REVIEWS Extremely positive reviews have appeared in a variety of publications, including the August issues of Four-Four-Two and When Saturday Comes. The following is a sample: "BOOK OF THE WEEK" For all the ink that has been spilled in the name of Manchester United, only now do we learn the definitive - some say fateful - date on which the planet's most famous sporting institution spluttered into life, as Newton Heath FC was consigned to history. Even Old Trafford's mighty United Opus tells us it was on 26 April 1902 that the struggling former railwaymen's team, facing a winding-up order, was superseded at the New Islington public house in Ancoats by United, in what might today be called a re-branding exercise, and it says everything about his immaculate piece of scholarship that James reveals the club to be two days older than it seems to think it is. The meeting was on the 24th. Hard to believe also, in the age of the global brand, that the name "United" may well have been selected for no other reason than clubs' proclivity back then for seizing on the name of the moment. Sheffield United may have been the inspiration, having reached the FA Cup final seven days earlier. The early histories of Manchester City and United provide some of the most fascinating elements of a story James relates without hype. The clubs' close bonds, much discussed at the recent 50th Munich anniversary, are an intriguing thread. City were keen to sell United (rather than southern sides) their best players, Bill Meredith included, when strapped for cash and reeling from a match-fixing scandal in 1907. The two also joined forces to prevent the newly- founded Manchester Central club being elected to the Football League and threatening their own fan bases in the early 1930s. The periodic scandals - the collusion of Liverpool and United players to fix a league game United won 2-0 in 1915 is particularly well related - remind us that little is new in football. Except money of course. This story is unimpassioned enough not to make judgements about the game's evolution in the Premier League era but the seamless interweaving of Stockport, Rochdale and Bury's narratives - not overshadowed, for once - with those of the Manchester giants tells more subtly what a toll that big money is taking on the lesser lights. Sir Alex Ferguson might detest FC United of Manchester, the club established in the teeth of the game's corporatisation, but James also attends to that club's ethos and relatively unknown recent splits with a level of detail befitting its significance. His story of City's beginnings - when a Manchester rector's daughter set up a club to distract the working men prone to drinking and violence, then known as "scuttling" - is also poignant amid Thaksin Shinawatra's search for global brand awareness. A REVIEW BY IAN HERBERT IN THE INDEPENDENT, 23RD JUNE 2008 _____________________________ This excellent 520 page book has been published to coincide with the UEFA Cup final (staged at the City of Manchester Stadium) and to mark the 400th anniversary of football being banned in Manchester (that is correct - football was banned in Manchester in 1608!). This well illustrated book provides the stories of Manchester's greatest footballing achievements, while also answering questions such as: Why did football in Manchester develop the way it did? How do the Manchester sides compare in terms of local support, trophy success, and so on. It is surely the definitive story of football in the Manchester region. Writer and football historian Gary James' latest gem details the story of Mancunian football from the Middle Ages through to the modern day. He reveals many new and interesting stories and also tries to spell out many significant events that have shaped the region's football development. The author focuses on the League clubs of Bury, City, united, Oldham Athletic, Rochdale and Stockport County, plus former League Club Stalybridge Celtic; but he also takes a look at all the local clubs (such as Ashton, Fairfield Athletic, Manchester North End, Salford United and, not least, Altrincham) who have at some point in their history attempted to join the Football League. Interestingly, the records section includes a full list of Manchester Cup winners from the first (Hurst in 1885) to the 2007 winners Manchester City. This is an absorbing book that will appeal greatly to a wider audience than just supporters of the 'Manchester' clubs. A REVIEW BY DAVID POWTER, WINGER & THE FOOTBALL TRADER ______________________________ The pleasure I have received from reading this book has left me morally obliged to do my first ever Amazon Review. Whilst I will attempt to wax lyrical, a little story first that will probably be more convincing in its way than any words of praise that I can muster:- Although a Manchester City fan, I joined a coachful from our pub to go and give Stockport County a cheer in their play-off game at Wembley against Rochdale. The coach was fair mix of County (obviously), City and United fans. I took Gary James's book to while away the journey. Suffice to say that others took an interest in it and were blown away with the 'differentness' of it. By the time we returned, I'd taken a total of 11 orders for copies! The book clearly has a 'wow' factor. I think one of its main qualities is the author's refusal to merely compartmentalise each Manchester club's history. Instead it is largely chronological and dwells many times on the relationships between clubs rather than just significant events in their individual past. Whilst United and City inevitably figure prominently, there is due credit given to the likes of Bury who were Manchester's first truly successful club. At the other extreme, newcomers FC United are given respect for their efforts to return affordable football to the grassroots supporter. In between, every club from the area has its roots explained and its triumphs and tribulations related accurately and entertainingly. One of my favourite sections is the rise and unfortunate demise of Manchester Central FC. If United and City had not combined and connived to keep this fledging club out of the League in the late'20's / early '30's, then either there would have had three city centre teams or an ailing United could have gone to the wall. Gary James has researched so deeply that many errors have been found in clubs' official histories. Whilst such fine detail is to be commended, the narrative never lapses into a tedious list of dates that only the 'anorak' would appreciate. Instead it flows and has you wondering what happened next, even when on some occasions you were fairly sure you knew your football history. As the guys on the coach found, this is a 'once seen - must have' book and I for one will be buying several more copies, as I have absolutely no doubt that as a Christmas or birthday present it will received with total delight. A REVIEW BY DJ MILLER ON AMAZON, 4TH JULY 2008 ____________________ Those of you who have read any of Gary's books about Manchester City will know that his works are always detailed and well researched, and this one is no different. Gary spent a decade working on the book, and as part of his research he interviewed players, fans, broadcasters, journalists and other figures from many aspects of the game in his quest to create the definitive story of football in the Manchester region. MIKE PAVASOVIC, Hyde United match programme
From the Author
The aim of this book is to detail the importance of football, to Manchester and its neighbouring boroughs. A book focusing on Manchester football clearly has two main sporting organisations at its core, however this publication simply does not focus on City and United, instead it attempts to consider the relationship between the other League and former League sides of the conurbation.
It's always difficult to identify what constitutes Manchester itself - Old Trafford is outside of the City's boundaries but very much a part of Manchester as far as United fans are concerned - and so I've decided to focus on the boroughs within the M60 and those the motorway enters. This includes the boroughs of Manchester, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside and Trafford, however I have excluded Wigan and Bolton. I believe the stories of the sides from those two boroughs are more appropriate in another `History of Football' volume I intend writing, although you will find the occasional reference to sides from those boroughs within this volume.
The eight boroughs featured in this book have, over the last century been fortunate to have seven League sides, with Salford being the only borough not to have had a League side (though United is on its doorstep). In addition they have known great periods of success, failure and sadly tragedy. No one living within the region can fail to be aware of the importance of the game of football and even if residents do not attend games they must surely be aware of the positives the game brings. Throughout the world Manchester is known more for its sport today than for any other aspect of Mancunian life, while the towns of Oldham, Bury, Rochdale, and Stockport remain in the public consciousness partly because of their football sides. Interestingly, Tameside does not have one dominant club, but it does have several great non-league sides - had Tameside possessed one significant side utilising the name Tameside would the borough be known nationally in the same manner as, say, Rochdale?
Possibly because of the rivalry between the sides in the region few books have considered how football developed across the area. For at least three decades there have been plenty of books on United and in the last decade or so City has seen a plethora of material produced on its existence. Similarly, the last few years have seen books on all the region's League sides. But each book has been aimed at the supporters of individual teams and not the region as a whole. This means that some stories such as the formation of the PFA, the role of Manchester Central FC, and even the contribution to the game of Ernest Mangnall have either been missing, or have been considered only from the perspective of one club. This book aims to improve that situation and put into perspective the history of the game within the region.
There have been many great moments in the region's footballing history but what has rarely been considered is how the region's sporting successes have influenced the development of the region and its prestige. In 1904, following City's first FA Cup win, manager Tom Maley was amazed at the size of the city centre's first homecoming parade. He told City's officials and Manchester's journalists at the end of the parade: "Perhaps love of sport had something to do with the bringing together of so great a gathering, but love of Manchester, had much more to do with it." Maley's views were significant and within two days of the comments being made the Manchester Evening Chronicle claimed that Manchester was now the second city of the Empire. It was a bold statement, but it was also totally understandable. The celebrations and attention paid to the game had brought the people together (the rivalry of later years was not evident as all Mancunians wanted all Mancunian sides to bring honour to the city at this point), and such a show of solidarity in a celebratory manner gave a very positive demonstration of what made Manchester special.
Not all of our sides can attract crowds of 70,000 plus, but they do all carry hope, ambition, and at kick off in every game in the region no individual can predict exactly how the game will unfold. That's the beauty of football and in the Manchester region we are blessed with an incredible number of football clubs.