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4.8 out of 5 stars32
4.8 out of 5 stars
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2012
Duncan Hamilton is incapable of writing a dull sentence and I had eagerly awaited his discourse on the development of football over the past 60 years and how the game enabled him to form a bond with both his grandfather and father.

Fortunately I was not left disappointed as the author has produced yet another book that deserves to be savoured.

Those who have read his warts and all yet loving portrait of Brian Clough will not be surprised to learn that icons such as Jackie Milburn, Jim Baxter, Bobby Charlton, Duncan Edwards and Bill Shankly come under similar scrutiny and the descriptions of them, others and great matches from the past are illuminating and powerful.

Hamilton roves through history and brings us up to date with a wonderful analysis of Barcelona and Messi and what shines through is his passion for the sport and how it enabled him to communicate with his father, a former miner and a man of his times who found it hard, if not impossible to show his emotions.

Football gave them a common bond and a way of finding each other.

Anyone who read the homages to both Stewart Imlach and John White by their respective sons will identify with this jewel of a book which could well put Mr Hamilton in the running for his third Sports Book of the Year Award.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 20 October 2012
This marvelous book would be of interest to anyone who grew up enjoying football in the days before satellite TV changed everything. It is at once a deeply moving account of the author's relationship with his father, and of his father's fascination with, and devotion to, professional football, as it used to be.

In essence it comprises a series of portraits of players and managers, all of which combined to give the relationship between father and son an intimacy and depth that could not have been achieved in any other way. Some of the characters are well known, such as Bobby Charlton and Bill Shankly, others less so, like Ray Kennedy and Wyn Davies, but we gain new insights throughout the book, as we see football through the philosophical eyes of the author's father.

This is the third book by Duncan Hamilton that I have read, the others being Provided You Don't Kiss Me and Harold Larwood. Each has been even better than the last. It would not be a surprise if this one was to follow in their footsteps and pick up the William Hill prize.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 23 September 2012
Don't be surprised to see this book winning the next William Hill sports book of the year award. Like his previous books this is well researched and beautifully written in a style that DH has made his own weaving nostalgia with interesting fact with a fair sprinkling of simile and metaphor. On one level this is a sports book about football icons of the past but has a much deeper and interesting theme about a son's journey in discovering his father. One to read and savour.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon 25 September 2012
Duncan Hamilton (DH) has already won Sports Writer's awards for his books on Harold Larwood and Brian Clough. His latest offering is written with the same stylish and researched fluency. He was born in Newcastle. His father was a miner moving from Stirling to Newcastle for work then taking the family to Nottingham. DH was raised on stories told by his father of the days of 'real football'. Newcastle United was his passion. Legendary players were his heroes. Working-class men like Jackie Milburn 'the greatest of the very great', Stanley Matthews, Tommy Lawton, Duncan Edwards, Bobby Charlton and more. Bed-time stories for him were football tales.

DH became an avid soccer fan like his father. He takes us on a nostalgic, historical journey from these early days of the £12 per week stars to the millionaire trappings of the Premier League. Bill Shankly could have bought the whole of his 1963 Liverpool Championship side for the price of a superstar's wristwatch. The in depth analysis of especially gifted players, Best, Messi,Bobby Moore, for example and managers, Clough, Shankly, Jock Stein, Busby, show his admiration in affectionate terms of their skills and achievements without being overly sentimental of the bygone days.

This is an honest book not intended to be humorous but contains many wisecracks and witty remarks, especially from Clough and Shankly. Duncan's father showed no overt affection for his son nor praise for his journalistic achievements with the Nottingham Evening post. Their common bond was the ardent love of football. DH writes, 'Without football we were strangers under a shared roof' and 'Without football we'd have had nothing to say to each other. The game alone pushed us into one another's orbit'. He never fully fathomed out his father during his life nor after his death but was grateful for the 'beautiful game' they shared.

Duncan Hamilton has written a fluent book, a sincere tribute to his father and the footballing greats. The accounts of the game itself are personal reflections and those handed down from his father. Memorable for their details and the changes that have taken the pits to the palaces. Thoroughly enjoyable and recommended to all football fans. Well illustrated. The front cover picture is worthy of somebody lifting him up, rugby style. Wyn did it by himself and for Newcastle.
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on 7 August 2014
This is a moving book because the author successfully weaves the story of his relationship with his father together with descriptions of some of the major footballing characters of the last six decades, drawn from their shared, often personal experience of these same characters. I am sure my enjoyment was enhanced by the fact that I am the same age as the author and therefore many of the people and experiences he describes are familiar. Nevertheless, the book is not a simple, one-dimensional history, but rather it uses football as a back-drop to deeper reflections on ordinary human life; in this sense it will be widely appreciated.

To practiced readers of football history narratives, some of the material will feel slightly tired and familiar, such as the sections on Duncan Edwards and Bobby Charlton, where so much has been said already. But any such limitations are the exception and far outweighed by the fresh insights on less frequently featured individuals, drawn from direct encounters by either Hamilton senior or junior. These meetings provide memorable glimpses of players like Jackie Milburn, Danny Blanchflower, Wyn Davies, Ray Kennedy, Jim Baxter and many others. It is when the author is “up close and personal” that the writing has real poignancy.

The book also avoids the risk of being a very personal affair. Clearly as Duncan Hamilton recounts, the loss of his father hit him in delayed and devastating fashion. However, he manages to celebrate his father and their mutual love of football without losing the general relevance for the reader and in so doing provides something more than a nostalgic football read. It is this combination which works so well and makes the book stand out for more than the football.
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on 14 July 2013
Duncan Hamilton's previous book about Brian Clough was pretty good (how could it not be with such a wonderful subject ?) and even though the subjects of this book are quite familiar too, the standard of writing and insight of the author lifts this book to an even higher standard. The book starts with the legendary Jackie Milburn but, as with everything else, is seen through the eyes of the author's father with whom he shared a passion for football. By and large, the book seems to concentrate on the period from the post-war through to the 1970's although the final chapter takes things bang up to date with Lionel Messi.

As a Southampton supporter I am passionate about my club even though I would concede that the fans of our South Coast rivals from Fratton Park are probably more passionate for the game. That said, Hamilton vividly demonstrates that nothing quite matches the passion for the game that Newcastle fans have and even Pompey's support dwindles in to significance by comparison. Indeed, a central thread through the book is the fact that how important football was to working class communities from the North as well as Scotland. Players from further South barely figure and the author admits to an indifference to even the stylish Chelsea side of the late sixties. It is almost as if the author sees the Northern clubs are having some kind of "footballing truth" or understanding that is absent from clubs that herald from the more affluent South. Reading this book, it is difficult to argue otherwise.

Whilst I suppose that this is a book that will undoubtedly appeal to an older generation of fan, the prose and content of the book, especially regarding his relationship with his father, ensures that this is a football book that is several notches above the usual fare. I really enjoyed this book and felt the accounts of players and matches to be extremely vivid. There have been some cracking books about football over the recent years but I think few have quite managed to capture the importance and affection of the game to that generation of fan who grew up following the sport from the 1930's onwards and saw the likes of Edwards, Moore, Best, Charlton and Blanchflower as this effort. The chapter on Edwards is especially moving. This was a difficult book to put down and the personal nature of the content is so powerful that this will be certain to be picking up prizes for sports writing. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 23 July 2013
"He loved the Tyne the way Twain loved the Mississippi."

From that line, in the foreword, I was hooked. Duncan Hamilton is a wonderful writer, and he clearly has a wonderful memory, too. Anecdotes told to him by his father are related with warmth and clarity. There are vivid tales of Hughie Gallacher, the great Jackie Milburn, and the "Footballer Who Could Fly" himself, Wyn Davies.

(My only negative comment is that the publishers have removed the photo of Davies that adorned the hardcover edition from the paperback, despite the fact that the photo is discussed in the text.)

Evocative and elegiac, this is a truly affecting tale of football and fatherhood. Overall, it's probably the best attempt at transferring the the magic of football to the printed page that I've ever read.

Absolutely essential reading for Newcastle United fans, and fans of any persuasion.
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on 22 June 2015
If you love football, buy this book.

If you have a father, buy this book.

If you are a son, buy this book.

In other words , buy this book.

It is a faultless, moving evocation of football and fatherhood and how they are intertwined in a central part of the filial relationship.

It is beautifully written, throwing new light on familiar football personalities and recalling half forgotten ones.

It flits effortlessly between the football of the early twentieth century and the modern era but is probably strongest dealing with the 1970s.

It is a delight from paragraph one. You will not regret buying this book.
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on 28 January 2015
I picked this up last week and have not put it down since.

The way Duncan writes so passionately about all topics in this book is impressive and keeps my attention throughout.
I was a big fan of Sir Bobby Robson's - Farewell but not Goodbye book and this has a similar feel. There is a certain way northeners write about football that draws me to anything written by them.

I am only half way through the book and purposely taking it slow to prolong the experience.

I would highly recommend any football fan to read this book which covers a whole host of footballing events.
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on 24 March 2014
I read the rave reviews for this book, and I enjoyed it but was expecting something more than anecdotes about the author's experiences as a football journalist and the reminiscences of his father. These all seemed quite disjointed and unrelated until the final chapter where the author analyses his relationship with his father, which in my opinion tied up the loose ends and was actually quite poignant. I would have enjoyed the book more if these reflections had been included as a thread throughout and not as an afterthought at the end. A pleasant and interesting read however.
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