2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 6 – Saturday 24 August 2019: Nelson v Shelley

Matchday programme cover

A trip to Wembley, Little Wembley in fact, also known as Victoria Park, the home of Nelson FC. As you can imagine there is a bit of a dramatic difference between the two Wembley’s, trust me! Capacity wise, whilst the home of the England team in North West London can hold 90,000, the North West England version, holds a mere 2,000.

Here’s a football quiz question for you. Can you think of the club that was the first English side to beat Real Madrid away from home? A side that also won away at Old Trafford in the same season. A side that played in the Football League for ten seasons and has played competitive games against 34 of the current sides in the top four divisions. A side that has played many FA Cup ties in the competition proper with a record home attendance of over 14,000. The answer? Well, all this, and more, has been achieved by ‘The History Boys’ of Nelson FC, also known as ‘The Admirals’.

The origins of Nelson FC can be reputedly traced to a group of townspeople who in 1881, on witnessing a local football match between Burnley and Blackburn, were inspired to form their own team. However, it wasn’t until 1889/90 that they competed in a senior competition.

When football resumed after the First World War, Nelson embarked upon the most remarkable adventure of their history. In 1921 the thirteen non-reserve teams of the Central League were voted into the Football League`s newly formed Third Division North. The first league match, on August 27 1921, brought a record attendance at Seedhill of 9,000.

The next season, 1922/23, saw the Blues lead a close race for much of the season, and five wins in a row during April saw them romp away to the title. On the back of their title triumph, and in preparation for life in Division Two, Nelson took the remarkable step of an overseas tour to Spain, in May 1923. They performed with some success, winning two of their four games, a 2-1 success against Real Oviedo and a 4-2 victory at Real Madrid.

Unfortunately, Nelson`s time in Division Two was to be short-lived, lasting just the one season in which they finished second-bottom of the table. It was clear early on that they were struggling both on and off the pitch, but they achieved some remarkable feats on the way. They had a home victory over Champions-elect Leeds United, one of only nine league defeats for the Yorkshire side and their first away victory came at Manchester United. Few non-league clubs can claim to have won away at both Real Madrid and Manchester United!

A return to Division Three North brought a drop in attendances, though big games saw new records established, such as 13,500 for the visit of table-topping Darlington. That first season back in the third tier of the Football League saw a second-place finish to the North-Eastern side, hence no promotion, and was to be the last time the Blues seriously threatened a return to the national stage.

The next season brought a new and never beaten record attendance at Seedhill of 14,143 for the visit of leaders Bradford Park Avenue. The home team went two goals down but came back to draw 2-2. Two seasons later Nelson became serious strugglers, finding themselves £6,500 in debt. A rock-bottom finish meant a re-election application. They had conceded 136 goals during the season, and all the problems seemed to be down to insufficient gate receipts during difficult times for the area. Re-election was granted in 1928, but three seasons later Nelson were back in the same situation, and 1930/31 was to be their final season as a League club. Nelson struggled on in the Lancashire Combination without winning any honours, and things became much bleaker in 1936. A big loss was incurred that season and the club disbanded on 7 August. The club reformed after the Second World War and entering the Lancashire Combination League, playing in the league until it merged with the Cheshire County League to form the North West Counties League in 1982.

Action at Little Wembley

The current Nelson side still ply their trade in North West Counties First Division North and their visitors for this fixture were Shelley from Huddersfield – my connection to Shelley will be revealed later on in the season.

It was a lovely sunny day and barely a breeze, only a hard pitch to contend with. It’s a quaint old ground which has seen better days with a small stand along one side of the pitch. Attendance on the day was nothing like the 14,000 they attracted back in the 1920s. In fact, the crowd was 55 and I was able to count every one of them. Of the game, it was two very evenly matched sides and I was impressed at the standard of football, this being tier 10 of the pyramid. Both defences were much stronger than their own and opposition attack with Ryan Blackburn being outstanding in defence for Shelley, who also showed touches of pace up front with Israel Johnson. Nelson were equally stoic in defence well marshalled by Daniel Fagan. Shelley manager, Ash Berry, was his ebullient self on the touchline in a game that ended as a draw, which on reflection was a fair result but deserved goals.

A final interesting fact about Nelson FC, following their return to act after the war in the Lancashire Combination. They were involved in some terrific tussles for the title with Wigan Athletic over the next few seasons, winning it twice in 1949/50 and 1951/52. In those three seasons of 42 league games apiece, Nelson scored 125, 120 and 139 goals, respectively. The first title season also saw Nelson clinch the Lancashire Combination Cup to seal an historic ‘Double’ in what was at the time one of the premier leagues in the country outside of the Football League. The men at the forefront of this period of success were two young player-managers. Centre-half Bob Johnson moved from Burnley for the start of the 1949/50 season and, when his contract expired, the Blues landed a young man from Manchester City, 30-year-old Joe Fagan. The team built by ‘Uncle Joe’ romped to the title in his first season in 1951/52. Joe left to join Liverpool`s boot room team in 1958 and 25 years later he was the manager who took the Reds to a European Cup, League Championship and League Cup treble.


Saturday 24th August 2019

North West Counties Football League – First Division North

Nelson 0 Shelley 0

Venue: Little Wembley

Attendance: 55

Nelson: Parkinson, C. Lloyd, Grice, Dickinson, Fagan, Wynne, J. Coop, Sharples, Hill, J. Lloyd, Knight.

Substitutes: Close, Townsend, Dewhurst

Shelley: Day, Leech, Andre, Daffern, Blackburn, Keane, O’Keefe, Broadbent, Billington, Pownall, Johnson

Substitutes: White, Robertson, Bradshaw


Steve Blighton

Book Review: The Wessie – A History of the West Riding Senior Football Association Cup by Martin Jarred

The FA Cup is recognised as the oldest cup competition in the World with it first being played during 1871/72, when Wanderers beat the Royal Engineers 1-0 at the Oval in London. It predated the first Football League Championship in England by seventeen years, when Preston North End took the title.

The point of this brief timeline of English football? Well, simply that cup football came into being before the organisation of league football and perhaps was partly responsible for the special place the FA Cup competition once held within this country. Additionally, it is useful for understanding where the early power of the game was, with The FA coming into existence in 1863, and a number of County FA’s also being founded, for instance, the Sheffield & Hallamshire County FA (1867), Lancashire County FA (1878) and Cumberland FA (1884), before the Football League in 1888.

The West Yorkshire Association came into existence in 1896, due in part to the fact that this part of the country was dominated by the game of rugby. The fledgling organisation launched the West Yorkshire Cup in 1896/97 with Hunslet the winners in the four team competition, which included Bradford, Halifax, and Leeds.

The title of the book, The Wessie, takes its point of reference for the term for people living in the West Riding by those living in other parts of the Broad Acres of Yorkshire. What is immediately evident, is that this has been a real labour of love for its author, Martin Jarred, who came through Prostate Cancer to complete the book, from which half of the author’s royalties go towards Yorkshire Against Cancer in appreciation of the care and treatment he received.

In terms of contents, the book charts the history of the Senior Cup, which in its various guises was played for between 1896 until 1999, details of the County Cup from 2007 to 2019 (when the Senior Cup was presented to the County Cup winners) and a brief overview of key figures in the history of the West Riding County FA.

The amount of research that has gone into this book is staggering, with team-line ups, scorers, attendances, and venues, dating back to that first year of the cup back in 1896/97. It is a book that you will pick-up and put-down and learn something different every time. This includes the early influence of rugby with a number of the grounds used in the early years of the competition, such as Fartown (Huddersfield), Crown Flatt (Dewsbury) and Wheldon Road (Castleford), locations familiar to fans of the thirteen-a-side code. Other points of interest include seeing how players who became household names started off their careers in the Senior Cup such as John Charles, David Seaman, and many of the 60s and 70s renowned Leeds United teams.

The journey through the book is also a journey through the history and development of the game, with clubs going out of existence, in Leeds City and the original Bradford Park Avenue, and the introduction of innovations such as floodlights and substitutes.

However, the most significant factor is that this book is a record of a competition that is unlikely ever to be revived. If the FA Cup is treated with such distain these days, what chances do the County competitions have? The Wessie details how the Senior Cup in West Riding slowly but surely became nothing more than a nuisance in the football calendar, with the senior teams increasingly using it as a chance to blood youngsters or indeed decline to take part altogether and as a result crowds simply did not turn out to see what became games between teams of reserves. The wonderful Fratelli made trophy though at least does still live on, now presented to the County Cup winners, but the irony being that even some of those clubs taking part in recent years (from the National League, Northern Premier League, Northern Counties East League and North West Counties League), use the competition to play their reserves or Academy players and so means that there is little interest from spectators and certainly no financial reward. Will history repeat itself and see another competition consigned to the pages of history?

(Tony Brown. December 2019). Paperback 132pp)


Book Review: With Clough, By Taylor (with Mike Langley)

This book was originally published in October 1980 (cover right), and at that time the Clough and Taylor partnership was still going strong, with Nottingham Forest having collected a second European Cup triumph following a 1-0 win over a Hamburg side in Madrid containing Kevin Keegan. Within two years Peter Taylor resigned from Forest and took up the management of rivals Derby County from November 1982 to April 1984 and it was during this period that he and Brian Clough fell out, never to reconcile before Taylor’s death in October 1990 of pulmonary fibrosis while on holiday in Mallorca, at the age of just 62. This republishing of With Clough, By Taylor (cover below left) is sold with royalties donated to Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis (www.actionpulmonaryfibrosis.org)

Given this is a republishing almost forty-years later, the reader has the benefit of all the events post the original release in 1980 and therefore makes it a different read. For instance, back then any reader, given what the pair had achieved up to that point, might have comfortably assumed that there were more years of success to follow, whereas in fact within two years Clough and Taylor were no longer a partnership. And in some ways, it is interesting to see this reflected in the two covers from 1980 and the 2019 publications. The 80s version has the men together deep in concentration, focused on the action in front of them, whereas the latest edition sees them sat before the start of the 1980 European Cup Final, seemingly together but portraying a distance as well. It may simply be that they are nervous ahead of such a major game, or that they are uncomfortable with the intrusive nature of the photographers. However, given that the pair never reconciled after their row surrounding the John Robertson transfer, the current image may well have been chosen to reflect the split.

Of the content of the book itself, it follows a fairly chronological line of their time together and apart, starting with the initial meeting as players at Middlesbrough, where Taylor was a goalkeeper and Clough a centre-forward. It then documents their first managerial job at Hartlepools United, the triumph, trials and tribulations at Derby County, the time at Brighton & Hove Albion together and then with Taylor solely in charge and finally their tenure at Nottingham Forest. These parts of the book all feel fairly understated and it is not until Taylor comes onto other topics, in particular, Clough’s 44 days at Leeds United, Taylor’s views on the England team and the players in the game that he admired, that as a reader we get to see an animated  side of his character and get to read about Taylor’s undoubted understanding of players and their respective talents.

That Clough and Taylor were two different characters is reflected in the number of books about Clough, given the persona he portrayed to the world and his penchant for the outspoken and controversial, as the paucity of titles about Peter Taylor, who admitted himself, was uncomfortable in front of the media. The fact is that the pair were highly successful, and their different personalities and skills ensured that, as Clough acknowledged, “I’m not equipped to manage successfully without Peter Taylor. I am the shop window and he is the goods in the back.”

The ending of the book is on reflection a sad footnote, with Taylor stating, “Both of us are aware that it (our partnership) cannot last for ever and that we must part again one day. I hope we part on a high note and on the friendliest terms, and that football will remember us as pioneers of management – the first to see that two heads are better than one.” Clough and Taylor will always be remembered as a unique and successful partnership and indeed will always be part of football history and folklore, the pity though is that their friendship never had that chance of a final reconciliation.

(Biteback Publishing, 24 Jan. 2019. Paperback 288pp)


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Book Review: Me and My Big Mouth – When Cloughie Sounded Off in TVTimes by Graham Denton

Brian Howard Clough, born in Middlesbrough, 21 March 1935, a man who was destined to leave his own inimitable style on the game of football as player, manager and pundit.

In a ten-year playing career from 1955 to 1965 with hometown club Middlesbrough and local rivals Sunderland, he bagged 267 league and cup goals in just 296 appearances, an almost unbelievable strike rate which was good enough to see him earn England caps against Wales and Sweden in 1959.

A serious knee Injury ended his playing career but started Clough on the management ladder in October 1965 and the beginning of his incredible partnership with Peter Taylor at Fourth Division Hartlepools United. The pair built a reputation for themselves in the North East which earned them a move in 1967 to Second Division Derby County, where a six-year stint saw the Rams promoted to the top-flight and become Champions of England in 1971/72. Their tenure came to an end in October 1973 as the fractious relationship with the Derby Chairman saw Clough and Taylor depart the Baseball Ground.

Within a month the pair had accepted taking over at Third Division Brighton & Hove Albion. However, it proved to be a struggle for the duo and when Leeds United came calling in the summer of 1974, Cloughie departed for Elland Road with Taylor staying on at the South coast club. The 44 days that Clough was in charge have become written into football lore, spawning a book, The Damned Utd, a film, The Damned United and a stage play of the same name.

Cloughie didn’t return to management until the start of 1975, when reunited with Peter Taylor, they brought unparalleled success to Nottingham Forest, breaking Liverpool’s dominance in England, including two European Cup Final triumphs, before Clough retired from the game in May 1993, ironically with Forest being relegated from the top-flight.

That period at the City Ground though was all still to come when in September 1973 Brian Clough took up the opportunity to write a weekly column in the magazine TVTimes. Writer Graham Denton has taken many of these articles (which ran till the end of 1974), in his book, Me and My Big Mouth – When Cloughie Sounded Off in TVTimes. Interestingly, these are all from the most turbulent period of Clough’s managerial career, which saw his time end at Derby and the short-lived spells at Brighton and Leeds prove fruitless. It begs the question whether these articles were one too many distraction for Cloughie amongst his media work and times in the hot-seat as a manager?

The articles themselves hark back to a very different world. This is a time way before the existence of the Premier League, all-seater stadium and the saturation of live football on tv we have today. There was no internet or mobile phones, and newspapers, football magazines such as Shoot! and Goal, as well as the matchday programme from the ground was generally the only place you could read about your club. The terraces were dominated by males and the threat of hooliganism was a real threat when attending games. Off the pitch, the country was in the grip of strikes and power cuts during the three day week. Therefore, Denton’s expansion on some (not all) of Clough’s original articles, provide a useful context to the reader of what was happening in the game and the country in general.

Of course, some of the most common stories attached to Clough are covered, such as his criticism of Poland goalkeeper, Jan Tomaszewski, who made a number of saves to deny England at Wembley in a game which saw the Poles make it to the 1974 World Cup Finals in West Germany at the expense of the English. However, there is plenty of material offering Cloughie’s views on a range of topics, such as Muhammad Ali, Schoolboy Internationals, television, the job of management, players (such as Malcolm Macdonald and Mick Channon) and even a fans survey.

Despite Clough’s reputation by some as being a big-head or self-opinionated, in reading these articles, whether you agree with them or not, they are in the main reasoned rather than rants, and certainly not of the kind from some of the pundits today who appear only to trade in controversial statements for the sake of it.

This book doesn’t pretend to be an authoritative biography of Cloughie but is an excellent addition to the various titles written about a football figure whose legend will like another Nottingham hero, Robin Hood, endure for many years to come.


(Pitch Publishing Limited. September 2019. Paperback 320pp)


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Book Review: Billy Bremner – Fifty Defining Fixtures by Dave Tomlinson

Never judge a book by its title?

If we tackle this question first, we can then move on to what Billy Bremner – Fifty Defining Fixtures is really about and we will find a pretty enjoyable book on the Leeds United era of ‘King Billy’ who was voted the best player ever at Leeds United and the greatest captain in the Football League’s history.

First things first, though; To judge or not to judge? that is the question. Another work by author, Dave Tomlinson, which has been reviewed on this site,  Leeds United – a History is claimed in the publishers’ press release to be a ‘definitive’ history of the club. But they don’t seem able to define ‘definitive’. This is hardly surprising since the publisher and author don’t even agree on where Dave actually resides. Amberley think he lives in Leeds, whilst his own website thinks he lives in Birmingham.

We have a similar problem with this book’s title. Amberley also struggle to define ‘defining’. And is it likely there are exactly 50 ‘defining fixtures’ for him? Of course not. Does that matter? Of course not. It is a celebration of a genuinely inspirational footballer who was loved by Leeds fans and hated by almost all opposition ones who would, still, have loved him to play for them.

We have to wait till Fixture 14 when Bobby Collins suffered a terrible leg break away to Torino to find something really interesting about Bremner. It is unsurprising, given how the book is constructed, that information comes via a quote from Billy himself. Describing his feelings towards the perpetrator of the top-of-the-thigh-when-the-ball-was-ten-yards-away horror tackle, he admits to murderous intent, such was his extreme loyalty to any and every team mate.

As someone who saw him play in his prime, I am confident that he deserved the highest praise and I enjoyed reading about a defining (yes!) period in the club’s history. And yet, Dave Tomlinson struggles to capture the essence of Billy Bremner’s qualities because so much of the author’s work is cobbling together match reports. In fact, Billy seems to be barely mentioned in so many of the matches described. And the selection of 50 does miss some really important ones, like when he scored the only goal of the game in the second replay of the 1970 FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United and sent us Leeds fans at Burnden Park wild with delight. And Billy tells us himself about a match that really should be in the 50. In Fixture 20, he reflects (in You Get Nowt For Being Second) that it was the recent Fulham match which earned him a lengthy ban and forced him to finally change and calm down – a bit. It was the defining moment of his career.

The best illustration of what Bremner was truly about has to wait till Fixture 42, a match of relatively low importance against Hibernian. But, finally, Tomlinson begins to focus on Billy’s leadership qualities. And, a little earlier in sequence, the report on Fixture 36 totally fails because it, absurdly claims to be objective about allegations of match-fixing against Wolves in 1972. Bremner won substantial damages and you are not being objective by once more airing the allegations, even if Mike O’Grady did later admit to having been a go-between. Perhaps ‘objective’ need defining?

As we draw to the eventual conclusion, we are surprised to find so much of the wonderful victory in the European Cup semi-final against Cruyff’s Barcelona is diverted to the conflict between Bremner and Giles over who should manage Leeds, presumably because the author felt it should be squeezed in somewhere.

The photographs are a little puzzling. Why does the cover (at least in one edition) have Bremner in Scotland kit when the vast bulk of the ‘Fixtures’ are Leeds matches? Who is the target audience? And it is amusing to see a caption alongside the photograph of Mike England, clearly trying to restrain an angry Billy, which describes them as ‘fighting’. Those who wish to know more about Billy actually fighting on a football field might be advised to check with Kevin Keegan about that.

For all his greatness as a player, he was certainly not the best manager in the history of Leeds United. Yet he was the one who cared most passionately about the club. His famous quote amply illustrates this, “Every time Leeds concede a goal, I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the heart.” If Dave Tomlinson decides to write another book on Bremner, I hope this is the ‘King Billy’ he writes about, the player the fans loved.

(Amberley Publishing 2017 160pp)


Review by Graeme Garvey


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Book Review: The Singing Winger by Colin Grainger and Hyder Jawad

In 1950 the United Kingdom had George VI on the throne, with Labour under Clement Atlee in power after winning a second term in February of that year. In the world of football in England, Portsmouth took the First Division title, Tottenham earned promotion to the top flight after winning the Second Division, whilst Arsenal won the FA Cup beating Liverpool 2-0 at Wembley. On the international front England slipped to a shock 1-0 defeat against the USA at the World Cup in Brazil. Later that year in October, a seventeen year old lad from Yorkshire called Colin Grainger, pulled on his boots to make his Football League debut for Wrexham in the Third Division North.

Now it is not a name that will be familiar to many, but during his career, Grainger became a household name in not just one field, but two. In terms of his football exploits, the winger/outside left, came to play seven internationals for England, scoring two goals on his debut against Brazil at Wembley and as a singer he toured the country up until 1970, even releasing a record in 1958 and appearing on the bill with The Beatles. This dual success lead to his show billing as The Singing Winger – and taken as the title of this interesting book.

Grainger with journalist Hyder Jawad detail life on the pitch and on stage in chronological chapters (from 1933 to the present), with a brief introduction (Exordium) in which Grainger pays tribute to his parents and his family. The debt of gratitude that Grainger feels to his mother and father is evident throughout the book, typified by the recurring phrase, “Son, no way you’re ever going a pit.” Football was in the Grainger genes, with brother Jack, having a career at Rotherham United, Lincoln City and Burton Albion, and cousins Jack and Dennis Grainger and Edwin Holliday all playing professional football.

Given that Grainger is looking back on his life, is it no surprise that this is a very reflective book. The world described is a very different one not only on the pitch but in the wider context of everyday life in Britain. In terms of the football story, the reader is taken to the highs of his career as an England International, where all his seven caps were earned in an eleven month period, through his journey and lows of injury that saw his play in all four divisions of the professional game with, Wrexham, Sheffield United, Sunderland, Leeds United, Port Vale and Doncaster Rovers. Grainger continued his career in non-league allowing him a quite unique record of playing in the FA Cup, League Cup, FA Trophy and FA Vase.

Within his football career there are some interesting insights, with Grainger quite open about the illegal signing-on fees prevalent at the time, an honesty about the managers and players from his era and some observations of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor, long before their management success with Derby County and Nottingham Forest.

If there is a criticism of the book, is it that as a reader an expansion and further exploration of some of the footballing tales and indeed Grainger’s time on stage in the music business, would have added to the enjoyment. However, essentially this is an intriguing look at a unique career that simply wouldn’t be possible in the modern era.

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Book Review: Ask A Footballer – My Guide to Kicking a Ball About by James Milner

First things first, as James Milner is keen to point out in the book’s introduction, this is NOT an autobiography, rather, as the title suggests, Milner opens the floor to questions from the Twittersphere, a somewhat brave (or perhaps foolhardy) move, and this book comprises a selection of those questions with Milner’s answers.

Unsurprisingly, the questions included in the book revolve around football, covering everything from breaking through as a youngster to life after the game. There are sections on team-mates, what happens on a matchday and the experience of playing home and away, amongst other topics, but essentially all of the main components of life as a footballer are examined.

Anyone hoping to find Milner’s thoughts on matters outside of the game will be sadly disappointed, but as the full title, Ask a Footballer: My Guide to Kicking a Ball About, makes clear, this isn’t an open-all-areas Q&A. It does seem a shame that a brief chapter wasn’t included at the end for some more miscellaneous questions just for fun, but, on the whole, it’s a welcome premise that the publishers have pursued in this book by granting fans the opportunity to be involved.

Naturally, the questions that are included are generally somewhat predictable and fan questions are accompanied by questions from those involved in the book which clearly ensure that no football-related stone goes unturned, but generally they are the sort of questions that football fans would want to ask given the chance, and what is great about the book is the sense of interaction and access for supporters. There is a lot of criticism nowadays about this side of the game and the divide between fans and players, so this book is a pleasing antidote and there’s definitely much more of a sense of engagement and interaction than your typical sporting autobiography.

As for Milner himself, he is unquestionably a good sport for agreeing to the project, although in many ways he’s a rather safe choice – I’m not sure such a book would be possible with a number of Milner’s former team-mates, for example, Carlos Tevez, Craig Bellamy or Mario Balotelli! And Milner’s clearly well placed to be a spokesman on all things football, having played in the Premier League for almost two decades now and in that time witnessing the revolution that has virtually changed the face of football into the professional machine that it is now.

In his time, Milner has played for Leeds United, Swindon Town, Aston Villa, Manchester City and his current team Liverpool and has experienced the lows of relegation as well as the highs of FA Cup, Premier League and Champions League glory. In many ways an underrated and oftentimes overlooked player in teams which have boasted the likes of world-beaters such as Aguero and Salah, Milner has been a model of consistency and reliability. Off the pitch, Milner, too, seems to be as far removed as it’s possible to be from the pretensions of fame, which has inspired the emergence of the infamous ‘Boring James Milner’ caricature.

Indeed, there is nothing explosive or controversial about Milner (although fans of former clubs may say otherwise, he’s hardly a disruptive or unruly influence in the way that other footballers have made a name for themselves), so, unsurprisingly, there is nothing explosive or controversial in this book. As Milner himself explains, he was often the go-to player in the England camp, put out in front of the media to straight-bat away any difficulties.

As such, his answers in the book are all very straightforward and safe. Even when the questions enter slightly more precarious territory, Milner’s answers are always restrained, somewhat frustratingly often not naming names or giving more detail than is necessary. But, on the other hand, his answers are also considered and honest.

Milner’s professionalism and reliability shine through in this book. It’s clear that he’s the ultimate professional, as his eighteen seasons in the top flight prove, and certainly anyone wanting to know what it takes to achieve success at the top of the game need look no further than Milner and his answers in this book. However, anyone wanting the dirt on the beautiful game, or the alternative side to being a professional footballer, may just have to wait to see if the publisher chooses to roll out the project again. Are you free Mr Balotelli?

Jade Craddock

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Book Review: Brian Clough – Fifty Defining Fixtures by Marcus Alton

In other books within this Amberley series the subject has either been a legendary player or a manager, but in this edition the focus is on Brian Clough who it could be argued is a rarity in having an extraordinary career in both areas of the game.

As a player Clough had an unbelievable strike rate playing for Middlesbrough and Sunderland, scoring 251 league goals from 274 games and also picked up two England caps, both in 1959. However, he had to retire following a serious knee injury sustained on Boxing Day 1962 and turned to management. Clough was in charge at Hartlepools United, Derby County, Leeds United, Brighton and Nottingham Forest, in a management career which stretched from 1965 to 1993, collecting most famously two European Cups in 1978/79 and 1979/80 with Forest.

Given this, author Marcus Alton acknowledges the mammoth task he had in bringing the book together: “It has certainly been a very tough task and this compilation contains by no means the only games that define his (Clough’s) playing and managerial career. But I hope you agree it focuses on some of the key matches…and at least, opens up debate.” And to be fair that is what is achieved by Alton. Within his selected fifty games, Alton manages to cover both Clough’s playing and management career taking in all the clubs he was at, even squeezing in games capturing his brief and unsuccessful stints at Elland Road and the Goldstone Ground.

In the style of the other books in the Amberley series, games are briefly covered using old match reports and analysis. This doesn’t provide the author with a great deal of scope to provide an in-depth exploration of Clough, but Alton still manages to convey some aspects of the antics and characteristics of ‘the best manager England never had’.

This series of books doesn’t pretend that the reader will find an in depth exploration of a player or manager, but is a starting point for wanting to find out more about the subject matter. Therefore, whilst the triumphs at Derby County and Nottingham Forest are detailed through a number of fixtures, this book isn’t one where you will find for instance a detailed analysis of the breakdown in the Taylor-Clough relationship or the health issues that he suffered during the back end of his management career at the City Ground.

If you know very little and or not read a great deal about ‘Cloughie’ this book is a useful starting point for an exploration of an incredible football figure.


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Book Review: Leeds United – A History by Dave Tomlinson

The press release with this book declares, “Leeds United: A History…relates the complete and definitive history of the club from foundation to the present day”. It is quite a bold statement from the publisher and is therefore worth scrutiny.

The book does indeed detail the history of Leeds City, from 1904 until its expulsion from the Football League during the 1919/20 season and then picks up the story of the birth of Leeds United from 1919 to the present day, including the glory years under Don Revie to the chaos of the Cellino reign. However, given that the book extends to just 159 pages, it means that it would be more fair to consider the book a concise history of the club, since some seasons are detailed in a couple of paragraphs, indeed 1993/94 is covered in just five lines.

The book is essentially a season-by-season review of the on and off field goings-on at Elland Road, but then changes format for sections of Chapter 11 – Wilderness Years 1982 – 90 and Chapter 14 – Chasing the Dream 1996-2002, where events are looked at under the reigns of various managers. Why the change? For consistency it would have made sense to either continue season-by-season or have classification by manager from the beginning.

Undoubtedly there is a great deal of research that has gone into the book from author Dave Tomlinson, emanating from his excellent website Mighty Whites (www.mightyleeds.co.uk). Nonetheless, the restraint on the book size means that often the details of a season are kept to a minimum with facts such as, transfers in and out, leading scorers, average attendances and key games the common topics. Overall, this gives the feeling that there are not enough ‘nuggets’, such as the proposed amalgamation of Huddersfield Town with Leeds in November 1919, within its pages.

Despite this, Tomlinson is able to get across the idea that the life of a Leeds supporter then and now has always been, “dogged by a cycle of brave new dawns that inevitably give way in a resigned shudder to a disaster even grimmer than the last.” Indeed the last chapter, Take Over My A***! 2012-15 is perfectly pitched as the focus is about all the shenanigans behind the scenes and not those on the pitch.

At the time the book was published in August 2015, Uwe Rosler was in the managerial seat. Now just three months on, Rosler has gone, Steve Evans has come in and Chairman Massimo Cellino first agrees to sell his shares to the Leeds Fans United, before doing a U-turn and reneging on his word.

As Tomlinson prophetically says in the closing lines of the book, “only time would tell whether Rosler would be given longer to prove his managerial worth than the four men that had already been victims of Cellino’s whimsical moods. A period of stability was an absolute necessity for Leeds United as it once more set course on a voyage into the unknown.”


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2014/15: Sky Bet Championship Review – March 2015

This will be my penultimate Championship Review as this time next month it will be as they say ‘all over’. With a fist full of games remaining the only certainty is Blackpool have been put out of their misery and returned from where they emerged a few years ago after a calamitous season on and off the pitch.

The bottom three has included Wigan and Millwall for long periods and they remain favourites to join The Tangerines in League One, but I suspect Fulham, Rotherham and even Reading might still become involved. The fixtures between these sides become unbearable for the watching spectators with relief the overriding emotion at the final whistle.

With Blackpool and probably Wigan both recently dumped from the Premier League and heading for the third tier of English football could Fulham make it a trio? Personally, my opinion of promotion and relegation is swayed by simple geography, so Millwall and Reading can go for me. However, it looks like Wigan will depart the division as The Latics can’t buy a win at home. Still with events at the DW Stadium it was also interesting to see that Whelan Junior has acted to sack McKay to show Grandad who the boss is now!

Board room decisions are never far from my thoughts – Leeds rewarding a successful period of results and stability by sacking the under-performing coach, apparently removing the Sporting Director and asking Neil Redfearn to put the cones out and make the tea. Little wonder the worst results since Christmas followed as chaos returned to Elland Road. I could fill the remainder of this article with stories of film star takeovers, Fan Ownership and tax evasion Court Cases, but will leave that for next month.

The race for the TV millions is well and truly congested and I boldly predicted back in December 2014 that Norwich would fill one of the automatic spots when well off the pace, so I’m going to pat myself on the back because nobody else will! I actually had Derby to join them with Bournemouth, Middlesbrough, Watford and Blackburn making up the play-off spots, so five out of six isn’t too bad. Once again, the travelling miles sway my choice of who goes up, so The Canaries, The Cherries and The Hornets can happily fly, pluck and buzz off for me and I believe they will.

Eddie Howe’s team continue to score goals a plenty and show no sign of faltering, Norwich have the best squad and experience and Watford take chances with a flamboyant attacking philosophy that makes them dangerous opponents. Derby and Boro’ can be brittle under pressure and expectancy might be too much for them, which could allow Wolves or Brentford to make a Wembley appearance.

Brave attempts by Forest, Blackburn and even Charlton Athletic to join the play-off hopefuls were always destined to fail such was the gap, but plenty of promise for next season. Sheffield Wednesday have had the middle of the table to themselves virtually all year without ever flirting with top or bottom in a rather dull season. You could add Cardiff to that list and latterly Birmingham who extracted themselves from a perilous position and have free wheeled since.

For those still involved in the business end of the season, enjoy or endure and this time next month all will have been revealed.


David Goodwill