on 14 April 2009
By a quirk of fate I happen to have been privileged to have read this book just before it was published having met Tom and his wife for the first time last week.
I found it a compelling, entertaining, informative, interesting and emotional read. I'm sure that football bias won't allow some folks to appreciate this work - but more fool them.
Manchester Utd fans ought to lap it up.
As for the title of this review: you'll have to ask Tom....
on 19 June 2009
This is as compelling and comprehensive an account of 1950s era Manchester United as you're likely to read. What makes it particularly effective is the way Tom Clare weaves autobiography and local social history in with first-hand recollections of United and his heroes by a genuine, passionate fan.
The autobiographical stuff is interesting and deftly avoids over-indulgence. The social history is genuinely fascinating, and the footballing side of the story is practically compulsory reading for true fans.
It may be stretching things a little too far to say that you don't need to be a United fan, or even a football fan in general, to enjoy this, but the warmth, affection and storytelling prowess Tom displays throughout the book makes it VERY readable. A quick skim through by a sympathetic sub-editor might have polished off the very occasional rough edge, but that's just a very minor technicality.
For those who were around Manchester and United at the time, it will be pure nostalgia (in the best sense of the word). For those of us who weren't, it's priceless eye-witness recollection and insight.
on 30 June 2009
I've been reading and listening to Tom's recollections about the Babes for a number of years now and have often remarked, along with others, that he should write a book, I'm glad he finally listened to us all!
Tom has always spoken with such passion about United during the 50's and this passion is reflected in his book. I found it to be a riveting read which often moved me to tears or caused me to laugh out loud. His memories are so clear that it is easy to picture the scenes he describes and he gives a real insight in to how football was during a much more innocent age.
A truly wonderful read that I would recommend to anyone.
on 11 January 2010
There have been libraries of books written about Manchester United and the tragedy of Munich, most notably Bobby Charlton's engaging autobiography, My Manchester United Years.
But have you ever wondered what life in Manchester was like in the 1940's and 50's for a typical United supporter, and how the Munich disaster impacted on a young Mancunian boy of the time, whose footballing idols were cruelly, terribly snatched away? If so, this is the book for you.
Tom Clare doesn't simply paint a picture of life in central Manchester in that era - he draws you in, immerses you in the environment and the family and social relationships that were at the heart of Mancunian life in the mid-20th century. You begin to understand the grinding poverty that was prevalent in the city, and how it chiselled the tough but generous and compassionate core of so many Manchester people of Tom's age.
And of course, Tom's great gift to the reader is his eloquent, passionate, eye-opening history of Manchester United from their inception at Newton Heath, through to Munich - as seen through the eyes of the Clare family from his beloved Grandpa and down the generations. This family can truly say, "we were there", and many of the urban myths that sprung up around the club are put straight, courtesy of Tom's clear and succinct recollections.
Tom's deeply personal and emotional acccount of the months leading up to Munich in 1957/58, and its heart-wrenching aftermath, compels you to grieve anew for the lost Babes. Tom has created a lens back in time for you to see them for who they truly were - joyous, innocent, humble young men, who loved life, their trade, their club, and the Manchester community who embraced and adored them. Above all, you share the aching sense of loss for Tom's great hero, arguably the finest footballer who has ever graced the game - Duncan Edwards.
Thank you Tom, for giving us a unique perspective on Manchester life and one of the most deeply-felt events in the city's history - your work deserves a place amongst Manchester's finest.
on 11 December 2009
This is the story of boy growing up in a working class family in post war Manchester surrounded by poverty, hardship and a football club being rebuilt almost from scratch.
From his first days as a pupil at St. Augustine's right up to the horror of the Munich Air Disaster, Tom Clare chronicles the highs and lows of his family life together with Manchester United Football Club as they embarked on a new strategy of playing the game to and taking that Gospel to other borders.
Notwithstanding the Munich tragedy, Tom describes the hardship suffered by his father upon losing his sight, the love of the game of football encouraged and engendered by his grandfather and the difficult relationship between the former and latter which typified proud working class men of the period. Tom also reflects on the disturbing effects caused by the Manchester Education Committee's insistence that he leave home for 6 weeks due for a period of convalescence at the tender age of 9.
But this is not Angela's Ashes. This is a story with as much humour here as tales of escapades with fellow urchin Brian Walsh are related to the reader. The discovery to Tom at such a young age that football was not only escape from the drudgery of the day, but the gateway to another life is vividly told, and in doing so the landscape and imagery of the period is uniquely captured in the narrative. From how families living on top of each other survived in the harshest of conditions by being streetwise, to the messianic pull of a football team on the rise.
And it's a commitment to detail which truly makes this a remarkable book. From anecdotes about goalkeeper Jack Kelsey to describing Jack Irons, the United mascot walking around Maine Road on those famous pioneering European nights, it these things that put the reader at the centre of the action.
But the centrepiece of this book is Tom's match going experience and his almost Pepys' like recounts of individual games from the emergence of the Busby Babes to their final destination. The chapter on the game against Bilbao at Maine Road in 1957 raises hairs on the back of your neck.
Other highlights are the anecdotes about the players and the human face that this book gives them, players that were accessible, unassuming and naturally gregarious, particularly among fans that idolised them. And too, the lengths that Tom and Brian would go to procure tickets for Catholic priests raised smiles. It is said that pictures tell stories. On the rear cover, there is a picture of the author as a goalkeeper for St. Gregory's Under 13 team. It was suggested that David Pegg was a young Victor Mature. The urchin looking goalkeeper could have been an extra alongside Cagney in Angels with Dirty Faces.
The book concludes with a personal homage to a team decimated by tragedy and it starts with the rebuilding process by Jimmy Murphy, his creation of The Fourth (and forgotten) Great Team, a personal tribute to Duncan Edwards and a final tribute to those heroes. As much as Manchester United fans will learn more about those times by reading this book, I found myself wanting to know more about the Author and his journey beyond his own heartbreak at the sudden loss of his heroes.
Manchester United fans with a real desire to gorge in the history of the club will want this book, but more than that, this is a man's love of the game as it was and a period document of the city formerly known as Cottonopolis.
It's an extraordinary read, and I look forward to the next chapter.
on 14 October 2009
Got my copy of Tom's book hot from the presses in May this year. Reading Tom's childhood recollections of the game and particularly of the emergence of Matt Busby's Manchester United Babes was just like reading about my own childhood. Me and Tom are of a similar age and both Manchester lads - United daft as boys and men.
I was privileged and delighted to wander just one more time in those far-off boyhood moments - when all the world was new and we could barely spell inspiration! We were ordinary lads following an extraordinary young team - we had no idea how extraordinary until we were older.
Tom captured all of the flavours of our parallel childhoods in his lovely, warm and honest life-inspired account of that time in Manchester - and it shines through on every page.
Terrific read for anyone who always has and still does love the game of football and their own team - whichever team that may be. This is no mindless rant about "United, United"! They'll recognise a very generous afficionado of this great game on every page of this wonderful read. Loved it Tom, just loved it.
Please don't miss it - stories of ordinary lads and hard-working people growing up through the tragedy that destroyed our boyhood heroes seldom make the bookshelves.
on 16 November 2010
The book is a must for anyone with even a handed-down inkling of what it meant to be a Manchester United supporter in the 1950s and to have had the honour of seeing a young team which, had tragedy not struck, would in all likelihood have dominated English football for the best part of the next ten years. Evident throughout is that Tom Clare writes not only from personal experience but also from the heart. He paints a vivid social picture of Manchester as it was in the days of the Busby Babes and captures so movingly the full impact of a loss which an entire city mourned: Red or Blue, soccer fan or not. His is a chronicle of the past, just as fascinating for historians as it is for lovers of a game that was far more beautiful then than it is today.
on 5 August 2015
even if your not a MUFC fan, it's a good read, a social history when Man Utd. was a club, not a business I think any sportsman understands what a loss "Busby's Babes" was to football
on 12 May 2012
This was an excellent read, It brought back plenty of memories both good and bad.
Reliving Munich was very sad, but there has also been plenty of good times.