemed Hargreaves of Morley, Motor Coach Co. Ltd.

I had been promised it would stop on the corner for me but I was sceptical and, with no one else around so early on a Saturday morning, I was already thinking if I had a Plan B which could get me to Wembley on time. I peered into the distance. Six thirty, and at least the rain had eased to drizzle. Almost miraculously an approaching vehicle started to resemble the very coach. What’s more, it actually stopped for me and I was soon sitting down, rather incredulously, along with a handful of forlorn looking individuals. Such a low-key start. I found it incredible to believe anything momentous could happen that day, especially starting out from a place called Drighlington.

And yet…and yet as we passed through Gildersome on our way to Morley, with more and more people clambering aboard, a creeping feeling began to grow that it was for real. By the time we had stopped at Tingley, prior to the M1 motorway, the bus was actually full. Early shyness and Yorkshire inhibition began to melt as scarves and banners flowered. All the way down, past Sheffield into Derbyshire then the Midlands, conversation rolled on. Leeds had lost two finals already – to Liverpool and Chelsea – surely we had to win at last? Well, I felt confident since I was going this time. I had collected enough tokens from home and away programmes to qualify, so I reckoned I had earned the right to be there. 

Two hundred miles to London. Two hundred miles of anticipation, added to by seeing the growing number of other coaches and the stream of cars with Leeds scarves trailing from their windows. I thought, too, of all the fans going by train and those who were making their way from other parts of England. Arsenal might have done the Double the previous year but Leeds were one of the best club sides in the world. Their support base was growing but most of those travelling from elsewhere on that day were exiled Yorkshiremen.

One thing I had noticed during those miles was that it was not even drizzling any more. The signs were good and by the time we reached the last Services before London, it all just seemed to be falling in to place. Mind you, there was one positively surreal experience as we began to leave the Service Station. A luxury coach full of spaced out, sunglass-masked hairies from the U.S. of A. was parked alongside. As each driver started up, ready to take us on our separate ways, with paths never to cross again, both sets of passengers marvelled at the mutual weirdness of the other. I’m sure they enjoyed their trip. 

The North Circular Road and the frustration of being so near and yet so far from the ground. I wanted everybody not going to the match to get off the road but queuing in traffic has always been part of the London Experience. Wembley finally hove into view and I suppose the crawling traffic probably built up the fun. We pulled in to a huge coach park and fled the bus. After all, it was only two hours to kick off. Family and friends at home would be close to their televisions, mostly black and white sets, still, unless you were posh. The old favourites; ‘Meet the Teams’ and ‘The Road to Wembley’, would have a special significance on this day of days. I had literally just travelled that road. The cameras panning down Wembley Way would show us this time, mingling with the red and white of Arsenal, our Northern vowels proudly proclaiming how English should be truly pronounced. This was not the Cap Foinoo.

Having joined the huge flow of people near the end of Wembley Way, it was good to see fans of both clubs walking peaceably along together but it was wonderful to see the two rivers diverge as we neared the stadium. Suddenly, I was amongst none but Leeds fans, a slow-moving phalanx making for the entrances at the Tunnel End. I wanted to get in to the ground as soon as I possibly could. Queuing at the austere, barred gates had a wonder of its own. Aged 19, the biggest crowd I had been in up to then was a fairly impressive 63,000 but this would be the magical number of 100,000.  The scale of it all was compelling.

In dreaming of going to Wembley, perhaps the one sight I most keenly anticipated was the first view of the field. Television elongates and so cheats. What surprised me as I stood at the top of the terracing was its ordinariness. It was just a football field after all. It’s strange how stadiums grow in size once the crowd is in place. Yet the pitch looked lovely in the brightening day as I made my way from the top of the higher section down towards the front. There, I was right in the heart of the Leeds fans, slightly to the left of the players’ tunnel. Six years previously, England had lifted the World Cup. I had watched from a hotel in Cornwall. Now I was actually here, at what they called the home of football. We had rented it for the day.

I’d heard tell of people selling Cup Final tickets cheaply and I heard of people who went even though they didn’t like football, just because they had free tickets. I knew there was not a chance of me selling that ticket. How can money compare?

The pre-match build-up inside the ground was a crucial part of the whole experience in those days and it was exciting just watching the crowd grow, listening as chant after chant built up the atmosphere. At Elland Road and elsewhere, the terraces were flat but the huge curve at Wembley allowed the supporters to see each other much more easily. It added to the fun of singing and shouting as kick off drew steadily nearer and we outshouted the Arsenal fans from start to finish. I had the sense that their spirits were not as high as ours at any point. It was the northerners who sang ‘Abide With Me’ with most feeling and when Tommy Steele called on each set of fans to cheer for their team, one after the other, the Leeds roar seemed much louder. The tone for the whole match had been set as 20,000 voices fused into just one.

It was warm. I had a coat and just had to drop it by my feet. There was plenty of room, though, and I was impressed by the size of each step on the concrete terraces. It might have been tiring standing up but it was more fun, more intimate and chummy than today’s armchair football. I didn’t know anyone around me when I arrived, by the end we were treating each other like lifelong friends and that included the man in the cowboy hat who amused all those around him by emitting nothing but barking sounds all afternoon.

Before the players came on, there was a parade to mark the F.A.’s Centenary with each past winner, represented, I think, by some London school kids in replica kits. It was ok. Seeing the Queen was ok, too, but I wanted to see the Whites come marching in. In time, they did, led by Don Revie and then Billy Bremner. With them leading Leeds, I’m amazed we ever lost. Both teams came out alongside each other. It was fantastic to see and hear the whole ground cheering and waving; white, blue and yellow, red and white, together for the one and only time. The teams lined up along the halfway for the pre-match ceremonies. Such preliminaries as singing the national anthem and the teams being presented to our esteemed monarch seemed akin to being back on the North Circular. I just wanted them to get on with the match.

The game itself was a delight even though the standard of football was only ‘good’ not ‘great’. The delight lay in the fact that after Paul Reaney cleared Alan Ball’s shot off the line, I became increasingly sure we would win. Allan Clarke’s reflex header onto the bar following Lorimer’s volley deserved a goal but Leeds did what Leeds did best, they controlled the game. Watching the game on classic video footage can only give an impression since it has already happened and you know that. You can never recapture the first viewing. So when Mick Jones broke down the right and pulled the ball back from the by-line, there was a split-second of nerve-tingling anticipation. I was perfectly in line, behind the goal to see Clarke’s precision header coming straight towards me. I knew it was a goal all the way. Barnett’s dive was nothing more than despairing. Sometimes in the past, Leeds had slipped up but I knew, then, that we had won the cup.

The final whistle fixed that fact forever. The hazy sun had been shining for much of the game, after all, it was the Cup Final. Billy Bremner collected the trophy from the Queen and then lifted it aloft to us. The lap of honour was aimed at us. We had sung them home during the match. The Whites were marching in and I was in that number as the players came towards us, Johnny Giles bringing his little children along to share in the joy. The first part of the lap took the players past the emptying Arsenal end. It was merely the prelude to them rounding for the Tunnel End so that they could build up to reaching the heart of the Leeds fans. After so many disappointments, the team were able to celebrate winning the greatest Cup in the world. Such happiness too on our terraces. The lads I had befriended invited me to go back to Leeds with them but I would be expected on the coach so had to regretfully decline. It summed up, though, how all Leeds fans were friends that day. No one wanted to leave, only once the players had finally gone down the tunnel did we gradually drift happily away.

Outside, the Arsenal fans had mostly shot off home, it was only a few miles for them anyway. Wembley was ours. Jubilant Leeds fans were milling about; euphoric, ecstatic, overjoyed as I made my way back to the coach park. It had been fairly empty when we arrived, now it was almost full. I don’t really know how I found the Hargreaves Coach but eventually I did and, having queued our way out, a happy bus set off home in the beautiful late evening sunshine. Circling round towards the M1, I had one last view of the distant Wembley before it passed out of sight and we hurried away to see the game on Match of the Day.

Part of the mighty convoy, we made it back in time and I was able to tell the tale to my Leeds–mad sister, then my friends. Watching the highlights was when I first heard the commentary that accompanied the goal, nice and clipped, no extras needed, “Clarke, one nil.”   The day’s end had to come and at bedtime I was left to reflect that hundreds of teams had entered the Cup, professional and amateur, but only one team could win. That day it was our turn, the turn of Leeds United. It was a perfect day.


Author: Graeme Garvey

Leeds United FA Cup 1972 (Part 1)

“On what grounds are you applying to read English at Liverpool of all places?” my mystified English teacher asked me. How could I tell him the grounds were Anfield and Goodison Park?

I was studying at Liverpool University the year Leeds United won the Cup. I had applied there for the sole reason that Leeds played in the city twice a year (London, with five games, had turned me down). I wasn’t able to get back for the Third Round tie against Bristol Rovers but when we were drawn at Liverpool, it made my going there worthwhile.

A group of us went to the match and arrived at the ground as soon as the gates opened at midday. That might seem a little keen for a 3.00 pm kick off but the match was not all ticket and by one o’clock, the Anfield Road Stand was completely full with a majority of Leeds fans separated from a large minority of Scousers by the thin blue line of Bobbies. Sways and surges up and down the terracing meant that we lost one friend, carried off by a particularly high wave. We didn’t see him again until in the pub afterwards. My main memory of a close, tense affair was being sandwiched in the packed terraces of a 56,000 crowd, with no possibility of moving anywhere. Somebody nearby had a pork pie dashed from his hands and I spent an entire 45 minutes sliding around on its gristly lubrication before somehow escaping to dry land. It was not a great match but we survived to take them back to Elland Road.

The replay was an afternoon kick off so because of the ‘Three Day week’. I had to forego the pleasures of Charles Dickens and also of the Metaphysical poets. Lectures had to somehow manage without me as I desperately thumbed a lift home. Since the fair city of Liverpool invented the ‘sickie’, it was only right for me to employ one on this occasion. The match ended in 2-0 win, we were the better team and it was goodbye to our friends from Merseyside.

Success in the Fifth Round gave us a home tie against Tottenham, the last team to beat us in any competition. Much has been said and written about the thumpings Leeds gave Manchester United and Southampton prior to the Cup game. Yes, they were thumpings but for me the win against Spurs was the best that team ever played because Tottenham Hotpsur were a good side and they actually played very well. Leeds were magnificent and stormed back after conceding a fluky goal. Birmingham City were then swept aside in the Semi-Final and that set up an encounter with the previous season’s double winners, Aresenal.


Author: Graeme Garvey

Book Review: 1966 and All That: My Autobiography (Geoff Hurst)



Many years on.

Dear Sir Geoff,

Firstly, I am very sorry for the long delay in writing. And secondly, please excuse my taking the liberty of writing to you when we have never met.

What has prompted me to write is your autobiography, since it made me think hard about football’s place in our lives. When I say ‘our’, I’m pretending to mean the lives of many people, as your World Cup winning hat-trick is becoming even more important and famous as the years go by, but I really mean mine and yours. I was 13 in July 1966 and was on a family holiday in Cornwall. We rushed to Perranporth in time for the Final and watched it with a group of strangers in the hotel’s lounge. By the end of the afternoon, we were all friends. It was a great occasion and I don’t think I would have ever forgotten it even if the goals had not been shown so many times since.

I don’t intend to bore you and I guess you have had tons of drunken old sots press your hand at functions, telling you all about what they were doing while you happened to be the centre of it all. So, no more of me – until the end.

What touched me deeply whilst reading your book was the negative affect it seemed to have on your family. There is more than a hint that your fame possibly led to your parents separating and then divorcing. As a boy, you idolised your dad. Why did he shun your child (and his granddaughter’s) wedding? What went wrong? It is touching to read of your puzzlement at it all because fame doesn’t seem to help us one bit with the age-old problem of human relationships, does it? For goodness’ sake, it wasn’t your fault that you were the key player in England’s finest TWO hours.

There must have been so much pain there which you hide with a skill typically English. Yet that pales in comparison with the tragic suicide of your younger brother, Robert. I see him in the holiday photograph, next to his big brother. How different the paths were for you two from then on.

It’s not fair and you take it, or appear to take it, in your stride, just the way you took Bobby Moore’s final pass and ran on for that goalbursting last kick of the match. I suppose the rewards of three lovely daughters, one of whom came back almost from the dead have helped to compensate in a way for what went wrong for your mum, dad and brother. That is part of the power of a real world which happens away from the television screen.

And even if some people thought it was all over, it has become clear that it was actually just beginning for us all. You say that on balance the good outweighs the bad and I think you are right. I was, like you, touched by the Englishman’s gesture in that Portuguese restaurant when he ignored you throughout the meal as he sat opposite you and your wife, then secretly paid for your wine as a thank you for the joy your hat-trick had given him. For all your pain, and with all your joy, he did it on our behalf.

Kindest regards,

Graeme Garvey

Book details

1966 and All That : My Autobiography

Geoff Hurst

ISBN  9780747241874

Headline Book Publishing